Look, can we knock these two on the head, please, gang? I realise that we have no chance of stamping out these fallacies all over the internet – it’s almost as if there were a whole network of right-wing talking points sites out there all taking in each other’s washing! – but we can at least stop regurgitating them ourselves.
1. Iraq is a young country. Therefore, it has a low “crude” death rate. “Crude” in this case means “not adjusted for demographic structure and therefore not meaningfully comparable across countries”. Therefore, it is not surprising that pre-war Iraq had a crude death rate similar to that of Denmark, any more than it is surprising that any other two completely non-comparable statistics might happen to be the same number.
2. When someone dies, you get a death certificate from the hospital, morgue or coroner, in your hand. This bit of the death infrastructure is still working in Iraq. Then the person who issued the death certificate is meant to send a copy to the central government records office where they collate them, tabulate them and collect the overall mortality statistics. This bit of the death infrastructure is not still working in Iraq. (It was never great before the war, broke down entirely during the year after the invasion when there was no government to send them to and has never really recovered; statistics agencies are often bottom of the queue after essential infrastructure, law and order and electricity). Therefore, there is no inconsistency between the fact that 92% of people with a dead relative could produce the certificate when asked, and the fact that Iraq has no remotely reliable mortality statistics and quite likely undercounts the rate of violent death by a factor of ten.
Go on and sin no more, or at least not on our Lancet comments threads.