Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Death Counts-Iraq, America

The UN Assistance Mission to Iraq just released estimated casualty counts for 2006. It says that 34,452 Iraqis died violently in 2006 and slightly more than that were injured by violence.

The Iraqi government disputes the numbers and says that only 12,357 died.

I'm betting that the UN's number is a lot closer. The Iraqi government is apparently taking its figures from published news reports, while the UN is getting them from Iraqi hospitals and the Iraqi Ministry of Health. More bodies will make it into the hospital than into newspaper stories (Iraq Body count, which also operates on published news reports, says as much on its website).

In perspective: the US has just over 11 times as many inhabitants as Iraq, so the violence Iraqis endured last year was the equivalent of 138,398 to 385,862 Americans getting killed. The most recent FBI stats on the US murder rate say that 17,000 Americans were murdered in 2005. So, per capita, 8 to 23 times as many Iraqis died as Americans last year.

Of course, the good news is that you if add the Americans killed in Iraq to the US murder rate, that ratio goes down a little.

Just in case you're feeling good to be an American, make sure you check your race and gender. Unsurprisingly, it's good to be white. Perhaps surprisingly, it's good to be a woman. While the average American violent death rate is about 6 per 100,000, that average combines very different subtotals. Consider these selected murder rates per 100,000:
All men: 7.8
All women: 2.0
White women: 1.8
Black women: 6.0
All black: 19.8
All white: 3.2
White men: 7.8
Black men: 33.5
The Iraqi violent death rate is between 46 (UN) to 128 (Iraqi govt.) per 100,000. So white Americans in general are 14 to 40 times less likely to be killed than the average Iraqi. Black Americans in general are 2.3 to 6.5 times less likely. Black men are 1.3 to 3.8 times less likely. And given the strong correlation between low income and violent death, poor and working-class Americans of all races are at an even higher risk of violent death. So if the Iraqi government's figures are right (unlikely), poor black men in America are at least as likely to die violently as the average Iraqi.

(The bad news about the earlier good news about adding the death toll of American soldiers to the domestic murder rate is that, since black men make up a disproportionately high percentage of the armed services, doing so would also raise the murder rate of American black men.)

Of course, the nature of the violence in Iraq almost certainly means that significantly more Iraqi men are dying than Iraqi women, so the above comparisons aren't quite oranges to oranges. But even if it's apples to oranges, it's apples nobody can like. Imagine if instead of sending soldiers and reconstruction money to invade and occupy Iraq, we'd sent teachers and reconstruction money to stabilize and revive poor parts of America. Or, if you're easily depressed, don't.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home