Tags: statistics

Me 2012

Lying with Statistics

I was looking at this article, which blames the focus on the war on terror for the lack of attention to abuse of women. This doesn't strike me as an unfair accusation -- nor is it one that's hard to understand. The "plight of tens of thousands of abused Pakistani women" doesn't exactly compare to the millions displaced or killed by Darfur's genocide in Sudan, either. OTOH, the plight of these women is endemic, not catastrophic: it may not seem as bad when comparing a year's worth of casualties, but it's going to keep happening forever unless attitudes are changed.

But the part in the article that really annoyed me was this:

U.S. government money to Pakistan has shifted from predominantly humanitarian aid before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to military and counterterrorism funding since, further complicating the efforts to aid and educate women. The majority of the $11 billion in post-September 11 U.S. aid to Pakistan has gone to the country's military, leaving less than 10 percent of the funding for humanitarian needs, such as shelters, education and burn centers for those woman frequently scalded by acid as a punishment.

Waitaminute, I thought. Aid "shifted"? We hardly cared about Pakistan at all before 9/11. Are you trying to tell me the amount of total aid given to Pakistan post- and pre- 9/11 is even in the same ballpark?

So I looked it up. Comparing the last 4 years of data to the 4 years prior to 2001:

Total military and economic aid 1997-2000: $173.7 million
Total military and economic aid 2003-2006: $2,745.9 million

Aid to Pakistan in just about every category has stayed the same or risen (with the exception of food aid, which has dropped off somewhat). There's no "shift" that I can see of money that used to go to Pakistani women's shelters now funneled to build bombs. Be real: if the war on terror ended tomorrow, America wouldn't start using the military assistance funds for Pakistan to stop domestic violence there instead.

I'm not saying the article doesn't have a point: I find it entirely plausible that the US is unwilling to bring up humanitarian issues with its strategic allies. But complaining that "less than 10%" is being allocated to humanitarian causes when that "less than 10%" is still more than the total level of foreign aid was before the war -- well, that's not exactly filling me with confidence in the rest of their assertions.