What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The numbers war fail

In my last post here, which received an extra amount of attention after Ghost of Alexander had highlighted it, the message I aimed to convey was that claiming success where there is none of it will not lead to achieving success. Pretty basic. As Christian noted at GoA, a Parisian mocking Germans for marching through Paris in a silly manner would be absolument ridicule. Today is another occasion to highlight a particularly unfortunate attempt at dealing with "information warfare," but in this case with more dire consequences, and not by someone spinning news out of private conviction, but by authorities - German authorities, namely.
How the war waged in Afghanistan often seems to consist of air strikes killing exactly 30 Taliban at a time, is something that makes many observers cranky: see the Security Crank and MoA on this. In a September 4 air strike in Kunduz province, however, details and video of which can be found here, there were many more victims. Thus the magical number, 30, could not really be plausibly used, under the circumtances (although the Afghan government did state once that "30 civilians" died by their counting). After much insistence that the overwhelming majority of those killed were Taliban, the discourse seemed to settle down with 142 dead of whom dozens may have been civilians (something that predictably drew the "hey, that's not so bad" reaction from some armschair idiots on various internet fora). Unfortunately, reality tends to be quite insistent as well. And in fact there was no way of telling exactly how many died, and how many out of those were Taliban. Throwing around exact figures could not look good in any case, and the ratio of civilians vs. insurgents killed actually seemed to be "worse."
It is not surprising therefore that alternative numbers, very different ones, keep emerging:
"The defence ministry said it was in contact with a lawyer for victims of the September raid on two fuel trucks near Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, in which up to 142 people were killed, reportedly including dozens of civilians.
"We will begin talks with (German-Afghan attorney Karim Popal) about how the compensation claims will be met," a ministry spokesman told a regular government news conference, adding that Berlin hoped to avoid a court battle.
Popal is demanding payouts from the German military for 78 families of Afghan casualties.
He says there were 179 civilian victims including 137 dead, 20 injured and 22 missing, leaving 91 women as widows and 163 children as orphans."

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