The Anchorage Daily News has published a new version of Michael Fumento’s attempt to debunk the Lancet study on deaths in Iraq. How does it differ from his previous attempt? Well his key argument was that their estimate was skewed by the inclusion of the Falluja cluster. But it is perfectly clear from the report that Falluja was excluded from their estimate. Fumento knows this because he responded to my post with a comment, and he specifically asked questions about the inclusion of Falluja in the comments to his TCS article. In his new version he tacitly admits his error by quietly dropping his false claim. Of course, he hasn’t corrected his TCS article. He also aware that they did look at death certificates, so it is dishonest for him to repeat his claim that “the researchers didn’t feel bound by anything official like death certificates”.
Unfortunately he has replaced his bogus claim about Falluja with something worse—his ridiculous comparison of crude death rates between the US and Iraq. (I have explained what is wrong with that here.)
It is disgraceful that someone so wilfully ignorant of basic science has published a column on a scientific question in a newspaper. You can send a letter to the editor at the Anchorage Daily News here. (Leave a comment if you do write a letter.) Contact information for Scripps Howard News Service is here. I think it would be particularly helpful if any epidemiologists in my readership contacted SHNS.
Update: Fumento replies:
Actually, the major changes were additions — including quite legitimately pointing out that The Lancet insisted on using as its baseline pre-war mortality a number far lower than Saddam had used. That gave a range in the paper is inconsequential; the figure they used for their all-important 100,000 figure was five per 1,000.
5.0 is not “far lower” than 5.66. The post-war mortality rate was 7.9 (that’s excluding Falluja—if you include Falluja it was 12.3), so whether the pre-war rate was 5.0 or 5.66, it is still a substantial increase. I notice you offered no defence of your ridiculous comparison of crude death rates between the US and Iraq.
I pulled the section about Falluja being included because it confused people — like you. Find in the paper where they provide an equivalent to the 100,000 figure but exclude Falluja deaths. You can’t, because it’s not there. The Lancet has lied and you support it because you happen to like its conclusions, not because those conclusions where arrived at scientifically.
I already gave the exact quote from the paper—it was from the same paragraph that Fumento quoted in his TCS piece. Here it is again, with extra emphasis:
We estimate that 98 000 more deaths than expected (8000 194 000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included.
And no, I do not like the conclusions. I find them most unpalatable. But rather than inventing specious grounds for dismissing the study, I think it is better to face up to reality.