Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

War crimes: Diverted with poll numbers -- Treat DoD morale numbers with suspicion

Troops learn the hard way: If you speak out about problems, you face consequences.

But changes in US morale levels do little to alter momentum toward Iraqi civil war.

Too bad the DoD interest in troop morale wasn't put into improving Iraqi morale, security, and freedom from civil war.


DoD is touting some new morale data as if it were an improvement.

True, the data "says" the number of troops reporting low morale has improved from 52% [in 2003] to 36% in 2004].

We'd really have to compare the detailed report from 2004 with 2005. The 2004 report focused on suicides; while the 2005 report likely focused on something else. We'd have to compare the general questions and themes from page 49 of 2004 with the approach taken in the 2004/5-results.

For comparison, here's the report from 2004; page 49 of this section of the 2004 gives an idea of the 2004-like interviews. [Here's more innformation on the team in 2003/4]

Unknowns with the 2005 report

However, there are a number of problems. We don't really know

  • what kinds of conditions the troops were in when they made the various reports. If they've just gotten out of a major battle in 2003 or suffered heavy casualties, then we might expect the results in 2003 to be worse than in 2004 when conditions could have been an improvement, with the expectation that the upcoming elections in 2005 were going to improve things.

  • the conditions upon which their survey responses were protected. If the survey participants were "guaranteed" anonymity in 2003 and they correctly reported what they thought was the truth, but then subsequently retaliated against, then even if someone were to say, "This will be anonymous" they may incorrectly state their true feelings with the hopes of avoiding retaliation for speaking the truth.

  • what type of "bad information" was screened out;

  • if there were "redos" on the surveys because a subsequent investigation prompted additional reviews. If the initial result wasn't desirable, they could scrap the first results, give some sort of speech or waiting period, and then do it over until they get the result they want.

  • what kind of retaliation was made against those who correctly reported their actual perceptions in 2003. There could be people in 2004, who after being retaliated against in 2003, said "I'm going to say good things in the hopes that I get a favorable assignment or position." We've heard of contractors getting "bad" assignments in Iraq if they talk about problems.

    Nor do we know what relationship, if any, the data collection people have with the Pentagon. They could be an "independent contractor" in name only; and could actually have other significant contracts that could be won or lost on the basis of whether they bring back a favorable result or improvement.


    Think about those who do audits on major firms. The auditor gets paid the client. But there are cases where the auditor will overlook problems because they want to win a bigger contract.

    regardless the troops perceptions on morale, Iraq is now spiraling into a deeper civil war.

    We went there to "solve" problems. No we have a hidden draft, troops who don't want to be there, and a less stable situation.

    No amount of discussion over "troop morale" is going to be relevant when the larger forces of instability make survey results irrelevant.

    Rather than reading polling data, the White House should be reading the War Crimes indictments at Nuremburg and preparing their resignation letters. The Downing Street memo is sufficient evidence to launch an inquiry into war crimes and impeach many in the White House.

    The morale of the troops is irrelevant to whether the US government committed war crimes or whether the Iraqi nation is spiraling into a civil war.

    Morale may be improving because reality is ignored. That's not progress, but more White House denial.