Oh my god – he blamed Kerry

King at SCSU Scholars has had another go at the Lancet study. King writes:

Many of Saddam’s dead were not murdered in the presence of witnesses; there is no indication that the authors of the study charged Saddam with a death for a missing person.

It doesn’t matter whether the death was witnessed or not, if the family concluded the the person was dead it was recorded. Missing people are missing and not necessarily dead. And of course people go missing after the invasion as well.

It was noted in the IHT that the authors sought death certificates to verify the interviewees’ memories, but eventually felt it was too insulting in many cases. Which did they believe and which did they not?

They sought to verify at least two deaths per cluster and were successful 81% of the time. The few without death certificates had believable reasons for not being able to produce them. The interviewers don’t think any of the deaths were invented.

Also, information was collected during a period when the success of the war against the insurgents (vis-a-vis the war against Saddam); since some were uncertain that America would stay and see through the mission—thank you, John Kerry—deaths caused by Ba’athists was probably suppressed by fear of recrimination.

Yes, he really did blame John Kerry. King seems to have some issues there. The interviewees had no reason to fear recrimination from some hypothetical Baathist restoration since their names were not recorded.

Third, about 37,000 of the deaths the Lancet study uses come from a count by anti-occupation groups.

No they don’t. This is a complete fabrication.

They also chose both to change their list of randomly sampled areas so they didn’t have to drive as much; this meant they stayed close to Baghdad and the Sunni triangle, probably oversampling high-casualty areas.

It is true that sampling was done in such a way as to reduce travel, but this does not mean that they stayed close to Baghdad. They paired Governates that were adjacent and had had similar levels of violence and only sampled from one (randomly chosen) of the pair. This produces no bias towards high-casualty areas.

Last, comparing an equal length period between Saddam’s reign and occupation assumes that both death rates were at “steady state” levels. As I said in the original post last month, in the immediate aftermath of any war comes a period of heightened violence. Comparing a period under a long-term brutal dictator to a transition phase in the development hopefully of a democracy doesn’t meet the test of ceteris paribus needed to validate the study.

This is a very strange objection. The people who die in the transition phase are none the less dead and must be counted as a cost of the war. The purpose of the study was not to compare the death rate in some hypothetical future peaceful Iraq with Saddam’s Iraq, but to find out how many lives the war had cost.

King concludes that the death rate must have gone down. (Yes, he really does!)

A proper study would estimate the steady state rate of democide under Saddam versus the transitional death rate increase in the postwar period. That is the test of what is seen versus what is not seen. My conclusion that the latter is less than the former is speculative, but the Lancet study does not dissuade me, and Lambert’s claims focus only on that which is seen.

Apparently in King’s mind a properly conducted survey with deaths verified on death certificates is trumped by a speculation based on no evidence whatsoever.


  1. #1 Donald Johnson
    February 21, 2005

    Good lord, look at those phrases. First there’s “the steady state rate of democide” followed, in the very same sentence, with “transitional death rate increase”.
    Pack the bullshit any tighter and the sentence would have overpowered any repulsive grammatical pressure and collapsed under its own gravitational force. See, I can sound just as scientific as he does when I put my mind to it.

  2. #2 Ian Gould
    February 21, 2005

    There is a strange psychological phenomenon going on here.

    The Lancet authors are saying X people probably died.

    The critics of the study are somehow reading this as “X peopel were viciously murdered by the evil invaders, if only Saddam were still in office.”

    Are the right so incapable of reporting objective fact that they automatically assume their opponents are similarly afflicted?

  3. #3 Jonathan Dursi
    February 21, 2005


  4. #4 Phil
    February 24, 2005

    Devine has a go at the Lancet study in today’s SMH.

    “And yet the research has been criticised enough by credible people to have doubt cast on what is, after all, only an estimate based on a sample of 998 Iraqi households, which even the researchers said was too small.”

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.