"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, April 14, 2006

RTE facts and figures

RTE DO NOT report surveys of Iraqi civilian casualties as fact. They do however quote only selected figures from selective surveys. One would be forgiven for thinking that because they only report one figure, this is figure they have most confidence in. Strangely enough, this is one of the lowest estimates, by a huge margin. Give or take 260,000?

Dear (me),

Thank you for your recent emails and the very interesting questions that you raise.
We have discussed this matter at some length at our editorial meetings and I accept that it is a difficult problem. The fact is that a huge number of civilians have been killed in Iraq but that we have no accurate way of knowing just how large that figure is. The earlier email from our Foreign desk explained why we have quoted from Iraqbodycount.org but how it is only a baseline figure.

In general our policy is not to report on figures of this kind as a fact but to credit them to the organisations which supply them and to do so by explaining that the figures are a claim rather than an established or accepted fact,

I accept there are no easy answers to this problem. We are hoping to broadcast a report around the time of the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein which explores the issue of why it is so difficult to get accurate and meaningful figures on the number of civilians killed in Iraq. It may not bring us any closer to a definitive figure but hopefully it will throw some light on the problem. We hope to talk to the author of the Lancet study in that report.

You have probably seen it already but I enclose the BBC webpage which deals with this issue for your information.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Good
Managing Editor
RTE News

Dear Mr. Good,

Thank you for responding and I look forward to the report on the anniversary of the fall of Saddam.

However, as you seemed to evade the principal question I asked, I'll leave it with you again.

Is there an intrinsic quality to the Iraq war that invalidates a survey of the dead, which conducted in many other wars and countries has been perfectly acceptable?



For more information on this issue please read the links below, you may find something left unanswered by Les Roberts. Be sure to quiz him on the Congo figures too.