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07/16/2008

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We throw big numbers around without having any real idea what they represent

Who is this "we", Kimo Sabe?

I would really like to know where he got the 83,000 figure, since everything I can find states that at its peak Abu Ghraib held 7,000 prisoners and now houses much less.

The art is pretty cool, but making up numbers for your art kind of ruins the effect.

I Googled "83,000 detained" and came up with this article, cribbed from the Deseret News and the AP that cites the 83,000 figure. It appears fairly credible. The total number of Google results for the search was more than 13,000.

Relive the Google search here.

I may have been imprecise in my language. The photos used in the collage are from Abu Ghraib, but the figure 83,000 is, according to the artist's website, "the number of people who have been arrested and held at US-run detention facilities with no trial or other due process of law." That would include lots of detention sites, secret and publicly known, around the world.

That explanation seems more plausible, although I still want to know how they got the number from secret locations, seeing as how they are, you know, secret.

Of course we've heard inflated numbers for years; the coming heterosexual AIDS epidemic, the number of homeless, numbers of protesters who show up at any given anti-war rally, etc. So I'm usually pretty skeptical about large numbers that are thrown around like that.

hmm.. and now I've read some of the articles and I have a couple of other thoughts.

From http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20051117/ai_n15855114

1. "Some 82,400 people have been detained by the military alone in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to figures from officials in Baghdad and Washington. Many are freed shortly after initial questioning." So while the number may be that large, it seems a large percentage of detainees are released almost immediately.

2. "The detentions and interrogations have brought complaints from Congress and human-rights groups about how the detainees -- often Arab and male -- are treated."

Often Arab and male? Allow me to give a big, "Duh" to that one. Who do they think we're fighting, the Germans?

The liberal media had to emphasize who was being detained because it shows that the eeevil US troops are practicing discrimination™. How unthinkable that they would profile!

As for the figures being doctored, remember that even photos get doctored, like what that Lebanese photographer did to his picture of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Of course, it's not just Moslems who lie with photos; political partisans do, too. A picture of Obama's campaign rally in Portland appears to be just such an example. A commenter at this site observed:

"This photo showing a huge crowd for Obama appears to be doctored. Look at the two distinct shadows of the most noticeable trees. These first one on the right towards the front of the crowd puts the sun almost straight above the crowd slightly right of the tree. The second shadow along the bank of the river puts the sun slightly behind the crowd at a lower position above the horizon. Now notice the total lack of shadow created by the people along the bank of the river. There should be at least a thin black visible line indicating the position of the sun according to either tree shadow. And lastly, notice how blurry the balk of the crowd is in the middle. Something seems fishy about this photo."

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