Washington DC is safer than Baghdad

Have you seen this bit of nonsense circulating through the web?

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, here’s a sobering statistic:

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths. That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons for the same period. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.

Looking at 2005 statistics, the annual homicide rate in Washington DC is 35.4 per 100,000. Even if we double it we don’t get to 80.6. And that is all violent death – beatings, stabbings, etc. Moreover, violent deaths in Washington DC involves civilians. The Iraq statistic is death by guns among only United States soldiers. Apples and oranges. What is the violent death rate among Iraqi civilians? Given the likelihood that more 600,000 (and maybe as many as one million) Iraqis have died since the start of the occupation, it must be extremely high.

Here’s a more realistic comparison: Find out how many police officers – who, along with the Guard, represent the domestic military establishment of the United States – have been killed in Washington DC over the 22 months in question. Do you think it’s 2,112? Well, in 2006, 48 law enforcement officers were killed in the line-of-duty for the entire country. Only seven of them were killed in the entire Northeast!

What’s the murder rate in Baghdad? It’s 195.4 per 100,000 residents. Washington DC? 35.4 per 100,000. How many times more dangerous is Baghdad than Washington DC? Divide the former by the latter to get the result.

Washington DC is safer than Baghdad.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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