Skip to comments.THE IRAQ WAR BODY COUNT (Reinhard)
Posted on 01/20/2008 8:00:33 AM PST by jazusamo
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Any bit of bad news will do for the Iraq war critics, but our republic's bad-news-is-good bears hit the mother lode of negativity to obsess about right before the November 2006 congressional elections. A new "scientific" study put the "most likely" number of "excess" Iraqi deaths following the 2003 invasion at 654,965.
Of course, this figure was well over the 30,000 civilian deaths the U.S. government estimated, the 50,000 the Iraqi Ministry of Health estimated or the 45,000 the anti-war Iraq Body Count estimated. The pre-election timing of the study should have suggested something was up. But the Iraqi death toll was from a "scientific" study, and published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet, no less.
Serious numbers, serious journal. A civilian body count up of more than half a million was news that Iraq war opponents and Democrats could use -- and did. The 654,965 allegedly dead Iraqis perfectly captured the anti-Iraq war spirit of 2006.
A year later, however, a surge of criticism has all but destroyed the Lancet study's 654,965 figure.
That's the only conclusion possible after reading Neil Munro and Carl M. Cannon's 10-page dissection of the study in the Jan. 5 National Journal (http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/index.htm).
Begin at the beginning. The study was commissioned by John Tirman, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies and author of "100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World." Half of its funding came from George Soros, the Iraq war foe who spent $30 million to defeat George Bush in 2004.
Munro and Cannon also show the study's backers knew where to go to get the job done. Two of the authors, Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts, had worked to get an earlier study out before the 2004 election. The anti-war Roberts briefly sought the Democratic nomination for a New York congressional seat in 2004. Their co-author Riyadh Lafta, who oversaw the data collection, was a child-health official in Saddam Hussein's health ministry. And the Lancet editor who expedited the peer-review process to get the article into print? A lefty who rails against U.S. imperialism that leaves millions across the world dead from disease and poverty.
Of course, it's possible the researchers checked their politics at the laboratory door. But, then, you would still have to explain the study's weird science.
The authors have refused to do the standard things scientists do to prove their study's results hold up: provide access to the surveyors' original reports and response forms, citing security concerns and the fact that some of the data was never recorded or kept. Lafta, who oversaw the data collection in Iraq, won't answer questions.
And many scientists have questions.
The study depends on "cluster sampling." in which you survey certain areas and extrapolate the results nationwide. The study had only eight surveyors covering 47 clusters with 40 households. A United Nations study, by contrast, relied on many more surveyors for 2,200 clusters with 10 households. "The Lancet . . . sample is so small that each violent death recorded translated to 2,000 dead Iraqis overall," Munro and Cannon write.
The Iraq Body Count said that the Lancet study's death totals resulted from "unrepresentative data."
There are also questions about the survey's 98 percent response rate. It's high compared to recent Iraq surveys. Moreover, the survey teams didn't collect data pollsters routinely ask for to prevent fraud. The survey teams said they checked death certificates to confirm claimed deaths, but they never recorded the certificates.
What, we worry? After all, haven't things improved in Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus' surge? And doesn't science work like this -- with other scientists criticizing a study's methods and findings? True, but the Lancet study is less science than politics disguised as science, and here's the real problem:
However discredited the study may be or irrelevant to Iraq war politics here at home, its 654,965 body count won't be easily buried across the Middle East. It's hard to imagine Al-Jazeera -- where the study was said to reveal "the greatest crime in human history" -- will broadcast that National Journal has solved this crime against science.
As I showed in the paperback ed. of “America’s Victories,” if you use Iraqi morgue stats, which separated bodies into “civilian” and “other,” and understand that the Iraqi military has its own stats, then the “other” amounted to over 40,000 dead since 2003. Those are terrorists. I haven’t updated since 2006, but I’m betting that number is close to 60,000 on the low side, esp. since now we are fighting the “B” and “C” teams.
That's a number I'd like to see go as high as...the World Trade Center was.
Yes! And I understand we and the Iraqis have been working on that of late. :)
The latest study puts it at 150k, give or take 50k. Seems reasonable being that it includes “fighters” aka terrorists and foreign mujaheddin, as well as all their mass slaughter of civilians to provoke chaos and civil war.
Thanks for the link, I read your thread and pretty much agree.
Pretty much says it all right there.