Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Wait, this still isn't a victory, right?
January 10, 2008 10:22 AM   Subscribe

A new report authored by WHO and Iraqi officials suggests a lower violence-related death count - 151000 - than previous studies, notably that of the Lancet [pdf] where over 650000 were reported to have died. Previously on metafilter. For previous studies, the timing has not been a coincidence.
posted by YouRebelScum (75 comments total)

 
I'll be interested to see what the experts have to say.

Either way, its hardly an endorsement of Bush's War.
posted by sotonohito at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2008


This can mean only one thing.

We must invade Iran.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


That's funny, because for what the war was advertised as before (and while) it started, even 151,000 just makes me feel absolutely sickened and stupefied.
posted by hermitosis at 10:32 AM on January 10, 2008


Wait, is 151,000 still > 3000?
posted by butterstick at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2008


Only 151,000? Only a quarter million Iraqi's maimed and injured? Only 2 million Iraqi's displaced from their homes? Only 4200 American casualties? Only 50,000 American kids severely disfigured? And only a trillion dollars gone? Only a decade projected military presence in the country minimum?

This war is looking like more of a deal everyday.
posted by tkchrist at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2008 [12 favorites]


1) Slamdunk, we know right where the WMDs are.
2) Turning the corner.
3) Deadenders.
4) When they stand up.
5) If we shoot faster in a "surge", maybe we can push them back.
6) Not as many needless dead as previously reported.

And we continue to lower expectations to meet the goals.
posted by DU at 10:43 AM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Only 151, 000! I feel much better now.
posted by zorro astor at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2008


So basically what you're saying is that instead of going to war, and spending $1 trillion dollars:

the United States of America could have just paid 150,000 Iraqi's $6.6 million EACH to kill themselves.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:46 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..................................................
..........

* 100


I'm going to be thinking about that today. Probably the rest of the week.
posted by cog_nate at 10:47 AM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well sure, everything looks better if you stick an 'Only' in front of it.

I only got shot three times.

I only ate five lightbulbs worth of powered glass.

We only have five days left to live.

See? Way better than the alternative.
posted by quin at 10:49 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


The entire population of Tallahassee, Florida, is 159,012.

You could replace every man, woman and child living in my town with Iraqi dead, and still have bodies to spare.

.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


well. okay. i guess my math was wrong. but then, in this case, the math just is wrong.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:53 AM on January 10, 2008


Easy on the outrage folks, after all, these are 150,000 or more ARABS (mostly) vs like 4200 people.
posted by Mister_A at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


For previous studies, the timing has not been a coincidence.
posted by YouRebelScum

But for this one, coming just in time for Bush's Big Mid-East Adventure, and co-conducted by an instrumentality of an Iraqi government completely under the thumb of the US occupation, it's purely coincidental-- not to mention irreproachably valid.
posted by jamjam at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2008


sotonohito: I'll be interested to see what the experts have to say.

That is what the experts say (or am I missing the sarcasm?). Well, some of them anyway. Notably, they themselves (*) believe it is a low estimate.

(*) Ok, I hate the term.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2008


And no, this is still not a victory in any sense of the word with which I am familiar.
posted by Mister_A at 11:00 AM on January 10, 2008


I like how expectations have been lowered to the point where Iraqs current state is "peace" and this is a low number.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on January 10, 2008


This war is looking like more of a deal everyday.

But wait, there's more! Call now and we'll throw in bloodthirsty mercenaries who are beyond the reach of the law, the mysterious disappearance of billions of dollars in cash, torture, and a spineless US media for free! Well, free for the oligarchs. It'll cost the plebs.

Now how much would you pay? Operators are standing by!
posted by lord_wolf at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because I am unfamiliar with the calculus of war that uses civilian casualties as the benchmark of success.
posted by Mister_A at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2008


Bovine Love Sorry, should have been more specific. I mean I'm interested in what the people who did the initial Lancett study have to say. Do they think the new study is more accurate than theirs? If so, what do they think they did wrong? If not, what about the new study do they think is wrong? Either way, what will the majority opinion of the experts wind up being?

Two studies of the same event have produced two rather profoundly different results. One has to be wrong. The question, of course, is which one? And I'm completely not qualified to judge that question, so I'm wondering, in a month or so, when the experts in this field have had a chance to look over the new study (and the old one in light of the new), what the verdict will be.

Either way, it shows two things. The first is that the Bush administration's "estimate" [1] is precicely the politically motivated schlock we expected. The second, is that to this day we still don't have an actual number of civilian fatalities, which is a rather frightening thought.

It also shows, of course, that Bush's paranoid delusions have killed so many people that "mass murderer" is no longer a valid term, he's entered "attempted genocide" territory.

[1] Put in scare quotes because the Bush administration specifically instructed the military not to make any attempt to count civilian casualties.
posted by sotonohito at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2008


Get with the program, sotonohito. Any Iraqi who winds up dead as a result of U.S. military action is, by definition, an "insurgent."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2008


"paranoid delusions "

?

This war was never about WMDs or even paranoia.

Saddam was something of a bad actor in the region, and the US had managed to almost completely isolate him from world intervention (unlike Qaddafi whom we agreed to rehabilitate).

In the run-up to war, it looked entirely possible -- a no-brainer, really -- to push aside the Baathists, install Chalabi and his secular INC Shia, gain strategic access to the oilfield biz, and produce a long-running economic success story.

Consideration of the possible realization of this pipedream is one of the reasons why the vast majority of our craven Congresspeople failed to vote against in the authorization to use military force . . . the Authorization was going to pass regardless of the number of DemocRAT no/abstain votes (the other reason being a No vote was obstructionism to the President's Glorious Plan that the Republicans could run on in the ensuing elections).

Going in was a no-brainer, but only so because anyone with half a brain knows the occupation is the tricky business, cf. SVN, 1965-1973.

But the decision to go in wasn't paranoid, or a delusion. Just a mistake, one that I could see largely thanks to having read Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie" in the 90s.
posted by panamax at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


well. okay. i guess my math was wrong. but then, in this case, the math just is wrong.

Karl Rove? Is that you?
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on January 10, 2008


Because I am unfamiliar with the calculus of war that uses civilian casualties as the benchmark of success.
posted by Mister_A at 1:06 PM on January 10 [+] [!]

Are you familiar with the calculus of war that uses civilian casualties as the benchmark of failure? I bet you do.
posted by rockhopper at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2008


sotonohito, ah, I see. At an academic/intellectual level, I too would be interested the reasons behind the discrepancy. Both studies seem reasonably honest about their limitations, so maybe it isn't so hard to determine why they are different, but it certainly still remains hard to determine what methodology could get you closer to the truth.

But, more shockingly (to me), I am not sure it even matters. On a gut level, it doesn't seem to matter to me if it is 150,000 or 600,000. Once you get into numbers like that it so far exceeds the imagination (and tolerance) that it might not matter. In reality, can you ever figure that 150,000 is less then 600,000 when it comes to war causalities? It seems to me that both just fall into "too many" and I have become disconnected at that level; at some point the number is just abstract. And maybe that is a good measure of how bad things are; when so many are dead, and bombings and death squads are so prevalent that it all starts to be come abstract, then things truly have hit a very bad point.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:52 AM on January 10, 2008


Not to pick nits, but the study also addresses the estimate of 47 thousand dead from Iraq Body Count (now up to 80,000 or more). Obviously this latest study gives a much higher estimate than that previous study.
posted by TedW at 11:59 AM on January 10, 2008


rockhopper: what?
posted by Mister_A at 11:59 AM on January 10, 2008


It also shows, of course, that Bush's paranoid delusions have killed so many people that "mass murderer" is no longer a valid term, he's entered "attempted genocide" territory.

Nah, "murder" and "genocide" imply intent, but I doubt the warmongers ever sat down and said "Let's kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians!". No, they just didn't care. This is more like criminal negligence, but on a genocidal scale. Maybe call it neglicide.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


panamax: I should have said "pretense of paranoid delusions". While I'm sure that you are correct about the true motives for the war [1], the official rationalle was that the evil Saddam Hussain had Weapons of Mass Destruction [2]. Far as I'm concerned we shoulda impeached Bush and Cheney as soon as they officially ackowledged that there were no WMD in Iraq.

They swore up and down that was the reason. Remember the bit about "a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud"? Remember when they used Colin Powell's reputation as a straight shooter [3] to tell the UN that there really were super duper bad WMD in Iraq? Remember when they got on national television to tell us about the dread yellowcake uranium?

Of course I'm sure that they knew they were BSing us when they said all that. But if we can't hold them accountble for what they're actually on public record as saying, what can we hold them accountable for?

[1] Especially given the fact that many neocons had been pushing for a second Iraq war for over a decade at the time Bush's War got started.

hoverboards "neglicide".... That has got to be the most horrible, and simultaniously most darkly amusing, term I've encountered in a long time. And, of course, you are quite right, no one deliberately set out to kill a bunch of Iraqi civilians. But I figure that when the bodycount passes 1,000 "neglance" doesn't quite cover it anymore.

[2] A delightfully vague term.

[3] Who, for some reason that seems completely inexplicable to me, had a reputation for honsety. How a person involved in the coverup of the Mai-Lai 4 massacre got a reputation for honsty beats me....
posted by sotonohito at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2008


One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.

So the trick is to kill enough people that your populace's eyes glaze over and they don't care anymore. Good job GWB!
posted by Justinian at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2008


They point out in the paper a plausible 50% underreporting. Given the fear of reprisals there now, that's not surprising at all.

I remember that scene from Ghandi where he tells the hindu rebel "I know a way out of Hell," and tells him to atone for his killing of a muslim child by adopting a muslim orphan and raising him as a muslim. I wonder what the way out of Hell for GWB is.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2008


I wonder what the way out of Hell for GWB is.

The Crawford Texas Ranch for Iraqi Orphans?

Nah, probably not even enough to get him into purgatory.
posted by SBMike at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2008


Justinian I think you meant: "Heck of a job GWB!"
posted by sotonohito at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2008


Mission Accomplished! Again!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2008


I was listening to a piece on the BBC World Service about this last night. Plenty of the Iraqis doing the surveys were kidnapped and I think a couple were killed.

Sohonito: one difference is that this survey was of 9,000 families rather 1,800 for the Lancet report (from the BBC report)
posted by patricio at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2008


sotonohito: I mean I'm interested in what the people who did the initial Lancett study have to say.

The people who did the Lancet study feel that the new study has one fatal design flaw and one major evidentiary flaw:

First, the questions were asked by government officials. The Lancet researchers felt that this biases people to play safe and tell the researchers what they want to hear. (Or men with guns might show up to make them a statistic.)

Second, the Lancet study is said to be backed by death certificates. They claim this one is verbal report only.
posted by lodurr at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2008


the official rationalle was that the evil Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction

Actually, you won't find that in the AUMF of 2002. And in strictly geopolitical terms it was quite a good idea to kick in the Hussein regime and put in the secular Shia, as I for one have no great faith that Saddam could or should have been rehabilited like our pal in Tripoli has been.

I knew long term going in wasn't going to be as easy as it was being sold, but I also had no expectations that an unboxed Saddam & Sons regime was going to be a long term success, either.

9/11 gave our regime a golden opportunity to lance this festering boil, and they went with it. Had they been at all competent in the occupation, the costs involved to us and the Iraqis might be entirely a net good, considering how life under Saddam wasn't that hot and the geopolitical support he was giving to the enemies of Israel.
posted by panamax at 1:32 PM on January 10, 2008


... neglicide

Just wanted to repeat that. It's the most apt coinage I've heard ... well, today. Depressing, too.
posted by lodurr at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2008


panamax Nonsense. It was a terrible idea from a geopolitical standpoint, as evidenced by the fact that the "secular Shia" either don't exist, or can't keep things together. And I rather doubt they could have done so even if Bush hadn't been a colossal screw up.

Hussain was a contained threat. From a geopolitical standpoint he was a non-entity. Being purely, coldly, pragmatic, spending close to a trillion dollars to destabalize a formerly stable, and contained, threat was purely stupid. You can't count on installing the puppet government of your choice, especially in the mid-east; have you forgotten that its thanks to the CIA's meddling that we have the fundamentalist government in Iran that we do today?

Yes, it was shitty for the people living under his brutal rule, but its hardly as if their "liberation" has improved life for them, you know? They went from being brutalized by Hussain's secret police, to being brutalized by dozens of rival militias, al Qaeda [1], Blackwater and other US mercenaries, etc. For women, especially, life has not merely gotten worse after the "liberation", its gotten worse by several orders of magnitude. Under Hussain women wore normal clothing, attended school (including university), etc. Now, under the wonderful "liberation", women are terrified to leave their homes, murdered or tortured if they don't wear obscuring veils, and are largely driven out of all schools.

From both standpoints: the cold realpolitik standpoint and the sympathy for the victims of Hussain standpoint, we would have been vastly better off without Bush's War.

The "poorly executed, but basically a good idea" meme is, from my POV total rubbish. It was a terrible idea, and a combintion of Napolion, Alexander the Great, and Gingis Khan couldn't have pulled it off.

And, even if we accept that the basic idea was good, and that sufficiently skilled people could have pulled it off, it still doesn't make sense. There was no threat from Iraq. None. Zilch. Zero. They don't even have that much oil. It was a pointless waste of political resources. The USA could have tried to use its brief bit of unity to lean on Israel and force them to make the necessary concessions to end the Palistine problem, a truly festering boil and one which does present a threat to the US. We could even have tried leaning on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, respectively the main source of terrorist bombers and a massive atomic threat. But no. Instead they waged war on Saddam Hussain who was, at the time, a spent force, and a holder of no power at all.

[1] And there's a success story: prior to Bush's War al Qaeda had no real presence in Iraq, today they're a major player.
posted by sotonohito at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well look on the bright side, at least with 35.5 Iraqi deaths per American death, we're getting a pretty good bang for our buck.

The next time you question your self-worth, just cheer up and think, "Well hey, I'm worth 35.5 Iraqis!"
posted by baphomet at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm just going by the titles, but the previous paper (which I did read at the time) aimed to measure excess deaths whereas this more recent paper (I haven't read yet) is looking at deaths due to violence. Given one is a more specific measure, it makes sense that they came up with a smaller estimate (along with the usual caveat about the heaping helping of uncertainty that goes in to coming up with any of these estimates). My impression of the previous paper is that it wanted to get at both the direct and indirect consequences the war had on mortality.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:09 PM on January 10, 2008


A few things: first, this measures the deaths until June 2006, so it misses a year and a half of the current deaths. "So because of its timing, the study missed the period of what is believed to be the worst sectarian killings, during the latter half of 2006 and the first eight months of 2007." (NYTimes)

Second, it skipped about 11% of the data required, all from the places with the worst violence, because researchers were to scared to visit. "Because of the insecurity, 115 (11%) of the clusters could not be visited - mostly in Anbar and Baghdad - so calculations were made to account for the probable number of deaths in those places." (Guardian)

Third, this study doesn't alter the total mortality as much as it seems: rather, the overall reduction comes because the Iraq Health Ministry is now giving different figures for pre-invasion mortality than it once did. Since the 151,000 or 601,000 figures are intended to measure the difference in mortality due to invasion, if the Iraqi officials change the base mortality, the delta goes down. "The health ministry admitted in the new paper that its figures before the invasion were too low, he said, which had also led to insufficient adjustment." (Guardian)

Fourth, all studies of this sort assume underreporting because the violent death of a family member often causes a household to dissolve. However, the rates at which this underreporting is estimated (62%) depends on an otherwise stable population. Given the large emigration, it's quite possible that there's a higher rate of underreporting since households suffering mortalities are also more likely to have completely left the country. "The application of the growth balance method, with the use of the age distribution of deaths in the population obtained from the household roster, indicates that the level of completeness in the reporting of death was 62%. However, this estimation needs to be interpreted with caution, since a basic assumption of the method — a stable population — is violated in Iraq." (New England Journal of Medicine)

As everyone has said, this is simply an extension of the methods used by Burnham's team, using a larger, later sample. The Hopkins team agreed that more surveys were needed, and this study has a much smaller margin of error due to its larger sample size. But the other factors should also be considered.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:22 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Only 151,000 dead people? That's not nearly enough.

That's only 50 9/11s. That's not nearly enough, considering how uncontrollably evil all Iraqis are. It's true, I've read that they eat babies!!!! Kill 'em all, AM I RITE?
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2008


“You could replace every man, woman and child living in my town with Iraqi dead, and still have bodies to spare.”

See? There is an upside.

“From both standpoints: the cold realpolitik standpoint and the sympathy for the victims of Hussain standpoint, we would have been vastly better off without Bush's War.”

Excepting that it’s solely Bush’s war - seconded.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2008


panamax: Had they been at all competent in the occupation, the costs involved to us and the Iraqis might be entirely a net good

I'm ashamed to say that this was my view before the war started. You should be ashamed that it's your view now.

It has become clear that the only moral way to evaluate whether military action is justified (given that we aren't pacifists who would likely say it is never justified) is to assume that the military action will be handled with incompetence by your political leaders and to then ask yourself if it is still worth doing. If it isn't worth doing if your leaders are incompetent, don't do it.

America being invaded by a genocidal foreign power? Clearly worth fighting even if you assume Bush would react incompetently. Which he would. Iraq? No fucking way.

If your rationale for military action requires competence among the political leadership of your country, you are probably advocating evil.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


Actually, you won't find that in the AUMF of 2002.

Actually, you will:
Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;
A delightfully vague term.

And a deliberately vague one. Nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) weapons was the more precise term, but "WMD" lets you blur the distinctions. The Wikipedia article is pretty good.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2008


From now on let us only refer to the Iraq War as "Bush's Deadly Fiasco in Iraq."

If we are gong to start or spin a meme a may as well be an accurate one that does some good.
posted by tkchrist at 3:04 PM on January 10, 2008


Even Bush said it was higher than that number.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2008


tkchrist writes "If we are gong to start or spin a meme a may as well be an accurate one that does some good."

Then how about "The Iraq Armed Robbery Gone Terribly Wrong"?
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on January 10, 2008


The Iraq Armed Robbery Gone Terribly Wrong

That's pretty good. But I'd rather fix the blame on the guy who was in charge than the guys getting shot at. Howz about "Bush's Armed Robbery of Iraq Gone Horribly Wrong."
posted by tkchrist at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2008


kirkaracha: the language we're using now is vague.

The AUMF does not make reference to a present threat, just a demonstrated capability.

They were very clever about this.

anotherpanacea thanks for identifying the flawed methodology with this study

sotonohito fwiw, I didn't think the clear risks were worth the possible rewards in 2003. However, the events of the 1930s, as filtered through Churchill's wonderfully self-serving "Gathering Storm" volume of his WW2 history, should make one reflect on the possibility that the act of refusing a little warmongering opportunities can produce entirely preventable, and humongously costly, situations down the road.

I don't think Hussein was a Hitler, but he was certainly making great efforts to be a burr under our saddle. State Sovereignity is an important consideration for the US to follow, and in 2003 I felt that we should only go in with the full sign-off of the UNSC. That we only got the UK, Spain, and Italy . . . (and Poland, don't want to forget them of course) . . . was an indication that Bush was embarking on a very hazardous, both militarily and morally, road.

tkchrist

I think OIF is more like a Hostile Takeover.
posted by panamax at 3:28 PM on January 10, 2008


The Lancet's Political Hit

Les Roberts replies to WSJ editorial
posted by homunculus at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2008


In February 2003, France, Germany, and Russia proposed reinforced inspections with timelines and consequences. President Bush rejected them. Then just before the invasion he certified that "further diplomatic and other peaceful means" wouldn't protect the US or enforce the UN resolutions. How could he claim that without trying the reinforced inspections?

The AUMF does not make reference to a present threat, just a demonstrated capability

Isn't "the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States" a (false) assertion that Iraq actually had weapons at the time?
posted by kirkaracha at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2008


kirkaracha, in context, with my edit in [ ]s:

"Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those [class of] weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States "

seems the correct reading. They're not referring to current weapons, just the demonstrated capability of the Hussein Regime use WMDs as a class of weapons. 'Course, we were selling them to him at the time, so we had excellent knowledge of his capabilities in this area.

I agree that Bush blowing off the UN, UNMOVIC, and Blix like he did was a silly and impeachable move given our treaty obligations and the wording itself of the AUMF.
posted by panamax at 5:31 PM on January 10, 2008


panamax writes "I agree that Bush blowing off the UN, UNMOVIC, and Blix like he did was a silly and impeachable move given our treaty obligations and the wording itself of the AUMF."

I wonder if, on the day of the invasion, they were playing 'Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta' in the White House.

Nah, they're not that cool. They were probably listening to Wagner.
posted by mullingitover at 5:49 PM on January 10, 2008


The leader is ultimately responsible, but as elections draw nigh and you watch your news, remember this when you consider the blame.

The journalists happily parroted the government line. Congress heartily endorsed the war. The intelligence community stood mute. The military quietly prepared; a few thought it poorly thought out and were fired, the others ignored their fallen comrades. The american people staying quietly in their homes and lapped it up. Few asked any questions about the "facts".

Contemplate the complicity that allowed this to happen. All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to sit idly by and do nothing. And many went one further then doing nothing, they endorsed it.

Sure they were all lied to, but oddly enough an awful lot of the world seen through the lies or -- at least -- questioned the veracity of them and decided questionable facts were a poor basis for a war.

So next time you blame bush, look at your news network, look at your congressman, look at your senator, look at yourself.
posted by Bovine Love at 6:37 PM on January 10, 2008


Is there an acceptable level of civilian casualties? If we were to discover that the 151,000 figure were vastly overstated, and that only 50,000 civilians were killed, is there anyone on this thread who would not complain that 50,000 were still unacceptable?

I am more interested in learning the reasons for the discrepancy. More a matter of figuring out who can provided credible facts upon which to base conclusions and policy, I think.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:50 PM on January 10, 2008


There was a discussion of this on today's NPR show Talk of the Nation.

It was a fairly interesting discussion - in particular, Les Robert's (one of the lead researchers on the Lancet study) comments on the differences and commonalities between the two sampling studies was enlightening. The key difference, it turns out, results from whether the "excess deaths" in Iraq in the years following the invasion are ascribed to violence (shootings, bombings, etc) or to non-violent causes. He thought the discrepancies would be easy to resolve by investigating the records kept at Iraqi cemeteries which typically record the cause of death =.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the time was given to Neil Munro, who wrote a scatter shot critique of the Lancet study in the National Journal (and who comes across - to me - as very sour and prissy) and Sarah Sewell. Sewell was one of the more interesting figures in the talk, not because she helped elucidate the issues but because of her attitude and her current place in the political scene... director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, she was also a former defense department official who wrote co-sponsored a "doctrine revision workshop" at Fort Leavenworth that prepared the Army and Marines' new counterinsurgency warfighting Field Manual. And is a key adviser to the Obama campaign. I was so astounded by her attitude I had to dig up her bio, and eventually found this Nation article from last fall discussing her role in helping to devise current pentagon counter-insurgency doctrine.
posted by Auden at 8:03 PM on January 10, 2008


the flawed methodology with this study

Just to be clear: the methodology isn't flawed, per se. In fact, it's the exact same methodology used by the Lancet study (the team out of Johns Hopkins), which is the only viable methodology one can apply to a problem like this. Some of the assumptions that go into the study are different, for instance the guesses they had to make to fill in for the Anbar data, or the pre-invasion mortality data which was 'corrected' by the Iraqi government to arrive at this result, but the rest is just because the two studies got different data.

I'm not sure if the correction was scientific or political, but then, the World Health Organization can't know either: the new study does say that the new data correlated with self-reporting in the households, so that's something, but is also says that recall bias likely reduced pre-invasion reporting 60%, since at this point you're likely to forget that you uncle Joe died of a heart-attack in 2000 when things were calmer.

Remember that the Lancet study had an enormous margin of error: 392,979 to 942,636 vs. the current projection of 104,000 to 223,000. If the true number of deaths was, say, 300,000, it's possible that some of the extraneous factors around the continuing violence could account for these big swings in the data gathered during different periods. Probably not all of it, though: "to reach the 925 violent deaths per day reported by Burnham et al. for June 2005 through June 2006, as many as 87% of violent deaths would have been missed in the IFHS and more than 90% in the Iraq Body Count." It's hard to know how that should be read, but I do sometimes worry about the falsifications at the interview level: the 98% response rate issues that the National Journal points to.

As more data comes in, we're going to see all these projections getting closer together, that is, so long as the science doesn't get politicized beyond recognition, as the Wall Street Journal is trying to do. Les Roberts says it just right: "A certain number of Iraqis died because of the invasion. We reported the death rate went up 2.5 fold, the Iraqi government now claims that it only doubled."

These are interesting statistical questions, but the moral and political question is actually much harder: how many deaths would be too many? Is the war justified if 'only' 104,000 people died because of it? People die anyway, right? I'm willing to say that the deaths of 500 strangers make the war worthwhile, but I waver at 5,000. 50,000 seems like way too many to me, but then you think of a number like 500,000 and my eyes glaze over and I go back to the truisms: "People die." What's the calculus for that?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:00 PM on January 10, 2008


panamax wrote: Had they been at all competent in the occupation, the costs involved to us and the Iraqis might be entirely a net good

A venture capitalist I know once told me "I've never seen a business plan that calls for failure."

The fact of the matter is that when you're evaluating plans you have to assume that the shit will hit the fan. Double the costs, half the sales, does it still make a profit? How sensitive is the plan to outside forces, and is there an intelligent plan to mitigate those forces?

The Iraq War is the military equivalent of Pets.com. Some bullheaded partisans will always claim that "it could have worked", but reality-based folks will clearly see that it was a bad plan from the start, one whose success depended on a string of purely positive events.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tacos Are Pretty Great writes "The Iraq War is the military equivalent of Pets.com. Some bullheaded partisans will always claim that 'it could have worked', but reality-based folks will clearly see that it was a bad plan from the start, one whose success depended on a string of purely positive events."

This is pretty surprising. You'd think that with Bush's hugely successful track record in business, he'd have had better instincts.
posted by mullingitover at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


“Some bullheaded partisans will always claim that "it could have worked",”

Well, the hell of it is, it did work. The military forces of Iraq were pretty easily pushed over. Hussein was captured and deposed. Of course, those weren’t the actual victory conditions. So it’s not just about going in. Much like diving to deeper depth isn’t that hard. Surviving the ascent without getting bent - whole other thing.
(Also another ‘non-torture’ torture technique, shoving someone into a recompression chamber). So - it could have worked given that the entire plan was radically different. And of course merely being possible in execution doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do. Never saw the urgency to get rid of Hussein anyway (barring his imminent use of WMDs, which, y’know, was bullshit). But laying this all at Bush’s feet? Nah. Cheney’s the big pusher. Not to mention the whole cabal of oil and war profiteers salivating for this years before the invasion.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on January 11, 2008


Iraq's Insurgents Are Ordinary People: A new film delves inside Iraqis' reasons for getting involved in the violent resistance movement.
posted by homunculus at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2008


THE US Army has thrown out a conviction against the only officer court-martialled over the Abu Ghraib scandal.
posted by homunculus at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2008


The Return Of “Shock And Awe”
posted by homunculus at 3:30 PM on January 11, 2008


U.S. appeals court dismisses Guantanamo torture suit
posted by homunculus at 11:12 AM on January 12, 2008


A longer Les Roberts response:

1) There is more in common in the results than appears at first glance.

The NEJM article found a doubling of mortality after the invasion, we found a tripling. The big difference is that we found almost all the increase from violence, they found 1/2 the increase from violence.

IBC adds to their estimate for months after a given date; back at the end of June 2006, IBC estimated 41,000 deaths (my notes suggest 38,475 to 42,889 on June 24, 2006). This new estimate is 4 times the "widely accepted" number of that moment, our estimate was 12 times higher. Both studies suggest things are far worse than our leaders have reported.

2) There are reasons to suspect that the NEJM data had an under-reporting of violent deaths.

The death rate they recorded for before the invasion (and after) was very low....lower than neighboring countries and 1/3 of what WHO said the death rate was for Iraq back in 2002.

The last time this group (COSIT) did a mortality survey like this they also found a very low crude death rate and when they revisited the exact same homes a second time and just asked about child deaths, they recorded almost twice as many. Thus, the past record suggests people do not want to report deaths to these government employees.

We confirmed our deaths with death certificates, they did not. As the NEJM study's interviewers worked for one side in this conflict, it is likely that people would be unwilling to admit violent deaths to the study workers.

They roughly found a steady rate of violence from 2003 - 2006. Baghdad morgue data, Najaf burial data, and our data all show a dramatic increase over 2005 and 2006.

Finally, their data suggests 1/4 of deaths over the occupation through 6/06 were from violence. Our data suggest a majority of deaths were from violence. All graveyard reports I have heard are consistent with our results.


As should be clear from his constant reference to the graveyard reports, we're rapidly approaching the moment when only corpses will count. Accusations of falsifications and intimidation on both sides means we can't trust any of the calculations. That's bad: it means we won't know how many have died for decades, if at all, and then it'll be politically hazardous to dig up graves and enumerate skulls.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:30 AM on January 13, 2008


Those We Left Behind
posted by homunculus at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2008


Anti-war Soros funded Iraq study
posted by Slap Factory at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2008


“That's bad: it means we won't know how many have died for decades, if at all, and then it'll be politically hazardous to dig up graves and enumerate skulls.”


That’s not uniquely American. Genocide or even incidental war casualties that amount to a form of genocide of a group on whatever basis, race, ideology, even simple opposition or lack of earnest support (if you’re not with us, you’re against us) is, historically, with a few exceptions, rather easy to get away with. Pol Pot, f’rinstance, executed his (ostensibly) number one, Son Sen, in 1997 for trying to settle, trying to come out of the cold. He is responsible for how many deaths? How long ago? That started about 1975, so 22-odd years. He died in bed, 73 years old.
Rwanda? They’re still rewriting the history there - and in nearby Burundi. Armenia? Probably the first bit of revisionism.
Bosnia? Probably one of the best case scenarios (you’re welcome) we nailed people like Nikola Jorgic, but mostly all people know is “Slobodan Milosoevic”
Hussein is one of the few people who paid with their lives for genocide, but that was, what, 20-odd years later? And predicated on all sorts of other b.s.
Meanwhile, even the prosecution in the Van Anraat case (guy who sold Hussein the gas) said the stuff got to Iraq via Jordan, Belgium and? The U.S. (probably Boca Raton - the Bushes are heavies out there).
Everyone and his brother wanted him dead (not captured - dead on sight, gee, wonder why?) in round one of the Gulf war, but he went back to the Netherlands. So he gets 15 years (serve probably 5) and has to pay about $20,000 to the families of about 15 victims. For 5,000 people killed. Pretty sweet.

I walk across the street and put a bullet in someone innocent schmo’s head I’d get life in prison (or death if Illinois reinstates the execution of the death penalty).
But I kill 5,000 innocent schmos?
No problem, a couple bucks and some time in a European prison.

Hell, I think the bigger the number and the more directly involved in the killing you are at higher levels the easier it is (on the whole) to get away with.
Seems that way comparing Van Anraat to Pol Pot.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2008


I should say - one of the things that should be most appalling to the sensibilities of any American is that it is so ubiquitous throughout history.
We do think of ourselves as unique. Not above anyone else, but as something special in the annuls of history. A free, democratic society based on self-determination and - aw hell, y’all’ve read the Constitution, it’s glorious. As is the Declaration of Independence. As is most of what the founders wrote.
Those ideals are what makes us different. We’re not based on an ethnicity or region or religion or any other kind of creed - just those truths we hold to be self-evident.
It’s what distinguished us from any other kind of powerful country or dominant belief. That it wasn’t inherent in us, but inherent in all people throughout the world.
And we strove to be the shining beacon of that idea.
These deaths should be appalling on any level. But more so that it’s happening under our auspices. It is not merely a betrayal of our humanity. It is a betrayal of all humanity when we fail to live in accordance with the foundation of our beliefs.
It becomes just another cheap gag, another rote to power. Another lie that lets the bastards kill and steal. We have often failed.
And we are many things, in truth. But it was never what we were supposed to be, not something we strove for, nor how we saw ourselves in the future whatever pile of shit we were standing in.
And that seems to have changed. And we’re not unique. And that’s the betrayal.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:06 PM on January 14, 2008


Researchers of Lancet report respond to claim of inflated Iraqi civilian death toll
posted by homunculus at 5:33 PM on January 16, 2008


Andrew J. Bacevich: Don't buy the hawks' hype. The war may be off the front pages, but Iraq is broken beyond repair, and we still own it.
posted by homunculus at 2:09 PM on January 20, 2008


From Four a Week to Four a Day - the Air Surge in Iraq
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on January 21, 2008


Right-Wingers Can't Cover Up Iraq's Death Toll Catastrophe: The warmongers who got us into Iraq are blaming everyone but themselves for the humanitarian disaster they created.
posted by homunculus at 4:42 PM on January 21, 2008


« Older A visual history of floating prisons...  |  "(Steve) Jobs, a notorious con... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments