Lies, statistics and how to spin disaster into victory |

Lies, statistics and how to spin disaster into victory

What ever happened to those boys from Enron, the accountants who helped cook the books but avoided jail?

I think I know where they are, working for another Texan, spinning numbers of the dead.

This week, on the sixth anniversary of 9/11, the Bush Administration will announce to Congress that great progress is being made in Iraq, and that sectarian violence is down 75 percent. Yes, 75 percent.

That warning about how there are lies, damn lies and statistics should ring loudly about right now.

The Associated Press counted 1,809 civilian deaths in Iraq in August, the second highest monthly total of the year. The recently released Government Accountability Office report says that attacks against civilians have remained unchanged from February through July. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released last month says pretty much the same thing.

And last month, you had the single deadliest car bomb attack in Qahtaniya, which killed more than 500.

So how can you spin this into something that looks like progress?

Easy. You lie.

We always have to remember that this is the crew that told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were best buddies, that the war would be easy, that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, that oil revenues would pay for the whole thing, etc. Let’s just say that credibility isn’t their strong suit.

And when it comes to their latest evidence of progress, the supposed drop in civilian casualties, we don’t have to just rely on their reputation for falsehoods. There are plenty of independent sources to prove they are lying.

Maybe the real kicker here is how they are managing to come up with these numbers. The military has found some ingenious ways to count the dead that don’t count against them. For instance, attacks of Shiites on other Shiites or Sunnis on Sunnis don’t count. Neither do car bombings.

But this report by a senior intelligence official to the Washington Post about how they count the dead bodies that turn up on the streets every morning takes the prize. “If a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian,” the official said. “If it went through the front, it’s criminal.”

I can see the bean counters now, going through the morgues trying to determine bullet entry points so as to show how great the progress has been. Not even George Orwell could dream this stuff up.

At the beginning of the year, Bush said that U.S. commitment to Iraq wasn’t open ended, and approved a set of benchmarks to meet so as to bring peace among the warring parties. The GAO report stated only three of the 18 had been met, and the NIE says that prospects are pretty bleak for making any progress on this front.

So, will Bush end this open-ended commitment as he said he would? Dream on.

That was another lie, at another time, meant to push the ball further down the road.

In the new book “Dead Certain,” author Robert Draper quotes Bush on what is probably the true end game here.

“I’m playing for October-November.” Bush said. His central goal is “(t)o get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence” in Iraq, to stay longer.

And to meet that goal, they are fudging the numbers to make it look like things are getting better.

It’s all about the legacy now. Bush doesn’t want the 2008 presidential campaign to be about which candidate will end this disaster of a war. He wants to lock in the candidates – at least on the Republican side – to have to defend the war and take this hot potato off his hands.

Despite the obvious lies being peddled to make the so-called surge look successful, the Democrats in Congress are so dysfunctional and lacking backbone that they look like they won’t even call Bush on the facts. They appear poised to roll over and give Bush another $200 billion to engage in the insanity of doing the same thing over again, expecting a different result.

You have to hand it to Bush. If you are going to tell lies, tell big ones and call anyone a sissy if they try to point out how big a liar you really are.

People will die because of these lies, and the people who peddle them seem not to care. Nor do those who lack the political courage to stand up and call them what they are. That says a lot about the current sorry state of this country.

• Kirk Caraway is editor of and also writes a blog on national issues at