Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 08, 2007

Nathan Sharansky - Lying with Statistics

In a Washington Post OpEd arch-zionist, likudnik, human rights promoter and GWB favorite Natan Sharansky is urging against a U.S. pullout:  Leave Iraq and Brace for a Bigger Bloodbath.

In doing so, Sharansky manipulates results to questions asked in a poll he cites, while ignoring questions and answers that do not support his opinion.

His central line of argument is that life in Iraq was bad under Saddam, is not so bad now and would be much worse if the U.S. occupiers leave.

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.

To furthers his arguments he cites some poll numbers:

In a face-to-face national poll of 5,019 people conducted this spring by Opinion Research Business, a British market-research firm, only 27 percent of Iraqis said they believed that "that their country is actually in a state of civil war," and by nearly 2 to 1 (49 percent to 26 percent), the Iraqis surveyed said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny.

Let's set aside that veteran British journalist Simon Jenkins called it a Halliburton Poll and let's use the poll's actual final numbers (pdf).

Sharansky's first "only 27 percent" number on "civil war" is obviously taken from question 4 of the poll:

Q4: Which of the following comes closest to your own opinion about the state of Iraq at the moment?

Unlike what Sharanksy tries to make his readers assume, "only 27 percent", poll participents could select not between two, but between four possible answers to that question or even abstain. This is what they really said (page 10 table 4):

27% - Iraq is in a state of civil war
22% - Iraq is close to a state of civil war but not in one yet
18% - Iraq is still some way from civil war
21% - I don't think Iraq will ever get as far as civil war
rest - Don't know/Refused/No answer

Technically Sharansky is correct to say:

only 27 percent of Iraqis said they believed that "that their country is actually in a state of civil war"

But does that reflect the actual answers?

If one culminates the answers by modifying the question into a yes/no-one like, for example: "Is Iraq currently more likely in a civil war than not?" 56% of all who did answer the question would have tended to the "more likely" side and 44% to the "than not". That is a tiny bit different from Sharansky's "only 27 percent".

The second data point Sharansky cites is about preference of the "new government" versus the old one. This reflects question 8 of the poll:

Q8: Taking everything into account, do you feel that things are better for you now under the present political system or do you think thinks were better for you before under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein?

First note that the question is different form what Sharansky implies:

by nearly 2 to 1 (49 percent to 26 percent), the Iraqis surveyed said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny

Some people may feel "things are better" under system A still may prefer system B and vice versa. In that, Sharansky is obfuscating. Now look at the actual answers. Again, unlike what Sharansky implies, this was not a yes or no question:

49% - Better under the current system
26% - Better under the previous regime
16% - Neither, they are just as bad as each other
rest  - Don't know/Refused/No answer

Of those who gave a definite answer 53% think things are better while 46% think things are equal or worse. That is a significant difference but is that a "nearly 2 to 1" margin? And if the survey had also covered the 2 million Iraqis who fled from their country, (it did not,) would that result not be more likely 50-50 than "2 to 1"?

While manipulating some answers to the survey's questions, Sharansky selects to totally ignore  questions/answers that oppose his opinion. In defense of his argumentation and in a sidekick to Amnesty International he says:

By consistently ignoring the fundamental moral divide that separates societies in which people are slaves from societies in which people are free, some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion.

As you will see that statement is very fitting for the human rights activist Nathan Sharansky himself (btw: if you wonder about those italics look here or here)

The Iraqis, which Sharansky wants to save from being slaves, do not agree at all with the theme of his column, the prediction of a "bloodbath" without an occupation. In the very poll he uses to argument his case question 2 asks:

Q2: [T]hinking ahead, do you believe that the security situation in Iraq will get better or worse in the immediate weeks following a withdrawal of Multi National Forces?

The answers (page 4 table 2):

29% - A great deal better
24% - A little better
15% - A little worse
11% - A great deal worse
6% - Stay the same
rest - Don't know/Refused/No answer

More than 2 to 1 (59 percent to 26 percent) of the Iraqis surveyed say that the security situation will be better or the same without the occupation troops. Only 11% think it will be a great deal  worse (yes, I'm using his tools here.)

If Sharansky really wants the Iraqis to be free, instead of occupation slaves, why does he ignore their opinion and argues the opposite of what they say?

Well, as he, in lack of any self conscience, explains:

some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion.

Posted by b on July 8, 2007 at 18:25 UTC | Permalink


Pimping: Abbas not a dictator:

Posted by: mattes | Jul 8 2007 18:58 utc | 1

it's an easy matter to pick a poll apart to find what you want.

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.

this is indisputable, based on what we know of the factiousness of iraq. and yes, it seems the US is making some headway by driving a wedge between jihadists and nationalists. the US can't leave. it's not gonna happen anyhow.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 8 2007 19:09 utc | 2

this is indisputable - sure, that is why the Iraqis, who, I assume, know a bit about their country and compatriots than you do, do NOT agree with that assumption.

There might be a bloodbath. But the U.S. occupation result is a big, big swimming pool of blood. A simple blood bath might require less victims?

Data, sloth, data, not psychotic assumptions ...

Posted by: b | Jul 8 2007 19:27 utc | 3

no, it is you who has no support for an opinion which is not so much motivated by a desire to be right, but a delight to see the US fail, no matter what.

you need to read that crisis group report on basra that alamet posted. more "data" for you to enter into your calculus of america-hate.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 8 2007 21:16 utc | 4

What Confused Ponderer Says

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jul 8 2007 21:25 utc | 5

Here is the ICG report in question: Where Is Iraq Heading? Lessons from Basra There is nothing in it that makes me think it will all get better with continued occupation. The bloodcurdling picture it paints came about because of the occupation.

The US and the UK must leave Iraq right away. They must pay reparations. And maybe they could get around to lending the country "380 university academics and doctors, 210 lawyers and judges, and 243 journalists/media workers but not other experts, school teachers or students" for about a lifetime or so until Iraq's lost generation can be replaced.
(both links to pdf files)

Posted by: Alamet | Jul 8 2007 22:43 utc | 6

seems that the lack of occupation "security" in the basra is the cause of complete institutional collapse. that's the thesis of the report.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 9 2007 1:19 utc | 7

That and the very credible Turkish threat to the Kurdish north.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jul 9 2007 2:46 utc | 8

One in four Iraqis had had a family member murdered in the last three years, according to that poll. And that only takes us back to 2004.

Whether one wants to call that a civil war is a matter of semantics, I think. "Blood-soaked chaos" might describe it accurately enough.

Posted by: Donald J | Jul 9 2007 3:35 utc | 9

As for contributions to security by US forces, it seems to me that before we can make any sort of judgment on that we'd have to know how many people US forces kill and what the breakdown is--that is, of those killed, how many are the universally reviled "Al Qaeda", how many are nationalist guerillas, how many are members of death squads, and how many are civilians. It's strangely difficult to get that info.

Posted by: Donald J | Jul 9 2007 3:38 utc | 10

I'm surprised nobody has rehashed the famous Churchill quote: "I only trust those statistics that I've falsified myself".

As for Sharansky, his conclusions don't match those of a poll some months ago where 61 % of Iraqis responded that it was the duty of every Iraqi to kill American soldiers (If anyone doubts this I can dig up the poll for you). If the situation was indeed better or more hopeful for Iraqis, in addition to the one million dead and 2 million uprooted inside Iraq, why have another 2 million fled to Syria, Jordan and anywhere else that cwould take them?

I mean, let's be reasonable here: Assuming the above 5 million have/had an extended family, it means that, statistically speaking (?!?), every single Iraqi has been in some way devastated by the brutal and malicious U.S. invasion. Where did Opinion Research find those 5,019 people?

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 9 2007 5:59 utc | 11

I wonder what Sharansky has to say about the 'statistics' announced by the British Ministry of Defence in August 2005 (when the situation was far better than today), and which completely contradict the Opinion Research findings:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

Here's the link

As I said, the situation today, almost 2 years after the above poll, has deteriorated beyond imagination. Maybe the recent Opinion Research poll was conducted among MPs hiding in the relative safety of the Green Zone, or from the exclusive group of 1 % cited above ...

Posted by: Parviz | Jul 9 2007 9:35 utc | 12

My nephew just return from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. He has always been a war supporter with the usual soldier's Gung Ho attitude. Not this time. It's obvious to him that the situation is rapidly degenerating, troops are in far greater danger than they were two years ago, and the the Iraqi people are simply "not cooperating".

Part of this is that he saw death close up and personal far more this time than the other three tours and that it hit him hard. He watched friends burn up when their Humvee hit an IED right behind his. There was no way to get them out. He's seen far more civilian deaths. There is significant disorder in the ranks as well.

There's still a dying part of him that's Gung Ho...but not much. His enlistment is up next year and what he though would be a life long career will end as soon as possible.

Meanwhile five of my current students will join the SURGE this fall. This will be the second tour of duty for most of them. No...they aren't happy either. There are simply are not that many true believers on the ground right now, only in the ivory tower of Neocon central in Washington.

One of the things that surprised me is the mandatory decompress time these soldiers have to endure before they are reunited with their families. He's stuck on his base for two weeks at least. Apparently some returning troops have endured so much violence that they tend to take out their frustrations on their families. To reduce domestic violence, this policy seems to now be a semi-permanent fixture.

All the slogans and flag waving and propaganda from the Rendon and Lincoln Groups can't save this disaster perpetrated by a few ambitious, powerful, and corrupt war lords. Time to get out. It was never time to go in in the first place!

Posted by: Diogenes | Jul 9 2007 9:41 utc | 13>Baseing Plan in Baghdad May Be Flawed Understatement of the day:

BAGHDAD — The neighborhood outposts that the U.S. military launched with great fanfare in Baghdad early this year were supposed to put more American patrols on the streets and make residents feel safer. But some soldiers stationed at the posts and Iraqis who live nearby say they are doing the opposite.
Although senior U.S. commanders and mid-level officers say they believe the bases are starting to work, many soldiers stationed at the outposts are doubtful, arguing that the burden of protecting the bases means they spend less time on the streets.

"They say we are spending more time 'in sector,' which we are doing — we live here," said Spc. Tyrone Richardson, 24, a member of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, that operates in the east Baghdad neighborhood of Ubaidi, outside Sadr City. "But we aren't spending the time patrolling."

Iraqis who live nearby say they feel less safe now, because many of the bases have quickly become magnets for rocket and mortar attacks. When attacks miss the troops, they often hit Iraqi civilians......

And so it goes, as another great white hope bites the dust. Or just how long do you think this latest batch of christians will survive when the lions are let out into the arena. The only thing left driving this escapade is the emperor's vanity
and the amusement of those making money off staging show.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 9 2007 18:43 utc | 14

Iraqis are to driven out of the country, and to be killed under the radar. The population has already been effectively ‘reduced’ (footnotes missing) by about 6 million: numbers rough:

- at *least* 2.5 million refugees who fled and turned up elsewhere, Jordan, Syria, principally, but to other places as well, if in smaller numbers, but it all adds up;

- estimates vary of course - about, I reckon, one million killed to date (see lancet article and extrapolate over time, escalation, surge)

- the internally displaced, living in desperate poverty, and dying like flies, another two million (?) ...

The numbers are staggering.

Of course argument could knock off - say - a million...make it 5 million or even 4...and question definition, how to classify..who is alive for the moment, etc, how to count, etc.

This is genocide. 6 million or 3 million, the scale is millions.

Numbers are cold, but each death leads to other deaths. A widow with 3 children ... fill it in.

Iraqis have no overview of what is happening in their country.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 9 2007 19:58 utc | 15

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