The Lancet is once again publishing another set of trumped-up casualty statistics for the war in Iraq, claiming that 655,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Not only is this number several orders of magnitude higher than the actual result, but it is obviously timed for political gain. Once again The Lancet and Johns Hopkins are trading in their scientific credentials for political partisanship.
Even the Associated Press is pouring cold water on the story:
An accurate count of Iraqi deaths has been difficult to obtain, but one respected group puts its rough estimate at closer to 50,000. And at least one expert was skeptical of the new findings.
“They’re almost certainly way too high,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election.
“This is not analysis, this is politics,” Cordesman said.
If the death toll were really that high, there would be massive refugee outflows from Iraq. We’re seeing some of that, but nowhere near as much as those figures would suggest. Furthermore, the same group predicted 100,000 dead in the first year of the war (releasing their figures near the 2004 elections, again for political gain) — now they want to argue that an addition 550,000 have died in the subsequent two years? That argument doesn’t even pass the smell test.
There is no doubt that the sectarian violence has killed thousands of Iraqis, but that figure is much closer to 50,000 than 655,000 and is almost certainly less than the number killed by Saddam Hussein on a yearly basis during his bloody reign. Based on estimates by respected human rights organizations, Saddam was responsible for 25,000-45,000 Iraqi dead per year due to his plundering of humanitarian aid and tyrannical rule. Even if one accepts a casualty rate in the six figures, which is probably too high, the number of Iraqi dead would have been greater had Saddam been left in place.
This study is pure politics. It is not science, it is demographically impossible, and it is a sign of how far some people will go to try to influence elections. No doubt the left will treat it as gospel just as they did with the equally fraudulent figure of 100,000 Iraqi dead two years ago. What makes it even more reprehensible is that figure will be used to justify an action which could kill hundreds of thousands of real Iraqis rather than hundreds of thousands of invented ones.