Friday, February 04, 2005

Iraq Vote: Figures Lie, and Liars Figure

You may be aware that over the past weekend, there was an election held in Iraq. In fact, if you scroll down the page a bit, you'll see a picture of the two or three people who actually "voted". But this past Sunday, that didn't stop the SCLM from reporting phenomenal turnouts.

During live blogging, as soon as I heard MSGOP dutifully report "72% turnout" based on absolutely nothing, I made the following observation:

The various outlets of Minitrue are falling all over themselves this morning proclaiming success. RoveCo did a masterful job of diminishing expectations over the past month or so. Any result short of Zarqawi's crew lighting off a low yield nuclear device outside of the Green Zone was going to be portrayed as stunningly good.

But let's step back for a moment. Out of 5000 polling places, pool reporters had access to 5 for filming purposes. One of Allawi's stooges claims '72% of voters voted', with absolutely no facts to back it up, but the SCLM immediately seizes on this as gospel, and obediently reports the figure. Dozens of people are killed in dozens of polling place incidents, but it's spun as eggs and omlettes.

Well, it's looking more and more like not only was the turnout lower than the success benchmark of 50%, but, as the old saying goes, figures lie and liars figure. Greg Mitchell of E&P breaks it down thusly:

Then, in Friday's paper, Burns and Filkins noted that one election commission official was "evasive about the turnout, implying it might end up significantly lower than the initial estimate." They quoted this official, Safwat Radhid, exclaiming: "Only God Almighty knows the final turnout now." And they revealed that the announcement of a turnout number, expected to be released this weekend, has been put off for a week.

The entire article is worth a read, if only as a tale of how bullshit gets spun into whole cloth, and purple fingers get raised by moron congressmen who don't have the first clue about what actually happened.

Like Mitchell, I'm not minimizing (and didn't on Sunday) the effort and conviction of those people in Iraq who, in some cases, risked life and limb to record their choices for a governing body. Fine. Applaud those intrepid souls. But at the same time, it's just as important to understand what didn't work and why it didn't work. If BushCo truly wants Iraqis to govern Iraq, then it's critically important that they help the Iraqis learn from the mistakes of this past Sunday.

Random and unsubstantiated inflating of numbers, co-mingled with prematurely declaring "mission accomplished", doesn't make it so. I would have thought everyone figured this out after McFlightsuit's performance on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln nearly two years ago.