Obama’s “Doubled” Death Toll

While I was commenting on a Washington Post article, another commenter wrote something like “… doubled Bushes death toll in Afghanistan”. I wish I could get the exact quote but three thousand comments later, I can’t even find my own comment.

I had to look up that statistic and indeed it’s true, at least according to icasualties.org. This statistic is featured prominently on anti-war sites as well as right wing blogs such as The Blaze, where possibly retarded members of that blog’s readership theorize that the increase in casualties is due to Obama’s allegiance to Islamic forces.

But focusing on the death toll in Afghanistan misses the withdrawal from Iraq. These numbers are based on the tables in icasualties’s home page:

U.S. Death Tolls
Afghanistan Iraq Total
2001 12 0 12
2002 49 0 49
2003 48 486 534
2004 52 849 901
2005 99 846 945
2006 98 822 920
2007 117 904 1021
2008 155 314 469
2009 317 149 466
2010 499 60 559
2011 418 54 472
Total 2002-8 618 4221 4839
Total 2009-11 1234 263 1497
Monthly Avg 2002-8 88 603 691
Monthly Avg 2009-11 411 88 499

Since Obama took office, the U.S. casualty rate dropped significantly due to the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, even as the toll increased in Afghanistan as Obama stepped up operations there.

To ignore the Iraq withdrawal in an effort to suggest that twice as many Americans are dying under Obama’s leadership is miserably dishonest. To speculate that it’s because Obama is a Muslim is stupid.

Economic One-Liners

Imagine you have a great business idea. You run it by a few friends and they love it. You mention it to some very smart people and they agree that it will be a hit. But you have no money to start with, so you consider going to the bank. At this, your father snorts and says, “Borrow Money! Back in my day we didn’t borrow. We scrimped, and saved. When times are tough you don’t borrow and spend, you tighten your belt”.

No simplistic analogy can cover the scope of our economic situation. But I hope my little story casts some doubt on the one-liners that right wingers are trying to sell us as their economic policy, like “when times are tough you tighten your belt”, or “when you’re in a hole you stop digging.”

The truth is, sometimes when you’re in a hole you have to dig yourself out. Most economists seem to agree that we need to raise the debt ceiling. Even Republicans seem to understand how vital it is, which is why they feel emboldened to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to force more of their draconian “Fuck the poor” policies. The wealthiest Americans remained wealthy through the Great Depression. Republican politicians have little to fear from the economic consequences that they’re willing to risk.

No matter what happens, Republicans will be able to keep their wealth and blame any problems on Obama. If they get their way and cripple the economy, they won’t say “Darn, our obstructionist tactics ruined the economy”, instead they’ll say “Imagine how bad it would have been if we weren’t there to keep it from getting worse.”

The economic policies that the president has enacted are working. In 2004, President Bush got reelected in part because we were in the middle of a crises and people said, “Don’t switch horses in the middle of a river”. Right now we’re in the midst of an economic crisis, but things are starting to get better. Let’s not take this moment to switch strategies and go back to the economic practices which got us into this crisis in the first place.

Most importantly, while simple analogies are important to help us understand complicated issues, remember that analogies usually leave out important details. Let’s not make important decisions on the bases of simplistic one-liners.