The Lancet study on Iraq – it hasn’t gone away you know.

by Daniel on January 27, 2005

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent article following up on the Lancet study. That study is still basically unchallenged, by the way; however many epidemiologists you ask, they’re all going to give the same answer, that it was good science.

The Chronicle’s angle is on the strange fact that the Lancet appears to have shown that the Iraq War made an already horrible state of affairs much worse, and that nobody seems to think that this is something worth thinking about. There was a brief kerfuffle of interest around the time of publication, but other than that, the reaction of the world’s media to the fact that we spent $150bn on trying to help the Iraqis but did it so badly that we increased their death rate by over 50%, appears to be “ho hum”.

Les Roberts, the principal author, is going through long dark nights of the soul, wondering if it was a tactical mistake to request accelerated peer review and to have been so vocal about the US elections (btw, the Chronicle reiterates the point we made here earlier; that accelerated peer review is uncommon but by no means unknown with important papers). The Lancet editor Richard Horton refuses to comment, and well he might given that he wrote an entirely misleading summary of the paper which referred to “100,000 civilian deaths” when the paper did not make this distinction.

But there is no way on earth that I am going to write a comment harping on about this or that minor faux pas on the part of the authors.

Because the fundamental point that Roberts makes in the article is absolutely correct; it is a far greater disgrace that 100,000 people[1] can be needlessly killed and everybody carries on as they were before. You don’t have to accept an entirely consequentialist view of wars to accept that the consequences of wars have to be relevant to assessing whether they’ve succeeded or not. The best evidence that we have is that the consequences of this one were bloody disastrous. And as far as I’m aware, the list of war supporters who have seriously engaged with the possibility that this war was a failure numbers two; Marc Mullholland and Norman Geras. Marc mentions the Lancet specifically and ends up worried about his previous position; Norm doesn’t and doesn’t. If you know of any other examples, I’d be very grateful. But I honestly think, that’s it.

Other than that, the response in the world of weblogs has been exactly the same as the rest of the media; in the immediate aftermath of the report, half-assed attempts to rubbish the survey, or links to same. Then, when this didn’t work, just pretend that it’s all been dealt with and move on. Maybe say “I’ll get back to you on that” and never do. After a few months of this concerted inattention, many pro-war voices have even decided it was safe to use the old slogan “well Iraq is certainly a better place because we got rid of Saddam”, when this claim is quite obviously highly debatable (just like “of course the world is a safer place because we got rid of Saddam” …)

It’s an absolute intellectual disgrace. It might be good enough for Her Britannic Majesty’s Foreign Secretary but surely we ought to hold ourselves to higher standards than that. The debate over whether this war worked is vitally important, because we are talking about setting a precedent for an entirely new world of international relations, and the debate is not being carried on honestly. This is quite literally madness, and also quite literally suicidal.

I think I ended every single Lancet post with the observation that you can tell a lot about people’s character by observing the way in which they protect themselves from hostile information. Les Roberts ought to take some grim pleasure in the fact that the world has paid his work possibly the highest compliment that the establishment can pay to a piece of information; they regarded it as dangerous enough to ignore it, even at the cost of their own credibility.

Footnote:
[1]As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like this 100,000 number, and it is irksome that the Lancet’s lasting legacy has been that the “100,000 dead!” factoid has become a commonly used stick for antiwar hacks to beat prowar hacks with. But as I say above, there is no way that I’m going to pick nits on this sort of thing while there is such a huge act of ongoing intellectual dishonesty on the other side. The pro-war side have brought this on themselves; until they start engaging with the issue, they can live with it.

{ 171 comments }

1

John Isbell 01.28.05 at 12:33 am

The 100,000 number is in error because Iraqis are exactly 3/5 of a person.
The correct number is thus 60,000 human beings.

2

Ginger Yellow 01.28.05 at 12:35 am

I think part of it has to do with the polarisation of war opinions. In almost all cases, the remaining pro-war types have either decided to ignore any “bad news” or unconsciously discount it, while anti-war types are just overwhelmed by the multi-faceted horror of the situation and our apparent powerless to do anything about it. For example, I’m practically incandescent with rage about the detention without trial, torture and rendition situation, but even I can’t summon up the energy and outrage to comment about every revelation. There’s just too many and it’s so depressing that it keeps getting worse than we ever imagined.

3

Mark 01.28.05 at 12:37 am

Daniel, would Andrew Olmsted count in that thoughtful-war-supporter category?

4

John Isbell 01.28.05 at 12:38 am

… and a number of Americans also. Let us recall Tony Blair’s statement that he had overstated the death count in Saddam Hussein’s mass graves by 8000%. In other words, by quite a bit. Another datum down the memory hole.

5

ayjay 01.28.05 at 12:58 am

Okay: as someone who thinks the most vocal proponents of this war and its most vocal opponents are pretty much equally confused, I’ll bite. Just for fun.

1) It’s not “nit-picking” to question the 100,000 number when the study is based on such a tiny sample size (relative to the number of people concerned) that the margin of error is simply enormous. Though I doubt that the lack of attention to the study is due to intellectual scruples by anyone, it would, I think, be wise not to jump on this one study until a hell of a lot more information can be gathered.

2) If the Lancet article constitutes proof, or at least overwhelming evidence, that this war has been a disaster — if the article allows one to draw the final conclusion that this war wasn’t worth fighting — then wouldn’t a similar study conducted in London in 1941 have required precisely the same conclusion about that war — that it should never have been fought and that the people of Britain would have been better off if the treaty with Poland had never been made or never been honored?

I mean, is it really surprising that more people in Iraq have died since a war began than before a war began? If that is the fact on which the case against war rests, then the case was made before it ever began — there was no scenario in which fatalities in Iraq, over a two-year term, would have been lessened by the beginning of a war.

The are two vital truths that almost no one in this whole ongoing dispute seems willing to acknowledge: first, that it is impossible to know what would have happened if it hadn’t been fought; and second, that twenty months is not enough time to know either what the cost has been or whether the ultimate benefits (if any occur) will justify that cost. Historians and social scientists, of all people, need to be the ones saying “It’s too soon to tell.” Truth doesn’t move at the speed of journalism, or even of the blogosphere.

6

dsquared 01.28.05 at 12:59 am

dunno. Andrew Olmsted is a new name on me. If he did, chuck up the link; it would be nice to have a sort of roll of honour here.

7

dsquared 01.28.05 at 1:21 am

Ayjay, two points:

1. It’s not “nit-picking” to question the 100,000 number when the study is based on such a tiny sample size

The sample size wasn’t tiny, as every epidemiologist interviewed by the Chronicle says. It was over 7,000 people in 33 neighbourhoods. While the 100K number has a lot of uncertainty, the qualitative “worse not better” conclusion doesn’t.

2. We didn’t start World War 2. Hitler did. I don’t accept any slippery slope type argument which depends on there being no difference between defending oneself against aggression, and being aggressive oneself. They are two very different decision problems.

8

ayjay 01.28.05 at 1:32 am

dsquared, I said that the sample size was tiny relative to the number of people involved, which I think is fair. As the Chronicle article says, “the researchers admitted that many of the dead might have been combatants. They also acknowledged that the true number of deaths could fall anywhere within a range of 8,000 to 194,000, a function of the researchers’ having extrapolated their survey to a country of 25 million.”

And as every schoolchild knows, Hitler did not invade or declare war on Britain. (Actually every schoolchild doesn’t know that, but I’ve always wanted to use that phrase.) But the British government felt that his threats to other countries (and to his own people) were ultimately dangerous to Britain, and the U.S. government made the same argument about Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, the Kurds. the Shiites, etc. I am not saying that those arguments had equal validity! — only that they’re versions of the same kind of decision about going to war against someone who hasn’t attacked you directly, which was why I used the comparison.

9

Ginger Yellow 01.28.05 at 1:48 am

Britain had treaty with Poland, don’t forget. Now obviously it was up to Britain whether or not to honour it, as they didn’t with Czechoslovakia, but it was still a treaty obligation.

10

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.28.05 at 1:57 am

I find the study not particularly forceful because it took the wimpy way out and failed to bother with the number of guerillas killed. The moral distinction between killing a lot of civilians and killing a lot of insurgents is rather large. The moral distinction between those killed trying to reinstall a Baathist government and those not is also rather large.

If the war ends up being a failure (and that certainly seems more probable to me than it did 9 months ago) we can revist the “was it worth it” question. Still seems premature to me.

11

am 01.28.05 at 2:17 am

They dropped the Falluja sample.

In other words: they *knew* that their methodology was flawed, so the fudged the numbers to make them look better.

Given that, why should we believe the latter number?

Especially given that their study failed to even address other studies, such as iraqbodycount.net, let alone offering explanations for the discrepancy.

12

LizardBreath 01.28.05 at 2:25 am

That may be the dimmest comment I have ever seen. Dropping the Fallujah sample lowered, rather than raising, the estimated number of deaths caused, and Iraq Body Count counts all deaths of CIVILIANS REPORTED IN THE FOREIGN PRESS, an obiously smaller number than all deaths.

Any other comments?

13

Don Quijote 01.28.05 at 2:32 am

sebastian,

I find the study not particularly forceful because it took the wimpy way out and failed to bother with the number of guerillas killed.

Tell that to this little girl, I am sure she won’t mind and neiher will any of her living relatives.

14

Kieran Healy 01.28.05 at 2:42 am

In other words: they knew that their methodology was flawed,

No, they knew Fallujah was an outlier.

Especially given that their study failed to even address other studies, such as iraqbodycount.net, let alone offering explanations for the discrepancy.

These objections are all old news. Read Daniel’s original posts about it. Iraq Body Count is a passive reporting system that generates its results in a completely different way from the survey.

As for the guerilla thing — let’s first just figure out how many people died, before deciding how many of them deserved it.

15

sara 01.28.05 at 2:46 am

The utilitarian argument is so weak, it has to be projected into an indefinite future. If Iraq will become an utopia a hundred years from now, are we justified in committing a de facto, slow genocide at present?

You aren’t even reaching the mentality of the die-hard supporters of the war. Good intentions are all, and the rest is “God’s will,” so we should persist in doing “God’s work.” Meanwhile, insurgents and terrorists find their motivations in the present misery.

The destruction now – utopian future meme bears a distressing resemblance to the Christian Apocalypse mythologeme.

If someone approached me with a gun, shot me in the kneecaps, and took all my money, while promising to invest it in a scheme that in some indefinite future would grant me an indefinite return — without promising to pay for my medical bills — I’d regard him as a criminal.

16

Tim Lambert 01.28.05 at 2:56 am

ayjay, you wrote “the sample size was tiny relative to the number of people involved”. This is rubbish. What matters is not the relative swample size but the actual sample size. Whether you population is 250 million or 250 thousand, you need the same sample size.

17

trostky 01.28.05 at 3:11 am

Say, I’m a war supporter who has “seriously engaged with the possibility that this war was a failure.”

I don’t blog, though, and neither do many others.

Given that, in the States, the initial support for the war was in the 75-80 percent range, and that now less than half the populace says it was worth it, I’d say I’m far from alone.

18

Mark 01.28.05 at 3:49 am

Daniel, I don’t have a specific post of him looking at the Lancet study, frankly. I have, however, been impressed with the way that he (as a war supporter) is looking with an open-mind about whether we were right to go to war and what the consequences of the war have been, particularly for the US military (I understand he is or was an US military officer, which might explain it).

19

Mark 01.28.05 at 3:49 am

20

Ayjay 01.28.05 at 4:00 am

If someone approached me with a gun, shot me in the kneecaps, and took all my money, while promising to invest it in a scheme that in some indefinite future would grant me an indefinite return — without promising to pay for my medical bills — I’d regard him as a criminal.

Hmmm. Well, Sara, after thinking it over, I’m inclined to agree that in such a situation you’d have some justification for calling that person a criminal.

And tim lambert, I’m afraid the rubbish is on the other foot. What you say about sample size would only be true if what you are testing is absolutely homogeneous. If you’re trying to figure out what is happening in an entire country, a country in which conditions vary enormously from one region to another and even from one town to another, you need as large and as widely distributed a sample size as possible to make reliable judgments. That’s one of the reasons why the study’s authors themselves acknowledge such a large margin of error.

21

washerdreyer 01.28.05 at 5:05 am

Worst. Comment. Thread. Ever!
Good, albeit depressing, post.

22

Tim Lambert 01.28.05 at 5:25 am

ayjay, you’re wrong. Random sampling does not require that the population be absolutelly homogenous.

23

cavanaghjam 01.28.05 at 5:40 am

Whether the number of Iraqi dead is 8K or 200k, whether they were armed combatants or bystanders, the fact remains that not one did anything to warrant a death sentence until their country was invaded, and invaded without casus belli as understood by the Augustinian definition of just war.

24

bad Jim 01.28.05 at 5:44 am

Many of the commenters don’t seem to have read the linked article. It’s an excellent piece for a general audience.

Here are two excerpts that bear upon points of contention in this thread:

… the raw numbers upon which the researchers’ extrapolation was based are undeniable: Since the invasion, the No. 1 cause of death among households surveyed was violence. The risk of death due to violence had increased 58-fold since before the war. And more than half of the people who had died from violence and its aftermath since the invasion began were women and children.

So the dead may not have been predominantly insurgents.

Scientists say the size of the survey was adequate for extrapolation to the entire country. “That’s a classical sample size,” says Michael J. Toole, head of the Center for International Health at the Burnet Institute, an Australian research organization. Researchers typically conduct surveys in 30 neighborhoods, so the Iraq study’s total of 33 strengthens its conclusions. “I just don’t see any evidence of significant exaggeration,” he says.

Epidemiologists. What do they know?

25

rd 01.28.05 at 5:54 am

So by this standard, if epidemiologists had found that civilian deaths in France circa 1944 and 1945 were “worse, not better” than in 1942 and 1943, then the Allied invasion of France would have been unjustified? Almost any war is going to lead to more civilian deaths than the immediately preceding period. If you impose that test, then you can only intervene in midst of a large genocide. If the level of civilian deaths in Iraq continue into the indefinite future, then the war is a failure. However, if the situation alleviates and a more just, pluarlistic regime emerges, I don’t think supporters of the war should hang their heads.

26

Richard Cownie 01.28.05 at 6:51 am

Great post!

The opportunity cost of that $150B is also staggering. I saw figures about the vaccination fund set up by the Gates Foundation – BillG put in $750M, various donors added $580M, and the vaccinations they’ve done are estimated to have saved 670K lives. That works out at $1985 per life saved.

And at that rate the $200B we will soon have spent in Iraq would save over 100M lives, or 4x the population of Iraq.

So it isn’t just the deaths we’ve caused and the damage we’ve done; it’s also a huge opportunity cost.

Make vaccines not war!

27

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.28.05 at 7:02 am

“So the dead may not have been predominantly insurgents.”

But may have been killed by insurgents, no?

28

robbo 01.28.05 at 7:03 am

However, if the situation alleviates and a more just, pluarlistic regime emerges, I don’t think supporters of the war should hang their heads.

Right, and if Sara’s kneecap-shooter were to magically return in 20 years and hand her $1 million she should shower him with flowers and chocolates. This incredibly costly war was sold on the most obviously false pretenses imaginable. It has lowered America’s standing in the world, it has cost untold numbers of perfectly good lives, and it threatens to completely destabilize the Middle East if not much more of the world.

Even if this all magically “works out” you will not persuade me that the hundreds of billions of dollars should not have been spent on something else. Just about anything, really.

Of course, it could just be that the outward, medium-term appearance of things “working out” would actually be the worst possible long-term outcome — how better to embolden Glorious Leader to undertake even more dangerous adventures? Once the rabid Republicans and the spineless Dems have firmly convinced the rest of the world that the 800-lb. gorilla has truly lost its mind, I’m going to start watching for the rest of the world to start fighting back like they mean it.

As much as anything, Bush’s war is showing that there are lots of ways to badly damage the American psyche (and American soldiers) that have nothing to do with a large standing army or even advanced weapons. But, hey, if blind optimism works for you knock yourself out, I guess.

29

fifi 01.28.05 at 7:05 am

There’s no self-loathing in conquest.

30

am 01.28.05 at 7:54 am

“That may be the dimmest comment I have ever seen. Dropping the Fallujah sample lowered, rather than raising, the estimated number of deaths caused”

Your point is invalid.

Let me reiterate: the authors’ chosen methodology produced a number which they didn’t believe was correct, or which they didn’t like, or which they didn’t believe they could sell, or whatever. So they simply rubbed the Falluja count out of the final numbers.

This calls their entire methodology into question. What plausible reason have we for believing that the resulting number is accurate? How do we know that other clusters were not “outliers”. How do we know that the other clusters were not affected by whatever methodological flaw corrupted the Falluja count?

Also: it has been pointed out that if you take their Falluja fatality number, then one in six Fallujans have been killed. If you then factor in a likely injury ratio, the entire population of Falluja has been killed or injured by the US!

The Falluja number is patently ridiculous, as the authors conceded by rubbing it out.

And they used the *same* methodology in all the other clusters!

Is there no scepticism out there?

31

Jor 01.28.05 at 8:06 am

Some people have no shame. It amazes me how people who don’t seem to have even taken an introductory statistics class don’t mind making absolute fools of themselves.

32

Jack 01.28.05 at 8:39 am

John Isbell,

You are being ripped off, the army will give you anything between 20 Iraqi’s to the American and 100.

am,

What number do you think is correct? Which research is better (and before anyone leaps in the IBC figure is a different number and the IBC have themselves said their figures are not incompatible)? What is the correct figure now? If the paper were demonstrated to be spot on, however you might be satisfied, what would be your response? In your statistical analyses do you always include every measurement you make? Do you believe that the concept of an outlier is a fraud? Have you considered taking their reasoning at face value? How often do you question statistics in refereed papers? Do you know why we don’t keep records? Do you know that not to do so is a breach of the Geneva convention? What do you think you would get if you sampled Fallujah now? If there are shortcomings in their research, how might they be overcome? Would you be willng to help?

33

bad Jim 01.28.05 at 8:48 am

It appears that the invasion of Iraq was a humanitarian catastrophe of approximately half the scale of the recent tsunami, at a cost perhaps a hundred times greater (if one may compare the cost of taking lives war with that of saving them).

Yet some continue to insist that there must be a pony in here, somewhere.

34

dsquared 01.28.05 at 8:54 am

I would just like to assure readers that I don’t post these Lancet updates purely for the purpose of enticing people to say stupid things about statistics so that I can mock them and feel all superior. I admit that was part of the original motivation, but not really all that much any more.

35

Sam Dodsworth 01.28.05 at 9:20 am

Has anyone else noticed that “8,000 to 200,000″ rapidly became “up to 100,000″ casualties, even when being cited in anti-war arguments? If that’s not just a false impression of mine, then I think part of the rather subdued reaction may have been sheer cognitive dissonance.

36

John Quiggin 01.28.05 at 9:37 am

Another point worth noting is that these figures refer solely to civilian casualties, excluding Iraqi soldiers killed during the invasion.

Pro-war writers seem to have started, on the basis of the WMD rationale, by acting as if the war was one of self-defence with Iraq as the aggressors, and therefore that military casualties could be disregarded.

When they changed their mind and decided they were actually liberating Iraqis (including, presumably, soldiers) the fact that tens of thousands of them (we’ll never know how many, but entire divisions were bombed into oblivion) had been killed in the process was quietly forgotten.

37

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 10:55 am

The reason practically nobody talks about the Lancet study, is that it is morally flawed.

Look, if the police go for a “dynamic assault” on a hostage situation, (And a tyrannical regime like Saddam’s IS analogous to a hostage situation, I think.) you don’t,

1. Mark the police down for killing the hostage holders.

or

2. Lay all the blame for hostages killed by the criminals on the police.

Besides which, there have essentially been TWO wars in Iraq. The first, over very quickly, to depose Saddam. And the second, waged by Bathists and others, to see to it that Iraq does NOT become a free country. The second war is not between us and Iraq, it’s between the “insurgency”, which to a large extent consists of foreigners, and Iraqis, with us as allies to the Iraqis.

And we didn’t start THAT war, which is causing most of the causalties.

38

jor 01.28.05 at 11:18 am

Brett, I see, the insurgency was set to start if we invaded or not, right? You might not realize this, but systematically destryoing all the institution in a country makes the American govt. slightly culpable for the repercussions of that action. Especially when many people said this is exactly what would happen before the War. Stop repeating talking points, and attempt to start using your own head.

39

dsquared 01.28.05 at 11:28 am

Brett, there is always an inquiry into the handling of hostage situations, and whether the actions taken by the police were justified or whether they made the situation worse. The police carry out careful audits of what happened, and have changed their tactics materially over the years, with the result that hostage situations are generally well handled and these days usually end without loss of life.

This is the case in the UK and USA, anyway. In Russia, they tend to just take the view that it is the god-given right of the special forces to storm in and shoot, and that anyone who criticises this is failing to blame the hostage-takers. I don’t have enough evidence to support a causal claim, but the last two big hostage crises in Russia (the theatre massacre and the Beslan massacre) have ended in tragedy.

You don’t appear to be very interested in learning lessons from Iraq. Why not?

[parenthetically, Brett's position is close to that of Norman Geras on the moral issues; I don't agree that the insurgents are morally obliged to offer a cakewalk, or that if they were it would mean we were morally entitled to assume one, but the position is defensible. But there are the practical issues of whether this war was executed well or badly, and I don't see many supporters considering those either]

40

No Preference 01.28.05 at 11:31 am

bellmore, the problem with your scenario is that many of the so-called “hostages” have started shooting at the “police”. It’s not just former regime types who are in the resistance.

And please, please drop that “to a large extent foreigners” nonsense. US commanders have acknowledged that the insurgents are at least 95% Iraqi.

41

dsquared 01.28.05 at 11:35 am

By the way, how can a seemingly sane person believe this:

And we didn’t start THAT war [against the insurgents], which is causing most of the causalties.

Of course we did. If we hadn’t gone in there, there would have been no insurgency. It’s practically part of the definition of an “insurgent”.

42

Matthew2 01.28.05 at 11:39 am

Great post, I thought the Timberists had lost their nerve following the assaults of the internet islamophobes.

the reaction [...] appears to be ?ho hum?.

That’s human nature for you. People ignore painful notions. It’s still a disgrace, an essential one.
As for your question, Johann Hari has been penning some very intellectually honest articles lately. But he still thinks the war may have been worth it based on some early opinion polls (Saddam was outed!)…

43

dsquared 01.28.05 at 11:44 am

Actually I probably ought to have mentioned Hari up top and if I can be bothered to do an update I will, thanks.

44

john s 01.28.05 at 11:56 am

dsquared:

“as far as I’m aware, the list of war supporters who have seriously engaged with the possibility that this war was a failure numbers two”

You’re too modest. You leave yourself out. You weren’t against war, just invasion in 2003 on the assumption that Bush would be out in 2005 and so invasion could have been led by a nicer man.

As you say, invading made insurgency inevitable, so even a “nicer” invasion would have had these insurgency consequences.

Matthew2, when you say Johann Hari has been “penning some very intellectually honest articles lately”, do you actually just mean you agree with what he writes now? And, ergo, tha what he wrote before cannot have been intellectually honest because you didn’t agree with it?

45

abb1 01.28.05 at 12:23 pm

Speaking about police/hostages: compare this to infamous 1993 Waco incident. Except it’s at least 1000 times the magnitude and completely outside of the jurisdiction.

Another point worth noting is that these figures refer solely to civilian casualties, excluding Iraqi soldiers killed during the invasion.

Yet another point is that (IIRC) these numbers represent excess deaths, those above of what would’ve happened under Saddam/sanctions. That is impressive.

46

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 12:40 pm

If you want me to concede that Bush is largely incompetent at anything but winning elections, you’ll get no argument from me. Both the 2000 and 2004 elections were, from my perspective, a choice between a perhaps competent man who I thought would competently do the wrong thing, and somebody whose aims I thought at least somewhat agreeable, but who had no skill at anything but politics.

Well, you can amend incompetence by hiring the right people, but there’s no fixing competent wrongheadedness. So I still think I cast the right vote, even if it did’t work out as well as I hoped.

47

John Emerson 01.28.05 at 12:59 pm

Since the election I believe more than I ever did that all significant political debates in the US are now just matters of affiliation. Bush is in the driver’s seat, and people affiliate for him or against him.

The otherwise-rational conservatives who remain on Bush’s team, I am convinced, remain there on the basis of a personal anti-liberal existential commitment that they made during some important change of life, perhaps when they rehabbed after the sixties while blaming liberalism for all their problems. (The pro-conservative aspect of that kind of rehab is always weaker than the anti-liberal one).

For them to cease to be conservatives now would require a second existential crisis, and most people don’t want to have too many of those in one lifetime.

It’s not just Iraq. There are still plenty of fiscal conservatives who, for that reason, refuse to vote for a Democrat — flying in the face of 24 years of political reality. Their politics is like their body type, changable only with major surgery.

And as I’ve said many times already, the starve-the-beast Armageddonist neo-Confederate World War Four advocates are influencing policy now, and we aren’t. (And neither are the pitiful rational conservatives who are continuing to support Bush.) We’re just watching, and so are they (whether they know it or not.)

People are pleased that Bush’s atempt to destroy social security seems to be failing, but that’s sort of as if in some counterfactual world New York City, all alone, were making a stout defense against the forces of Robert E Lee. Bush has the Democrats fighting in their last ditch.

And no, I don’t think that I am the irrational one here. The Bush loyalists are a bunch of very sick puppies.

48

Jeremy Pierce 01.28.05 at 1:43 pm

John, the liberation motivation was there from the beginning, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying, ignorant, and exercising wishful thinking. The WMD motivation took priority because it was the only one of quite a number of motivations that every single party to the deliberations was willing to agree to, including the intelligence people, the Bush advisers, the people in Congress who agreed with the Bush people, the allies who were strongly considering endorsing it, and the pundits willing to argue in favor o fit. That doesn’t mean that the other reasons weren’t there in the minds of Bush and a number of his advisers, and these other reasons might have been foremost for some people. They certainly weren’t invented after the war effort began, because Bush’s State of the Union arguing for invading Iraq had it all there, and the Senate resolution that Boxer said didn’t have it also did have it.

49

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 1:45 pm

You know, if you’d stop paying attention to your internal imagery, and look at who’s actually voting Republican, you’d realize that they’re not “Bush loyalists”, they’re Gore and Kerry anti-loyalists. That for the most part he hasn’t attracted voters, he’s just gotten the people YOU drive away.

You could take the Republican coallition apart at the seams, if you weren’t so obsessive about gun control and late term abortion. Toss in doing something about illegal immigration, (Which both parties defend because it provides their financial backers with cheap labor that doesn’t dare complain about working conditions.) and the Republicans would go the way of the Whigs.

50

SamChevre 01.28.05 at 1:47 pm

You have to give Andrew Sullivan credit as a war supporter who has consistently criticized the conduct of the war and takes seriously the possibility that it could be a failure.

However, looking at the period where war is ongoing and active and comparing it to a pre-war period seems to me to be a fairly poor measure of the war’s long-term effect. Very few societies—not even Hitler’s Germany—are so bad that war isn’t worse while it is ongoing; the real key is the steady-state after the war vs the steady-state before.

51

Uncle Kvetch 01.28.05 at 1:59 pm

Sez Brett Bellmore:

The reason practically nobody talks about the Lancet study, is that it is morally flawed.

Ignorance Is Strength, right, Comrade?

I share Daniel’s despair at the collective shrug over the Lancet study, but I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. Didn’t somewhere between 2 and 3 million Vietnamese civilians lose their lives in the process of being saved from Communism? Don’t hear much about them either.

John Emerson hits the nail on the head: anyone who’s still on the reservation at this point can’t credibly claim to stand for anything like a coherent set of principles, because this administration’s policies are utterly incoherent. It’s purely a case of “Bush good, not-Bush bad.” It’s not about being conservative, it’s about being “anti-left.” (Paging Andrew Sullivan…) And Brett is nice enough to confirm this with his latest comment–why, he’d vote for an inarticulate buffoon, if it meant saving America from the unspeakable horrors of a President Gore or a President Kerry. Come to think of it…

52

Matthew2 01.28.05 at 2:07 pm

Well John S, I thought my sarcasm was apparent enough. I really disagree with Hari, but at least he is presenting an honest argument, and not running around screaming “Saddam=evil” and “islamofascists”. He has the guts to reconsider his hawkish positions, and this is very rare.
I think his pre-war arguments were misguided and not convincing, but they were argued and you could reasonably disagree. If only all debate was similarly rational.

53

Kevin Donoghue 01.28.05 at 2:12 pm

The “list of war supporters who have seriously engaged with the possibility that this war was a failure” is surely quite long. You don’t have to travel very far; I seem to remember a post by Belle Waring on the subject. Another name that springs to mind is Michael Ignatieff. The fact that you mention just two (and add Johann Hari when prompted) suggests that you have in mind a particular subset of war supporters.

54

No Preference 01.28.05 at 2:15 pm

Jeremy Pierce, the “liberation motivation” might have been “in the minds of Bush and a number of his advisors”, but in fact practically all they talked about, ad nauseum, was “Saddam, WMD, al Qaeda”.

55

John Isbell 01.28.05 at 2:25 pm

BB, I’m sure you will appreciate the irony of your twin statement about people being anti-Kerry but wooable without our obsessive gun control and abortion stances, given that Kerry had more than one gun photo-op and explicitly stated his personal opposition to abortion. Call it what you will, I look forward to you turning it into obsessive support. Limber up first, though, says a 40-year-old.

56

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 2:26 pm

Right, and if you really thought that Bush’s policy goals were as malignant as you claim, and he was startlingly competent, you’d favor an incompetent John Kerry instead. Because we both understand that, if you’re trying to do the wrong thing, being competent at it only makes things worse.

57

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 2:35 pm

“given that Kerry had more than one gun photo-op and explicitly stated his personal opposition to abortion.”

I care about your party’s policies, not the masks you put on at election time. You’ve really got to get over this notion that everyone who disagrees with you is a gullible idiot, and the problem is that they’re being taken in by the wrong lying propaganda, when they should ideally be taken in by your’s.

I mean, Kerry flys off to Washington to vote for gun bans on Super Tuesday, and thinks posing with a dead goose is going to help him? That just compounds being wrong on the issue with being insulting, too.

58

Donald Johnson 01.28.05 at 2:37 pm

Some people are saying that it isn’t surprising that more people are dying after a war than before. That’s true, but it’s not what prowar types always argue. Wait long enough in a discussion like this and someone will trot out estimates of how many people Saddam killed, estimates that range from 300,000 to millions and based on less evidence than we have in the Lancet study, and then they’ll divide that number by the number of years Saddam was in power, and then give a small estimate for how many Iraqis have been killed by the US in the past 20 months, and then say the latter is smaller both in magnitude and in average rate and reach the triumphant conclusion that the war is killing fewer than would have died if we hadn’t invaded. I’m surprised that hasn’t happened yet, so I just stepped in and filled this yawning void in the thread so far.
The Lancet study appears to refute this argument, since the death rate has gone up.

The main weakness in the Lancet paper is the claim that most of the violent deaths were caused by American air strikes. That’s literally true of the sample, because of the Fallujah outlier. Whether it’s true of the country as a whole is unknown, because reporters can’t travel around freely and I get the impression from US government claims that our bombs only kill insurgents even when dropped on cities–if so, this is a breakthrough in weapons technology whose significance is of great theological importance, since we no longer have to kill a bunch of people and let God sort them out when our clever little bombs can do it for Him. It’d be interesting to know how many 500 to 2000 lb bombs the US has dropped in urban areas, on the off-chance that maybe our bombs are still incapable of making fine moral distinctions.

In some article I saw after the Lancet paper, the authors said they had wished they could have taken one or two more samples in heavily bombed areas like Fallujah or just had been able to do more samples in general–what they did was okay for giving the overall mortality picture, but if you want a detailed breakdown of how many people are dying from various causes you need a bigger sample. That’s obvious in hindsight–you see one neighborhood like the Fallujah outlier appear in a sample of 33 and you ought to wonder what the true proportion of badly bombed neighborhoods really is. If it’s really as high as 1 in 33 then probably a lot more than 100,000 have died.

59

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 2:46 pm

“Some people are saying that it isn’t surprising that more people are dying after a war than before.”

No, we’re saying that it isn’t suprising that more people are dying DURING a war than before. The war isn’t over.

60

Donald Johnson 01.28.05 at 2:48 pm

On the liberation/humanitarian argument, if that was sincere it wouldn’t pop up only when we want to invade for other reasons. And anyway, there are more cost-efficient ways to save lives than by starting wars against evil dictators we used to support. Ask Jeffrey Sachs.

61

John Isbell 01.28.05 at 2:50 pm

BB, I’m sure you will appreciate the irony of your twin statement about people being anti-Kerry but wooable without our obsessive gun control and abortion stances, given that Kerry had more than one gun photo-op and explicitly stated his personal opposition to abortion. Call it what you will, I look forward to you turning it into obsessive support. Limber up first, though, says a 40-year-old.

62

james 01.28.05 at 3:27 pm

Brett Bellmore – To be truly successful the Democratic Party would have to do something about how religious group perceive them. It has never been a politically viable position to be perceived as anti-religion. Considering that this is a single voting issue for a significant percentage of the voting public.

63

Russell L. Carter 01.28.05 at 4:24 pm

“I care about your party’s policies, not the masks you put on at election time. “

I had always thought that the gun rights issue was a proxy for civil liberties. Thanks to Brett, now it is clear to me that it is not. Brett, you’re an intelligent fellow, why is possible gun control more important than actual arbitrary detention without recourse to trial? I think the ability to embrace this sort of inconsistency is at the heart of the denial of the outcome of the Iraq war.

64

Brendan 01.28.05 at 4:46 pm

To get some perspective on this ‘debate’ I think you have to ask yourself two questions:

1: Do you think the pro-war side would be putting on their ‘statistician’ hats and attempting to argue about sample sizes if the Lancet article showed that, say, 5,000 people had died as a result of the war?

2: Granted that the results of the study are provisional, why do no pro-war people argue that the solution is for more and better research?

On the contrary: what we get here is the remarkable argument by one of the posters that it’s actually immoral to count how many people die as a result of our actions in attacking a country that posed no threat to us.

Given this sort of rhetoric, we should be careful to assume our own moral superiority when it comes to making smug little generalisations about Arab terrorism, and the ‘moral failure’ of contemporary Islam.

65

pedro 01.28.05 at 4:56 pm

Hopefully the Democrats will take a principled stance on issues, and not pander to disaffected “moderates” who believe that gun control is tantamount to oppression, no matter that it costs them votes. After all, it’s not as if this one issue will a priori spell their destruction. On the other hand, the issue of late term abortion is one in which I find myself in agreement with David Velleman over at left2right.

66

RS 01.28.05 at 5:04 pm

“Also: it has been pointed out that if you take their Falluja fatality number, then one in six Fallujans have been killed. If you then factor in a likely injury ratio, the entire population of Falluja has been killed or injured by the US!”

Is that not flawed reasoning? The Falluja cluster is a cluster in an analysis of Iraq, not an independent study of Falluja itself – so you can’t extrapolate the cluster to the whole of Falluja because it isn’t designed to provide an estimate of deaths in Falluja, only to contribute to an estimate of deaths in Iraq as a whole.

So while asking one person in every town in Britain how old they are might give you a reasonable estimate of the average age in Britain, the person you asked in Carlisle isn’t going to give you a good estimate of average age in Carlisle.

67

Jake McGuire 01.28.05 at 5:09 pm

What reaction were you looking for, other than “ho, hum”? From where I’m standing, it looks like the results of the Iraq war have precluded further Middle East military adventures. Bush is already re-elected; nothing to be done there. The number of Iraqi civilians killed doesn’t seem to be influencing suggestions for what the US should do there; I can’t see how a rapid withdrawal of forces is going to lead to anything but even more intense civil war, yet that seems to be what’s suggested.

68

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 5:11 pm

The gun rights issue isn’t a proxy for civil rights, it IS a civil rights issue. As is late term abortion. And campaign censorship.

The truth of the matter is that Democrats and Republicans are pretty much a wash on civil liberties; You both have your civil liberties you care about, and civil liberties you attack. Republicans tend to excuse their own attacks from a cost/benefit, necessary evil perspective, while Democrats rather hypocritically attempt to pretend they’re not bad on some civil liberties, by defining away the liberties they don’t like.

It all comes down to which you place more value on. I happen to think that freedom of political speech, and gun ownership, are pretty darned important.

And, Brendan, that’s not what I said. Counting is fine, my problem is with the moral conclusions being drawn from the data. Saddam’s regime wasn’t the Iraqis’ government in any meaningful sense, they had no choice or control. It was exactly analogous to a hostage situation. We, or anybody, had the right to go in and free them.

We did so, with comparatively little loss of life. At THAT point, the “insurgency” started a war to recapture Iraq, in order to impose a new tyranny. The subsequent death toll has been a consequence of their war, a war of agression being waged against other Iraqis as much, or more, than it’s being waged against us.

Blaming us for THAT war, the one THEY decided to wage, is moral idiocy.

69

Robert McDougall 01.28.05 at 5:14 pm

Brett Bellmore:

I guess you didn’t get the memo that Iraqi citizens might reasonably view the “coalition presence” as an “occupying force” and the Allawi government as “complicit” in the occupation.

Or is it only when they decide to do something about it that they become “Bathists and others, [fighting] to see to it that Iraq does NOT become a free country”?

70

Walt Pohl 01.28.05 at 5:15 pm

Brett, are you trying to prove James Emerson’s point? All you needed to do in 2004 was repudiate George Bush; then you could have your party back. But you didn’t, and now it’s not your party anymore, it’s his. By the time you get it back there won’t be much left to want.

71

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.28.05 at 5:36 pm

“Granted that the results of the study are provisional, why do no pro-war people argue that the solution is for more and better research?

On the contrary: what we get here is the remarkable argument by one of the posters that it’s actually immoral to count how many people die as a result of our actions in attacking a country that posed no threat to us.”

Perhaps I don’t count as pro-war or something, but I would love better research that bothered with noting how many people were killed AND how many of them were insurgents AND how many of them were killed by the insurgents.

I’d rather win the war now, too while I’m wishing.

72

john s 01.28.05 at 5:38 pm

brendan, I was pro-war and have changed my mind for many reasons, including the Lancet study. I basically don’t agree with many of the attacks on the Lancet study.

But although you’re right to say “To get some perspective on this ‘debate’ I think you have to ask yourself two questions:

1: Do you think the pro-war side would be putting on their ‘statistician’ hats and attempting to argue about sample sizes if the Lancet article showed that, say, 5,000 people had died as a result of the war?”

But do you think the anti-war side would accept such results without a squeak?

My point being that many people on both sides are so locked into their position they will automatically give lots of kudos to anything that backs them and heap brickbats on anything that contradicts them.

73

John Emerson 01.28.05 at 5:43 pm

Brett: “You know, if you’d stop paying attention to your internal imagery, and look at who’s actually voting Republican, you’d realize that they’re not “Bush loyalists”, they’re Gore and Kerry anti-loyalists.”

Isn’t that what I said? They really are a bunch of sick puppies. I’m especially talking, though, about the opinion leaders who should know better, but who continue to support Bush. (I especially mean the ones who aren’t being paid to do so.)

And Brett, you’re exactly what I was talking about — a deranged monomaniac, one of the worst of the worst. You’ve had plenty of time here to show a capacity for thought, and you’ve failed or refused to do so. You played your own small but disgraceful role in what I suspect will the greatest disaster in American history, and I cannot forgive you.

74

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 6:00 pm

“All you needed to do in 2004 was repudiate George Bush; then you could have your party back.”

It’s not my party, and never was; If Badnarik wasn’t such a loon, and Kerry had managed to stay campaigning, instead of voting to renew the “assault weapon” ban, I’d have voted LP like I did in so many prior elections.

Hell, in 2000, I voted for Forbes in the Republican primary.

75

abb1 01.28.05 at 6:33 pm

The gun rights issue isn’t a proxy for civil rights, it IS a civil rights issue.
[...]
Saddam’s regime wasn’t the Iraqis’ government in any meaningful sense, they had no choice or control.

Well, Saddam’s regime did have, apparently, one of the best (if not the best) civil rights record on earth. Every household had at least a couple of fully automatic AK-47, not to mention all those RPGs and surface to air missiles.

I see a slight contradiction here.

76

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 6:43 pm

No contradiction: I never said it was the only civil rights issue.

77

sagenz 01.28.05 at 7:21 pm

The lancet study is bollocks. Working the numbers it seems to show a pre invasion life expectancy for men of 698 years. The data is flawed. more detail on my site.

78

Uncle Kvetch 01.28.05 at 7:28 pm

I’d rather win the war now, too

Then why don’t you go fight it?

79

Uncle Kvetch 01.28.05 at 7:37 pm

No contradiction: I never said it was the only civil rights issue.

But apparently it outweighs indefinite detention without trial, extraordinary rendition, torture…oh, and making sure us awful homos remain firmly in our second-class status.

80

dsquared 01.28.05 at 7:46 pm

Hahahaha. Oh god that’s fantastic. “Sagenz” deserves a Golden Flypaper award or something. He’s calculated the “life expectancy” for Iraqis from the Lancet figures, assuming that they maintain the same death rates seen for the different age groups in the study (pre war)

Thus, ignoring the fact that (most doctors agree) as people get older, they are more likely to die.

He even says “the figures only look at all realistic for the elderly!”

As I say, I don’t put up these posts purely to laugh at innumerates, but neither am I going to pass up an open goal if offered.

81

Greg Hunter 01.28.05 at 7:50 pm

“If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

If you are a true born again believer, the data is telling you some very frightening information; that Americans are the offspring of Lamech, who honed his father’s (Cain) killing technique to a fine art. The bible believer does not need the studies; all you need to do is multiply American deaths by a factor of 77 and you get the opposition death toll. It’s fun, easy and biblical.

Of course the Mormon’s will have trouble with this, because they think the “mark of cain” is black skin, but the data seems to point in the direction of white skin.

“Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Does the preceding verse describe anyone you know?

82

Walt Pohl 01.28.05 at 7:59 pm

If you voted for Bush because Kerry voted for the assault weapons ban, then you’re just not serious about politics. Even if the assault weapons ban was a dumb law, it was a dumb _symbolic_ law, easily evaded by anyone who cared to do so. No wonder we’re fucked.

83

FactCheck 01.28.05 at 7:59 pm

All discussions of the Lancet study are exactly the same. Starts with the DEVISTATING critique (I would note that Andrew Olmstead, whoever he is, is not a thoughtful-war-supporter, as a user of the DEVISTATING critique), follows up by regirgutating a combination of the Fumento and Slate innumeracies and then ends with the defenders going into a tizzy of innumeracy. With life-expectancy-is-a-constant-across-your-life boy up here, it’s clear we’ve reached the final stage.

84

Walt Pohl 01.28.05 at 8:04 pm

If you voted for Bush because Kerry voted for the assault weapons ban, then you’re just not serious about politics. Even if the assault weapons ban was a dumb law, it was a dumb _symbolic_ law, easily evaded by anyone who cared to do so. No wonder we’re fucked.

85

Doctor Slack 01.28.05 at 8:12 pm

Blaming us for THAT war, the one THEY decided to wage, is moral idiocy.

I’d say it’s “moral idiocy” to simply assume that the insurgents have no valid reason for taking up arms — particularly in the face of things like Abu Ghraib — and to still be pretending at this late date that they’re all “foreign fighters” and “dead-enders.”

On the electoral front, I’d say it’s “moral idiocy” to be talking about a President whose Administration has clearly and brazenly broken any number of laws while in office, presided over a military scandal several orders of magnitude worse than the My Lai massacre, all-but-destroyed his country’s moral standing in the international community and is well on his way to ruining its economy as “somebody whose aims I thought at least somewhat agreeable.”

When you say: You could take the Republican coallition apart at the seams, if you weren’t so obsessive about gun control and late term abortion, I think you probably believe this, but it’s poor advice of much the kind that has landed the Dems in their current mess. The Dems obviously gain little or nothing, politically, from moving right — because they have no way of convincing the right that any such move would be sincere — and plenty to lose, since there’s a limit to the amount of betrayal their own base will tolerate. The correct answer is not more misguided attempts to be RepublicanLite. It’s to have the guts to offer a genuine alternative, like putting up a candidate who will unequivocally oppose disastrous policies like Iraq, and torture, and the PATRIOT Act, and thus offer an actual alternative for the many conservatives who are honest enough to their own principles to vote against these things even if it means compromising on gun control and abortion.

86

John Emerson 01.28.05 at 8:42 pm

Brett, in his own words, actually gave evidence for Dr. Slack’s point against him. He admitted that the Democrats actually aren’t pushing gun control any more, but since they used to do so, he’ll never vote for them. Doesn’t give the democrats much reason to try for his vote, does it?

That’s a second level of looniness to lay on top of the looniness of being a single-issue Second Amendment voter to begin with.

There’s always a certain risk involved for someone like me when he declares that his opponents are deluded and dishonest and unworthy of even the most minimal respect. But when Brett’s around, that risk is enormously reduced.

87

abb1 01.28.05 at 9:02 pm

Oh, come on, Brett is not such a bad guy, give him a break. Nobody is perfect.

88

John Emerson 01.28.05 at 9:19 pm

Abb1 — is that Moral Equivalence or Relativism? (And how do you tell them apart, anyway?)

As for me, I’m in favor of Standards, Moral Clarity, and requesting your enemies to go die.

89

abb1 01.28.05 at 9:42 pm

When the US is liberated by the freedom-loving mujahideen, Brett (hopefully) will be one of the pistol packin’ dead-enders and terrorist insurgents and you’ll be maintaining blog called ‘Seattle Burning’ or something. We need Brett.

90

Giles 01.28.05 at 9:56 pm

“nobody seems to think that this is something worth thinking about”
possibly explains why
“That study is still basically unchallenged”

91

nikolai 01.28.05 at 10:35 pm

At the risk of saying something stupid about statistics so that you can mock me and feel all superior…

I think there is a serious and substantial critique of the methodology that the epidemiologists have missed (largely because they’re not geographers). I posted it before on Tim Lambert’s blog, where it was more-or-less ignored. Here’s a cut and paste:

“Part of the sampling procedure involves: (1) drawing a map, (2) generating a random easting and northing, (3) going to the nearest 30 houses. It seems to me that this method is quite seriously flawed – though I admit I can’t think of any improvement to it off the top of my head.

The idea of sampling is to choose the population studied at random. The study’s technique (partly) selects a geographical location at random, not a chunk of population. This will systematically over-sample the population in areas of low population density and under-sample the population in areas of high population density. There are going to be variations in population density, because that’s how human geography works. If there is any difference in mortality between high and low density areas, this is going to throw the results of the study. Even a small difference in mortality between high/low density areas could have a large effect on the extrapolated results.”

I still haven’t had a thoughtful response to it.

92

nikolai 01.28.05 at 10:37 pm

At the risk of saying something stupid about statistics so that you can mock me and feel all superior…

I think there is a serious and substantial critique of the methodology that the epidemiologists have missed (largely because they’re not geographers). I posted it before on Tim Lambert’s blog, where it was more-or-less ignored. Here’s a cut and paste:

“Part of the sampling procedure involves: (1) drawing a map, (2) generating a random easting and northing, (3) going to the nearest 30 houses. It seems to me that this method is quite seriously flawed – though I admit I can’t think of any improvement to it off the top of my head.

The idea of sampling is to choose the population studied at random. The study’s technique (partly) selects a geographical location at random, not a chunk of population. This will systematically over-sample the population in areas of low population density and under-sample the population in areas of high population density. There are going to be variations in population density, because that’s how human geography works. If there is any difference in mortality between high and low density areas, this is going to throw the results of the study. Even a small difference in mortality between high/low density areas could have a large effect on the extrapolated results.”

I still haven’t had a thoughtful response to it.

93

Brett Bellmore 01.28.05 at 11:57 pm

“He admitted that the Democrats actually aren’t pushing gun control any more, but since they used to do so, he’ll never vote for them.”

Geeze, John, according to you I’m supposed to forget how Kerry voted in March, by November? When it was the only frigging time he even BOTHERED to vote that year? You’re not asking that I eventually let go of a grudge, you’re demanding that I develop Alzheimer’s! Get real.

And if you really think Democrats stopped pushing gun control at the federal level, you’re not paying attention. They paused until the elction was past. That’s all. They’ve already resumed introducing new gun control legislation, such as Senator Levin’s proposal to ban .50 rifles.

94

John Emerson 01.29.05 at 12:02 am

OK, Brett, you’re loony for only one reason and not two. My bad.

95

dsquared 01.29.05 at 12:58 am

study’s technique (partly) selects a geographical location at random, not a chunk of population. This will systematically over-sample the population in areas of low population density and under-sample the population in areas of high population density.

Don’t worry about this. The “clustering process” selected different governorates to receive diffferent sampling rates, at least partly to mitigate this problem.

96

fifi 01.29.05 at 1:11 am

“Here’s the other horrifying, sort of spectacular fact that we don’t really appreciate. Since we installed our puppet government, this man, Allawi, who was a member of the Mukabarat, the secret police of Saddam, long before he became a critic, and is basically Saddam-lite. Before we installed him, since we have installed him on June 28, July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month. We are systematically bombing that country. There are no embedded journalists at Doha, the Air Force base I think we’re operating out of. No embedded journalists at the aircraft carrier, Harry Truman. That’s the aircraft carrier that I think is doing many of the operational fights. There’s no air defense, It’s simply a turkey shoot. They come and hit what they want. We know nothing. We don’t ask. We’re not told. We know nothing about the extent of bombing. So if they’re going to carry out an election and if they’re going to succeed, bombing is going to be key to it, which means that what happened in Fallujah, essentially Iraq — some of you remember Vietnam — Iraq is being turn into a “free-fire zone” right in front of us. Hit everything, kill everything. I have a friend in the Air Force, a Colonel, who had the awful task of being an urban bombing planner, planning urban bombing, to make urban bombing be as unobtrusive as possible. I think it was three weeks ago today, three weeks ago Sunday after Fallujah I called him at home. I’m one of the people — I don’t call people at work. I call them at home, and he has one of those caller I.D.’s, and he picked up the phone and he said, “Welcome to Stalingrad.” We know what we’re doing. This is deliberate. It’s being done.”

It just goes to show you how low the level of political discourse has fallen when a propagandist like Hersh is corroborated by deeply flawed and politically motivated statistical mumbo-jumbo. I don’t know what you think you’re trying to prove but I can assure you that the American people know in their hearts they’re the good guys in this conflict. We’re not evil. What else matters? Nothing.

97

John Emerson 01.29.05 at 1:35 am

Fifi, you’re kidding, right? A parody? I hope?

If not, you’re exactly what I was talking about.

98

Matt McGrattan 01.29.05 at 1:52 am

“I don’t know what you think you’re trying to prove but I can assure you that the American people know in their hearts they’re the good guys in this conflict. We’re not evil. What else matters? Nothing.”

You are being satirical here, right? Please tell me this is a joke…

99

number cruncher 01.29.05 at 3:32 am

I haven’t read any of the other threads on this issue at CT, so I don’t know whether it has already been covered or not.

But there are two things with the mortality study in the Lancet:

(1) Most people concentrated on the issue of how representative the sample is. Yes, the small sample size is quite normal for health statisticians, but only under three circumstances: (a) that the issue you study isn’t too complex, (b) that you have a stable environment where you can run repeated tests, (c) that you have comparative data to see whether your sample is an outlier or not.

ad (a) general mortality rates in a country are complex at the best of times, even more so under conditions of civil war

ad (b) the Lancet didn’t run repeated tests, the study isn’t reproducible

ad (c) there are hardly any good comparative data, and those which exist suggest that the Lancet study is an outlier (see below)

In conlusion, the Lancet sample is sufficient for hypothesis-generating and to guide further research, but in itself it would be unwise to prove anything with it as it doesn’t meet two crucial scientific tests (repeated, reproducible tests; comparative data)

(2) But the more important point is not sample size; what’s important is what they compare, ie the “before” and “after”

The 98,000 (8,000-194,000) number comes from a 1.58 increase in the overall mortality rate in Iraq from 5 before the war to 7.9 after the war.

There’s no other data than the Lancet’s study of 7.9 for after the war as of yet.

But there are other numbers for the before the war scenario.

In the 1980s, the last time international agencies could check any real numbers, Iraq’s mortality rate was always in the region of 7 to 8 (per 1,000 people).

According to the World Bank’s “World Development Indicators” (http://www.worldbank.org/data/wdi2004/tables/table2-1.pdf) report, the 2002 figure for Iraq was 8 as well. And if you look at some other reports from various reports, you will find that most reports put the figure somewhere around 8.

Let’s compare this with some other countries. The US had a mortality rate of 9 in 2002, the UK 10, the average for high-income countries is 9 too. The average for low-income countries, where Iraq belongs to as well, was 8, The world’s average was 9.

Now think back: The Lancet study suggest that in 2002 the mortality rate in Iraq was 5. This means that prior to the war, (a) Iraq had one of the lowest mortality rates in its recent history and (b) that Iraq had one of the world’s lowest mortality rates.

In other words, if you believe the Lancet study, then Iraq before the war was one of the safest, healthiest and best places to live in the world. Do they really believe that?

In conclusion, whatever the problems of their small sample size; even if we accept their mortality rate of 7.9 after the war, set against the most likely number of around 8 before the war, it would suggest that there hasn’t been a great increase in excess deaths.

So unless some better data comes out, the civilian death toll of the Iraq war stands at about 15,000 (from Iraq Body Count)

100

Phil Smith 01.29.05 at 3:39 am

Mortality rate in United States (CDC final data), 2002: 8.45 per 1000.

Mortality rate for cluster groups, 1/1/02 through 3/18/03: 5 per 1000 (95% CI 3.7-6.3).

101

nick 01.29.05 at 6:57 am

‘number cruncher’: repeating an array of fallacious statements does not make them any more accurate. You may think so, on some perverted statistical basis, but it ain’t so.

So unless some better data comes out, the civilian death toll of the Iraq war stands at about 15,000 (from Iraq Body Count).

Oh, come on, apply the same fine toothcomb to the IBC — a passive reporting system — as you did the Lancet study. I double-dare you, you lazy git.

Onto Sebastian:

I would love better research that bothered with noting how many people were killed AND how many of them were insurgents AND how many of them were killed by the insurgents.

And in the meantime, you’re simply happy to brush off the research that does exist? Well, that’s rather nice of you. I never knew that a statistical study was statistically flawed if it it didn’t precisely reflect Sebastian Holsclaw’s wishlist.

Ah well. I hear that the weather in Iraq is at its pleasantest this time of year. Why not hop on a plane and do the ‘insurgents or killed by them’ study yourself?

102

Kevin P. 01.29.05 at 7:00 am

abb1 wrote:
Well, Saddam’s regime did have, apparently, one of the best (if not the best) civil rights record on earth. Every household had at least a couple of fully automatic AK-47, not to mention all those RPGs and surface to air missiles.

This is a unsubstantiated claim that is mindlessly repeated over the left side of the blogosphere.

Please provide some actual evidence that in the Saddam days, ordinary non-Baathist Iraqis were allowed to own AK-47s, RPGs and similar weapons.

Hint: There isn’t any. In the Saddam days, it was not too difficult for ordinary Iraqis to own sporting firearms. The AK-47s that you love were restricted to the Baathists.

It is after the overthrow of Saddam that there is a general rule that a household is allowed one firearm, and it can be a fully automatic AK-47.

103

Kevin P. 01.29.05 at 7:01 am

abb1 wrote:
Well, Saddam’s regime did have, apparently, one of the best (if not the best) civil rights record on earth. Every household had at least a couple of fully automatic AK-47, not to mention all those RPGs and surface to air missiles.

This is a unsubstantiated claim that is mindlessly repeated over the left side of the blogosphere.

Please provide some actual evidence that in the Saddam days, ordinary non-Baathist Iraqis were allowed to own AK-47s, RPGs and similar weapons.

Hint: There isn’t any. In the Saddam days, it was not too difficult for ordinary Iraqis to own sporting firearms. The AK-47s that you love were restricted to the Baathists.

It is after the overthrow of Saddam that there is a general rule that a household is allowed one firearm, and it can be a fully automatic AK-47.

104

Kevin P. 01.29.05 at 7:07 am

jack wrote:

Do you know why we don’t keep records? Do you know that not to do so is a breach of the Geneva convention?

Please provide a citation.

105

victor falk 01.29.05 at 7:22 am

number crunching phil smith:

A mortality rate of 5/1000 for Iraq seems perfectly plausible, if you consider this list of countries with the lowest death rates, where Syria ranks 20th with 5.12/1000.
You’ll also notice that there is not a single western country in it. Iraq has young population, whereas western countries have a lot of elderly people. As it has been noted up-thread, it has been known to medical science for some time, that as people get older, they become more likely to die.

106

more stats 01.29.05 at 8:22 am

Some more data on the mortality or death rate per 1,000 in Iraq before the war:

Source: UN Population Division & Unicef

Downloadable for example at: pdf.wri.org/wr98_hh2.pdf

Mortality rate in Iraq:

1975-1980: 8.8

1995-2000: 8.5

1980-1991 doesn’t produce any good data because of the Gulf wars; “smart sanctions” were introduced in 1996, so sanctions don’t have a great influence on the data (beyond what was the government’s responsibility).

Average figures are especially valuable as they eliminate statistical outliers. I think it can be safely said that Iraq’s “natural” mortality rate is somewhere around 8 per 1,000.

Of course, Les Roberts et al. think that the mortality rate in 2002 was 5 per 1,000.

Here’s the challenge:

Can anyone find anywhere in the academic literature and scientific databases a source which would correspond to Roberts et al finding of 5 (+/- 10%) for a year before the Iraq invasion?

All the statistics for various years before the invasion lie somewhere around 8, which is the best scientific data we’ve got so far.

Up to now, Roberts et al are the only one who claim it was 5. Now the question is, which claim looks more likely, is based on more solid methodological grounds, is validated by reiterated tests, and provides greater overall consistency with other comparative historical and cross-country datasets?

I think it’s pretty obvious that Roberts’ sample is the outlier here, not all the other studies before.

A more careful peer-review process would have pointed this out and had given Roberts the opportunity to revise & resubmit his work after another round of sampling and a more solid methodological basis.

Roberts should have published his initial data on his website, if he wanted to influence the US election with it. But with the premature publication, the Lancet unfortunately lost a lot of academic credibility.

(Counterexample: Suppose a Bush-supporting team had found that the mortality rate in 2002 was 10 and after the invasion 8, with a reduction in deaths by probably somewhere around 50,000 — do you think the Lancet would have published it?)

107

john s 01.29.05 at 8:46 am

victor falk,

hmmm….

Take a look at http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/mi/mi_series_results.asp?rowId=561 from the UN and you’ll see that Iraq has substantially higher under 5 mortality rates than other middle eastern countries (up to 3 to 4 times higher). Ditto infant mortality and maternal mortality.

You’re assuming Iraq’s overall mortality rate is like its neighbouring countries, but that doesn’t look to be a good assumption.

Still, nick, it sounds like you’ve got all the answers: “‘number cruncher’: repeating an array of fallacious statements does not make them any more accurate. You may think so, on some perverted statistical basis, but it ain’t so.” In the interest of learning, can you share them?

108

Kevin Donoghue 01.29.05 at 11:30 am

Purveyors of stale arguments probably don’t want to know that they have already been dealt with. But without leaving the precincts of Crooked Timber, one can find commentary on the general rise in Iraqi mortality rates, child malnutrition and murders in Baghdad. These threads provide other links.

109

abb1 01.29.05 at 11:49 am

Kevin P
In the Saddam days, it was not too difficult for ordinary Iraqis to own sporting firearms. The AK-47s that you love were restricted to the Baathists.

“Left side of the blogosphere”, huh? “Sporting firearms”, huh.

Well, why don’t you provide a citation, Kevin?

Quick googling reveals:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0310/p01s03-woiq.html
BAGHDAD, IRAQ – With a gun culture that closely resembles that of the United States, Iraq is one of the most heavily armed societies in the world. Its tradition of self-reliance and hard desert and mountain living puts it on a gun-per-person level rivaling other clan systems in Yemen or Somalia.

http://www.cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=941
In the months preceding the war with Iraq, small arms in Iraq fluctuated in price. A shotgun was selling for $100, Iraqi-made “Tariq” 7.65 mm pistols for $200; AK-47 assault rifles were selling for between $120 and $250, Israeli Uzis and German MP5 submachine guns for $400, a 9mm Beretta for $850. Each bullet was selling for approximately 25 cents. In the months prior to the start of the war, arms bazaar leaders had bemoaned the slow business of selling arms. There were so many arms in circulation, that when the Iraqi government gave away weapons, citizens were selling them to buy food. Indeed, some merchants were buying the weapons in Iraq and then smuggling them into the Kurdish areas to make a small profit. In the Kurdish areas, AK-47s were being sold as low as $70. RPGs were going for as little as $30 to$40. Hand grenades were selling between $3 and $10. Higher prices were for those weapons made in the West versus those from Russia, China, Iran or Egypt. However, in the days immediately before the U.S. invasion, the small arms trade exploded, as civilians became fearful of their safety, not necessarily from invading U.S. forces, but from Kurdish groups and their well-armed neighbors. In fact, AK-47s went from $20 in some areas to $500 in others.

110

RS 01.29.05 at 12:19 pm

“the Lancet didn’t run repeated tests, the study isn’t reproducible”

That isn’t what reproducible means. It is quite possible, should someone else want to, to repeat the study, so it is reproducible.

111

RS 01.29.05 at 12:27 pm

“In conclusion, whatever the problems of their small sample size; even if we accept their mortality rate of 7.9 after the war, set against the most likely number of around 8 before the war, it would suggest that there hasn’t been a great increase in excess deaths.”

For your argument that the pre-war mortality figure is incorrect you’d probably want to imply that it was due to systematic under-reporting of pre-war deaths and concomitant over-reporting of post-war deaths (otherwise any methodological differences would affect both pre- and post-war mortality figures). But then, as you suggest, if we think the death rate hasn’t gone up we should be very very suprised, who doesn’t think death rate goesup significantly in a war zone of this kind, even war supporters should be sceptical of an argument that says that the current war zone is a safer place than just before the war!

112

john s 01.29.05 at 12:46 pm

Thanks Kevin Donoghue, those links were fascinating. Sorry to be rehashing stale arguments.

Still, I have to say that I’m not as convinced as you are that the argument over the infant mortality statistics has been comprehensively demolished. There is an issue there; dsquared and Chris Lightfoot brush it aside by saying that the UNICEF figures are rubbish (for 2002, absolutely fine before).

Now – dismissing a report as unsound because it has an unhelpful message – doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing pro-war people are saying about the Lancet report?

By the way, why isn’t dsquared sticking himself in as one of the war supporters who have had the decency to review whether the war’s been a failure?

113

Kevin Donoghue 01.29.05 at 2:03 pm

John S,

Just briefly as I am pressed for time (and a bit sick of the whole Lancet controversy): I wouldn’t say that “the argument over the infant mortality statistics has been comprehensively demolished.” But to undermine the main finding one would have to argue that the study undercounted pre-war infant deaths but not post-war. It is genarally agreed that a study like this can easily give a downward bias as regards the absolute numbers, before and after, but what is in question is the trend. For that purpose the methodology looks sound to me – not that that’s much of a recommendation; what little work I have done with stats related to financial data obtained without personal risk.

As to D-squared’s position, he can speak for himself but I gather he was against the war from the start unless undertaken by competent management. If he gets into any dictionary of quotations it will probably be for this oft-quoted question:

“Can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

1) It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration

2) It was significant enough in scale that I’d have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)

3) It wasn’t in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.”

114

Tim Lambert 01.29.05 at 2:24 pm

john s, I dealt with the infant mortality argument here.

115

Brett Bellmore 01.29.05 at 4:05 pm

Sure, Kevin: I’d say that getting reelected was probably a major goal of the Bush administration, and you probably heard that he was running, and he DID get reelected.

116

Jeremy Osner 01.29.05 at 4:42 pm

heh — getting reelected was however not a policy initiative.

117

victor falk 01.29.05 at 4:51 pm

john s

if you check the list, you’ll notice that it includes countries like Nicaragua that ranks 15th with 4.76/1000, the Dominican Republic 13th with 4.68, Solomon Islands 8 with 4.19, Libya 4th with 3.5, and Jordan 2nd with 2.62, all not noted for their outstanding health care.

This is because the death rate is much more corelated to the demographic structure, ie the proportion of young to old peeople, than infant mortality, which is a good indicator of the overall quality of health care, but not of overall mortality (Sweden has the lowest infant mortality of the world, 2.77, and one of highest death rate in the western world, 10.38).

More succintly: infant mortality tells you about next to nothing about the death rate.

According to the CIA World Factbook (data available here in a nice 3-D staple diagram), the death rate in Iraq was 6.4 in 2000, 6.21 in ’01, 6.02 in ’02, 5.84 in ’03, and 5.66 in ’04*.
The conclusion you can draw from those numbers is that Iraq has a young population.
So my assumption that Iraq would have a death rate roughly simililar to Syria’s seems to be correct, even more so than I expected.

*note to more stats: I’ve risen and met your challenge: the CIA agrees with Les Roberts et al.; when you say “Average figures are especially valuable as they eliminate statistical outliers. I think it can be safely said that Iraq’s “natural” mortality rate is somewhere around 8 per 1,000″, I reply no it’s not and it’s bad statistics, unless you expect the death rate to remain constant over time.

118

abb1 01.29.05 at 5:05 pm

…It wasn’t in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.

Cutting taxes? It was a major policy initiative, and they did achieve their goal. And that has been the only consistent Republican policy goal since the 80s.

119

John Isbell 01.29.05 at 5:44 pm

Weird to see a winger citing CIA data and projections on Iraq. That’s Tenet’s CIA. I remember it had a bit of a reputation on this issue.

120

more stats 01.29.05 at 6:21 pm

re: victor falk:


According to the CIA World Factbook [...], the death rate in Iraq was 6.4 in 2000, 6.21 in ‘01, 6.02 in ‘02, 5.84 in ‘03, and 5.66 in ‘04*.


*note to more stats: I’ve risen and met your challenge:

Thanks for this. Ok, so we have found one dataset which isn’t around 8 before the invasion, but around 6.

Two points:

(1) 6.02 in 2002 is still higher than 5 in Roberts et al., so although we come nearer my challenge, it’s still not entirely met. Please look for more data points which are close to Roberts.

I would need to run this through the model, but my estimate is that an increase of the mortality rate from 6 to 7.9 would probably result in a number of around 65-70,000 as compared to 98,000.

(2) But the main conclusion of the CIA data is that the mortality rate in Iraq actually declined from 6.02 in 2002 to 5.66 in 2004 — whereas Roberts et al claim that it has risen from 5 to 7.9

victor falk: When you are presenting the CIA data, are you arguing that the mortality rate declined in Iraq?

To clarify my position: I certainly think that the overall mortality rate has increased when we compare 2004 with 2002.

But the point is that we don’t know how much and the Roberts study in the Lancet doesn’t provide reliable data either.

My point is that we simply don’t know. It would be desirable to know, but for any good sampling we would first need a good census (which hopefully will be carried out in the coming months).

121

Heiko Gerhauser 01.29.05 at 8:20 pm

Sadly no new arguments have come up in this thread.

My opinion remains that the Lancet study is way overhyped by war critics as providing us with information we wouldn’t otherwise possess.

It simply doesn’t. Where the evidence it provides is good, in particular in showing that violent death has gone up, it is simply in agreement with other estimates (from a few thousand per year before the war, to several ten thousand over the last 20 months).

It provides very poor evidence for overall death rates and infant mortality trends, and little reliable information as to who died violently (combatant/non-combatants/women/men/children) and who did the killing (coalition, terrorists, ordinary criminals).

122

abb1 01.29.05 at 8:52 pm

When you bomb a city, some will be killed by the bombs, other by fire, and yes, some might be murdered by looters. But don’t ask who did the killings – you did; you’re the one who killed them all.

123

Heiko Gerhauser 01.29.05 at 8:52 pm

I agree with more stats. A census is desirable, and of course, no matter what people thought about the war, they should be able to agree that we should help Iraqis lower infant mortality and enjoy a less violent country.

Money ought to be well invested. Millions of children under five are dying every year, largely from causes that, on technical/ medical / economic grounds, are easily preventable.

Which brings me onto one criticism of the invasion of Iraq, namely that too few troops were used. The US could not employ extra troops, and certainly not for any length of time, without first substantially raising overall US troop strength, making the whole effort much more costly.

Cost matters enormously, because we could use those resources elsewhere to help people. Iraq isn’t the only country that needs help. Others do too, such as Pakistan or Sudan. In Pakistan for example, more than half a million children under 5 die every year.

The means of helping have to be appropriate. In Pakistan, the best choice seems to be to put soft pressure on Musharraf and to help out economically. But still, resources can be put to good use there, or in Indonesia, India, Haiti ….

I do think that there is a very strong case for large military expenditures to be justified. Put in another 300,000 troops at a cost of say (a wild guestimate) $300 billion to make sure we can guard everything important in Iraq? Is that really worth it?

In Afghanistan the US and allies managed with 20,000 troops. Somalia has recently requested peace keeping troops and gotten very little response.

Let’s summarise before rambling on too much. I think the intervention in Iraq was important to change the Mid East for the better, but even if you disagree on that, I hope you’d agree that it matters that we always consider alternative uses for our resources in helping, and that means, two years ago, adding troops wasn’t a costless option, and now supporting Iraq needs to be weighed against other priorities, such as say Somalia, which has not done well after the intervention there was abandoned by Clinton (who I like by the way, I’d also love to see Hillary in the White House).

124

Heiko Gerhauser 01.29.05 at 9:12 pm

Hi Abb1,

my own city got virtually entirely destroyed in WWII. 150,000 bombs got dropped in the space of half an hour, 8 bombs per citizen still left in the town.

The people in the city centre who survived the firestorm only did so because they first hunkered down in underground bunkers and then fled first through tunnels and then by dodging the flames above ground. Those who stayed in the bunkers died from asphyxiation.

Who do I blame for that? The people themselves because many had voted for Hitler? “The Americans” and “the British” because they decided that Dueren needed to flattened (when they finally took it, there were ten civilians left there, the rest had fled or was dead)?

Coming back to Iraq, it’s rather hard to declare Zarqawi blameless when he decapitates an innocent, because it is all the fault of Bush.

125

Chris 01.30.05 at 4:39 am

dsquared,
I’ve written to Fred Kaplan (who wrote one of the first pieces on the Lancet study, of course) to ask him why he doesn’t revisit the issue in light of the subsequent discussion, since it seemed to (mostly) converge eventually on the consensus that the study was reasonably solid. I sent him a few of your posts and a bunch of Tim Lambert’s posts on the subject. He’s written back to tell me that he’ll take another look. If you were planning an all-Fred-Kaplan-on-the-Lancet post, this is your chance.

126

abb1 01.30.05 at 10:58 am

Coming back to Iraq, it’s rather hard to declare Zarqawi blameless when he decapitates an innocent, because it is all the fault of Bush.

You don’t have to declare Zarqawi blameless because it is all the fault of Bush. Zarqawi is not blameless AND it is all the fault of the Bushies. Just like in your town it was all the fault of Hitler and his gang.

127

another german 01.30.05 at 5:34 pm

Just like in your town it was all the fault of Hitler and his gang.

No! That’s just the wrong way to look at it.

Blaming all on Hitler, though popular in the early post-war years in Germany (and increasingly among those today who want to ‘normalize’ Germany’s past), would be to overtly simplify a complex picture and to neglect the responsibility of many other factors and actors.

But let’s not make any of those comparisons because they’re silly. World War II was very different from the Iraq War.

128

abb1 01.30.05 at 7:48 pm

Why, think of it as a ‘project’. The WWII was a project. The Iraq war is a another project.

People designed it, created plans and scenarios, drew arrows on the map and so on. Then they implemented their plans. People died.

Well, now, at this point you shouldn’t complain about Zarqawi bombing Baghdad or the British bombing Dresden – this is all part of your project. That’s all I’m trying to say here.

129

Tim B. 01.31.05 at 4:14 am

A single innocent Iraqi death resulting from an invasion based on intelligence wiped clean of dissenting views is quantity enough for me to desire that the conspirators be imprisoned.

130

Kenneth Almquist 01.31.05 at 8:14 am

I mean, is it really surprising that more people in Iraq have died since a war began than before a war began? If that is the fact on which the case against war rests, then the case was made before it ever began–there was no scenario in which fatalities in Iraq, over a two-year term, would have been lessened by the beginning of a war.

No realistic scenario, but the claim that the war was saving lives was a talking point of war supporters. This USENET article is an example. And at least one professional liar is still making this claim.

131

Heiko Gerhauser 01.31.05 at 1:23 pm

Hi abb1,

I’d second my “compatriot” (though I should say that I feel no allegiance to Germany as a nation, for me it’s pure coincidence that I have been born there, my sole allegiance is to humanity), it’s pretty simplistic to blame it all on a single “bad guy”.

And intent is a also a major factor.

There is a big difference between:

a) Shooting somebody while robbing their home

b) Killing somebody by running them over with a car having drunk too much alcohol

c) Killing a child by running them over through carelessness

d) Voting for a street to be built on which subsequently people die in traffic accidents

e) Voting for a medical programme, which subsequently is shown to be less effective than the alternative one rejected initially, with 100,000 excess deaths due to the bad decision

What really riles me, is when some anti-war types suggest lower motives, when I strongly feel that the prime motive is to help.

132

Heiko Gerhauser 01.31.05 at 3:56 pm

http://www.downingstreetsays.org/archives/001189.html

Hi Chris,

the count of the Iraqi Health Ministry measures civilian casualties. The Lancet survey measures excess death.

In terms of civilians killed by coalition forces, the health ministry count may represent an overcount, based on the facts that it includes terrorist bombings and that “insurgents” would be counted as civilians.

A direct count is the most accurate measure, as long as it can be reasonably assumed that most victims would make it to hospitals or morgues. In Northern Ireland that was clearly the case, and that’s a situation I would describe as somewhat comparable, in so far as the “war” involved there was of a similar nature (bombings and small arms fire, overall control of the territory by the government). Only Fallujah represents an exception, as it was not under government control for a few months.

I should repeat, the Lancet study figure of 100,000 does not represent an estimate of civilians killed by coalition forces. It is an estimate of excess mortality, ie an attempt to compare mortality rates just before the invasion with the period including the invasion and up to September 2004.

To calculate excess mortality, one needs estimates of death rates before and after. The Lancet study estimates something like 5 per 1000 before and 7.5 per 1000 after.

Now, one multiplies the difference, 2.5 per thousand by 25 million and 1.5 years and gets, just under 100,000.

The potential for error here is illustrated by the fact that WHO estimates mortality in 2002 to be 8 per 1000. And there are various reasons that could potentially explain, why the Lancet study’s numbers differ. For example, the Lancet did not survey the prison population, and from other similar studies we know that there may be recall bias for infant deaths, with deaths occurring further in the past less likely to be reported.

Mortality can be subdivided into violent death, and other death (accidents, heart attacks, infant mortality etc.). For other death, there is not sufficient data available to argue for either a strong increase or a strong decrease, and the Lancet study doesn’t change that.

For violent death, we already knew before the publication of the Lancet study that there had been, in all likelihood, an increase of several ten thousand. Firstly, because the period before the invasion was fairly quiet in terms of killings (though not in terms of other human rights violations), and secondly because of all the statistics on murder, terrorist bombings and combatants killed revealed by the Iraqi government and coalition forces.

This is not contradicted by the data presented in the Lancet study.

For a count of civilians killed by the coalition, the data of the Lancet study are very poor. Ex Fallujah, three coalition bombings and three coalition shootings are reported. All three shot were men, one possibly a combatant, the other two reportedly innocent civilians. In the three bombings six people are reported to have died, one possibly a male combatant, and the other 5 being women and children.

Those reports are a very poor basis for extrapolating to the rest of the country. We are talking about three reported bombing events. If even one of them was based on either a lie, or a misperception of the guilty party, the figures would change radically.

Or in other words, the sample is far too small for the purpose of divining civilian casualties of coalition bombings and small arms fire with any accuracy.

So, in conclusion, I have to disagree strongly with Chris. For civilian casualties of bombings and combatant small arms fire, the Iraqi Health Ministry statistics are by far and away the most accurate and trustworthy numbers we’ve got.

And for more accurate overall mortality figures we’ll have to await better surveys. Those, I might remark, could easily show excess mortality of minus half a million over a 10 year period, once we are in the year 2013, and if things go well.

133

ozzie joe 02.01.05 at 12:01 am

Brett,

I would like to know why you are so obsessed with your civil right to gun ownership, but seem to be completely unconcerned that the Department of Homeland Security is actively engaged in removing your right to bomb ownership. Where is your moral outrage over this issue? It may sound like I am joking, but I really am perplexed by the distinction. (I’m equally perplexed as to why terrorists haven’t taken advantage of this ridiculous distinction in US policy, but that’s another question…)

134

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 8:56 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ifs/hi/newsid_4220000/newsid_4222300/4222353.stm

There are good reasons the Lancet study number of 100,000 gets ignored by the press, first and foremost the claim that they refer to “innocent civilians, mostly women and children, killed through aerial weaponry by coalition forces”.

That is just not believable (and nor does the study provide evidence to the contrary either, far from it). Look at Oxblog and see why they continue to stand astounded at the figure.

If you want to know the death toll among civilians from military and terrorist activity, the Iraqi Health Ministry count is the one to be trusted, and even that count includes Iraqi security forces and some insurgents.

What the figures refer to, a rough and in many respects poorly supported estimate of excess death (ie comparing the overall death rate from all causes that would have occurred, if the invasion hadn’t happened, with the death rate that did occur – an estimate that particularly for causes other than violence and also for places like prisons should be seen as a reason for more study, and not anything like giving reliable results),

or the number of civilians killed by coalition forces by bombings and small arms fire; is a rather significant point.

Excess death can change easily and is difficult to estimate also, because it means guessing what death rates would have been like under Saddam, if he hadn’t been deposed.

Not only do we have the difficulty of estimating death rates when Saddam was in power, which is difficult enough (after all the Lancet study differs materially from prior estimates) and may make the excess death figure disappear entirely for non-violent causes (ie ex Baathists and terrorists, innocent lives may already have been saved).

Furthermore, the excess death figure can disappear very rapidly, if Iraq does manage to reduce infant mortality by half, which is what it is targeting, and one also assumes that Saddam who spent next to nothing on healthcare, would not have done so.

Nor does is give me comfort that the author’s methodology has been applied to estimating war dead in Congo. Far from it, it makes me see those figures in a rather different light (millions dead meaning really, if the civil war in Congo hadn’t happened AND it hadn’t emulated Zimbabwe which managed a similar order of magnitude of deterioration without a civil war, THEN millions of children mightn’t have died from disease that actually did, however the figure actually killed through bullets, machetes and bombs is rather lower).

135

dsquared 02.01.05 at 10:40 am

Heiko, you keep building minor quibbles about detail into “devistating critiques” of the central conclusion and it won’t work.

The key fact to keep one’s eye on, which fact none of your objections have ever addressed, is that it would be extremely unlikely indeed to get a sample of this kind unless there had been a material worsening of the death rate in Iraq. Therefore, it is correct to believe pending other evidence that there has been a material worsening of the death rate in Iraq.

Moving on to specifics:

Or in other words, the sample is far too small for the purpose of divining civilian casualties of coalition bombings and small arms fire with any accuracy.

Correct; the sample ex-Falluja does not contain enough examples of each kind of death to be confident about the breakdown. However this doesn’t entitle you to reject the aggregate number, which does not suffer from this problem, or to decide, ad hoc and on the basis of no evidence, that the Iraqi Health Ministry number (a passive count, which even the people who compile it regard as incomplete) is the correct one to use.

And for more accurate overall mortality figures we’ll have to await better surveys. Those, I might remark, could easily show excess mortality of minus half a million over a 10 year period, once we are in the year 2013, and if things go well.

No they couldn’t. The term “excess mortality” has a reasonably precise meaning in the context of an intervention study, over a defined period of time. Over a period of ten years with no further interventions and lots of other noise in the system, it’s meaningless. I wouldn’t even really want to be using an excess mortality concept to talk about movements in the death rate now.

The Iraqi government is targeting a 50% reduction in infant mortality from the UNICEF figure, which is extrapolated from late 1990s work (but which is probably actually accurate now!). As you know, because you’ve discussed this with me and Chris Lightfoot ad nauseam this would be a reduction to levels only slightly below what they were under the oil-for-food programme. Your assertion that Saddam Hussein spent nothing on healthcare is unsupported by evidence; all the news I’ve seen from Baghdad hospitals strongly suggests that under the occupation, their access to medical supplies got much worse.

In general, Heiko, discussing this issue with you is very frustrating because you demand the most ridiculous standards of precision from anyone disagreeing with you (“there are simply too few deaths from small-arms fire to tell”) and then making the most extraordinary sweeping unsupported statements of your own (“in ten years time half a million might be saved!”, “ex Baathists and terrorists, things are probably getting better”), in the knowledge that since they are so transparently unprovable, nobody will bother pointing out what you are doing.

You also appear to have a bad case of Kaplan’s Fallacy, in that you appear to treat any uncertainty or sensitivity in the numbers as evidence for an overestimate (“If even one of them was based on either a lie, or a misperception of the guilty party, the figures would change radically” – true, but on the other hand if there was even one mistake the other way, the figures would change just as radically; given Falluja, which is more likely?). You’ve been extremely polite and I believe that your questions are genuinely motivated, but this is not what I would describe as seriously engaging with the study.

136

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 4:19 pm

Dsquared,

you mention the “central conclusion” of the study, but what is this “central conclusion”?

You say:

“Therefore, it is correct to believe pending other evidence that there has been a material worsening of the death rate in Iraq.”

I think that for violent death this is true and well supported, but for the death rate ex violence the evidence for an increase is weak.

More specifically, ex violence, the study suggests an increase in infant mortality and little change in other mortality.

I’ll go into the details of mortality ex violence again in a moment, but let’s first stick to what the “central conclusion” is.

As you’ll notice, if you hop over to Oxblog, the number has been presented in the media as primarily representing bombing deaths of women and children. And if you read the paper, you’ll also see that the authors themselves see a reevaluation of bombing strategy as the main finding of their work.

I’ll quote the last paragraph of Oxblog’s latest take:
“What I consider most likely is that a statistical anomaly, intended by no one, is responsible for all of this confusion. In war after war, the United States has inflicted numerous casualties from the air. As a result, we have abandoned the indiscriminate carpet-bombing of the Vietnam era in favor of the precision attacks launched against Belgrade, Kandahar, and Baghdad. I find it almost impossible to believe that the methods of the post-Cold War era continue to result in casualty figures that belong to the days of Vietnam.”

This is by far and away the biggest problem with the study, and neither you nor Tim Lambert nor Daniel Davies nor Chris Lightfoot address this seriously.

You say yourself:
“Correct; the sample ex-Falluja does not contain enough examples of each kind of death to be confident about the breakdown.”

Let’s be more specific, we now know that it contains six bombing deaths, one of which is reported as having killed two children and one woman, another one as having resulted in the deaths of two children, and the third incident as having caused the death of a man.

Nevertheless, specifically excluding Fallujah, the study claims coalition bombing as the main cause of that 100,000 excess death figure.

So, Oxblog finds 100,000 deaths from bombing not credible, and I must say neither do I.

And what neither you nor Daniel Davies will openly say is that the study doesn’t provide sufficient evidence for such a conclusion either.

You instead behave as if the “central conclusion” was a rather different one than what the authors say it is, and what the media has presented it as being, and basically choose not to even argue the point.

All right, let’s now consider the other points you raise.

Firstly, the Iraqi Health Ministry counts. They are the most accurate we’ve got for what they are measuring, and that’s not excess deaths, it is people killed and wounded through terrorism and military activity over the last year or so. In that period we don’t have any better estimates, and they include Iraqi security forces as well as some insurgents/terrorists.

While the system is passive, that doesn’t mean it has to overlook a great deal of death. Outside of Fallujah, Iraq has a functioning administrative system. I don’t see why the numbers presented by the Iraqi Health Ministry should be seen in a much different light than those of the British government for the conflict in Northern Ireland, where at the height of the conflict and on a per capita basis similar numbers of people were killed in terrorist and military activity.

And certainly those statistics are generally accepted at face value and as the most accurate available, certainly more accurate than surveys with a limited sample size. I think they are trusted so well, that no attempt was made to check them even with the whole population as the survey sample (ie I don’t think the issue would have been addressed in any of the decadal censuses).

My “rejection of the aggregate number”.

I think it lumps things together that ought not to be lumped together. We have good evidence that violent death has increased, very weak evidence that infant mortality may have risen and as best as we can tell other mortality is little changed.

I would be much more comfortable with expressing the findings as:
“We have confirmed that violent death has likely risen, though the study sample is too small to say, which causes predominate, or which group is most responsible. And we have also got an indication that infant mortality may have risen that deserves further investigation, while on the other hand, our study hasn’t been able to detect a significant change in other non-violent mortality.”

That sort of statement I am happy with as accurately depicting the findings.

Now onto the subject of excess mortality.

If you look at the subject of UN sanctions, you’ll find that use of a ten year period for the summation was indeed deemed acceptable by many (I think you may have argued said point yourself about two y

More later

137

Kevin Donoghue 02.01.05 at 4:53 pm

Heiko,

It seems that you share with Oxblog a false idea about precision weapons. The idea behind their use is to ensure that the explosion takes place at or near the designated point of impact. However the blast radius of a 1,000lb precision-guided bomb is no different from that of a 1,000lb dumb bomb. That is why many military people are so critical of their use in fighting urban guerrillas.

I know Dan Hardie has pointed this out to you. I am practically certain that it will do nothing whatever to influence your thinking. But just in case you are leading others into the same fallacy it seems worth mentioning it.

BTW, the central conclusion of the Lancet study is that mortality rose from pre-invasion levels.

138

Kevin Donoghue 02.01.05 at 5:34 pm

“Outside of Fallujah, Iraq has a functioning administrative system.”

Many first-hand accounts contradict this statement. See for example, Healing Iraq, the blog of a pro-war Iraqi.

The comparison with Northern Ireland is ludicrous. The RAF has never dropped a single bomb and the British Army has never used a single artillery round since the modern “troubles” began.

139

Kevin Donoghue 02.01.05 at 6:38 pm

The above two posts got stuck in the plumbing. This is an effort to push them through.

140

more stats 02.01.05 at 6:58 pm

And again the discussion has turned primarily to the sampling issue…

To repeat:

(1) Sampling in the Lancet study (or, for that matter, any sampling under these conditions) is a problem due to

(a) the highly complex and fluid nature of what you want to measure (ie overall excess death rate in a war context) and

(b) the lack of a reliable census and comparative data points which would give us some solid data where to anchor the sampling (without a good census, any sampling will be highly error-prone)

(2) But the sampling issue alone doesn’t invalidate the study’s conclusions; the uncertainty should make us just aware that the Lancet study is more about doing some initial hypothesis-testing rather than proving something (this is why it was so wrong to use this study for political purposes)

(3) Roberts et al are among the first to make mortality estimates for the post-invasion era. Despite any outstanding sampling issues, we should take note of the mortality rate they have estimated and wait for further data to get a better picture.

At the same time we have got several data points for mortality rates before the invasion; which are all significantly higher than the one Roberts et al estimated.

So the major flaw in the Lancet study is not the mortality rate they have estimated for the post-invasion phase, but the comparison they make with a too low pre-war estimate.

So far, dsquared didn’t really respond to the last point.

The entire Roberts et al argument rests on this very low pre-invasion estimate, which seems very unlikely in comparison to other pre-invasion data points.

So why, dsquared, should we accept Roberts et al outlier data point?

141

more stats 02.01.05 at 7:04 pm

And again the discussion has turned primarily to the sampling issue…

To repeat:

(1) Sampling in the Lancet study (or, for that matter, any sampling under these conditions) is a problem due to

(a) the highly complex and fluid nature of what you want to measure (ie overall excess death rate in a war context) and

(b) the lack of a reliable census and comparative data points which would give us some solid data where to anchor the sampling (without a good census, any sampling will be highly error-prone)

(2) But the sampling issue alone doesn’t invalidate the study’s conclusions; the uncertainty should make us just aware that the Lancet study is more about doing some initial hypothesis-testing rather than proving something (this is why it was so wrong to use this study for political purposes)

(3) Roberts et al are among the first to make mortality estimates for the post-invasion era. Despite any outstanding sampling issues, we should take note of the mortality rate they have estimated and wait for further data to get a better picture.

At the same time we have got several data points for mortality rates before the invasion; which are all significantly higher than the one Roberts et al estimated.

So the major flaw in the Lancet study is not the mortality rate they have estimated for the post-invasion phase, but the comparison they make with a too low pre-war estimate.

So far, dsquared didn’t really respond to the last point.

The entire Roberts et al argument rests on this very low pre-invasion estimate, which seems very unlikely in comparison to other pre-invasion data points.

So why, dsquared, should we accept Roberts et al outlier data point?

142

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 7:06 pm

about two or three years ago. That was the basis for claiming 500,000 dead Iraqi children.

You give the impression of cherrypicking time periods here.

Onto infant mortality.

Unicef provides an extrapolated estimate for 2002 on their website. You argue it’s not credible, and that a 70% reduction in a few years, on the other hand, is entirely credible. What we’ve got to support that notion is the Lancet study itself and data for malnutrition, which Unicef knows about.

A similar problem is presented by overall mortality. The figure in the Lancet study is much lower than the WHO estimate.

The Lancet study admits methodological problems, in particular not counting prisons, army barracks etc.. and the fact that in past studies looking at infant mortality there has been selective recall bias with deaths occurring further in the past less likely to be recalled.

What I conclude from this is that we need more work to ascertain the true figures for infant mortality in 2002 and in 2004, and also for overall mortality. Somebody quoted the CIA yearbook numbers for overall mortality. I’ve got no idea how those were estimated, though they also disagree with the Lancet study (they estimate a decrease rather than an increase).

I have pointed out to you that a pro-war group of researchers could have come up with tens of thousands of children saved, if they had chosen to accept the Unicef estimate as credible, and only considered the post war figures of the Lancet study.

I think you dismiss this on very thin grounds, and place a lot of trust in the Lancet’s numbers, unjustified trust. These numbers were obtained under very difficult circumstances, the sample is small, all sorts of systematic errors can and do creep in here ever so easily.

Usually, the way to treat this study’s results on infant mortality would be to say, we’ve got an interesting finding from an “exploratory” study, which needs confirmation.

You treat the finding of increased infant mortality as proven, done and dusted, no further confirmatory work required.

Onto Saddam’s healtcare expenditure: I can look up the exact figures again, but roughly speaking it was something like 20 million Dollars per year. This has now been raised to something like 1 billion Dollars. Doctors and nurses got virtually no salary. In order to survive they had to rely on side jobs and relatives.

It may be your impression from the news that medical supplies got less available, but that’s not exactly very hard evidence. Not only was expenditure raised massively, the sanctions stopped as well and lots of imports streamed into the country.

You mention “sweeping statements” and demand for “precision”. If we are to decide whether small arms fire needs more attention or bombings, then yes, we do need some precision on which one is more deadly. And the study does make the claim, which I believe is wrong and misleading, that it is mainly bombs that are doing the killing.

Quoting large extrapolated numbers has shock value, that doesn’t make it good practise to present, what would happened if scenarios as people killed, or saved from killing. If we assume a halving of infant mortality, then in ten years we’ll save something like half a million children. Do we have evidence that infant mortality has halved? In my opinion, that evidence is about as trustworthy as the idea that it’s supposedly nearly doubled.

When you talk about “seriously engaging with the study” it seems to me you are putting far, far too much weight on how reliable its results really are. It’s not just a matter of statistics. We’ve also got the potential for systematic errors (eg selective recall, not sampling places with potentially high death rates, eg prisons, not properly adjusting for fluctuating household composition), misreporting, lying etc..

Errors like these can go both ways. If we had nothing but this study to estimate the number of violent deaths and overall death rates, then an increased error span of course includes the potential for a few hundred thousand dead.

But we do have other information, and that makes the impact of a wider error span for the study itself asymmetric to a point. If our other information indicates that more than a 100,000 violent deaths is not credible, then a widening of the error span (eg to account for lying, misremembering household composition etc..) means less and less additional informational value is provided by the study. Instead of it then telling us that 60,000 plus minus 30,000 is a good estimate say, it tells us, as Kaplan says (even if his argument based on statistics alone and assuming the underlying data isn’t faulty, is incorrect) it gives us a dartboard estimate that doesn’t improve on what we knew already (someting between 10,000 and a 100,000).

Let’s rephrase this, if we basically know a credible range already, and the study, when accounting for all potential sources of error, not just random error, gives a much wider range, say minus 50,000 to 500,000, then the central estimate of 60,000 just adds next to nothing to our existing knowledge.

The way you try to get around this, seems to me by arguing that, well, it’s only random error. We can treat this problem as if we had 25 million balls, those killed being black, those not killed white. We mix them up, take 30 clustered samples, and then go on to calculate a 95% confidence interval for black and white.

Lying, problems with fluctuating household composition, accounting for differential household size, prisons, misremembering, misrepresentation, misunderstanding on the part of the interviewer or the interviewed etc… aren’t figured into that confidence interval. But they all subtract from how reliable the figures are, particularly, when considering the small sample size and extraordinary circumstances.

It may be the best the authors could do, but that doesn’t mean it’s good enough to add substantially to our existing store of knowledge on the matter.

And there is plenty of other data, such as figures collated by the Iraqi Health Ministry, press reports, press briefings by coalition officials etc…

It is my firm belief that this other data tells us much more than the Lancet study, which adds really little to our store of knowledge, where it is reasonably reliable (ie violent death has gone up by several ten thousand in all likelihood), and is so unreliable for other things (attribution of the deaths to causes, infant mortality) that it should be regarded with utter caution.

143

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 7:59 pm

Hi more stats,

the rather unsatisfactory way dsquared has answered your question in the past is to say that the two estimates (pre- and post-liberation) use the same methodology, so any error should affect both the same (fingers crossed ;-), and even if both numbers are wrong, at least the increase will be correct.

144

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 8:16 pm

Hi Kevin,

the idea is that fewer bombs will be required with smart weaponry.

Secondly, outside of Falluja and after the initial few weeks very, very little smart bombing has taken place, not least, because there was very little, apart from the occasional “safehouse” that was a worthy bombing target.

On functioning administration in Iraq, I’ve read Zeyad’s blog, and that’s not what my understanding of what he wrote is. Hospitals, morgues etc. have continued to operate and record deaths.

There have been plenty of bombings in Northern Ireland, and plenty of violent death on a per capita basis (Northern Ireland only has 1.5 million people). No comparison is ever perfect, but I think the situation in Iraq is such that Iraqi Health Ministry figures can be regarded as accurate, and certainly as far more accurate than anything else we’ve got.

145

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 8:27 pm

Hi Kevin,

after posting two other posts I hope that my previous posting to you really and honestly got lost, and isn’t going to suddenly turn up in an hour, or a day.

The gist of that posting was that I don’t understand how you can read the author’s findings differently than me:
“Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce noncombatant deaths from air strikes.”

That’s the last sentence of their interpretation of their findings.

They start off their interpretation with:
“Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100 000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”

So, most deaths from violence and most of those from air strikes, conclusion: we need to change our tactics.

I’ve said enough about how little substance is behind that conclusion, but you don’t seem to acknowledge what the authors are plainly saying about their own findings, in the paper itself.

146

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 8:42 pm

Hi more stats,

the other arguments I’ve heard are:

a) the other datapoints you refer to aren’t census based, but estimates, extrapolations reliant on old data, so they are more likely to be wrong than the Lancet study, there may be some truth to this, but to just junk those other numbers, goes a bit too far in my opinion.

b) some data on malnutrition support the notion that infant mortality may have dropped by more than estimated by Unicef (they estimate a 6% drop or so, the Lancet over 70%). Well, they may support some drop because of Food for Oil, but I don’t think they supply sufficient information to decide whether a 6% or a 70% drop is more likely.

147

Kevin Donoghue 02.01.05 at 9:11 pm

“the rather unsatisfactory way dsquared has answered your question in the past is to say that the two estimates (pre- and post-liberation) use the same methodology, so any error should affect both the same (fingers crossed ;-), and even if both numbers are wrong, at least the increase will be correct.”

This is an unsatisfactory answer? Why?

148

abb1 02.01.05 at 9:28 pm

Secondly, outside of Falluja and after the initial few weeks very, very little smart bombing has taken place, not least, because there was very little, apart from the occasional “safehouse” that was a worthy bombing target.

How do you know? Famous investigative journalist says exactly the opposite:

We’ve Been Taken Over By a Cult

…June 28, July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month. We are systematically bombing that country. There are no embedded journalists at Doha, the Air Force base I think we’re operating out of. No embedded journalists at the aircraft carrier, Harry Truman. That’s the aircraft carrier that I think is doing many of the operational fights. There’s no air defense, It’s simply a turkey shoot. They come and hit what they want. We know nothing. We don’t ask. We’re not told. We know nothing about the extent of bombing.

Why should I believe you and not Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winner?

149

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 9:53 pm

Hi Kevin,

well, because it’s quite possible that the methodology would give a wrong number pre-liberation and a number much closer to the truth post liberation, eg by not sampling prisons pre-liberation and by undercounting infant mortality pre-liberation due to selective recall bias.

Or because changes in household composition weren’t properly accounted for, so it might be that a bride wouldn’t count her parents dying 4 years ago, because she now lives in a different household with her new husband. But she would count her parents in law dying a year ago, as that’s her new household. Some households of a few years ago may have simply ceased to exist, the parents dead, and the children now in university digs or married off.

There are lots of ways to get things wrong, and with a limited sample, no reliable census etc.. it gets so much easier for mistakes to creep in.

And of course the further back one goes with this technique, the more unreliable the information becomes.

150

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 10:05 pm

Seymour Hersh simultaneously says “We know nothing about the extent of bombing.” and implies that there is a massive bombing campaign under way.

Sorry, I just don’t find that credible. Every safe house bombing got world wide coverage. There are stringers everywhere and the insurgents have every interest to make sure bombings get reported.

Yet, they don’t. Nor have I heard a single personal account of a bombing from a blogger, with those bloggers strewn all over the country.

How could the US hide a massive bombing campaign, assuming they were busily lying through their teeth about not being engaged in carpet bombing Iraqis?

The last major bombing that got reported by a blogger (not a personal account, though) was in Kurdistan and a few innocent people got hurt in a botched American operation (and the Kurds complained rather loudly followed by an American apology).

151

Kevin Donoghue 02.01.05 at 10:37 pm

“Or because changes in household composition weren’t properly accounted for, so it might be that a bride wouldn’t count her parents dying 4 years ago, because she now lives in a different household with her new husband.”

Or her parents might have been bombed but she does not count them as part of her household for the reason you mention. It cuts both ways, but as d-squared has pointed out, you only want it to cut one way.

BTW, since I suspect he isn’t going to reply on points he has covered many times (nor am I after this), you may wish to note that Daniel Davies = DD = d-squared.

Finally, not because it is the only thing you have wrong but because it is your latest: there have been many, many reliable reports of bombing at various times on targets including Kut, Najaf and Sadr City. If memory serves Ramadi and Tikrit also got hit. There has also been quite a bit of shelling. Check Juan Cole’s site for reports, with links; Josh Marshall also had some startling reports from a friend who works as a security contractor.

Regular journalists rarely venture outside the Green Zone.

152

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 11:02 pm

Hi Kevin,

we are looking for possible reasons for the discrepancy with other estimates of pre-liberation mortality, and whether the pre-liberation estimate might be less (or more) accurate than the post-liberation one.

The way changes in household composition are accounted for is one reason, why the pre-liberation estimate could be less (or more) accurate than the post-liberation one.

But we aren’t in an information vacuum. For mortality the Lancet study is lower than everybody else pre-liberation. So, it’s far from unreasonable to think of reasons why the other estimates might be too high, or respectively the Lancet one too low.

d2=dd= Danie Davies is noted, not sure why he uses a pseudonym though.

Of course, there have been reliable reports of bombings. What I said was that I hadn’t seen personal accounts by bloggers, the kind of thing you’d expect, if the US was carpet bombing the place.

I think that virtually no bombings with large loss of civilian life would have gone unreported, and what’s been reported just doesn’t add up to tens of thousands.

Regular journalists rely on Iraqi stringers, loads of whom are rather sympathetic to the insurgents, and therefore have every interest to report every bombing (and sometimes even to exaggerate the damage).

153

Heiko Gerhauser 02.01.05 at 11:12 pm

Looking again at what I actually wrote:

“Yet, they don’t.”

was supposed to mean,

“Yet, they don’t report a massive campaing of carpet bombing, rather we hear of pretty much every single bombing with large loss of civilian life (plus some exaggeration for propagandistic effect) and it just doesn’t add up to tens of thousands.”

I hope that’s reasonably clear now.

154

more stats 02.02.05 at 12:58 am

the rather unsatisfactory way dsquared has answered your question in the past is to say that the two estimates (pre- and post-liberation) use the same methodology, so any error should affect both the same (fingers crossed ;-), and even if both numbers are wrong, at least the increase will be correct.

But that’s incorrect. The Lancet study is one study, but it consists of two estimates.

(1) One estimate, the pre-invasion, relies on memory reporting; the other, the post-invasion, is based more on actual present-day evidence.

(2) The sampling population situation pre and post is very different. The war produced great movements of people and other disruptions. As such, for example, the result of the pre-war rate may reflect a post-war sampling error, etc.

(3) Most important point: Consistency within one study is nice. Overall consistency with other data points is more important.

(4) The same-rate-increase argument would only hold if Roberts et al had done the same study in 2002 (rather than a backward estimate in 2004).

To repeat: Roberts et al can only tell us something interesting (however limited) about a first estimate for 2004.

Their 2002 estimate is another thing, under different circumstances, needing another methodology (because you have to sample the people as if it were 2002, not after all the changes as if it is 2004).

Big picture: I’m getting tired of all this. The main conclusion is that the Lancet study provides some initial results. Further research is urgently needed. Responsible scientists wait for better results before rushing to judgement. To produce a 100,000 excess deaths figure was a highly political move and bad science.

Though my politics is closer to Roberts than many people who attack him, I’m just deeply worried about the reputation of proper and responsible science here.

People should shut up and forget about the Lancet study for the moment, while concentrating on the things that really matter such as reconstructing Iraq.

The blame game can be played later, dsquared.

155

dsquared 02.02.05 at 1:21 am

So why, dsquared, should we accept Roberts et al outlier data point?

Because it’s the most recent piece of fieldwork, and because it’s the only fieldwork-based estimate from more recently than 2000. Also, because it is in no sense an “exploratory” sample; it consisted of over 7000 individuals in 33 clusters. You will notice that no serious epidemiologist has made any of the criticisms you’re scrabblng for.

I have said this in a previous Lancet post; anyone who starts talking about sampling error without so much as considering the possibility of an underestimate (despite the fact that we know that there were clusters like Fallujah which had much higher death rates), loses a whole lot of credibility in my eyes.

But it all comes back to the same point in my view; if there was not a very material rise in the death rate in Iraq due to the war, how likely would it be that you would get a sample of 7000 Iraqis which reported such a large rise in the death rate?

I’ve now reached the point at which I think I’m going to ask that anyone who wants to argue with me has to give a straight answer to that question. A likelihood function would constitute a straight answer.

156

more stats 02.02.05 at 8:57 am

Let’s take up dsquared points:

(a) Because it’s the most recent piece of fieldwork, and because it’s the only fieldwork-based estimate from more recently than 2000.

Yes, it the most recent after the war, and I accepted that we should take seriously Roberts et al estimate for 2004.

But that leaves the issue of what the mortality rate was before. I would need to check where bodies such as the World Bank or the UN Population Division get their 2002 data from. But even if you’re right that there hasn’t been a fieldwork estimate since 2000, it is highly unlikely that the mortality rate has so dramatically declined from roughly 8 to 5 in just two years.

Again, Roberts et al need to engage with previous estimates and show why they have been wrong; otherwise the odds are that they represent the outlier and not the other studies.

(b) Also, because it is in no sense an “exploratory” sample; it consisted of over 7000 individuals in 33 clusters.

First, it’s 30 households in 33 locations, which makes 990 data points (which happen to be roughly 7,000 people large, but that’s not the sample size, the sample size is 30×33).

Second, it is largely exploratory because key environmental and demographic basis census data are missing so that in order to estimate the sample they had to estimate an awful lot of fundamental data which are normally given and not much debated in stable conditions.

(c ) You will notice that no serious epidemiologist has made any of the criticisms you’re scrabblng for.

First, I notice that there hasn’t been any serious scientific debate on it; largely because there can’t be at the moment because it’s too early. Most scientists have (rightly) defended Roberts et al. against some of the wildest claims, the verdict on his scientific work is still out and we all need to wait for further research.

Second, I’m a statistician and the basic principles underlying Roberts et al study are very simple and can be grasped by a normally educated person, so we don’t need the authority of scientists as the ultimate judge whether the study is flawed or not.

Third, proper science is slow. Proper peer-review processes take months and rejoinders take another couple of months. I’m sure in a year’s time or so other teams of scientists will have evaluated the Lancet study and written their responses or even done alternative estimates etc. We only had a political debate about the Lancet study so far, let’s wait a bit to let the scientific debate begin.

(d) anyone who starts talking about sampling error without so much as considering the possibility of an underestimate (despite the fact that we know that there were clusters like Fallujah which had much higher death rates), loses a whole lot of credibility in my eyes.

I didn’t rule out an underestimate. (As I wrote before, I’m sure the mortality rate today is higher than before. It might be by 8,000, or by 98,000 or by 300,000. We don’t know. Unfortunately Robert’s et al estimate doesn’t look very solid).

(e) if there was not a very material rise in the death rate in Iraq due to the war, how likely would it be that you would get a sample of 7000 Iraqis which reported such a large rise in the death rate?

I’m a bit puzzled by this question, partly because I don’t fully understand it.

First, you don’t have 7,000 Iraqis reporting a higher death rate. You’ve got 990 data points consisting of 7,000 Iraqis, where I think something like 160 or so deaths were registered (I’m not sure I correctly remember the actual death figure they’ve found; I would need to look it up).

It’s not the case, as dsquared seems a bit to imply, that you’ve got 7,000 Iraqis who all reported a higher death rate.

Second, dsquared seems to mean that whenever you find a large increase in one sample, it must be true for the entire population (or at least very likely). Well, yes, if you do your sampling correct (and even then this leaves a significant error margin in such large-scale studies).

Again, if the sample is skewed in one direction, it’s very easy for the sample to be out of the loop with the entire population.

Think of a very easy error source: Official demographics before the war inflated the percentage of the Sunni and after the war you had an extra inflow of Kurdish and Shiite refugees. Sunnis probably had a disproportinate low mortality rate under Saddam and a disproportionally high after the invasion.

If that’s the case, and you estimate your sample size according to old Saddam-era census data (which Roberts et al seem to have done), then it’s easy to overrepresent the Sunni in your sample.

That would result in two errors: You would underestimate the mortality rate before the war and overestimate it afterwards.

If you get your basis data for demographics by 3% wrong, it means that in a country like Iraq you’re wrong by 750,000 people.

If you then build this additional error into your estimate model, your CI is virtually destroyed and your data useless. This is very likely what happened in Roberts case.

157

Heiko Gerhauser 02.02.05 at 3:22 pm

Hi more stats,

on the demographics, I presume you are giving this as just example of the many potential errors that can be introduced (household composition, not sampling locations like prisons, misunderstandings on the part of the interviewer or interviewed etc…).

A single person lying can result in a difference of ten thousand or even more in the estimate, either way of course, and that applies both pre- and post liberation.

On mortality, I think the balance of evidence is very clearly that violent death has gone up. For other causes, I don’t think we’ve got enough information yet.

158

RS 02.02.05 at 4:06 pm

“I don’t see why the numbers presented by the Iraqi Health Ministry should be seen in a much different light than those of the British government for the conflict in Northern Ireland, where at the height of the conflict and on a per capita basis similar numbers of people were killed in terrorist and military activity.”

I must have missed the British invasion of Northern Ireland, I think even Sinn Fein would laugh at the comparison.

159

Heiko Gerhauser 02.02.05 at 6:14 pm

Hi rs,

of course, Northern Ireland isn’t Iraq (though I should think Sinn Fein do remember the British invasion, the Orange marches rather effectively remind them every year).

However, the comparison relates to the reliability of statistics for deaths, when there is a functioning state apparatus in place.

And while the Iraqi Health Ministry may not be quite as good at collecting those accurately as the British government in Northern Ireland, my assumption would be that for civilian deaths their figures are by far the most accurate.

What’s the basis for claiming they undercount by a significant amount?

And if you admit they might make mistakes, how about considering the possibility of an overcount?

Dsquared has a habit of time and again castigating any attempt at seeing reasons for an overcount with the Lancet study with the rejoinder that an undercount might be just as likely.

160

Dan Hardie 02.02.05 at 9:31 pm

‘More stats’ seems very honest to me, but on one matter entirely wrong.

On the matter of priorities, it really is a false antithesis to say, as ‘more stats’ does, that ‘People should shut up and forget about the Lancet study for the moment, while concentrating on the things that really matter such as reconstructing Iraq.’

If we are to have successful reconstruction and security policies in Iraq- the two being entirely inseparable- then we need to know a)if there have been significant rises or falls in the excess death rate (since if it’s going up we’re doing a lot of things wrong and v.v.) and b) what the likely causes are of any rise or fall in the excess death rate (so that we can reverse any policies that seem to be leading to more excess deaths and reinforce any policies that seem to be lowering excess deaths: eg *stop f***ing using f***ing artillery and airstrikes in urban areas*, and maybe do something more effective about clean water, antiobiotics supply etc).

The occupation forces should be producing estimates of civilian death rates: both because they are obliged to under the Fourth Geneva Convention and because it is, for Christ’s sake, *good policy* for the reasons stated above. We do indeed need more surveys, as more stats seems to say (problem: data collection in Iraq right now seems a leetle dangerous) and we do also need debate on the best available study, ie the Lancet study, because if there are problems with that study then we need to design them out of further projects.

(P.S.: Before any clown tells me I’m pinning the blame entirely on the Coalition forces for any rise in deaths: no, I’m not. I’m saying that the Coalition has a duty to plan and implement policy that will decrease the death rate over time, and that can’t be done without adequate information on what the death rate is.)

161

Heiko Gerhauser 02.02.05 at 10:24 pm

Hi Dan,

because for me it’s all about helping Iraqis, I think that information about how coalition forces could do better is absolutely vital.

A 100,000 deaths from bombing would be something deserving of an awful lot of attention.

This study extrapolates from 3 reported bombing incidents, completely unjustifiably so in my opinion.

My own impression is that frightened American soldiers engaging in small arms fire represents a much, much more serious issue than aerial weaponry.

The coalition forces are there at the request of the legitimate Iraqi government. They are therefore not occupation forces. Their status is the same as in Germany, and as in Germany, it is the duty of the national government to compile national statistics, which is indeed what is happening.

The Iraqi Health Ministry is tracking deaths from military operations and terrorist activity and is publishing figures for both. Those include Iraqi security personnel and all victims believed to be civilians, though some insurgents or terrorists are likely included as well.

Let me repeat, I agree with you. We need good information. The trouble is this study does not provide good information, the extra informational value of it is pretty close to zero.

Or at least that’s what I believe after long discussions about the study and its methodology.

162

Heiko Gerhauser 02.02.05 at 10:50 pm

A little nugget as an addition:

German troops are stationed in the US. They are mostly there, because Germany is quite crowded and so low flying training missions aren’t very popular there.

While I’ve heard a few people say that they feel “uncomfortable” about their former ennemy having troops stationed in the US, you’d hardly argue that the US is under occupation by Germany with it being the duty of the German government to compile statistics on murder, death rates etc. in the US ;-)

I know the comparison is, rather less than perfect, but it’s still a nice little nuggest of information surprisingly few Americans are even aware of (the Bundeswehr flying over Arizona).

163

JoT 02.03.05 at 12:02 am

“…you’d hardly argue that the US is under occupation by Germany with it being the duty of the German government to compile statistics on murder, death rates etc. in the US”

Heiko I think you can bet money on it that if U.S. murder and death rates were in any way related to the presence of the German troops, Germany would be expected both to divulge to U.S. authorities everything it knew about deadly incidents directly involving Germans and to do all it could to help discover any other deaths connected to their presence which had escaped detection.

And if this troop presence was so unpopular – partly due to its deadly impact on the population – that it produced a bitter and violent insurrection to expel it, then I think the sensible thing would be for the Germans to immediately declare their intention to pull their troops out of the USA and begin doing so, while making every amends for the unholy mess they had created.

164

RS 02.03.05 at 10:07 am

“of course, Northern Ireland isn’t Iraq (though I should think Sinn Fein do remember the British invasion, the Orange marches rather effectively remind them every year).”

Oh, so you’re talking about the similarity of Iraq, under US/UK occupation, and Ireland, during the 17th Century invasion of William of Orange, those ‘Troubles’, you should have said!

165

RS 02.03.05 at 10:24 am

“And while the Iraqi Health Ministry may not be quite as good at collecting those accurately as the British government in Northern Ireland, my assumption would be that for civilian deaths their figures are by far the most accurate.”

But the comparison is untenable. Northern Ireland, while suffering from a good deal of violence at the height of the Troubles, was never a warzone. Iraq was invaded, and even after the invasion was completed, substantial areas were still effectively warzones. The very areas where civilian infrastructure was not working are the areas where civilian deaths would be expected to be highest.

Let me make my point clear, Northern Ireland was not a warzone during the troubles, terrorists carried out attacks on civilians and security forces but the civilian infrastructure continued largely as it always had (state killings of civilians were therefore very small, because it was a domestic security operation, not a war). Iraq was invaded and conquered by another country, and is still suffering from major endogenous acts of armed resistance. The comparison is ludicrous.

166

Dan Hardie 02.03.05 at 11:51 am

Heiko, I simply can’t accept that you are an honest person.

‘The coalition forces are there at the request of the legitimate Iraqi government. They are therefore not occupation forces.’ From May 2003 to the end of June 2004 there was no Iraqi government- the Coalition were ‘occupying forces’ as defined in the Geneva Convention and therefore obliged to count and publish civilian deaths. They did not do so.

Secondly you are alleging ‘A 100,000 deaths from bombing would be something deserving of an awful lot of attention.’ No part of the Lancet study ever said that there were 100,000 deaths from bombing. That’s a straight lie on your part.

‘The Iraqi Health Ministry is tracking deaths from military operations and terrorist activity and is publishing figures for both.’ Again, you’re either lying or a fool. The Iraqi Health Ministry is compiling such figures but was ordered in September by Iyad Allawi’s government to stop publishing them. As you have failed to notice, when the figures were published the Health Ministry stated that two thirds of civilian deaths were caused by Coalition troops, not by terrorists. And as has been pointed out to you so many times that you cannot be unaware of the objections:

Firstly they are not tracking excess deaths, nor even deaths from violence, but deaths from violence reported to hospitals (ie they may exclude any violent deaths where corpses didn’t go to hospitals and even more importantly they do not track rises in deaths from such factors as lack of antibiotics, worsening sanitation, etc);

Secondly many corpses from air or artillery strikes are rather unlikely to be brought to hospitals because- you know what?- there’s not much left of a human being after you fire a 155mm shell at him or bury him in a house with an ASM (and we didn’t use airstrikes or artillery in NI) ;
thirdly it is a Muslim custom to bury the dead as soon as possible;
fourthly in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles there was still a functioning health bureaucracy, a free of charge National Health Service and a functioning Coroner’s Court system, and bodies could not be buried in any cemetery without a lawful Death Certificate. Unlike you I a) have studied Northern Irish history in considerable depth;b) have Northern Irish friends and relatives and have visited the place, before and after the ceasefires; c) have served with men who did tours of duty in NI. Your comparisons of NI with Iraq merely show you to be ignorant or dishonest.

Small arms fire is not comparable to the use of artillery or air strikes: it is both more accurate (don’t embarrass yourself arguing with me on this one) and has no comparable ‘area effect’- which is why the British Army in Northern Ireland used neither of the latter two tactics, ever. Not even Most Oppressed People Ever types like the whining and historically ignorant H. Farrell have claimed otherwise.(£50 to you if you can prove me wrong on this point: no, £100.)

And that’s it: final answer. I am a busy man, and you are a dishonest one. I will be offline for the best part of a week, so have the last word, little Heiko.If you do come up with a source for ‘British artillery or air strikes in Northern Ireland, 1969-present’, email it to me and the cheque is yours.

‘More stats’, however, seems like an honest guy and I hope Dsquared will answer him.

167

dan hardie 02.03.05 at 12:05 pm

Actually, I should expand the offer to Heiko. The main, though not the sole, reason why Northern Ireland cannot be compared to Iraq in re estimates of deaths is my point that ‘in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles there was still a functioning health bureaucracy, a free of charge National Health Service and a functioning Coroner’s Court system, and *bodies could not be buried in any cemetery without a lawful Death Certificate*.’

Hence the govt. figures were accurate, funerals being a very big deal in Northern Ireland. No doubt Heiko will come back with some bone-stupid rejoinder like ‘How do you know the IRA gave funerals to all their dead members?’ Because I come from an Irish family and I know for a fact that funerals give the IRA a collective hard-on, is why.

Since this is the key reason why the comparison is invalid, if Heiko can cite sources that disprove my argument re Death Certs he will also receive a £100 cheque. A number of people were murdered and buried in hidden locations by the IRA; the same occurred in an intra-UVF feud- but in all cases, the missing were reported via the (again, still-functioning) Missing Persons procedure, criminal investigations were opened and they had been legally assumed to be murdered, and entered in the casualty stats, long before the bodies were found -which, in some cases, they still haven’t been.

168

Heiko Gerhauser 02.03.05 at 7:08 pm

Clearly, the comparison with Northern Ireland has been rather unhelpful in the discussion. Most of the things people here seem to think I want to be saying with that comparison, which is indeed poor in most respects, I didn’t in fact want to say.

So, Dan and rs, let’s just dump this comparison. The only thing I wanted to say with it was that an administration can produce reliable figures even in trying circumstances.

All that stuff about, how Northern Ireland compares in other respects, I largely agree it doesn’t.

169

Heiko Gerhauser 02.03.05 at 7:19 pm

Hi jot,

I think it is quite reasonable for Iraqi authorities to publish estimates. Of course, coalition forces should assist them in this task, whenever they can.

To simplify, you seem to think that the “insurrection” represents the good guys, I don’t.

170

Heiko Gerhauser 02.03.05 at 7:39 pm

Now onto the Iraqi Health Ministry figures.

They don’t measure the same thing the Lancet study tried to measure.

For what they do measure, however, my belief is that they are extremely accurate, because I also believe that the underlying bureaucracy is sound, and people who bury their dead will need to report those deaths officially.

Now, if you believe that things are so terrible in Iraq that people get buried without any paper work, or at least that this happens in the “war zones” of the country, I have to say that this is not my understanding of how the system works.

Unlike you I trust the Iraqi government to do its data collection job well, I just don’t think that they’d publish an incomplete account from hospitals full well knowing that 90% of all dead would be buried without anybody ever bothering to tell the state about it.

171

Heiko Gerhauser 02.03.05 at 8:26 pm

Dan,

“From May 2003 to the end of June 2004 there was no Iraqi government- the Coalition were ‘occupying forces’ as defined in the Geneva Convention and therefore obliged to count and publish civilian deaths. They did not do so.”

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/7c4d08d9b287a42141256739003e636b/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5

The coalition forces say that they fully complied with the Geneva Conventions when they were occupying forces.

The above link is to the full text of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons.

Putting a number on civilians killed is very difficult, when there is no functioning state apparatus to do this job. And, while I think that the coalition forces could have done a better job at showing in detail how they analyse their actions to minimise the loss of innocent life, which they say they do their utmost to achieve,
I also understand that it may be better not to publish estimates that are so unreliable as to be worthless.

When the state apparatus had been reestablished, the Iraqi Ministry of Health did start counting civilian deaths with the Coalition Provision Authority still formally in charge.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ifs/hi/newsid_4220000/newsid_4222300/4222353.stm
(I quoted this link already earlier in this thread)

You say that the Iraqi Health Ministry has been ordered to stop publishing information. Not so, and neither do their figures show that most of those killed have been killed by coalition forces. The BBC has officially apologised for misreporting what the Iraqi Health Ministry actually reported.

They report that 3274 people have died from terrorism or military activity in the second half of 2004. This figure includes Iraqi security forces (those have been published separately, and I believe they make up over a third of the total, though I would have to check that figure out), and some insurgents.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health does distinguish between terrorist activity, and military activity. Some insurgent activities are not labelled as terrorist acts, and security forces and civilians killed in those actions are not counted as victims of terrorism.

“Secondly you are alleging ‘A 100,000 deaths from bombing would be something deserving of an awful lot of attention.’ No part of the Lancet study ever said that there were 100,000 deaths from bombing. That’s a straight lie on your part.”

I don’t say here that the Lancet study alleges 100,000 deaths from bombing. They say that 100,000 excess deaths is conservative, and that most death was from violence, and most violent death was caused by coalition airstrikes, and that a majority of the victims were women and children.

What I said was that 100,000 deaths from airstrikes would be something worthy of a lot attention.

The Lancet certainly leaves the possibility hanging that that many might have died from airstrikes, even if that’s not the central estimate, and if it was a serious possibility it would deserve a lot of attention. I mean it really would.

Finally, I do care about the Iraqi people and honesty and truth. Why do you have to suggest lower motives just like that?

Comments on this entry are closed.