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Matt Drudge rules their world...and spreads a Big Lie on Iraq

Attywood | March 14, 2007

Let's start by stating the obvious -- all Americans, regardless of their views on the war in Iraq or on politics in general -- don't want to see even one more of our countrymen and women killed over there.

And any legitimate news that U.S. troop deaths are sharply down, in a way that is statistically significant, would be welcomed with open arms by all. And such news would also have to become part of the Great National Debate over what happens next in the region.

Matt Drudge is running what purports to be just such a story on the top left of his incredibly influentual Web site right now as I write this. The headline reads: "Baghdad security crackdown seriously curbs killings of US soldiers..."

No doubt, the gist of that headline is bounding around the airwaves of talk radio and in the electrons of cyberspace as we speak. And it is also influencing the judgment of America's news directors. Mark Halperin, the political director of ABC News, and John Harris, who had the same job at the Washington Post and now runs The Politico, wrote a book chapter recently entitled "How Matt Drudge Rules Our World."

He rules their world, and yet on the very day that the U.S. Senate is starting a major debate on the future of American troops in Iraq, Matt Drudge is spreading a Big Lie.

For one thing, if anyone clicks on the link and pays attention to the source, they'll see the article is not from a credible, independent media outlet but from the Kuwait News Agency (or KUNA). Kuwait is still America's biggest ally in the Gulf (for obvious reasons) and so the source of the story is a huge tell here.

Here's the gist of the report:

BAGHDAD, March 14 (KUNA) -- The rate of killings of US troops in Iraq has been on the decline, down by 60 percent, since the launch of the new security measures in Baghdad, according to statistics revealed by the Multi-National Force -Iraq Combined Press Information Centre.
Only 17 members of the US military in Iraq have been killed since February 14 till March 13, compared to 42 from January 13 to February 13; the rate was on the decline during the first month of the security crackdown, compared to a month before.

Two of the 17 soldiers died at US Baghdad camps of non-combat causes.

The remarkable decrease in killings among the US troops came at a time when more of these troops were deployed in the Iraqi capital, especially in districts previously regarded as extremely hazardous for them such as Al-Sadr City, Al-Azamiyah, and Al-Doura.

But if you read down into the story -- as many Drudge readers surely will not -- even the author of this quasi-article admits that it's bunk -- check this out:

The statistics excluded US troops killed in other governorates such as Al-Anbar, Diyala, and Salahiddin.

Say what?! The story purports to be about "Iraq." How crazy was I to think they were talking about the entire country?!

The thing is, I work with the casualty numbers three or four nights every week, producing a feature for the Philadelphia Daily News called the Numbers Racket. And I could tell that the figures in this Kuwait article/press release are nowhere even in the ballpark of reality. For that, we look to the indepedent Web site icasualties.org, which is used by many major news orgs and bases alot of its info on Pentagon releases.

This is the table of all the deaths. First, the one piece of good news. Overall deaths did drop during the period addressed by the article. But the grim news is that the totals are much, much higher than suggested in this story, that tens of thousands of Drudge readers are relying upon for talking points.

The number of American troops killed from Feb. 14 through March 13 is 73, not 17, or more than four times higher. In the prior month, from Jan. 14 through Feb. 13, which was a remarkably bloody period, 116 American troops died. So the tally did drop overall, and that's great news, by it was 37 percent, not nearly the 60 percent as the story reports. And the decline in deaths per day is even less -- because, as the article also fails to note, February only has 28 days.

Here's what I find most significant. The U.S. death rate for the 28-day period in question is 2.61 deaths a day. The daily American death rate since the war began four years ago is 2.37 deaths a day -- so even now, Americans are still dying now in Iraq at a higher-than-average rate for this conflict.

Is anyone really happy with that? As we've argued on this site almost every day since we started it, even 1 American death is one too many in an unnecessary and useless war, based on lies from the start. And now the proponents of more war continue to lie in a desperate effort to keep it going.

This whole Drudge caper needs to be looked into. What is the role of Kuwait and the military command in Baghdad, seemingly in concert with Matt Drudge, in spreading this disinformation? This has all the earmarks of deliberate psy-ops to influence the American political debate, which is not only illegal but also unconscionable.

If Matt Drudge really rules their world, it's time for a revolution.

UPDATED: Also this afternoon, the AP -- which has more credibility than the Kuwait News Agency -- published a positive article on a different aspect of the situation in Iraq -- a decline in the number of bombings and executions in Baghdad. That's real data that should be weighed as we determine our future policy in Iraq.

That also doesn't change the journalistic fraud carried out today by Drudge -- using completely incorrect data from a government news agency to paint a rosier picture of American troop fatalities than what is really occuring. Would you defend, for example, a prominently promoted news article that said 9/11 was horrible -- 700 people died? I don't think so. This is a serious debate that needs accurate data.



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