Media Blog

CNN Treats Hard-Left Thesis as Credible Report

Media Blog reader Sam wrote in to point out this story on CNN.com:

(CNN) — Nearly 25,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the Iraq war, according to a group that tracks the civilian death toll from the conflict.
The Iraq Body Count — a London-based group comprising academics and human rights and anti-war activists — said on Tuesday that 24,865 civilians had died between March 20, 2003 and March 19, 2005.

Sam writes:

Now I read the whole article and I am missing at least two seriously important pieces of information:
1. If you die while shooting at American troops from a mosque, are you counted as a civilian?
2. Any word on how many civilians casualties are are not Iraqis?
How can a respectatble news organization report this without asking those questions? Any doubt in your mind that the pacifist group would include any person not in uniform in the body count?

It’s hard to tell. The pacificist group’s Web site is a disorganized mess, sacrificing a concise explanation of its methods for pictures of stealth fighters dropping bombs against an ominous grey sky (the report PDF is here). I haven’t had a chance to go over the report in detail, but this should give you an example of the scholarship involved. One of the most prominent statistics in the CNN report was that the group found U.S. forces responsible for 37 percent of civilian deaths and “anti-occupation forces” responsible for only 9.5 percent. Another 36 percent were attributed to “criminal activity” and 11 percent to “unknown agents.” And who, exactly, counts as an unknown agent?

When we could not be sure that targets were occupation-related we classified the killers as

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