Terence Yorks
presents more of a blog variant


The Ruffled Grouse looks at war

  In 2005, some of the analytical techniques that I have been using for many years to assess energy useage and natural system functions seemed like they might apply to data emerging from Iraq. They indeed confirmed a logical hypothesis that casualties would continue to rise (as an average per month, as well as their hideous total), for as long as the American army attempts to occupy that unfortunate country. Sadly, but not surprisingly, for more than two years this theory proved ever more correct, and seemed likely to continue to apply, but its context has slowly changed, passing instead to Afghanistan. While the total sum of damage continues to be ever greater, little else has seemed to change, not least the lack of effectively organized public or reporting responses for the true situation. Most media still parrot press releases from the active perpetrators.

  The continuing caveat herein is not criticizing the sincerely partriotic grunts, whose problems I respect and wish to reduce. The goal for this analysis places a more rigorous spotlight on the results of choices by their much less physically courageous, tragically misguiding, highest-level leaders, those who got us into the mess, and those keeping everyone else mired within it.

13 March 2012

With the obvious outrages by, and stresses on the rest of, American troops mounting again in Afghanistan, it is perhaps time to revisit the equations of war. A more general expansion of the relationships that I previously proposed might be that damage done (to material and humans), simply rises in proportion to the number of men whose primary employment is perceived as being soldiers, then multiplied by factors for the power of the weaponry and assumption of protection (e.g., armor or distance from return fire) available for those men. There is little difference for those factors for police as opposed to soldiers, nor is there a substantial advantage for those paying for them by purportedly defensive postures among the soldiers. If professional forces and weapons are available in substantial numbers, so as to be able to act in more than a defensive way, they will eventually be used, and not to the benefit or other advantage of the countries that supplied them.

Nuclear weapons have remained so far sufficiently fearsome even among those generally removed from expectations of personal consequences that they have not been used after their first trials against human victims. Nevertheless, in more than one instance, the cataclysm from their continued availability was much more closely approached (by both Kennedy and Nixon) than most folks realize. Their threat has by no means vanished, while their direct and unavoidable connection to nuclear power, whose full costs continue to be avoided by those bullish about it, enhances their spread, and thereby the likelihood of someone being crazy enough to pull their trigger.

Soldiering is not an occupation that tends to draw gentle types when it is “voluntary” (i.e., mercenary), so no matter how idealistic the nation from which the troops are drawn, there will be among those who choose that profession a lower proportion of restraint for violent acts. As the inevitable boredom and stresses of the occupation rise with numbers involved and aggressive activity, so will breakpoints among individuals become even more likely to arise and find releases. The degree of resulting damage goes back to rule one above.


19 July 2010
  One assumes without what ought to be a special form of sad awareness, the "AP Sportlight" feature in our morning newspaper noted this date as being the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Moscow Olympics, where the United States led a boycott by quite a few other nations. The reason for that boycotting? The Russians had invaded Afghanistan. They wanted to reorganize a government distasteful to them, and to do that by force, proving their own military might was still superior. The Soviets, of course, eventually went home with their tails between their legs, but not before Ronald Reagan's crew had taught and equipped one Osama bin Laden, and many others of his like, how to fight more effectively against others during the messy process of eviction. In 2001, the Bushies, instead of a surgical pursuit within International Law of that criminal, so well experienced at our taxpayer expense, chose to initiate another widely destructive military invasion. Nine years later, more Americans are there than ever, in uniform or even more expensively contracted, with success by any definition elusive, as always for invaders of that poor country, throughout recorded history. An Olympic boycott with bitter irony to follow, indeed.


11 May 2010

  Too bad the erstwhile constitutionalists, the supposedly for small government 'tea baggers', seem unwilling to pick up one of this country's founders most intense sentiments, i.e., their firm refusal to allow a large standing army to exist in this country. A powerful navy for defense, yes, but never an army large enough to invade anywhere else, unless temporarily built up for a specific cause, and that following a formal declaration of war by Congress. They advised just keeping a small professional core in case of need for training, a policy maintained until Truman failed to shrink the WWII expansion after that war ended, an error kept up by the leaders who followed, with less valid excuse after the should have been lesson of Vietnam, and none at all after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  We will continue to bleed and pay unnecessarily, in very large sums, until those at the top realize that this country cannot fight the whole rest of the world, or any part of it invasively. The founders wisely did not, and this part of their strategy does need more serious remembering. It is nice to think of one's country as strong, but wise also to consider that there are 300 million of us, with rapidly diminishing resources, but at least 20 times that many others on earth. Not good odds.


10 September 2009

  “Call it the ‘Matador Doctrine’: a beast charges pointlessly at the bullfighter’s cape, exhausting itself and suffering endless small wounds, until it succumbs to a weaker opponent…without a change in tactics NATO my yet have its ears cut off by the Taliban.” 2009. ‘War and politics in Afghanistan.’ The Economist 392(8647):49.

   As I predicted 8 years ago, routinely since, and when the Russians tried long before, invading Afghanistan, continuing the fiasco, and especially pouring in yet more troops resembles another Lyndon Johnson level mistake, no more likely to work this time than it did in Vietnam. American deaths, costs hidden and obvious, and international distaste for this latest set of blundering that Bush/Cheney began, and which supposedly more rational folk seem unable to get away from, continue to rise there, while those in Iraq will not disappear until pullout is complete. The situation in Iraq has gone beyond linear extrapolation's ability to delineate effectively, though a flat line for continuing total deaths from military adventuring seems all too likely to stabilize again.

  Once again, as long as America, or any other country, maintains large professional armies, unnecessary suffering from them will arise, in proportion to their size. If they are readily useable, history consistently suggests that they will be, at least eventually, to everyone's additional cost, beyond the already too large one of just keeping them equipped and in uniform.

relatively constant death rates



10 December 2008

  “In capitalist countries, the problem [for ‘defense’ departments] is that of maintaining the existing army—strictly speaking, of maintaining a political cover for a self-sustaining system of militarism.” Leon Trotsky. 1931. My Life. Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, p. 349.

  That quote has continued to haunt me, given that al Sadr’s willingness not to attack in Iraq has been more fully bearing fruit. This afternoon it dawned on me how the president-elect's buying into the contemporary military’s desire to up troop numbers in Afghanistan means that I ought to redo my graph of Iraq deaths by adding lines for losses in Afghanistan, and the total for both. After taking a couple of hours to wrestle through clumsy recent revisions Microsoft made to Excel for Macs, sure enough, the linear extrapolation for occupation deaths in Iraq has changed over the past year from an increase to a decrease, but the peristaltic increase in Afghanistan neatly makes up for that decline. This leaves a net constant, or slowly rising death rate for the total from U.S. external military involvement.

  That peristaltic characteristic over time makes the military sales pitch easier, too, with them just having proclaimed in the press how the death rates having been falling so spectacularly during the past couple of months. Of course we are doing the right thing! Reporters these days are too lazy to look below the surface of press releases, and/or their editors are too cowardly to let them. Indeed the monthly rate drop is a true observation, but it is one just like every previous year, since the attackers are not stupid enough to freeze their asses off when the weather makes their already difficult work so much more so. Like simpler living Native American warriors long past, Afghans defending their turf have mostly taken the winter off, resting, recuperating, and planning their next year’s efforts. This is clearly reflected in the flow of the graph so far, even in the rather messily complex, reduced-size compilation below. But then, isn't war inherently messily complex?

  Unfortunately for everyone's future, adding more troops to Afghanistan has but one likelihood: More deaths, and their associated costs, for all involved. No invader has successfully subuded that country, from before Alexander the Great through the diastrous attempts for both Great Britain and the Soviet Union. The latter was a capitalistic country by that point, albeit a somewhat disguised monopoly.



5 November 2008

  At an election watching party at a friend’s house, though long active against the Iraq fiasco, she commented that air strikes against the Taliban et al. were different. There was no chance to pursue the point, but it is surely ambivalent. I have written before how without a chance for trial, justice is even less likely, while mistakes are even more so, with all the associated likelihood of ongoing cycles of inappropriately applied revenge and allied misdirected violence. On the other hand, in active war, hitting without warning is part of the necessities.

  One problem is that those favoring military action by the United States have not had the courage to take the necessary effort to declare formal war against anyone since 1941, thereby guaranteeing inappropriate behavior. Another is the crudeness of air strikes, no matter how good their technology, where “collateral damage” means a lot more to those trespassed against, and to those who care about them, than to those sitting comfortably and far away who were involved in making the utterly inevitable errors, of so many different sorts.

   Meanwhile, even openly declaring war against shadowy groups of terrorists raises their profile and encourages recruitment. There will never be a perfect defense against committed guerilla operations, and even less of a possibility to act offensively against them without thorough local support where they are, especially without a willingness to take up close and personal risks, including by leaders.

   Against the Taliban and other Islamic militants, who do represent real threats abroad and within the U.S., the Cheney et al. chicken hawk legacy of consistent blundering greatly constrains future choices. There has been a lot of anger generated, even if reduced to a simmer at the moment, for which from even further back through closely related profiteer greed, large quantities of all too convenient weapons distributed, both physical and mental. The Air Force still has some superiority, but there is only so much that can be done with jets. They cannot build, and they can do little to defend against committed individuals at the local level.

   Probably the central point to remember among the values of trying for genuine justice, including involving locals in the pursuit of true criminals, is that whatever is unleashed against them can and will come back to haunt those carrying out the pursuit, and their associates. If the U.S. unilaterally continues airstrikes, especially inside the borders of other nations, targeting individuals or groups a shaky path inside its hierarchy secretly decides to act against, just what is to keep the same thing happening in response—and with less restraint in choice of tools, with even less likelihood to hit just what might be justifiable? It may feel good to unleash the capabilities one has developed, and gain a short term advantage, but once again, there are a lot more present and potential enemies (by at least 20 times) than there are of us. When we bend the rules, why should we have reason to expect others to act differently?

   Be sure of your target, and the further away it is, the harder it will be to hit successfully, were central advice when I first started handling weapons (when I was 14, taking a hunter safety course), and the validity has not changed. Being willing to deal with retaliation follows similarly for collective use of firepower, with all these connected by asking whether or not one really wants to pull that trigger. If there is any doubt, don’t.

   I am then drawn back to the book written by T. H. Lawrence’s teacher of Arab concepts, [Charles A. Doughty. 1923. Travels in Arabia Deserta] who reflected so well a level of inherent violence in the society that was so pervasive. A veneer has been pasted over that historical focus, but there are an awful lot of unemployed males, with literally nothing to lose (and more being created every day, since population restraint is not considered important), with very many thoroughly inculcated by the old ways. America is not, and rightfully not, willing to take losses at their level. However conveniently it might appear then to act where we have an apparent advantage, that should be seen as like swatting a few of the first hornets when there is a cloud of their peers coming behind them. Cutting their overall numbers, and keeping them happier where they might not have to interact with those with more civilized (in its best sense) hopes, are the only long-term solutions. Of course, numerical limitations apply to our own group as well, so this asks no more of anyone else, making it all the more feasible as the primary course for active focus of our efforts.

   In the interim, there will be losses, to both sides, no matter which course is chosen. My argument is not to fan any flames, and thereby minimize their total. Young men will always be testing limits, and old ones remaining ignorant of consequences of their choices. There cannot be perfect peace, but there is unlikely to be a better ending than the level of one’s own decisions, including support for others.

   Then, the thought came what rumored expectations of more cross boundary strikes in the fading months for the Bushies might well mean, backed by support from those who should know better, but have been seduced by arguments of ‘let’s blame it on them’ while disposing of some thoroughly bad apples. Instead of taking out possible bin Ladens, Cheney’s wet dream of going after Iranian nuclear facilities… The hard liners always have been in trouble in that country, which is far from being composed purely of troglodytes. The Bushies and their associates with too closely constrained military outlooks, including an inadequate grasp of history or other cultures, still have the capability of making life worse, for a very long time. Bombs almost never do only what they were intended to.

  I'm not much of a praying man anymore, but regarding the expressed intent of Cheney et al., and their remaining capabilities, I'm in a mental foxhole. Please, God or gods, keep their stupidity in check. They've already done too much damage.


2 September 2008

  The Russian invasion of Georgia is but the first phase of another revelation of the tragedy of the Reagan era military buildup followed by the Bush/Cheney/et al. misuse of that hubristic tool. Teddy Roosevelt said, “speak softly and carry a big stick”, but knew that actively putting that stick to use would be likely to reveal its limitations. At least the lie of Reagan winning the cold war can be put to rest, now that it is visibly returning, even for the historically ignorant majority. All the people managing Reagan’s strings managed was to finish bankrupting the Soviet Union superstructure, not change the course of Russian tradition or capability. They laid the foundations for the eventual bankruptcy of the United States, economically and militarily.

   There is no question that a finely honed tool was put together by the American military-industrial complex, but like the similarly superior one the Nazis built, not having a sufficient population behind it to be capable of taking on the whole world alone. When Bush the elder went into Kuwait, it was not an unprovoked invasion, it was a response to clear aggression. The American effort was very much cooperative, and those leading knew when to stop. Unfortunately, the reason for the stopping was seen to be a military difficulty, in carrying off the next step without perceptually excessive casualties. Further analysis of subsequent problems of occupation did not need to be pursued, although those were quite explicitly present.

   During the ensuing period, flush with a modest triumph, military planners were able to put together a plan, aided by further weakness of their ostensible enemy, that did allow a speedy and surprisingly easy conquest a dozen years later. It was a classic pyrrhic victory, though, in the larger sense, because once into Iraq itself, and paralleled by an even more hopeless quest in Afghanistan, it proved with absolute clarity the impossibility of even the very best military machine’s utility as an active policy tool in a world where the population behind it is outnumbered by more than 20 to 1.

   For the Roosevelt option to work, the morality and restraint of the country carrying the stick had to be universally believed. Beyond the strictly military limits, where invasion always has to be followed to a successful occupation, the American leaders in this century quickly destroyed the long built up impression of moral superiority, along with the related sense of respect for international law and other cultures. Once a country has invaded another without provocation, it can hardly condemn others effectively, especially after its military tool has had its edge seriously blunted in the process, with its sustainability as a force so clearly proven to be too thin to manage multiple fronts, let alone multiple enemies.

   ‘My way or the highway’ may play well in contemporary internal national politics, but it is rarely valid at the world level, unless one wants others to do the same. That approach guarantees continued conflict, with such intransigence obviating building on common focus resolutions for greater benefit for all, with the possible exception those who profit from destruction.

   Now, the wider American debt created by corporate, energy, and military profligacy continues to spiral out of control, without serious effort to constrain any of this greedily wasteful triumvirate. The Russian bear and the Chinese dragon are both laughing with pleasure, with many therein increasingly profiting directly and indirectly along the way, from leadership so much more historically aware.

   The ‘greatest generation’ was more of a high point than almost anyone else yet realizes, even though some of their number in part literally paved the way for the collapse that has begun to manifest itself, beginning with the errors of Dulles and Eisenhower of bellicosity, and backed by those not reducing the military’s size for the first time in American history following a major war. Their followers in leadership positions merely polished the slide, continuing to let our military grow in apparent power, ready to try to overstep the humanly possible, and refusing to tax either energy or anything else sufficiently to restrain the growth of national debt or the energy wastefulness that has run in parallel, similarly taking advantage of a population unwilling to pay attention.

   At one center of the whirlpools sucking at us, any national economic focus upon professional militarism has perfectly well proven, consistently from as far back as human records exist, to lead only downwards for residents of countries that follow that strategy, joining those it attacked. Some of these descents have taken quite a while (e.g., Rome), but things happen ever faster as population numbers and technological capabilities increase.


17 July 2008
  Now that even the Pentagon at last appears ready to overrule Cheney et al. and seriously move towards leaving Iraq, as internal withdrawal from confrontation has at least temporarily reduced casualties, “U.S. troops abandoned a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan where militants killed nine of their comrades this week…commanders…said they clearly want more troops.” [AP, page A5 in the Logan Herald-Journal this morning]. Once again, I remember my sad laughter while I was reading M.M. Kaye’s Caravans, when news came that the Russians invading that poor country thirty-odd years ago. Kaye was doing a wonderful job of exploring how the Afghans had chewed up and spat out the few surviving British, when they had tried invading more than a hundred years before. No outsider, not least Alexander the Great, has ever managed to do more than sweep through Afghanistan. His became a typical ghost conquering, where the locals soon, in historical terms, were back in control, returning to fighting among themselves instead of having to bother with the outsiders.

  If Bush and his handlers had not been such greedy fools, the truly powerful American military, with the worldwide support after 9-11 available, should have been able to go in and run down Osama and crew rather quickly, then wisely leave after collecting the internationally guilty. Instead, diverted by personally cowardly leaders slathering after Iraq, the cooperating militaries accomplished only a weirdly token run through Afghanistan. With that effort mostly carried by local thugs, the thrust temporarily managed to knock off Taliban governance, but their most lasting effect was a massively explosive expansion of the locally generated opium trade, accompanied by yet more ecological and social devastation. Now, once again ignorant of the past and realistic possibilities, the arrogant few from so far away are proposing to pacify and control the whole place?

   A poetic phrase from long ago runs around my mind, “a deep where our thoughts are drowned” [from a hymn by John Watts, in a twisting of Psalm 147]. That phrase evolves from ‘thoughts’ to ‘lives’ in the contemporary war. Afghani folks apparently know better than any others how to defend themselves. The result: Vietnam redux, with mountains instead of jungles, after Iraq’s deserts have blunted the current lot of outsiders’ most powerful mechanized teeth. Pete Seeger said it best, “when will they ever learn?”

   I’m not holding my breath, though willing to shed a few tears for both our soldiers and the folks they will, once again, unnecessarily kill, or make the survivors’ lives even more miserable, all at fantastic economic and environmental cost. As has been true since WWII, the only answer is to demobilize the American military machine, returning it to the genuinely defensive, far smaller professional posture that had been so effective for so long, and could be so again.

   Another song says more simply, “pick up the pieces and go home” [Buckingham/Nicks]. Unfortunately, under an increasingly crushing debt generated by military and energetic idiocy, this country seems inevitably on the path of its Roman ancestors. Straight roads make for crooked minds.


21 May 2008

   On a day when the traditional media are trumpeting a small Iraqi army penetration into Sadr City, the real news from Iraq was better presented, once again, by Salon, with a particularly effective photograph by Anna Badkhen.

   The lives being seriously disturbed by arrogant American bad leadership are myriad. Our own increasing travails are bad enough, but not nearly so bad as the less than rich confronted by it abroad. Americans who continue to support fools, not least the still ascending John McCain, need to contemplate stories and images like Badkhen's, daily, instead of ever so neatly conducted Republican propaganda that so dominates the national media. Censorship in history has rarely been as effective as it has been on honest news about recent American military efforts.

   Salon had another, not unrelated, commentary, which I feel can be quoted directly, because it is mostly words from the public domain: “This was Kennedy, in a September 1963 speech before a conservative Mormon audience in Salt Lake City: "We must realize that foreign policy in the modern world does not lend itself to easy, simple black and white solutions. If we were to have diplomatic relations only with those countries whose principles we approve of, we would have relations with very few countries in a very short time ... If we were to treat foreign policy merely as a medium for delivering self-righteous sermons to supposedly inferior people, we would give up all thought of world influence or world leadership." The Utah audience greeted Kennedy's speech with a loud burst of sustained applause.” David Talbot, 2008.

   If Barack Obama can indeed carry this forward, he will have gained my respect. Other contemporaries, highly placed and low, not least in the currently politically pathetic state of Utah, desperately need to remember both that vision and its particular response.


1 May 2008

   Replotting the overall data today found the trend line for deaths, now that al-Sadr group has been actively annoyed again, as continuing to be projected to rise at the same rate it was last October, when the temporary restraint began. Thus, another hypothesis of mine has been suggested more strongly to be correct by today's monthly numerical data. The temporary decline in mayhem does appear to be most strongly correlated with restraint by al-Sadr, not to effectiveness of American military coercion, unlike, as usual, what Bush propagandists, and those blinded by them, wish us to believe.

graph of rising deaths


17 April 2008

   One more unanticipated—by those who started it—cost of this truly stupid military action has been revealed to be 300,000 cases of PTSD and/or severe depression—so far—among American veterans, according to a RAND corporation study published today. It will be interesting to see whether this release, given its relevance and importance, will be reported by our local newspaper [it was, but in brief] or other media, and if so where. I added this comment after noticing an AP sideline in salon.com.

  Meanwhile, during the last three months, officially reported deaths have been rising steadily again, both among Americans (on track for 50 this month) and Iraqis (more than 50 yesterday alone).

   The kind of volunteer army this country was founded upon, and maintained until the successful conclusion, in 1945, of the last war declared according to Constitutional principles, was one of citizens first and soldiers second. It responded only in time of genuine need, after Congress openly declared war, not by invasion following a sleazy abrogation of responsibility by our elected, supposed representatives. The U.S. army, from the Revolution through 1945 had a small professional core for training purposes only, never one large enough to even try to play the impossible role of world policeman, or attempting to impose one set of imperfect beliefs upon others, inside or outside our borders. The latter, not incidentally and once again, outnumber us by more than 20 to 1, even if we were more right in any instance, and could attack, conquer any territory completely, and then govern it without compromising genuine rectitude in the process. The reality of our situation in the larger world and our own history may not be completely comforting, but accepting it seems a better direction than the current illusions.

  Bush's trip, incidentally, was thankfully ignored by almost all concerned, if he ever made it. I am among those who didn't notice.


8 January 2008

  Reported deaths and wounded have fallen precipitously for six months now. Restraint, for whatever reasons, by al-Sadr, other Iraqi non-puppet leaders, and by the Iranians seem far more likely than any other causes. The locals have shown that they are far from toothless, even in the face of spending and technologies far greater than their own, so they can afford to rest.

  Unfortunately, Bush's current plan for trying to resuscitate his pathetic image (for anyone willing to look behind his propaganda curtain) by flaunting his odious persona across the area has every likelihood of being yet another tragic flaw for history, and deadly for a whole new crop of innocent bystanders. It once again shows that he's not a real Texan, and/or not very smart, quite unlike folks who have good reason to understand what unnecessarily stirring up fire ant nests portends.

  Meanwhile, the whole crowd of so-called leaders in Washington apparently remains clueless, despite abundant information that could have, and should have, educated them by now. Among them, foolish Democrats lately have been asking to up the likelihood of future damage by increasing professional numbers of the folks most capable of doing it. As George Washington and John Adams well understood, standing professional armies large enough to invade other countries will eventually do so, which does absolutely no one good, aside from temporary, ill-gotten benefits for profiteers and other forms of buzzard along the way. Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq should be recent example enough, and not just for America.


trends for wounded


1 October

  Notable reduction in deaths this month, which makes me wonder whether it's from Americans hiding out or moving away from particularly contested areas to prepare to invade Iran (the scariest possibility), just fatigue (on both sides, with the Iraqi part from time and Ramadan), or the rather curious reported restraint on the part of Muqtada al-Sadr. On the latter, I wonder, in turn, if it's a surface hiatus because of expanded U.S. weapon sales, many of which, as always for such, will eventually be used against Americans (as well as a lot more innocents), although never, unfortunately for justice, directly against those who profited from the sales.

  The upward trend in deaths remains highly significant overall.


4 September 2007

  At this point, both a rising rate of deaths and wounded have exceeded the 99% threshold of probability, yet the widely distributed media still refuse to notice. The Iraqi people, of course, are suffering far more losses, but these are not reported even nearly as close to accurately as those of the occupying forces.

   Currently, the equations are, for the period following "mission accomplished", # killed = 52 + 0.8(# of months), with p=0.002, and wounded = 362 + 5.7(# of months), with p=0.01



10 September

  Compare the above graphs, where I could find the data to chart it myself, to the one below, from the front page of the Logan Herald Journal, 98(253):1, from data which, if available on the web, is not easily accessible. This documents an even more steeply rising rate, one drastically different from the lies being told to Congress and the public by top administrators. It should be paired with a concept in another AP article in the same issue (page 2, "Brain damaged soldiers facing uncertain futures"), which states that individual occupation troops are experiencing an average of 1 explosion per month, each of which increases the subsequent likelihood of severe and permanent physiological damage.

sharply rising numbers of attacks, from the AP
  The truth is that it's hell over there, and quite steadily getting worse. Hidden within this graph is how attacks on civilians have a lot more casualties per event, since they're so much less protected or otherwise prepared for the more randomly placed events that affect them. A great amount of non-military losses are also surely not included in this graph, from the many who suffer "collateral damage" done by the occupying army (injuries which hurt just as much), to the many varieties of slightly more subtle murders, religious based or otherwise, that the erstwhile occupation has set off and/or magnified.


1 August 2007

The general news today, following as usual Bush propaganda, has been touting the past month's fall in American deaths. Unfortunately, also as usual, the statistically valid facts beg to differ. The monthly total, including fellow invaders, may have happily fallen a bit, but remains all too precisely along my predictive upward trending lines. The slope of those lines did not change, but the intercept for each actually rose by one this month, within the limits of rounding, and the overall probability for a continuing rise tightened slightly. Also, of course, an uncounted lot more Iraqis received untimely deaths as a result of the continuing lack of a grip on reality by top Americans.

Besides, for that slight numerical drop, it was July, and it's too damn hot for either side to fight as hard. I know personally about that heat, because it was exactly 21 years ago that I arrived in Kuwait to begin an extended consulting job. It's a lot less friendly place for Americans now, as another personal contact confirmed in conversation this afternoon.

So another King George continues to ride into a demented, but ever bloodier, and at home more polluted, sunset. And it's not him, or those who are behind his foolishness, that are suffering.


28 July 2007

The deaths are the terminal numbers. They are not the whole effect.

Today's Salon posting contained a starred reference to a newly uncovered VA report that suggests more than 50,000 soldiers have received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, with nearly 20,000 of these having received or are receiving disability payments for their conditions. Add that to the approaching 4,000 dead and 30,000 wounded Americans, and that's a lot of accumulated results from wholly unnecessary risk. Beyond the suffering, and the far greater ones of the locals in the deadly Bushie playgrounds, is the expense, which we all share.


1 July 2007
The probability of an upward trend continues to tighten in formal statistical significance.


1 June 2007

   It has happened. With the May increment, the probability for a continually increasing death rate for soldiers in Iraq has passed 99% (p = 0.0061). To repeat what has been said for so long and so many times below, this mayhem will not stop until the U.S. military leaves that country. Similar problems will continue to recur until the size of the American standing army is reduced to that required for true defense and potential training, kept small enough to not have the capacity to carry off yet another inappropriate invasion.

   Meanwhile, the folks in Baghdad not only continue to suffer far worse physical losses than the increasingly large ones by their invaders, they also continue to live almost without electricity, with little fuel, water, or effective sanitation. How long would Washington put up with that at home? Those responsible for this mess should at the very least be made to share the pain they have created. But so few seem to care, not least among the media, while Bush and associated companies continue to plunder the American and world futures, not just in Iraq. If this is not a shameful tragedy, what is?


21 May 2007

   Started my day at 3AM by recalculating risk for soldiers in Iraq. It’s even worse, a lot worse, than I, and most others, have thought. Let’s assume roughly 100,000 are at risk. There are more in uniform there, but exposure varies, from highest for grunts in Humvees, depending on area where deployed, more modest for medical and food support, still lower for top brass, and unjustly non-existent for the war criminals who started and continue the mess. My statistics have been working on a monthly basis, where with 100 dead, means 0.1%. In a year, that rises, appropriately rounded, to 1%. With the multiple tours now being applied for individuals, this can reach upwards of 3 in 100. Not trivial to those involved, but still in the automobiles over a lifetime risk level, and very possibly less than for pesticides, even though both of these alternatives tend to cut people off at later ages.

   But wounding is another issue, one still more difficult to assess, since that category can vary from seriously debilitating to just painfully annoying. If wounded numbers, though, are “only” 5 times greater (and admitted numbers have been somewhere between 5 and 10 times higher than those killed), this means a 5 in 100 chance in a year, or getting right on 1 in 5 within a 3 year accumulated risk. This seems pretty high by any standard, and will probably run pretty close to 1 in 3 (or worse) for the most exposed lot, who are also at the bottom of the totem pole of comfort otherwise. Of course, they (and those closest to them) are also the ones with the least ability to realize the mathematics, or to be able to communicate effectively what it means to be so surely screwed like this.

   This all falls under the rubric of having a moment of fuller appreciation of Tolkien’s phrase, “fighting the long defeat”. We’re all—plants, animals, and rocks—headed for death or dissolution, but there is no reason to assist the process, or otherwise to make the trip less pleasant or quicker.



17 May 2007

“The simple fact that occupying armies, whether allied or enemy, always become unpopular hardly ever figures in official calculation.” I.F. Stone. (undated) “Stone on the Vietnam War.” Utne Nov-Dec 06, 61.

   Amusing quote to run across while reading breakfast, because I’d made a comment to my wife before she left for outside work that the denial of Prince Harry’s desire to serve in Iraq by the British military was appropriate because it was not a war, and had not been since the first week of the invasion. It is an occupation, and like much of the rest of the foolishnesses foisted upon us by the erstwhile King George and cronies, it has continued in significant part because both media and public buy into serious misuse of words by their manipulators, e.g., “operation Iraqi freedom” still being repeated, without tragic irony. It’s just so pervasive, from “wise use” actually meaning devastation of the land, often essentially permanently, for the profit of a few, at great expense to many, through a “clean air act” gutting already pathetically weak regulations.


1 May 2007

   One really has to hand it to Bush’s spinmasters. The complaisant media, as usual, ate up today’s pre-emptive verbal strike about rising death rates in Iraq. Playing on the numerical and other public ignorance, they attributed the more obvious recent rise to the (incomplete) troop buildup, and (supposedly) increased risks being taken by the troops. This, of course, avoids the readily accessible data that the deaths are taking place in the same places that they have been, for the same reasons, along with readily made projections that the rising rate is no short term phenomenon. Neither media nor public seem able to grasp these not very subtle distinctions. The slope of the line of increasing deaths, recognized and published in this blog two years ago, has not changed for many months, although its statistical probability continues to increase, having now reached more than 98% towards approaching certainty.

   What is happening is that the open buildup, and the associated rhetoric, are merely sustaining the all too predictable progress of another quagmire that was created for already wealthy profiteers through the convenience of an excessively large professional military—just as in the Vietnam fiasco, and so many other historically unnecessary conflicts. The ones where the United States acted appropriately and things turned out well, like World War II, began from a small professional cadre, mostly naval, one quite adequate for genuine defense, followed by a real military threat, full civilian support, and concurrent nationwide sacrifice, including by top leadership. It also did not involve an intent for lasting conquest of or control over other countries, including their resources.

   Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the personal risk-avoiding hawks continue to be treated by the general media as greatly worthy of respect, having their spin given nauseating amounts of airtime, instead of media and legal hounds pursuing them as the vicious war criminals and wholesale profiteers that such solid evidence exists to support. The whole misleading perception is intimately tied to the destructive, limited personal liability, corporate mentality, in which it is not only those at the top who can oh so legally step aside from direct responsibility for their mistakes, but also allows them to live so comfortably and continue to profit so mightily, no matter how bad they may have been, or continue to be, and how many others suffer or die as a result. As long as they can prove they haven't actively defrauded their very particular company's stockholders, anything goes.

   Another particular aspect of this, and the associated cleverness at deluding popular media and the functionally illiterate public, was noted in a report this morning by Jeremy Scahill (“America's shadow army in Iraq: Legions of military contractors from U.S. corporations”) in salon.com, wherein he notes the presence of at least 126,000 highly paid, essentially invisible, troop alternative, suckers from the public trough. It isn’t that some of these folks haven’t suffered for their own and their leaders’ greed. Scahill points out, “Although contractor deaths are not effectively tallied, at least 770 contractors have been killed in Iraq and another 7,700 injured. These numbers are not included in any official (or media) toll of the war. More significantly, there is absolutely no effective system of oversight or accountability governing contractors and their operations, nor is there any effective law -- military or civilian -- being applied to their activities.”


17 April 2007

   Today, the American media are agog over a unique campus killing of 33. During the same day, at least 45 died at least as violently and meaninglessly in Iraq, which made a small note on newspaper page 6, while more than twice that larger, depressing number met unnecessary death on American highways (where more than 90% of damage can be traced to vehicles weighing more than 2 tons), just about without mention, just like every other day. Perhaps the wars are not the most important thing for worry, but they do have a surprising way of coming back to haunt world function. At the very least, they are more readily addressable, because of their utter uselessness to any but a few, albeit powerful, profiteers and destruction-bent, fame-addled fools. Note how the latter connects certain government officials and the campus crisis…with the link not being trivial, but with a distinction that the guiltier leaders continue to get away with what they have done, without any form of punishment even likely.

   The murderer in chief even still dominates media coverage, as if he were a person worth listening to, instead of what he is, a proven, consistently dangerous, insidious liar. The deaths he is directly responsible for pale into insignificance the worst imaginable sniper, especially since the still larger number on highways are the responsibility of those pandering grossly overweight vehicles and unlimited energy use, of which he is also among the leaders

   Am I riled? All too continuously, but with all too much justification. Why are not others, who have more leverage?



11 April 2007

   In considerable irony of accuracy, Discover has published an article "Dead Men Walking" by Michael Mason, p. 56 ff, in an issue that has no date either on the cover or inside. This is fairly recent, based on the transmission chain that brought it to me. The article, however, suggests with high likelihood of truth that the increased efficiency of medical evacuation and treatment has led to more survival with traumatic brain injuries, which would have killed men in previous wars. Their numbers are totalling at least twice the admitted deaths. These unfortunate men, having lasting severe damage, both physically and mentally, will require awesomely expensive care for the rest of their pain-filled lives. That many who are getting hurt were not the cream of the crop to begin with is another factor for potential recoveries. In this war, operational progress has been further relative sparing of officers and enlisted leaders, especially at higher levels. They are not the ones most exposed.

   Yet another moral dilemma has appeared here. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to "save" each of these men, because it can be done, and because it makes the death toll look not quite so bad. Each will be more than society will pay to or for me in the entire course of my life, as a point of reference, which comes out sounding selfish, but where is the balance? One of the victims, who has recovered partial speech, commented in the article about how there had been willingness to spend that kind of money at the battlefield and nearby ends, but no more, once they had made him what he had become, irreparably damaged.

  War is a dumpster for money, wherein almost none of the choices fit into any rational accounting system. However, this latest variant of its abuses does have a parallel in the bloating financial burden for societal medical care, driven as it is to a considerable degree by immense costs for just a small number of cases.

   The problem for the wounded and the public is similarly compounded by the reverse Robin Hood strategy of those now in power, stealing from the poor to give to the rich, which leaves a notably smaller pool of funds to provide for any needed long term support, in any area, not just for this particular set of unfortunates. What money is being spent by the government on such things is virtually all borrowed, a thoroughly unsustainable strategy. Those at the top speak of Christian charity, but, like the very rich former governor of Utah, and its dominant church, what they take as tax deductions for "charity" actually go 1% to the poor and 99% for sophisticated ways of feathering their own nests, including in the case of the religion, selling it through missionaries, salaries for overpaid executives, and entertainment/brainwashing through building and operating 'temples' and other untaxed physical facilities for enrollees. None of those uses of funds would likely have been considered charity by Jesus, or by most other careful users of the word.

   What support is left for the more functional poor and injured comes in building more prisons for the more annoying among them. The unemployed or underemployed and/or damaged who are not viewed as doing something so actively to piss off those in power get left with less than nothing, including a government rapidly pulling the rest of the whole system down. The Iraq war may be a carbuncle, but it is growing on a body covered with boils.


2 April 2007

    Amy Goodman, on radio's "Democracy Now", just reported that American military casualties last month were twice those for uniformed Iraqis, despite Bushite rhetoric that the latter were leading operations. Of course, Iraqi civilian casualties were vastly greater, at circa 12,000, at least as I heard it (which like the deaths caused by SUVs and other overweight vehicles in this country, is a statistic conveniently not actively collected). All would hardly be surprising amidst that ongoing tragedy.

    There was some dark humor today, though, in comments recorded by the Think Progress website, about John McCain's "walking freely" in Baghdad (photographed wearing parts of body armor, and surrounded by at least 100 American troops, with 4 helicopters overhead...) By some very reasonable definitions, he was a terror bomber himself, doing so rather blindly from the sky in Vietnam, ironically being called a hero for surviving prison camp, and, as one of the letter writers called it, being tortured by relatives of his victims. Blunt, yes, but unfortunately all too close to the truth. The man ought to know better, but the cycle of leadership not looking carefully enough at relationships and selective forgetfulness continues. I suppose it's worked well enough for him, gaining power and wealth, and that does affect thinking, as long as one is careful not to do so very deeply.


1 April 2007
    The April fools are at the top of the U.S. administration, continuing their tradition, and not funny in any way. With 81 more in uniform officially reported dead last month, the statistical probability of a continuing upward trend in American military deaths has now become more than 95% (p=.04). The slope of the trend remains unchanged from previous graphs. One can be sure that Iraq suffering continues to drastically exceed this sad total, and moving in the same direction.


14 March 2007

    Because I pay attention to so many information flows, rarely appears a number that is a real surprise, but an exception arrived this morning's news, in page 2 AP report on the Veteran's Administration troubles. One line suggested that the Iraq-area debacle will generate more than 600,000 disability claims during the coming years.

    That is an order of magnitude greater than one might anticipate, even given that the roughly 25,000 officially listed by DOD as wounded so far is a nearly certain serious underestimate for lasting physical damage. Seems like someone else besides me ought to care about this casually presented estimate, stuck as it was inside a bunch of dreary repetition about all-too routine mismanagement within the VA.

    The immense, but mostly still too effectively hidden, longer term costs of the dangerously oversized professional American military, as it has been kept going since WWII, apparently go still further beyond all the more obvious immediate waste and the immense subsidies to the hundreds of thousands of 40 year old "retirees". Wars that have come through presidents wishing to be considered warriors having too many conveniently kept ready in full-time uniform don't just affect unfortunate victims in invaded countries. We all pay for this greed and imagined glory driven foolishness, even if some suffer more than others. Almost all, I should say, for those at the very top simply profit, seemingly without end, at not incidental additional cost for lesser folks in protecting them from any personal risk, while they send their human sacrifices abroad.

    Of course, the 600,000 number may be some kind of statistical or weird accounting artifact, or even a typo, but all military-related numerology has a lot of mystery, intentional or otherwise, associated with it. More than a million men and women have too long been paid, for the most part generously, to wear full-time uniforms, yet there has seemed great difficulty in finding a little over ten percent that many to hit the ground in Iraq, with so much difficulty that part-timers continue to be dragged over and kept for multiple gigs, supported by an unknown sized contingent of drastically more expensive contractors. With 'just' 125,000 in uniform ostensibly engaged in Iraq, along with a few more in Afghanistan, getting 600,000 disability claims from them stretches the imagination more than just a bit, even given that once in, like Vietnam, there seems to be no way out, and always more required.

    Even more is amiss than meets the eye.


5 March 2007

    Right on the previously projected graph line again for February, pushing the upward trend of military deaths once again into statistical significance at the 95% probability level.

    My graph represents only uniformed military. The active duty toll would be notably higher if the same activities being performed in previous wars by the armed services, but currently being supplied by far more expensive, conveniently statistically invisible, contractors, were included. It should also be emphasized that the visible toll falls selectively upon the lower ranks, since the American brass (and their more or less civilian counterparts) have long since relinquished exposed leadership roles, where they too might be at physical risk. Wars would almost certainly be far shorter, and more carefully targeted, if those who give the orders personally shared the casualties, along with a fairer share of the other suffering involved.


22 February 2007

    On George Washington's traditional birthday, it seems appropriate to meditate for a moment on might have beens. If his advice had been followed about avoiding the maintenance of more than the very smallest core professional (standing) army following WWII, the easy temptation to invade either Iraq or Vietnam would never have been possible. We'd all be a lot richer, a lot more of us would still be alive, and very many more abroad would not have suffered or been killed. Our future would look a lot less bleak, too.

    If the principles of justice established by the first American George had been followed after September 11th, with Osama bin Laden and henchmen tracked down and taken to court (remember "innocent until proven guilty"?), instead of trading one bunch of thugs for another inept bunch in Afghanistan with misdirected military prowess, how much safer the world could have been, and could be! Failing that, as the later American presidents have, just who would George Washington have ordered torture for?

    His seems a legacy worth paying a lot more serious attention to.


8 February 2007

    A couple of quotes from Sidney Blumenthal in Salon.com, "On Feb. 2, the National Intelligence Council, representing all intelligence agencies, issued a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, as harsh an antidote to wishful thinking as could be imagined. 'The Intelligence Community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.'... After 1969, President Nixon's Vietnam policy consisted of misdirection, deception, covert action and fait accompli, such as the counterproductive and ultimately catastrophic invasion of Cambodia. The Bush administration's methods can be traced to the Nixon administration, with Dick Cheney as the connecting thread."

    Kudos to Blumenthal, for as far as I know, nobody had noticed the local consequences of Nixon's Cambodian incursion as being another parallel before this. In at least 20th century history, there are thankfully few instances of suffering as severe as that poor country received, through another tragic series of events triggered by unfortunately being located where American military might could be unleashed without sufficient foresight or oversight. The Cambodian situation began recovering only after American leaders totally gave up the foolishness of trying to control Vietnam, so that, along with there being almost nothing physical or social left to destroy, the Vietnamese could turn to helping out their neighbors.

    Nixon, combined with the story being about a strange culture dealing with a situation surpassingly deadly to journalists, managed to keep detailed coverage about what happened in Cambodia from ever reaching most Americans. Of course, there was so much bad news for so many for so long from southeast Asia that interest was at best scattered, anyway, and most of the horrors in Cambodia did not happen to Americans. The upshot, among others, is that the guilty parties (not least Henry Kissinger) never received even a handslap of punishment for their role, not just for ordering the initial spate of murders from the air, but also in setting off a massively hideous set of crimes on the ground. Why does that sound so eerily familiar?


1 February 2007

    Didn't need to "worry" that deaths would fall dramatically in January. They turned out to be just above the predicted rising slope from last year. Statistical significance for deaths after the initial invasion has risen a tick, to p=.06, meaning essentially that the probability for occupying soldier deaths will continue to rise is 94%, as long as clearly foreign troop numbers on Iraqi soil are not reduced. What the statistical approach does is look through random variations among individual months, and pull out the long term trend, stating that trend's likelihood of being correct.

    The point, once again, is a scientifically-derived forecast that things in Iraq will almost certainly continue to get worse as long as American troops remain there. As developed in some detail below, albeit more generally but no less true, errors like getting into this mess, with Vietnam being the classic example, will continue to reoccur as long as the professional Army and Marines remain large enough in size and funding to conveniently invade other countries. The scary suggestion among newly ascendant Democrats for expanding the professional Army and Marines already excessive size—for serving as a core in defending the United States—would be another worse than unnecessary move, and one in very much the wrong direction.



16 January 2007

    December's total for occupation military wounded has finally been posted. The graph confirms once again how, for both dead and wounded, probabilities are equal or greater than 95% that an apparent upward trend has not appeared by chance, and that it is statistically likely to continue, despite some periods of apparent decline. In terms of lives, this analysis predicts that for each month Bush and associates keep American troops in Iraq, at least 6 more in uniform will be wounded than the previous month's total, and 1 more will be killed than during the last.

   Smaller numerical totals, perhaps, when compared to either Viet Nam or the number of Americans unnecessarily being killed by people who choose to drive pickup trucks or similarly obese possibilities instead of safer-to-others, lighter vehicles, or, better yet, supporting and using public transport. But these clearly increasing military numbers are just as bloodily important to those directly affected and expensive to us all, not to mention reflecting still more damage to innocents, along with encouragement to the less than innocent, abroad.

   Like the invasion of Viet Nam, increasing losses and damage to lives and property will not stop until American troops leave. Adding more soldiers only increases the rate of loss. All too similar tragic mistakes will continue to happen until the overall size of the American army is reduced sufficiently that there can no longer be a temptation to misuse it. George Washington and John Adams understood this, and those that followed did well enough, until 1945. Truman, Eisenhower, Ford, and Reagan/Bush (along with their supine Congresses) failed to cut back the size of the army after wars, giving Johnson, Nixon, and Bush II all too convenient tools that should not have been so easily available to them. No one near to having power now seems to grasp this point, nor does it seem likely to emerge more generally within our increasingly short-sighted society.

  Another historical note:  Bleakly funny that just when renamed "defense" department, it really became oriented to planning and carrying out aggressive wars. One more un-coincidental point for Mr. Orwell. While 'The best defense is a good offense' may be true tactically, it does not imply the same usefulness strategically, at least across borders, acting alone, and seriously outnumbered, no matter how fancy the weaponry, or how much initial penetration is possible.

   The figures for January are down a bit ("only" 2 killed per average day instead of 3) so far, perhaps from awaiting and preparing for the beginning of the latest destructive strategy espoused by those who should be falling on their swords instead of forcing younger, poorer others to wield them, nearly always inappropriately. What has followed other relative lulls has hardly been encouraging, as the overall trend for the charts should underline.

   Salon posted today a couple of poems that everyone should read.

1 January 2007

   It's baaaack. Statistical significance for the likelihood of a continually rising rate for deaths of American soldiers once again formally underlines what I have been predicting for more than a year. The problem is worse than yesterday's milestone of 3,000 dead, conveniently admitted on a day when people are least likely to notice, might indicate. Not only is the total loss inexorably rising, but so are the daily, monthly, and yearly likelihood of individual and group losses.


   For the first time, the site I've been relying upon for translating raw data from the War Department has posted wounded numbers by month instead of within DOD's own cantankerously variable periods, thereby making calculation of more accurate comparative losses easier. The likelihood of an increasing rate turns out to be even more statistically significant, even without December's admitted total yet being available. The rising trend appears as still more obvious even without ending on the surely coming upward monthly data point.

   Why is this important, beyond to the individuals or the families and friends involved? First, just looking at a bar graph of monthly or daily casualties, like what was published two weeks ago in our local newspaper and elsewhere on line, presents a noisy picture even to those accustomed to reading graphs. The individual points of my own plot of deaths present a murky picture on their own, given the high variability from month to month. Although few parts of our culture are more slippery than statistics, including for the otherwise well educated, despite all the lies purveyed through them, better understanding of the most dismal science can provide some extremely useful information. Look at the trend lines behind the data points, which says not just that the situation is bad. It is getting unsteadily, but provably, worse.

   As background, the specific question being tested here is not just whether there are likely to be more American casualties as long as the Army remains in Iraq, but also whether those losses will be coming at an increasing rate. The straightforward statistics I have used allow expressing the probability that any trend, upward, static, or downward, might appearing just by chance, like getting a bunch of heads in a row on honest coin tosses, or whether something is indeed happening out there to make it more likely that soldiers will be bleeding. Unless there is a truly substantial change in circumstances, the likelihood that even more uniformed personnel will be killed in the future, whether measured per day or week or month, calculates on the basis of what has been happening to be 93% certain. There will be even more wounded, with the likelihood of being hurt rising for each individual and for the whole group, approaches 97% certainty.

   It is downright scary that I seem to be the only one noticing, despite the potentially useful difference between already bad and getting still worse.

   Then there is the economic cost of the debacle, nearly as carefully swept under the public rug, although grumbled about by more pundits. I've heard something on the order of $350 billion per year being allocated by Congress to support this undeclared war. Of course, even if one can make sense of published versions of such allocations, designed as they are to obscure dispersals of funds, just which Pentagon and associates costs should be blamed on invading Iraq remains highly difficult. How about commitments to long term health expenses for those 22,000 plus already wounded Americans, for one?

   Just taking that bandied about number, which, since the undeclared war is coming up on 4 full years now, means more than $4,000 to every censused American. Since roughly only a third pay taxes, that means $12,000 so far per taxpayer. Given that the total military action bill is certainly greater than the current administration is likely to admit, let's double the estimate of the financial cost to each and every American. Who among us has paid $25,000 in taxes over the past 4 years, in total, let alone enough to set aside for just this benighted purpose? What else could be, or could have been, done with that much money? What about other, more legitimate government services?

   The net economic result is a crushing debt, because the funds for the effort in Iraq so far are being mostly borrowed from the future, like so much other military spending over the years. The bill for Reagan's excesses has yet to be paid, let alone the most recent borrowing.

   This parallels not wholly unrelated economic issues, most obviously among them the similarly sized trade deficit, which is also a direct result of leadership cowardice and corporate pressure creating ever increasing problems for the majority, just to line, ever so temporarily, a very few already overloaded pockets. For the trade problems, as with immigration, all too few seem to appreciate that lowering wages, reducing other workplace quality safeguards, and/or environmental protections anywhere will always come home to roost nearer by, into one's own seemingly isolated life, ever more rapidly, in our complexly inter-connected world.


   Turning from increasingly diffuse edges of science to the still broader analysis necessary not just to predict consequences from current trends suggests, unfortunately, as in Vietnam, the only solution for Iraq is for the leaders responsible for the mess to have the courage to admit the error of going in militarily in the first place, and then get the army out, completely. Bush and those close to him are the ones with the bravery problem. It takes courage to admit error, and to take personal responsibility for it.

   The worst 'solution' is more soldiers, because they only would provide more targets. Without doubt, ugly consequences for all will appear whenever leaving begins, for the infrastructure damage to Iraq has been worse than what was done to Viet Nam. These problems were inevitable from the start, since armed invasions never solve more than they create. However, the longer American troops are on ground where they are not wanted, the worse the overall total is going to be, for those around them and eventually for America.

   There never could have been a sustained 'victory' in Iraq or Afghanistan, any more than there could be, or could have been, for an outside army that would come into the United States to effect a regime change, no matter how much that change might seem necessary to the outsider, or to their equivalent of Karl Rove. Our well armed civilian population, if an invasion of our turf ever might somehow be successful initially, would bleed that invader unceasingly in guerilla actions. There would be tactical differences from others, of course, but similar results would ensue. It would not be over until they completely left. The sooner American leaders have the courage to admit that others will also fight until free from occupation, the sooner the carnage that they initiated can wind down.

   More broadly still, and getting to the larger heart of the issue, the sooner the United States demobilizes its excessively large standing Army, which too readily allows invasions of others to occur, or even be considered, without declaration of war, the more likely this country will not do something as destructively stupid again. The money saved might help to stave off an American economic collapse from staying the present course, too.

   Meanwhile, as usual while waiting for those who do have the power to act to do so, and despite the publicized few examples, it is never the rich leaders, in or out of uniform, who suffer. It is the grunts and the poorer civilians, on both sides.


"... scientific explanations are always hypothetical, of limited certitude, and subject to change without notice."
    —  Edward Abbey, Confessions of a Barbarian.

2 December 2006

  Stability in Iraq! Unfortunately, it's not the kind the invasion's proponents wish for others to know about. For the first pair of months while I've been monitoring the numbers, the steepness of regression line for the continuing upward trend in American deaths did not change, although it did edge still closer again to formal statistical significance. As the debate begins to more stridently include the idea of sending even more U.S. troops into the quagmire, somebody besides me needs to be talking about this ever clearer trend. Expecting more troops to result in fewer casualties, either ours or anyone else's, is even nuttier than the original, unprovoked attack. More sticks in a hornet's nest won't stop the stinging, but will raise the level of their fury.

  The overall odds for the U.S. taking on the rest of the world remain at least 20:1 against, by population size, or even the Muslim part of it roughly 7:1. Just looking at the Middle East, with data from the mideastweb, the general area in and around Iraq that closely shares religious and other cultural concerns outnumbers the U.S. by 465 to 300 million. Because their concern for the future does not include a rational appreciation for the meaning of human numbers that must live within absolutely limited resources, they are growing faster, with less hope to hold them back from self-destructive actions. They also cover half again as much area, with the comparison including Alaska. The U.S. may have more agricultural and forest resources, at least for a while, but the mid-east has the largest petroleum reserves, and much of the financial power that already has come from them through American energy greed, which has long been paid for primarily with IOUs. The policy makers and "conservative" pundits who think they are so tough and smart should start meditating on these numbers, along with the closely related ones summed in the graph about their war so far. Even more than for the one in Vietnam, this war is a lost cause, and was from its conception. The most logical way to end it is to leave, paralleled by those that engendered it, and/or continue/expand it, being very visibly punished, not the rest of us (or the mostly innocent Iraqis).

  The last Italian soldier left Iraq yesterday. At least there's some sense somewhere.

1 November 2006

  The lead excuse makers were saying recently increased deaths were because of Ramadan, but the daily rates haven't fallen since Eid Al-Fittr... The spinners had to creak into more intensive action because the "spike" was too bad even for their acquiescent press fellow-travelers to ignore. The upward trend in deaths since "mission accomplished" is once again approaching formal statistical significance, beyond just being deadly obvious to all who look carefully enough.


  In conversation, a local retired military officer recently described himself as an "interventionist", while looking askance at me. I was silent, not wishing to enter a difficult argument, but afterwards realized that numbers apply more widely about military activity. The U.S. population has officially just passed 300 million. Unfortunately for the "we will police the world" point of view, the planetary population of humans has passed 6 billion. That's 20 to 1 potentially against us. No matter how smart or capable our army initially, those ain't promising odds, let alone considering the associated costs for trying. "Walk softly and carry a big stick" needs to be remembered with its criteria for effective use as being only a very last resort, for true defense, never for going abroad and picking fights. The "walk softly" part does come first, too.

11 October 2006

  Got around to updating the monthly "progress" graph, and found the supporting data look to be heading towards the worst in a long time for October, while the general trend maintains its upward rise. 39 have already died so far this month. But the media blackout, which has at least since the Reagan years kept bad news for Republicans out of the public eye as elections approach has begun, for, at least locally, there has been no mention whatsoever of a quite large spike in military deaths. Wounded totals have been rising again, too, beginning with the summer, continuing into the fall, with the highest total (209) in more than a year occurring during the 3rd week of September. Not surprisingly, Iraqi deaths are rising along with their invaders, but continuing to outpace them by more than twenty fold. A whole lot of suffering going on. Those most guilty for this tragic mess are still in office, getting richer, not even likely to be displaced, let alone punished.

14 September 2006

  "...statistics ...consistently place Utah, the reddest of the red states, dead last per capita among states when it comes to military recruitment and enlistment quotas." John Saltas, 'Stay the course', City Weekly, 31 August 2006, p.7. Funny how this statistic never gets quoted or commented upon in mainline Utah news media.

  Wars are so much easier to support when neither oneself nor one's kin are being put directly at risk (e.g., also, Congress and the current Administration, along with the rest of the richest few). The actively ignorant, like the majority in the state where I live, merely follow, which does not dilute their guilt. It's enough to wish, for at least a moment, that there really is a Hell, with appropriate placements therein.

4 September 2006

  Formal statistical significance may remain arguable, but the occupying army casualty rate continues to have a rising trend in Iraq, at a rate that is adding an American or Brit about every 70 days to the average monthly deaths. The White House rhetoric, like the years in Vietnam, says things are getting better, while the facts are that our (and others') losses continue to get worse. Even if Rummie is right, and terrorist focus has shifted towards there, rather than on our own shores, are people and places truly worth less because they are destroyed overseas?

1 June 2006

  Total American deaths remain on course to exceed, before the end of this year, those caused by terrorists on 9/11.

  Iraqi civilian deaths exceed these by more than tenfold, and appear to be increasing more rapidly, despite not being counted as carefully. Daily suffering in small and large ways by everyone but the very richest and the topmost brass continues relentlessly.

month, 2006 Iraqi civilian and "security force" deaths
May 1127
April 1010
March 1094
February 846
January 780


  The really scary part should be that the very same folks who initiated this ongoing tragedy remain in power, without having had a single personal repercussion from what they started and continued. They continue to directly control the world's largest military organizations, with their fingers on far more weapons of mass destruction than held by all of the rest of the world put together.

16 May 2006

  In the interim, it has been quietly said that American military strategy has changed towards reduced direct exposure on the ground, relying more on aircraft to do the dirty work, with an expectation that anti-war political pressure would be reduced if the most obvious numbers are lowered. "Collateral damage" is easier to hide, especially from the American public, even if the overall loss of life and other damage rises, not least to innocents. This relates to a classical problem with understanding what is happening in the world through science and statistics within it, which work best if only one variable changes. Unfortunately, because a problem is or becomes less easy to see or study does not mean it is any less important as a problem.

2 March 2006

  Statistical significance for a rising post "mission accomplished" occupation solider death rate in Iraq is currently p = 0.09, with the February 2006 data included. Three successive months have fallen below the predicted trend from November 2005, and reflected in an accordingly slightly flatter trend line. However, the overall picture still looks pretty grim, and not just to the individuals and families directly affected, like so much of the rest of the world situation.



1 February 2006
  68 reported deaths in January, against the predicted by the previous equation of 87. With the latest data, the post-mission-accomplished equation becomes Killed Monthly= 50 + 1.0*Month, with p=.06, meaning that the rising rate conclusion has fallen slightly below traditional statistical significance. Still a lot of folks being killed, including a lot more Iraqis than occupiers. I just noticed in this check on it that the data organization outfit (icasualties.org) has its own statistics display page, which noted today "The pace of US Fatalities increased during the week ending 1/21, after a lull during the Eid al-Adha observance the week before".


10 January 2006
  Another way of looking at the Iraq death rate is as a percentage increase, which is, with the current slope, around 20% per year. Because it is related to a specific base number, even though the amounts continue to increase, using this approach would make the problem not appear to increase as fast terms as time goes on, because the fit is better as a linear than exponential (so far). Suffice it to say,nevertheless, in a way that ought to catch more attention than a graph might to the numerically illiterate majority, consistently adds to the average death loss another solider each month. For the intermediately perceptive, the rate (measured daily, monthly, or yearly) adds up to an increase of roughly 20% per year. For an investment, such an increase would be nice. But it is deaths for American soldiers, and there is no possible "victory" other than leaving with less of a mess than staying longer will create.


9 January 2006
  With 12 more Americans killed being reported in the local paper from a chopper crash, 2 from “small arms fire” (in long ago supposedly secured by utter destruction Fallujah), and 3 from roadside bombs yesterday in Iraq, my projections seem likely to be a serious underestimate this month.


7 January 2006

  Another 10 occupation soldiers died two days ago in Iraq, enough to be noticed by the local newspaper, albeit a toll dwarfed, as usual, by the number of Iraqi civilian casualties. As long as Americans are there, soldiers will be caught in the middle, hated by both sides—not by all, but by far too many. The probability of their (and, by reflection, our) situation getting better is very near zero, albeit not as low as the probability of anything even the most professional of King George’s spinners can define as “victory”. The situation is just too convoluted, and there are a lot more potential enemies than Americans, especially Americans willing to personally fight over there. Most of “insurgent” effort is spent against one another, yes, not focused against us, but the incidental take is almost certain to continue to be more than we can absorb comfortably, and the presence of any outside military forces is always incendiary. It’s all a vicious cycle, in a culture long conditioned to constant feud from minor personal and religious differences, rising through all levels of quasi-organization.

  If there had been WMDs, the military might have been useful to resolve that issue, if not the underlying social problems. There weren’t. Unfortunately, there are WMDs in temporary ally Pakistan, and more likely to be soon in Iran, in part thanks to King George’s multinational-corporate-backed fools leveraging America into attacking Iraq, thereby blunting in so many ways the previously world’s best military tool, making it no longer available as a serious threat to serious threats. The longer they remain in Iraq, the worse the damage, to that country, to themselves, and to worldwide safety.


3 January 2006

  Just replotted my analysis of the cost of the current Constitutionally undeclared war to soldiers with data for December. Deaths reported by DOD did decline, from November’s 85 to 68 (of which I remember only 3 making it into our local newspaper), but the overall trend since "mission accomplished" remains significantly upward, with p<.05. Wounded were up slightly from November, but their overall trend remains ambivalent.


2 December 2005

  Seymour M. Hersh in the 5 December 2005 New Yorker (“Up in the air”, pp. 42-54) suggests that my déjà vu feeling about Iraq grows deeper, what with Bush propagandists having hidden massive airstrike activity and incursions into neighboring territory (in this case Syria, like the DMZ and Cambodia in the past), and pushing for more reliance on air instead of soldiers in the future (another impossible dream, again previewed in Viet Nam). Hersh also reported rapidly increasing dissatisfaction at all levels in the uniformed ranks. We got personal confirmation through a Christmas letter from old friends, with their breadwinner being an Air Force dentist who had safely returned from just 4 months in Iraq, and then immediately tendered his resignation. What does one do when those at the very top are so seriously deluded?

  Last night, I ran some related calculations through mental experiment. The chance of a soldier for death in Iraq is roughly 1 in 100. In Viet Nam, the most serious danger ratio was about 1 in 50, and in WWII overall, somewhere near 1 in 20. At least where I live, we no longer get to hear or read daily reports in our local media (except today, when 10 marines bought it in one lot). But without data to the contrary, the assumption is that roadside bombs are still achieving the most purple hearts. That becomes grimly ironic, because a close to the same 1 in 100 chance is what the average citizen faces from the grim reaper during a lifetime on America’s highways. The statistical difference between the roads in Iraq and America is the time period of likely life before death.

  Another related issue is cost. The Pentagon buries its totals in a variety of ways, but a not unreasonable estimate of the annual cost of maintaining the unnecessary offensive capabilities that allowed the Bushites to invade Iraq might be $400 billion, which equals roughly $4,000 per taxpayer, albeit like much of the rest of the current administration's excesses, with full payment postponed into the future.

  For comparison, maintaining an average American's unnecessarily heavy, and therefore excessively polluting and dangerous, $30,000 vehicle, of the type that creates the bulk of highway mayhem, requires a total yearly expenditure that must be at least twice as much as that personal share of the Iraq war costs. Personal vehicles have the further budgetary presence of not being as easily foisted onto future generations, although many of their even larger hidden costs, from global warming to oil depletion, are indeed passed along. That the present war costs less than private vehicles, and those costs are even better hidden, seems likely an important reason, beyond how that it directly or obviously affects only a relative few, that protests have not reached very deeply.


Approach summary: 19 December 2005

  The question of how useful science can be for public policy remains unresolved. As a career scientist, I continue to think it could be more useful, and can be presented so that it can reach through the fog of manipulated opinion. Though the graphic approach is sure to be controversial, it continues to seem to have potential importance, so despite the personal risk—not least from misinterpretations of its meaning—I will post it. It is not the soldiers that I am taking aim at. The level of their suffering needs to be more widely understood. Nor am I trying to preach what the proper course from here might be, except in the cases of human numbers, energy waste, and other casual destructiveness, for which there is no justification beyond ignorance. Instead, this particular information is to define where we are, and what is happening

    On the graph, the black trend line is for the entire war period, the red line for after the "mission accomplished" speech

    The deaths plotted do not include losses among the non-uniformed (and often much more highly paid) folks who have taken over many tasks that were performed by the military in Viet Nam or before. Their losses remain uncounted, along with the surely much larger number of Iraqi deaths that would not have occurred without this tragic and continued invasion.

  Like all scientific observations, the graph and equations are subject to change. However, there are some strong historical connections for the trends reflected on this one. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and other founding fathers of this nation believed in relying upon a strong navy for defense, which would be complimented by a very small professional army that would serve to train others in time of need. A quicker response civilian reserve would exist among state militias, which became the national guard, whose intent was purely for defense, including local disasters.

  This country's founders knew that if a large professional army was allowed to exist, it would inevitably get their country into trouble. Evidence of the correctness of their admonitions has followed the American failure to de-mobilize after WW II, in gruesome detail: in Korea, Viet Nam, and now Iraq. It seems clear that with a large enough army available for leaders to misuse, there will be at least one serious and wholly unnecessary war for every generation. Doubters should read the Declaration of Independence carefully. It is largely composed of complaints about unnecessarily large standing (i.e., professional) armies. As a song of my youth said, "when will we ever learn?"

   The greater, underlying, still burgeoning problem in Iraq and environs, the one which created Saddam, along with being the root cause of almost all terrorism, remains excessive human birthrates. In the desert lands of the Middle East, just as in so much of the rest of the contemporary world, there are already too many people for even the most rosy estimates for sustainable locally produced food supplies, or most other resources, to support comfortably. Compounding this problem are religions that have greater concern for their own numbers than for human populations' impact on the present quality of life for all, including our supporting world.

  Without serious change in attitudes (and consequent actions) about population growth, both terrorism and war, as ugly as they can be for those who get in their almost random way, are likely to be among the smaller afflictions for the future. The few nations, or groups among them, that have had the foresight to pay attention to their population growth rates are already being overwhelmed by those who have not, and the prognosis almost everywhere looks even deadlier. Meanwhile, all human effects, on each other and on the world around, are multiplied many fold by energy use rates. However, militaries do tend to stand out as the greatest wasters.


Where it came from: 1 December 2005

  About two months ago, I thought it might be of interest to use scientific analysis techniques from my professional work to have a look at what's happening in the Iraq war. From this, a rising death rate among uniformed occupiers appeared to be approaching a significant probability, which increased in October. Rechecking those calculations with numbers released today for November found that formal statistical significance for that rising trend has been confirmed. The rising rate equation's probability now exceeds 96%. The toll for November was exactly as predicted by the derived equation from the numbers at the end of October (i.e., monthly number killed equals 48 plus 1.2 times the number of months since the invasion).

  I have tried to share this information through sources that have a wider distribution, but have failed to find interest, so far. Still thinking it is important, albeit grim, information, the basic results continue to be posted above.



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