Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Mathematics of Fraud

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

Not that any of this is a surprise; it's the strict tabulation of the minimum number that catches the imagination here.

What can you do with 935 false statements? With that number of deceptions, a family of two adults and three kids could each tell a different lie every day to skip an entire year of work or school, with enough falsehoods left over to excuse the family from church, synagogue, or circle for all but three weeks a year.[1]

But nobody could get away with that. The adults would lose their jobs, and the kids would be chased by truant officers. The Deity or Deities involved have their own ways of responding. Let's see what those 935 lies have actually bought.

Category Total Number Number per Lie Notes
US soldiers killed 3,931 4 Four soldiers--enough to start a band, though most of these kids are a year or two older than the Beatles were. It's actually 4.2 something, but all numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number.
US soldiers wounded[2] 28,938 31 What does it mean to be wounded? Imagine it: 31 wounded soldiers, an entire classroom of healthy young men and women who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the physical and emotional scars of this war.
Iraqi civilians killed 80,621 86 A smallish symphony orchestra might have 86 players. My annual family reunion usually draws that many -- five generations of preachers, nurses, housewives, writers, farmers, social workers, and truck-drivers. The country church I grew up in might be that crowded at Easter. Data is drawn from cross-checked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures to produce a credible record of known deaths and incidents. I selected the lower number for my computation. Other estimates are far higher: A study published by the Lancet says the risk of death by violence for civilians in Iraq is now 58 times higher than before the US-led invasion.[3]
Journalists killed 125 0.1336 The figure of 125 killed does not include the 49 journalism support workers killed or any of the abducted journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists . . . considers a journalist to be killed on duty if the person died as a result of a hostile action—such as reprisal for his or her work, or crossfire while carrying out a dangerous assignment. CPJ does not include journalists killed in accidents, such as car or plane crashes, unless the crash was caused by aggressive human action (for example, if a plane were shot down or a car crashed trying to avoid gunfire). Nor does CPJ include journalists who died of health ailments. Note that it takes approximately eight lies to kill a journalist.
Direct cost to US taxpayers $488 billion $521,925,133.69These numbers are incomplete--just to the end of 2007; they do not begin to cover the ongoing medical and psychiatric needs of veterans, for example, or the cost of rebuilding Iraq, or the interest our grandchildren will be paying on this monstrous debt. They are also hard to grasp. For each lie, we could have built a new medical school, and still have had enough left over to put 1,918 kids through a year of Head Start. Or we could skip the med school and the education, and just buy 2,372 lucky families a new house at the national median home price of $220,000. For every lie.
Cost so far to taxpayers of Oakland, CA $574.7 million $614,652.41 Each lie would pay for 27,938 copies of Ruby K. Payne's excellent A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Or they could have put almost nine new cops on the streets for each lie.
Oakland children who could have been provided with health care 214,364 229 That's right--every lie could have given health care to 229 kids. Instead of killing 4 American soldiers, wounding 31, and killing 86 Iraqi civilians. How would you rather spend your tax dollars?


[1] Based on these assumptions: both adults working a 5-day work week, minus the US-average 13 days of vacation; a school year of 180 days; one religious service per week and a year of 52 weeks; the excuses for missing religious services apply to the whole family.

[2]What does wounded mean?

"I think maybe I just need a couple of days without getting blown up." Three articles plus interactive multimedia. But the pictures, distressing as they are, show just a little of what happens. A few smears of blood, an incision, an expression of dazed pain. They don't show shattered bones or gaping wounds. They don't need to.

Struggling Back From War's Once-Deadly Wounds
The survival rate among Americans hurt in Iraq is higher than in any previous war - seven to eight survivors for every death, compared with just two per death in World War II.

But that triumph is also an enduring hardship of the war. Survivors are coming home with grave injuries, often from roadside bombs, that will transform their lives: combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress.

Wounded soldiers often economic casualties
Economic forecasts vary widely for the federal costs of caring for injured veterans returning from the Middle East, but they range as high as $700 billion for the VA. That would rival the cost of fighting the Iraq war. In recent years, the VA has repeatedly run out of money to treat sick veterans and had to ask for billions more before the next budget.

"I wouldn't be surprised if these costs per person are higher than any war previously," says Scott Wallsten, of the conservative think tank Progress and Freedom Foundation.

[3] I could not find a reliable estimate of the Iraqi wounded. The number must be immense.

What are they stealing from you with every lie?

1 comment:

ramzahn said...

Don't know if I'm really qualified here, but:
I also have wondered why US-Americans have been, since, well, 1888, constantly embroiled in wars not their own. Nowadays there seems to be only one explanation. It is economically imperative. Your economy is geared to do just that. Make war.
It's a *very* viscous circle and i am sorry for every one of you.

And it is so sad. This land is, or was, so rich.