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Just a few days before Dark Tuesday, the British medical journal Lancet published a study of Iraqi civilian deaths from the war. Since then, at  newspapers like The Guardian, on-line pubs like Slate, television hate-talk shows like O'Reilly's and throughout Blogworld, it seems half the people in the media have had something to say about the study, much of which has been negative.

Not just negative, as Daniel Davies at Crooked Timber points out, but frequently downright stupid. Davies's lengthy summary posted yesterday is a devastating wrap-up of the critiques.

Lots of heavy lifting here has been done by Tim Lambert and Chris Lightfoot; I thoroughly recommend both posts, and while I'm recommending things, I also recommend a short statistics course as a useful way to spend one's evenings (sorry); it really is satisfying to be able to take part in these debates as a participant and I would imagine, pretty embarrassing and frustrating not to be able to. As Tim Lambert commented, this study has been "like flypaper for innumerates"; people have been lining up to take a pop at it despite being manifestly not in possession of the baseline level of knowledge needed to understand what they're talking about. (Being slightly more cynical, I suggested to Tim that it was more like "litmus paper for hacks"; it's up to each individual to decide for themselves whether they think a particular argument is an innocent mistake or not).

Having in the past been assigned to cover the nuclear and the transportation industries, I had to learn some basic statistics, but mostly, like any reporter who wants to give readers a fair understanding of the topic under discussion, I depended on experts who could guide me through the numbers and interpretation of numbers that befuddled me.

As Davies makes clear, a lot of critics who challenged the Lancet study not only have a lousy understanding of what they're reading, but also don't have the good sense to double-check their findings with somebody who does know what s/he's looking at.

The bottom line is that the Lancet study was a good piece of science, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. Its results (and in particular, its central 98,000 estimate) are not the last word on the subject, but then nothing is in statistics. There is a very real issue here, and any pro-war person who thinks that we went to war to save the Iraqis ought to be thinking very hard about whether we made things worse rather than better. It is notable how very few people who have rubbished the Lancet study have shown the slightest interest in getting any more accurate estimates; often you learn a lot about people from observing the way that they protect themselves from news they suspect will disconcert them.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 05:24 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  someone should promote this to the front page! (none)
  •  "litmus tests for hacks" (none)
    or fly paper for hacks?
  •  when people deny this number (4.00)
    to me it's sort of besides the point.  I mean... it's AT LEAST 50K... the question is.. if someone denies this number, what do they think if it's true.  At what point do our killing of Iraqi civilians compare to Saddam's?  1 Million?  2 Million?  10K?  It's not a matter of numbers, is it, and we are already in the same ballpark.

    This is a conservative tactic to dispute facts when principles are at stake and dispute principles when facts are at stake.

    •  You Still Don't Get It, Do You? (none)
      Repeat after me (phrased as GWB would):

      Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.  Iraq is better off now than under the dictator.. . . . . .

      Keep repeating until you've said it as many times as equals the number of Iraqis we've killed in the Great War To Liberate The Iraqi People and then maybe you'll understand what a great thing we've done for them.

      In a democracy, the people generally get the government they deserve - tant pis.

      by JJB on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:17:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you want to light a wing nut's hair on fire (none)
      Point out that the people we are fighting now, to impose order, are the same as the ones Saddam was murdering to maintain it.

      Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  •  similar to calculations of heat wave deaths (3.80)
    The research in question isn't exactly revolutionary in the techniques used. It's commonly done during heat waves because of the difficulty in ascribing "heat-related" deaths.

    Since it's so often hard to prove that someone died as a direct result of the heat (often their body will be found many days after the fact so it's hard to know what the body temperature was at the time of death, or the heat will trigger a heart attack or organ failure that may not be identified as heat-related), the way officials calculate death tolls for disasters like Chicago in 1995 and France in 2003 is to compare the number of "normal" deaths in a similar time period to the number occurring during a heat wave, and calculate the increase.

    The Johns Hopkins study as reported in the Lancet, used the same techniques: comparing the average rate of death during a simliar time period before the invasion and comparing to the rate post-invasion.

    Sure, you can argue it, but this is a good technique for measuring numbers that are incredibly hard to get at in any other way. Public health officials faced the same kind of recriminations from the Mayor Daley in Chicago (and undoubtedly politicians in France) because it made the City's policies of ignoring at-risk populations look horribly misguided. I'm sure that's the reason the war advocates are fighting these numbers. But I don't think public health scientists are discounting the study. It was peer-reviewed after all. And I get a little extra pleasure from the fact that it was done at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Just another poke in the eye by republican-in-name only Mayor Mike to his peers in Washington.

    •  two minor notes (none)
      that link I gave to the Lancet study needs a password. Here's another, just in case.

      And now that I read the details a bit more closely, this was a household survey comparing periods of time before and after the invasion. That does strike me as a bit unorthodox. Public health officials in Chicago by no means went door to door asking how many deaths families experienced before and after the heat wave. But I'm assuming the article itself explains the choice of technique: perhaps pre-war mortality records for Iraq have been lost or never existed in the first place.

    •  Chicago Heatwave (none)
      I was almost a victim of the 1995 Chicago heatwave. I was 26 yrs old and in excellent physical health but I worked doing outdoor labor at the time. I lapsed in taking in enough fluids one day and blew out all the salts in my body and began to feel the chills after leaving work and going back to my non airconditioned apartment. I had severe dehydration as a result of my daily routine in such heat. I spent the Friday of that week home from work on advice of a doctor and watched bad movies (Denzel as a futuristic cop?) in the air conditioned local theatre all day and drinking lots of fluids. I don't have to imagine it being too much to bear for many hundreds of frail Chicagoans.

      The Chicago deaths were very troublesome...many were poor senior shut-ins too afraid to open windows due to crime concerns to let in a life saving breeze. Nobody wants to believe thousands of people die in a heat wave due to indifference so imagine the reluctance at believing hundreds of thousands are dying in the US War in Iraq.

      Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill... - Riverbend

      by joejoejoe on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:04:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, Socrates (none)
      Techniques for estimated deaths used by Democrat cheaters like a Chicago DALY and congenital anti-American liars like the FRENCH are highly suspect methods.

      You should know that by now.

      Under the new mandate of anti-scientific, right-(wing) think, we must all be more careful about what we say and do. And how we arrive at numbers that may cast poor light on the moral values of chimpco and halliburton.

      I've been too mentally exhausted since Nov. 3 to come up with a new sig line. Taking all suggestions, since vice apparently no longer harms the doer in American politics now that voting counts are controlled by private, Republican corporations and private, Republican Secretaries of State.

      Vice harms the doer ~ Socrates

      by kdub on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 06:17:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Juan Cole's opinion (4.00)
    On Al Franken's show today, Al interviewed Juan Cole and they discussed the number of Iraqi war dead. It was Cole's opinion that the estimate on an English blog of 16,000 was low and that the Lancet article 100,000 was high. He said the problem with the Lancet study, as is true of all of these kind of analyses, is that they are only as good as the suppositions underlying them. For this study, they evidently had to make some assumptions about death rates before the war and some of that information just isn't known. He felt that a middle number probably made more sense.

    Both Al and Juan agreed that the coverage of this issue in the US is shocking, and Al was pointing out when Scott McClelland was asked about this yesterday, he basically dodged the question.

    •  Agreed (none)
      If there is one absolute taboo in the SCLM--even more so that not covering troop deaths--its giving coverage to Iraqi civilian deaths.  The purveyers of the news will argue that americans aren't interested.  That's probably true, but that's only because they don't understand the significance in terms of accomplishing our mission there, our image and influence around the world and especially in the arab world, and in terms of the latest rationale for the war itself.  But, of course, that wouldn't be news, would it?

      To his virtues be very kind, to his vices, very blind.

      by Descrates on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 12:00:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As long as we're on the subject... (none)
    The not-so-clever retort given to me by a wingnut friend of mine when I told him of this study was
    "Yeah, well Saddam killed 300,000 of his own!"
    To which I responded:
    "Yeah, well even if that's true, are you really saying that we're not that bad compared to tyrannical dictator?"
    The bigger question I have is this. How do we know that Saddam killed 300,000 of his own? I can't find any independent confirmation of that except an attribution to the Human Rights Watch. Look, Saddam was an evil guy, but did he really kill an average of 1250 Iraqi innocents every day for 20 years??
  •  I lost respect for Kaplan over this. (4.00)
    I thought he was one of the good guys or at least reasonable.  Very disappointing.  I suppose that it is just too much for anyone with a conscience who supported the war to admit to themselves.  The notion that the United States government is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 innocent people (nearly a third of the alleged total for the "Butcher" Saddam) is something they will deny to the end.  Saddam killed his 300,000 over decades.  George Bush and we, by extension, are a third of the way there.

    Weapons of Mass destruction?  Ties to Al Qaeda?  Torture and rape rooms?  Killings of innocent civilians? So what is the fucking excuse today?  Couldn't possibly be the oil.

    Oh yes I heard the Poodle on the BBC assuring us that we are making the country safe for democracy by razing Fallujah.  May that deceitful son of a bitch rot in hell.

    You drop the kind of ordinance that we have in heavily populated urban environments and you kill LOTS of people despite the stupid dog and pony shows we get regarding the accuracy of our "smart bombs".  This was inevitable.  And this is the primary reason why it was and remains highly immoral to start a war when there is no real threat.  It is murder pure and simple.

    If I hear one more time that this election was about "values" I'm going to puke.  What is the "value" associated with mass murder for purely political purposes?  Values my ass.  This was the bloodiest Republican re-election campaign since 1972.

    •  Yeah. I changed my sig quote (4.00)
      when they launched the attack on Fallujah.

      Repeat after me:

      Massacre is not a family value.
      Massacre is not a family value.
      Massacre is not a family value.
      Massacre is not a family value.

      Massacre is not a family value.

      by Canadian Reader on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:39:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I caught the poodle too. (none)
      Stupid bullshit answers.

      He even got asked the "Are you a poodle?" question.

      His face is beginning to get this really strange look.

      Maybe from so much dissembling.

      Like a mask. Kind of stretched and pinched.

      I actually thought, Face lift?

    •  Geez, SW ... (none) haven't got around to puking yet? I've been mopping up the floor every day since a week ago Wednesday. Values my ass, indeed. Cough, cough, gag, gag, gurgle, speeeeeeeeeeewwwwww.

      Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

      by Meteor Blades on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:11:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Andrew Sullivan went crazy over this study... (none)
    which Noam Chomsky cited on last week's Real Time with Bill Maher.

    then he (Sullivan) scratched his butt.

  •  glad to see MB (none)
    (you can't help yourself!)

    although, I thought the Lancet estimates high, I always considered the more earnest low estimates unbelievable.

    case in point--for 2 days now, it's advertised that "600 insurgents have been killed in Fallujah"

    and the US/Iraqi army casualty estimates have stayed the same.

    for two days.

    even though we get some reports of the intensity of the conflict, there has been no changes for 2 days in casualty reports.

    we are fully aware of how little can actually be reported from embedded units.

    we don't know what is happening in Iraq and the grandstander-in-chief doesn't want us to know.

    insane that he can speak of the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli issues as his task for the next 4 years, when the mo-fucker never even gave his 2nd, in a series of 5 speeches, on his plans in Iraq.

    •  embeds vs roving (none)
      every embedded reporter has talked about deserted streets in Fallujah, virtually devoid of civilians. Every freelancer has reported civilians in the city, mostly cowering in their houses, and many unarmed bodies in the streets.

      And, anecdotally, US soldiers are reporting of their peers planting weapons next to civilian corpses to make them seem like "legitimate" insurgent kills.

      Incidentally, has anyone else noticed how the pet term heard ubiquitously among the troops to describe the insurgents is "haji", as in "gonna get me some haji tonight, to avenge my brothers?"

      Nice. We take the holiest, most sacred event in the life of a Muslim, the Haj or pilgrimage to Meccah, and turn it into an Ugly American slur.

      Let's git us some Haji.

      "The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

      by galiel on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:58:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, might not be that deep (none)
        I think the term "haji" may be a twisted reference to a character, Hadji Singh, in an old American tv cartoon series Jonny Quest.  That's not meant to be reassuring, however, because Hadji is actually Indian and Sikhs who live and work in my area are routinely abused as "Arab towelhead terrorists."

        To disagree with three-fourths of the public is one of the first requisites of sanity.--- the ever-quotable Mr. Wilde

        by baggy on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:38:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  argh (4.00)
          maaaaaaan, i hate having to think about which possibly reality is more disturbing... because no matter which one wins, one of them is in fact true...

          the poor sikhs...

        •  Occam's Razor (none)
          What a stretch.

          "The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

          by galiel on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 08:57:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes. (none)
            It's much more likely that the average 20-something American soldier would be conversant with Islamic rituals.

            To disagree with three-fourths of the public is one of the first requisites of sanity.--- the ever-quotable Mr. Wilde

            by baggy on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 10:03:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Haj" in name connotes having made Haj (none)
              Many Muslims have the name "Haj" or "Haji" as part of their name. This was not given to them at birth, it was earned. In the Muslim world, one often adopts a derivation of the word "Haj" in a name after making a pilgrimage to Mecca (called the Haj). Muslims who have made their Haj are highly respected in society. Depending on the country, they may be permitted to wear special clothes, often solid white.

              It is a very, very, very, very, bad idea for our troops to use this term.

              "The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

              by galiel on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 04:13:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Hadji needs constant help from Americans (none)
                I'm sorry.  Apparently, I failed to make it clear that I understood the Islamic context of the word "haji" and was only suggesting a more likely context in which it is being used by young and--frankly--often lightly educated Americans.  In the cartoon series, the hapless character of Hadji usually winds up getting in trouble and has to be rescued by his American friends.

                I don't believe this indicated approval of the use of racial or religious slurs.  And it's certainly not the only bad idea circulating in Iraq.


                from yesterday's LA Times via Body and Soul

                To disagree with three-fourths of the public is one of the first requisites of sanity.--- the ever-quotable Mr. Wilde

                by baggy on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 05:55:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Clarification noted (none)
                  I do think that the effect is more important than arguing over origins, as I think you will agree.

                  I also think that whatever the source, it does not excuse or remove responsibility from the troops, individually as well as collectively, who are using this--and those who stand by as they do and do not stand up and correct them.

                  "The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

                  by galiel on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 08:59:45 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Well (none)
      case in point--for 2 days now, it's advertised that "600 insurgents have been killed in Fallujah"

      and the US/Iraqi army casualty estimates have stayed the same.

      Well, having watched PBS and BBC coverage of Fallujah today, that number is a crock of shit, unless we are just shooting up an empty city for fun.

      The one unit I saw took fire from a school, the day before.  So they set up position near the school the next day.  They then proceeded to mortar it repeatedly, shoot it with smaller and heavier arms, bomb it, etc. for what seemed like hours.  They then moved into the school (it was empty -- they ran across a family still in their home, gave the press some good PR shots).  Mind you, they were not shooting at anything other than a building.

      If that report is at all typical, thousands have died in Fallujah the last couple of days.  There is no way in hell this kind of massive free-fire in a city doesn't kill people.  Even if 90% of Fallujah residents have fled, that's still 30,000 people there to get turned into mince meet.

      The Lancet study did things to purposely be on the conservative side.  In the end of this thing, it is quite likely we will kill a million Iraqis or more.

      (It also interesting to note that, if the reports of Fallujah being completely deserted except for bad guys were true, where are the refugees?  Thats 300,000 displaced, homeless, and getting hungry people.  Not a fucking peep from our press corpse about that).


      Timothy Klein

      by teece on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:56:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wondered about that too (none)
        If 150,000--300,000 fled, where the hell did they go?  Not one refugee camp from all of this?

        What a disgrace.  None of these people ever did anything to us until we decided to start killing them.  What fucking idiots Americans are.

        •  Not to minimize the enormity (none)
          of the disaster in Fallujah, but the number of 300,000 refugees is not outside the realm of possibility.

          Remember that Fallujah is only about 30 miles from Baghdad, and that Baghdad has a population in excess of 4 million. How many Fallujans are likely to have close relatives living in Baghdad? Somewhere near 100%.

          Judging from my experience living in 3rd world cities, I'd say Baghdad should be able to absorb 300,000 refugees fairly easily. If we think back to the first assault on Fallujah back in April, a similar number of people are believed to have fled without having to go live in refugee camps.

          Bushism repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

          by litho on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 07:12:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Does it matter how many "Iraqis" die? (none)
        The truly scary thing is that even the DKos community seems happy to use these labels. I never hear how many "people" get killed or injured (or simply turned into dysfunctional Post-Traumatic Stress victims for the rest of their unfortunate lives), only how many "Americans", "Marines", "insurgents" and "terrorists".

        And the most sickening thing, by far, is the way that the US media has taken to calling insurgents "anti-Iraqi" forces. The only thing which makes me more nauseous is that plenty of viewers seem to accept that label, though it's ethically, factually and logically doubtful.

        Who won the Vietnam war guys? The "Anti-Vietnames" forces?

        "...a concerned neighbour..."

        by thingamabob on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 07:57:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Couple of talking points... (4.00)
    Good comments all the way around on this thread, everyone gets a "4" :-)

    Here's two things that I am sure you all know, but should be kept in mind when you talk or write about this study.  First is that we KNOW that at least 15,000 Iraqi civilians are dead as a result of this war.  It's damn hard to argue with  In fact, as several have pointed out their criteria is so strict that their number is probably a gross underestimate.  One possible example: since they track press reports people who are injured in some kind of attack and later die probably don't make the list.  The press story comes out that says 3 people killed and 10 injured in such and such an incident.  Given the paucity of reporters in Iraq for the job at hand, I would guess that almost never do reporters go around and ask the docs how many of those injured later died, and if they did what news outlet would run it?  So 15,000 (or whatever it is today) is the absolute floor.

    I did not see mentioned in the comments (apologies if I missed one...) that the authors of the study specifically excluded Falujah.  They felt that the higher death rate there would give too high an estimate for the rest of the country.  Evidence, I would say, for the authors trying to be conservative (that is to say "more probably correct.")

    Always sensing that IBC was too low, I was glad this study came out to give a better sense of the "real" casualty rate in our splendid little war.  The sad thing is even when I was saying 25,000 (IBC, plus Iraqi military, plus coalition forces) I could feel from some folks I talked to that that many dead was no big deal.  So much for moral values and the preciousness of every single life.

    Come out to the CrashPad, politcal (and other) commentary with a bit of humor: CrashPad

    by Crash on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:20:46 PM PST

    •  only the unborn (none)
      are precious to the Repugs.
      After that it's Fuck You...

      -no Head Start
      -no Healthcare
      -no Education
      -no Social Security

      Jump out of the womb and you'd better prepare to pull yourself up by your tiny little bootstraps.

  •  I'm glad to see this diary flying high. (none)
    This is a key issue of the day! Of the century!
    The Lancet authors said that they believed 100,000 was a bare minimun absolutely supported by their methods. They said they actually thought the real number was probably twice that.

    Nobody with integrity could deny that the number is somewhere in the tens of thousands. Of INNOCENTS.

    But as many people have cried recently here, to most Americans, these are not deaths of people. These are subhumans. This is not a concern. It's just a statistic.

    I've had several Iraqi families as clients. These are my brothers and sisters being murdered by American imperialism. I think all Americans have deep blood guilt, even those who oppose the war (although perhaps their burden is less). We're all war criminals. Maybe the only way to remove the guilt is to renounce U.S. citizenship. I'm an American immigration lawyer, and I'm seriously considering that fateful step. Oceans of blood! Killed for what?


    So that fat ass Americans can keep driving monster SUVs and deny reality.

    It's as simple as that.


    •  I am not (none)
      I never voted for these felons.  They have nothing to do with my ethics or morals.  Sick fucking freaks is all they are.

      Yeah I'm an American.  I did everything I could to stop this insanity.  I want nothing at all to do with it, God.

      •  Paradox (none)
        I keep arguing an unpopular position: I think all Americans have personal responsibility for the actions of the government. That responsibility is attenuated to the extent one opposed the governmental actions, but it doesn't go away. The only way to make that responsibility go away is to renounce citizenship.

        You and I are both fierce opponents of the Bush regime and the war in Iraq. Great. But we still participate in the American system, still benefit from it, still support it, are still very much parts of it. One cannot just wish responsibility away. It proceeds from action. You and I are free to renounce U.S. citizenship, but we do not.

        This notion of "collective responsibility" has haunted me for many years. If I ever actually become an expat for awhile, that's the one thing I'd want to explore on a blog of my own. There are lots of serious philosophical and theological studies on this key issue.

        •  I agree (none)
          I have been using the same argument to the extend that if their is an economic price, or an international backlash aimed at the US, then we will all pay the price for what is happening
  •  The official wingnuts response: (none)
    So what. How many people did Saddam kill?

    My answer is a simple quote by Seneca that speaks volumes to the levels we've sunk to as a nation:

    It is not goodness to be better than the worst.

    We're not scaremongering, this is really happening

    by Karma Mechanic on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:55:01 PM PST

    •  Which Just Illustrates (none)
      That they have no idea what they are talking about.

      This study is about the differential between pre- and post-Saddam mortality rate in Iraq.

      Thus the 100K figure is an additional 100K dead people above and beyond what that number would be had we not invaded.

      In other words, pretty damning evidence that we have not made life better in Iraq.

      (The only quibble:  the Lancet uses the wrong term -- it does not say 100K excess civilian deaths, the study says 100K excess deaths in total, including people who chose to fight Americans.  But a very significant number of the deaths reported were women and children, so a great (majority) share of the estimated 100K are civilians.)


      Timothy Klein

      by teece on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 10:30:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  All are own our hands (none)
        The ones who died fighting americans would not have died if we had not started this "illegal war". I said we on purpose. I did not believe them, I did not agree with them, but as an american, I am one of them. When the rest of the world hold us accountable  they will not only hold red states accountable. Unless we turn over those actually responcible for these war-crimes we will all be held accountable.
        •  I agree (none)
          Just pointing out a technical quibble.

          A dead human is a dead human, and each is a great tragedy.  Anyone that thinks insurgents or terrorists should be stripped of that humanity (so we don't have to have the inconvenience of a human death on our hands) is a sick puppy.

          But civilian has a specific meaning, and that is not what this study says, so I randomly pointed it out in response to your comment.

          But you are absolutely right:  the blood of every dead Iraqi is on all of our hands.  That is the price one pays for living a democracy.  My government's actions are my actions.  Her sins are my sins.


          Timothy Klein

          by teece on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 11:18:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  As long as we're quibbling technically (none)
            it's probably true that many of the 100,000 were killed by those nasty car bombs that keep going off in civilian areas and near Iraqi police stations.

            My understanding of the Lancet study is the researchers didn't ask who killed their family members, they just asked how many had died.

            The 100,000 figure reflects the increase in the death rate since the invasion, regardless of whether the people were killed by the US, by our puppet army in Baghdad, or by the insurgents.

            In that sense, the US is ultimately responsible for every single one of the deaths, whether or not a US soldier actually killed any of them.

            Bushism repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

            by litho on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 07:26:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for the diary (none)
    thank you for this diary. i've wondered a lot about the plausibility of the lancet survey's numbers and even though this diary didn't explain what the truth about civilian deaths in iraq fully (as it admits and notes is inevitable in statistics), it certainly helped me place the results and statistics in perspective (ie: they're sadly quite possible...)
  •  Americans (none)
    Not concerned with how many Iraqis are dead.  They are, however, more concerned with what two people are doing in the privacy of their lives.  

    Bush supporters are seriously in denial.  How will their God receive them when they ascend for judgement?  Why did you vote for a person who was willingly killing innocents?  How could you let that happen?

    Now with less naivete!

    by lapin on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 10:17:27 PM PST

  •  The Economist (none)
    has reviewed the study.  A link to their article,  I would attempt a summary but at this late hour, I'm too tired to make sense.  I do have a copy of the article I can email anyone who does not want to register with the Economist site.  
    •  Excerpt from the Economist ... (none)
      This concern is highlighted by the case of one cluster which, as the luck of the draw had it, ended up being in the war-torn city of Fallujah. This cluster had many more deaths, and many more violent deaths, than any of the others. For this reason, the researchers omitted it from their analysis--the estimate of 98,000 was made without including the Fallujah data. If it had been included, that estimate would have been significantly higher.

      The Fallujah data-point highlights how the variable distribution of deaths in a war can make it difficult to make estimates. But Scott Zeger, the head of the department of biostatistics at Johns Hopkins, who performed the statistical analysis in the study, points out that clustered sampling is the rule rather than the exception in public-health studies, and that the patterns of deaths caused by epidemics are also very variable by location. ...

      The study is not perfect. But then it does not claim to be. The way forward is to duplicate the Lancet study independently, and at a larger scale. Josef Stalin once claimed that a single death is a tragedy, but a million deaths a mere statistic. Such cynicism should not be allowed to prevail, especially in a conflict in which many more lives are at stake. Iraq seems to be a case where more statistics are sorely needed.

      How about slipping a couple million of that unspent rebuilding money out of Halliburton's claws and into one of those duplicate studies, carried independently by, say, the Red Crescent?  

      Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

      by Meteor Blades on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:06:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Recommended (none)
    1300 coalition troops, how many "security contractors"? 5000? Iraqi troops and police killed by insurgents and terrorists,  100,000 civilian "collateral", how many well meaning and war profiteering foreigners?, is this just the beginning?

    I always opposed this misbegotten war!

    Can't stop now.; an oasis of truth.

    by Shockwave on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 10:43:39 PM PST

  •  How about the number "a lot"? n/t (none)
    No, really, no text. Honest.

    (switch ve-riz-on and ace-pumpk-in and remove dashes.)

    by Ace Pumpkin on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:23:43 AM PST

  •  It's subjective but... (none)
    ...l did a  quick guestimate experiment.  The invasion lasted about one month. The drive from Kuwait to Baghdad.  Suppose the invasion force killed off about 600 Iraqis per day.  Say half civilian half Iraqi troops.

    An average 10 civilian dead in 30 cities per day.  This is a pretty low figure for the intensity of the conflict.

    An Average of 300 dead soldiers per day? does that seem resonable?

    In that month we had about 18,000 dead Iraqis as a base line in midspring.  Lancet was pretty accurate.

  •  Lancet looks pretty solid. (none)
    One could also look at comparable invasions using Blitzkrieg methods.  For instance what sort of casualties did France have in 1940? How many Panamanians died in 1989?  I reckon there are certainly 50,000 and  the Lancet figure seems quite plausible.
  •  Crazy stuff really. (4.00)
    Also the foreign fighter's issue is a laughable.  Yep: there are 150,000 of them dang foreign fighters and they are American and British.  
  •  More than 1, less than 100,000...? (none)
    Let's say that Hussein had had WMDs after all. And let's say that, theoretically, we had sent in a small, undercover assassination team to take out Hussein and a few of his top staff, and the whole thing had ended up with a net loss of, say, 1-2 of the hit squad, 6-7 of Hussein's leadership (including him and his sons), and a cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars. Let us further say that this was enough to cause the populace to rise up against the Baathists and take out the rest of the regime, leading to freedom & democracy for all. Finally, let's say that another 5-6 innocent civilians died in the process.

    Would it have been "worth" the dozen or so lives lost total in that instance?

    Of course, that's an insanely optimistic scenario, and, more to the point, it didn't work out anywhere like that in reality.

    Now, the lowest number of civilian deaths I've read of ranges from 10,000-20,000, and the highest is in the neighborhood of 100,000 or so. We may never know the exact number, and whatever that number is, it's only getting higher & higher every day.

    Seeing how about 3,000 of our civilians were killed on 9/11, I suppose, to the most rediculous mindset, one could "argue" that we're "allowed" to kill up to 3,000 "enemy" civilians to "get even". Except, of course, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Presumably we "evened the toll" during the Afghani campaign--anyone have a clue what the civilian death toll was from there?

    I'm being facetious, of course. Killing 3,000 or even 30 innocents in the name of "getting even" still leaves you with a bunch of dead people regardless of whether it's called "collateral damage", "friendly fire" or "mass murder". Their families--assuming that they weren't killed as well--aren't going to be particularly forgiving of those who killed their kin no matter how "justified" or "inadvertant" it was (of course, opening fire and wiping out an entire wedding party is awfully difficult to "justify", and we've done that at least twice now).

    So, where should the line be drawn? How many deaths does it take to outweigh the "prize" of democracy...even assuming that democracy is the end result anyway? Presumably it's somewhere between 1 and 100,000. Wherever that line is, though, it's become clear that we went over it quite awhile ago, and are now so far past the line that, as Joey Tribbiani would put it, "we can't even SEE the line anymore--the line is a dot to us!"

    •  I think you missed the point of the Lancet article (none)
      The analysis didn't say it was between 1 and 100,00.  It essentially said it was between 1 and 200,000 with 100,000 being the most likely.  This leaves out Fallugah.
      •  Even the number 1 is bad... (none)
        The way the study was structured, if the invasion had a positive effect, this number would have been negative.  That is if we had been killing civilians at a rate less than Saddam was, the number would have been negative.  The fact that the lowest number is positive means that we have killed more civilians during the conflict than Saddam would have killed had he been left in power.
      •  No offense, but I think... (none)
        ...that you're missing my point, which is that it's certainly more than "a handful" and that once you get beyond a certain point any good which might theoretically have come out of those deaths is far outweighed by the massive amount of evil.

        Not to mention that it doesn't look like any good has come out of all of this so far anyway.

        Which is pretty much the larger point that we're all making, I believe.

  •  Live from Baghdad (none)
    Riverbend is blogging again, despite the spotty electricity.  Her most recent posts are just ... devastating.

    People in Falloojeh are being murdered. The stories coming back are horrifying. People being shot in cold blood in the streets and being buried under tons of concrete and iron... where is the world? Bury Arafat and hurry up and pay attention to what's happening in Iraq.

    They say the people have nothing to eat. No produce is going into the city and the water has been cut off for days and days. Do you know what it's like to have no clean water??? People are drinking contaminated water and coming down with diarrhoea and other diseases. There are corpses in the street because no one can risk leaving their home to bury people. Families are burying children and parents in the gardens of their homes. WHERE IS EVERYONE???

    Furthermore, where is Sistani? Why isn't he saying anything about the situation? When the South was being attacked, Sunni clerics everywhere decried the attacks. Where is Sistani now, when people are looking to him for some reaction? The silence is deafening.

    We're not leaving the house lately. There was a total of 8 hours of electricity today and we've been using the generator sparingly because there is a mysterious fuel shortage... several explosions were heard in different places.

    Things are deteriorating swiftly.

    More on Falloojeh crisis here:

    Aid agencies say Falluja "big disaster"...

    Eyewitness: Smoke and Corpses...

    Iraqis will never forgive this- never. It's outrageous- it's genocide and America, with the help and support of Allawi, is responsible. May whoever contributes to this see the sorrow, terror and misery of the people suffering in Falloojeh.

    It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living.-- Simone de Beauvoir

    by SimoneDB on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 07:51:20 AM PST

  •  A related article (none)
    You will be interested to read this article by a Syracuse columnist.

    Iraq civilian casualty estimate explosive topic by Sean Kirst


    Roberts, who's done similar studies in Africa, acknowledges that his team didn't do "a body count." But he expresses faith in what he says is a well-accepted research method.

    "We rely on statistical sampling for virtually everything we know in medicine and public health," said Roberts, 43, a graduate of Westhill High School who still lives in Central New York.

    He said the results were based on detailed, face-to-face interviews at 1,000 households in 33 neighborhood "clusters" across Iraq, a process that sounds far easier than it was. Roberts got into Iraq by hiding in the back seat of a vehicle whose nervous driver smuggled him across the Jordanian border.

    In Baghdad, Roberts sought out an Iraqi professor, an old friend who warned him about rampant hatred of all things American. To protect himself, Roberts dyed his hair a darker color. Once the researchers working under him learned how to do the study, Roberts assembled data in a Baghdad hotel room - where he stacked furniture against the door to ward off any kidnapping attempt.

    Have a great day.  Iddy

  •  Good call, MB (none)
    People are statistically illiterate. Attacking the 100.000 figure because of the huge margin of error is fine, but people forget one thing. It can as well means that the real figure is 180.000 than it is the roughly 20.000 Iraq Body Count will get when Fallujah and Mosul recent shitstorms are included. I still have to see one pundit considering the 180.000 figure, but all are saying the margins are so big the result is wrong and is obviously close to 20.000. Bullshit.

    Then there are some tricks in the study itself that would tend to indeed confirm the 100.000 result is high but not unplausible, and here is a good article about it. The end result would have been something like a mean of 200.000 and not 100.000, had Fallujah been included. It has been put away, but the result is that the current study doesn't include Najaf and Al-Anbar province (Ramadi, Fallujah), so many places who experienced the worst post-invasion fighting are just excluded. On the other hand, the study does what I would consider a mistake in including a purely Kurdish area in it. There hasn't been any fighting there, and for all one can see, Kurdistan shouldn't be put on the same level as the Sunni Arab and Shia areas of Iraq in any assessment. So, all in all, I personally would assume that the total estimate is lower than the reality on the ground because the end sample may well not be really representative of the mess in Iraq. Then of course, it also means that the estimation shouldn't be based on the entire Iraqi population, but on the 80% living outside Kurdistan.

    What is also telling is that they find a higher death rate than before the invasion, which in itself is a major indictment of Bush' war. The argument that "Saddam kills his own people" should mean that a US-occupied Iraq should have a lower death rate. When you take into consideration that other fact that the 2002 death rate was already higher than it should be by tens of thousands because of the severe sanctions, which have been lifted now, you can have a clearer view of how fucked up and bloody the situation there really is.

    As far as I'm concerned, I go out on a limb with all those that can't see how the toll is lower than 50.000. Probably between 50 and 100.000, and possibly higher. And don't ask me for the highest figure, I have no clue at all, but wouldn't have trouble to put it as high as 400.000 (keep in mind it's the highest possible and I don't really think it's that high as long as I haven't more serious evidences coming in)

    Americans placed the stamp of approval on the least justifiable military action since Hitler invaded Poland. Paul Roberts

    by Clueless Joe on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 12:10:12 PM PST

  •  it's all in how it's presented (none)
    If I said about 0.4% of the population of Iraq died as a result of the invasion, would any of the critics of the Lancet study bat an eye? How about if I said only one out of 250 people died.  Try this, assume a household is 5 people.  One out of 50 households in Iraq suffer a loss of 1 person.  No big deal, right?  

    The problem is...that's how EASY it is to kill 100,000 people out of a population of 25 million.  

    I can hear Rumsfeld now, "Hey, only 4 out of 1000! wow, super! Only losers and thugs couldn't appreciate how swell we are!"

    Why is anyone shocked? Why was I?  Because I didn't realize how easy it was to kill so many people.

    I don't doubt the total is in excess of 100,000. It seems entirely plausible to me.

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