Sunday, 13 December 2009

BBC: Obfuscating The Civilian Body Count in Iraq

Last week, ex-spy Chief Sir John Scarlett said of the alleged Iraqi WMD threat, "There was absolutely no conscious intention to manipulate the language or to obfuscate or to create a misunderstanding as to what this might refer to."

One has to ask a question of the BBC everytime they write about mortality in Iraq.

Here we have an article by Natalia Antelava for BBC News, "Who is counting the bodies in Iraq?"

"We don't do body counts." These were the words of Gen Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Straight from the off, we read the infamous lines of Gen Tommy Franks, a military man. You would be forgiven then in thinking that this article was about enemy deaths and not the loss of innocent life. The next couple of paragraphs do nothing to make this clear with the word civilian totally missing.

But more than six-and-a-half years after the invasion, the body count has become a critical measure of success and failure in Iraq.

In November, officials announced that violent deaths were at their lowest since 2003. That was an important example of progress in Iraq, according to the Iraqi government.
You wouldn't know it from this article but whenever anyone talks or writes about the number of Iraqi dead, they actually mean innocent civilians who have lost their lives in violent situations. In order for them to be counted, they have to be reported and verified.

The lives that are not counted are those who have died in non-violent situations that could have either been easily prevented or simply would not have occurred at all if it was not for the US led invasion. Diarrhea, malnutrition or leukemia from depleted uranium are just a few examples.

The BBC writes of the Iraqi government,

'Deaths matter'

But the government denies manipulating figures. "We are not lying, and I can guarantee you that the office of Prime Minister Maliki would never lie about the figures," said Mr Moutalibi, the government adviser."

There is no justification to distorting this kind of information. It's disrespectful. Every death, every person matters."
So I ask myself, why is the BBC so careless and thoughtless when it comes to reporting this matter?

The BBC have added the above, unnoticeable side table to their report. Again it misleads us with the title, "Counting the Dead" and then goes on to mistrepresent Iraq Body Count which just counts violent, media-reported, civilian deaths.

IBC doesn't say that, "94,705 - 103,336 civilians have died since the invasion", at all. This should read, "94,705 - 103,336 civilians have died violently since the invasion".

They should add a comment reflecting the words of IBC's founder John Sloboda mentioned in a BBC interview,

"We've always said our work is an undercount, you can't possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the deaths. Our best estimate is that we've got about half the deaths that are out there." -- John Sloboda, IBC

The side table goes on to confuse the issue further by juxtaposing the IBC's count with that of the Lancet's epidemiological study, which, produced a total figure for violent and non-violent civilian deaths. The two can't be compared without a proper breakdown or comment.

Then there is this graph which again has the misleading title. Sourced from Iraq Body Count, this should be entitled, "Violent Civilian Deaths...", as it doesn't include the non-violent figure.

The BBC writes:

"But violence, it seems, could still be dictating the rules of the game."
and that's all it is - a game indeed!

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