Penn Political Review

Data from Across the High Seas

As Luke Hassall pointed out, there is not much coverage in the US regarding the release of the Iraq War Logs. However, I was pleased to see that across the Atlantic, there are many news sources digging deep. The biggest issues that appear to have come out of the leak thus far is the handing over of prisoners by US forces to Iraqi torture squads, and the large amount of civilian casualties caused by American forces. The BBC and The Guardian seem to be the news sources acting most aggressively in tackling these documents. The Guardian has even put out an article with the help of Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables that breaks down all the data collected from the hundreds of thousands of documents, while the BBC put out one that specifically  graphs civilian casualties. I cannot help but be disappointed that a news site other than one from the US was the first to break down all this information for its readers.

The article from the Guardian is pretty remarkable. Not only does it organize all the different types of deaths (civilian, enemy, friendly) into tables, but it also maps the geographic location of every single documented casualty. This is some truly exceptional “data journalism” and I highly suggest taking some time to look over the information. For instance, were you aware that December of ’06 saw the highest number of civilian casualties with 3784? And if you would like to do some data mapping yourself, the article allows you to download all the data onto your computer.

Additionally, The Guardian has written an article about the “Wolf Brigade,” which is an Iraqi torture squad the US used for interrogating prisoners. This highlights the darker side of the war that for the most part has been forgotten about since Abu Ghraib. I wonder if there will be any serious investigations by US personnel regarding these issues, but without a push by the media, I doubt it.

As evidenced by the BBC and The Guardian, there is much to be extracted from these documents, which is why I am confused over the silence of the American media. If as Luke suggests, they have become too comfortable with power and are unwilling to challenge the state, why was there so much coverage on Abu Ghraib?  Perhaps in this instance, they feel Americans are more interested in the story behind the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, than specific data on casualties (numbers we have been listening to since the initial invasion in 2003). It will be interesting to see whether or not this simply blows over, especially with the much anticipated November elections approaching.

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1 Comment

  1. lewis nassikas Jr. October 25, 2010 at 6:38 pm