Annabel Croft can't take on Accrington Stanley

An investigation into the Afghan civilian casualties in the media

Mark Steyn
Daily Telegraph
19 January 2002 E-Mail this page to a friend

I ENJOYED Alexander Chancellor's report this week on how all those dazzling graphics of multistorey Blofeldesque cave complexes in Tora Bora arose from one factual error in the Independent. I suspect their latest factual error might have a harder job catching on.

On Tuesday, their leader writer commented on George W Bush's precipitate descent to the floor while watching the Green Bay Packers take on the San Francisco Giants.

Actually, the President was watching the Baltimore Ravens take on the Miami Dolphins. But, personally, I'd much rather see that Packers/Giants game, if only to find out what sport they're playing. The Packers are a football team, the Giants a baseball team.

If the Giants had indeed wandered on to the Astroturf, it's no wonder the President choked on his pretzel and hit the floor. Next to seeing the Chicago Bulls take on the New York Islanders (ask an Independent editor to explain), you couldn't ask for a more unnerving sight. In British terms it's like reporting that
I'm saddened to see ... The Spectator give credence to the most dubious fact of the moment.
Tony Blair choked on a saveloy, jellied eel, Scotch egg or some other local delicacy while watching Man United play Warwickshire, or Accrington Stanley take on Annabel Croft.

Having myself been much mocked in the US for carelessly referring to George Gipp as a baseball rather than football player, I have some sympathy for the view held by lefty professors of Women's Studies, Black Studies, Queer Studies et al that facts are a mere social construct. Everything is subject to revision.

Still, I'm saddened to see the Telegraph's stablemate, The Spectator, give credence to the most dubious fact of the moment. The estimates of the number of innocent civilians killed by the bombing in Afghanistan continue to rise, writes Stephen Glover in his Media Studies column. Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has used official Pentagon data to arrive at a figure of nearly 4,000 civilians killed in Afghanistan.

"It is only an estimate, but Mr Herold does seem to have used cautious assumptions. Whatever the final numbers, it seems probable that the civilian death toll in Afghanistan will be greater than the civilian death toll in America," says Mr Glover.

When Mr Herold, an Economics and Women's Studies Professor at UNH, released his report, I was shocked not by the statistics but by the fact that New Hampshire has a Women's Studies Professor, and
"he has avoided the ethnocentric bias of granting greater reliability to US or British sources"
that, as a Granite State taxpayer, I'm indirectly paying for him and his lousy survey. The statistics are complete bunk, full of dubious sources and conflated numbers.

Professor Herold does not use official Pentagon data. Au contraire, he says he has avoided the ethnocentric bias of granting greater reliability to US or British sources: Iranian radio is given just as much credence as CNN. Fair enough, but the problem is not the national origin of the source so much as the fact that most of them are third- or fourth-hand overlapping hearsay interviews with Afghans in Pakistani refugee camps some days' journey from Kabul and Kandahar who heard various stories along the way with no precise dates attached.

To take the first night's bombing, October 7, the prof comes up with a death toll of 39-42, based on five incidents. Let's discount the two deaths at Mullah Omar's compound, surely a legitimate target. That leaves 37-40 deaths in four incidents, only one of them referenced by two sources.

Herold claims 22-25 people died that night in Kabul, according to the October 14 Frontier Post of Peshawar and the BBC. The report in that day's Frontier Post makes no mention of numbers, and, as for the BBC, here's what it said at the time: the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan told Reuters the horrendous terrorist attacks had killed at least 20 people across the country. There was no independent confirmation of that figure.

Earlier, the Taliban said there were about 20 casualties in Kabul. Dead or wounded? Somehow Prof Herold recasts 20 deaths nationwide as 22-25 in Kabul. Right away, in his very first
why would The Spectator's media watchdog lend credence to junk numbers even the humanitarian lobby doesn't support?
statistic, he's doubled the Taliban's own estimate of fatalities.

The remaining three incidents have just one long-distance source apiece. The Pakistan Observer, the Pakistan News Service and the Global Report of Asheville, North Carolina. The anonymous North Carolinian supplying that last atrocity gives no verifiable dates and a single source, a 12-year-old boy in a refugee camp cited by no other news organisation in North America, Europe or Asia.

These third-hand accounts from Peshawar and North Carolina are strikingly at odds with the scene in Afghan hospitals on October 8 and 9. Checks at the four infirmaries in Kabul revealed few injured. After the first attacks on Mullah Omar's compound near Kandahar, Noor Mohammed, a male nurse, reported for work at the city's only civilian hospital to find there were no casualties there.

You don't have to be a Right-wing madman like me to dispute Prof Herold's civilian death toll of 4,000. Even Human Rights Watch puts civilian fatalities at about 1,000. So why on earth would The Spectator's media watchdog lend credence to junk numbers even the humanitarian lobby doesn't support?

If Stephen Glover is gullible enough to believe the Americans have killed 4,000 civilians in Afghanistan, there's a luxury cave complex in Tora Bora I'd like to sell him. Right after we've watched the Packers/Giants game.

Previous Visitor Comments

Name Email Subject Location
SSSR dahshat edi endi tuidhzsa ham kurmaysizlar uni joyiga qaydagi challamula abutovdaqa mustaqilik xalifatchalar kupayib ketdi xolos...SSSRda mazza qilib yashaganmiz shuni ham esingizdan chiqarmanglar...SSSRdan xech qachon oddiy xalq qochivorib Evropa yoki Amerikadan boshpana suramagan mazza qilib yashaganmiz nonkur bumanglar,xopmi...

VisitorAnonymousgeneral comment
I belive that the death tolls in Iraq and Afganistan are horrible. Our country's army is doing there best, but the death tolls keep riseing on both sides. It is sad that the only way to get peace is by war.

Hi Faz, I would've loved to have countered your "arguments" - if you had any. You couldn't even come up with with one counter-point to anything! But keep trying, one day you might just be able to formulate some sort of argument....

Faz Khaninnit999@hotmail.comAFGHANISTAN

scotthueylovesaphrodite@hotmail.comMark Steyn comment on Spectator
that's a really good article from Mr. Steyn about the London Spectator getting a little confused. but i am saddened by the long post from "Visitor: Anonymous" about "General Comment". Destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan, for instance, was a disgrace, but you need to chill out a little.

Jaco ?
You must have a very bright boy, George. I bet you're proud. Anyway thanks for popping round. Don't worry too much about Osama whas-name. If he survived those cave bombings, we would've heard from him by now... Bull's eye mate, scratch one! Now for the Abu Sayaf, IRA, Zim army and any other terrorist scum. Keep up the good work!

George Bushpresident@whitehouse.govAfghanistan ?
My son showed me how to use the internet the other day and I came across your site. I didn't understand much of it, but you seem to have strong ideas about the Taliban and that guy we've been looking for, Osama something-or-other. If you know anything you gotta tell us. I wield a lot of power over here and I could send a couple of CIA heavies your way if I suspect you're holding out on us. Now I gotta go, I have an important golf date with the Vice-President.

Way to go Shara!! If this is the most coherent criticism my opponents can come up with it must serve as testimony to the infallibility of my arguments ;-)
this website is pointless and's a peice of fucking shit!

Jaco - I just sent a comment but forgot to sign it..!

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
Suppose that 40,000 or 400,000 or 4,000,000 had died..? Far far fewer than the number of civilians who died in WW11 - and despite everything else he may have done Hitler certainly never wanted to destroy the worlds best and most advanced civilisation. From what I know of the Taliban, 4 million dead would have been an excellent bargain considering that for all intents and purposes the Afghan people were living in hell anyway..!! Perhaps the Afghans would disagree..? Who knows what a people who skin their captured prisoners alive think..? Who torture people and animals alike in the most gruesome fashion just to relieve the boredom of life in a lunatic muslim theocracy..? Who demolish one of the worlds greatest architectural treasures simply because it shows the face of a man - and a compassionate man at that..! Thats why they destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan - they were reminders of a long-lost era before Islam when the country had a peaceful and gentle religion.. This dirty fly-blown disease-ridden squalid country (I speak from personal experience) has never worked and (like the Congo) never will and the world should wake up to this and split it up into a dozen mutually murderous mini-states - maybe one small part will actually work even. The Taliban should be given the vast South-Western desert - one of the most benighted chunks of real-estate in the world. They'll love it..! In return for this we should insist that they take in all the John Walker-Lindh's, the Pahads, the Jesse Jacksons, the Winnie Mandela's and all the so-called "human-rights" whiners and self-loathing white liberals. Boy, that desert will be more densely populated than Bangladesh..!

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
All the most popular page will get this functionality over the next couple of weeks... Let's get the debate off the ground Jaco

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