Saturday, August 05, 2006

Numbers in Lebanon

The discussion below seeks to make a purely factual & analytical point. Its moral implications are not at all straightforward, and its political implications should certainly not be overestimated. But maybe it's still worth making, just to cut through some of the rhetoric. Past experience of such conflicts should have taught us all to take the news reports with a grain of salt, and not to get totally caught up in the media frenzy.

--Jeff Weintraub

Hi X,

I've noticed something interesting in the development of the story about the accidental bombing of Lebanese civilians in Qana. At the beginning, news reports said that the numbers of dead were in the 50s. Now, according to the Human Rights Watch report, it seems that they're in the 20s.

That's still terrible. But if we extrapolate to Lebanon as a whole, cut the numbers of reported civilian deaths at least in half, factor in the likelihood that a lot of those "civilians" are probably Hezbollah fighters ... then we have to conclude even more strongly that the numbers of civilian deaths in Lebanon so far have really been extremely low, given the scale of the fighting.

Of course, none of this matters in terms of news coverage and the response of world public opinion. But it's still worth keeping in mind in assessing whether or not the Israelis are trying hard to avoid accidentally killing civilians. (Clearly, they are.)

Jeff Weintraub