Jay Reding.com

Lies, Damned Lies, And Casualty Figures

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.

3 responses to “Lies, Damned Lies, And Casualty Figures”

  1. Seth says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying Americans are deliberately killing Iraqis or that Americans are doing anything but trying to keep the number of civilian casualties as low as possible.

  2. Deltoid says:

    Flypaper for innumerates…

    If you followed the debate over the first Lancet study you know that it featured numerous attacks on the study from folks who manifestly did not have a clue about statistics. The new study gives us much more of the……

  3. Debunker says:

    The problem with your claim that it’s a political excercise is that it serves neither of the 2 main parties in the US. They both have identical policies and both supported (and continue to support) this illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    The only people this could possibly help politically are independents. Bearing this in mind, looking back at what you claim about the political perspective for the timing (which is a fallacy anyway, but ignoring that fact) you seem to be afraid that the 2 identical main parties are going to lose big-time.

    Personally I can’t see this happening in a society whose media keeps telling them that there are in fact only two parties to vote for, that Iraq’s a rose garden of peace, tranquility and calm, and generally who are complicit in the great war crime committed by both the US and UK.

    That compliant media set the boundaries for discussion – ‘this is fact, this is fact, this is fact, that is not to be discussed’ – anything which falls outside of those boundaries (in the ‘not to be discussed’ column) is ritually ridiculed and buried as far as possible.

    There is nothing political in releasing figures based upon a methodology which the same governments who ridicule these figures regularly rely upon in times of huge social impact (famines/disasters/civil war etc).

    The original Lancet figures were, admittedly, doctored for political ends. That is, they were doctored so as not to impact negatively in a political way on any party. The fact that figures from known incidents such as the first Fallujah Massacre were not included as they’d skew the overall tally is a clear indication that this was not an exercise in point scoring, but merely to get to the truth of the situation.

    How can a public which is not properly informed make decisions which could potentially affect an entire population both at home and abroad? What you suggest is to put your fingers in your ears, go ‘nah nah nah nah I’m not listening’, and keep blindly steering a course to oblivion.

    Your 50,000 figure (which you attribute solely to sectarian violence) is, I’m guessing taken from one of the other counts (such as IBC). The trouble with these other counts is that they only record bodies, not deaths. In some cases (such as after an air raid) there may have been 15 or 20 killed, but there just aren’t the bodies left to count them – it doesn’t mean that they didn’t die. The major flaw in IBC’s tally is that it’s only based on deaths ‘as reported by the media’. How many media outlets have reporters outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad, and of those how many are not embedded and are free to roam and discover incidents on their own? Very few if any. Hence most deaths go unreported, at least in the western media.

    One major issue I have with people arguing the figure is that they miss the overall point that even 1 single death, yes, just ONE death is one too many and due to the illegal nature of this war (as declared by the UN) every one of those deaths becomes a war crime.

    Again we will never see the war crime issue discussed in the media because they are a self-censoring disinformation system designed to keep the status-quo intact to protect revenue streams and thus their own interests.

    Notice how if the ‘W’ man says ‘it’s just not credible’ then this is reported as fact. Not questioned in any way, and the figures are never looked at on merit. Because the ‘W’ man can never be wrong, can never lie… WMD? sssshhhhh… don’t say WMD anymore ;)

    I’ve looked through the figures and I’m sorry, but they DO add up. And what’s more, the pattern up to 2004 backs up the original survey even when using a completely different random set of cluster samples.

    Nuff said…