Lancet Denial

Apparently the Lancet report is so disturbing to some pro-war folks that they are now denying its very existence. Here’s Tim Blair, listing stories that he believes progressives have invented:

Poor progressives. All they have is Lancet reports, Ayad Allawi killing people, the menace of depleted uranium, plastic turkeys, oil pipelines in Afghanistan, Jewish media conspiracies, another Stalingrad in Baghdad, Bush’s dumbness, harsh Afghan winters, the massive influence of Jeff Gannon, and looted Iraqi museums. They never get to invent any stories at all.

I sent him a copy of the report in the hope of convincing him that it really exists, but unfortunately Blair has not corrected his post.

Comments

  1. #1 Tim Lambert
    March 19, 2005

    Skev, the Lancet study and the IBC are measuring different things. There is no reason that should both give the same number. I would like to see a larger survey done. The fact that the US/UK governments won’t do this suggests that they think the Lancet study is in the right ballpark.

  2. #2 JoT
    March 19, 2005

    Tim, IBC and Lancet overlap where violent deaths are concerned. Lancet’s estimate for these is 57,600 according to Richard Garfield, one of the lead authors of the Lancet study. The latter includes military deaths and so cannot be considered a complete overlap with IBC, which records only civilians killed. And the further the Lancet estimate is broken down into its constituent parts, the more inexact extrapolations become (for instance, in their sample they recorded 4 violent deaths for March and 1 for April, 2003, meaning that – if one were to rely solely on the Lancet – one would have to derive an estimate of the total number of Iraqis killed during the invasion period of the war from these 5 deaths).

    You are right to insist upon a larger survey.

  3. #3 Shirin
    March 20, 2005

    No JoT, you are not “simply” asking me to substantiate an allegation. You have asserted, and reasserted that to suggest the Baghdad Bulletin was a coalition (sic) propaganda organ is a “serious allegation”. I want to know why you think it is such a serious allegation. Do you think I am maligning the coalition (sic) for suggesting that they devoted a considerable portion of their resources to propaganda? Or is it the Baghdad Bulletin you think I am maligning?

  4. #4 JoT
    March 20, 2005

    I think you’ll find, Shirin, that every government “devotes a considerable proportion of its resources to propaganda”. Mentioning this with regard to any particular government is hardly to “malign” it, at least not in relation to the behavior of other governments. To judge whether you’ve genuinely maligned the news magazine “Baghdad Bulletin”, on the other hand, one would first of all need to know the basis of your claim that it a was “a well-known pro-”coalition” (sic) propaganda organ”.

    This is indeed a serious allegation to make against a news magazine, especially one that declares itself to be “Non-aligned, apolitical and non-religious”. I suppose it’s possible you believe the dissemination of government propaganda to be the role of news magazines in general, but if so, why single out the Baghdad Bulletin?

    So for the fourth time of asking, what is your evidence for this allegation?

  5. #5 iangould
    March 20, 2005

    Skev,

    1. Do you apply the same “name and address” standard to Darfur, the Asian Tsunami and, for that matter, smoking?

    2. Compared with the estimated one million dead in the Iran-Iraq War; the two million dead in the Vietnam War; the one million dead in the civil war in the Congo and the hundred thousand Kuwaitis and Iraqis estimated to have died in the invasion of Kuwait and Gulf War I, 100,000 dead isn’t a particularly large number.

    As I’ve said before on this board, the Lacent study is not saying “the evil Americans brutally murdered 100,000 innocent people” it’s saying that mortality from all sources increased, with a major part of that increase attributable to allied bombing. The authors aren’t responsible for the misinterpretation or misuse of their results by others.

  6. #6 Frankis
    March 20, 2005

    Just while you’re chatting on a related subject, JoT, would you venture your opinion as to whether you’d prefer to hear Fox and the Murdoch press described as “Fair and Balanced(TM)”, or as “Republican propaganda”? This is completely off the topic of the Baghdad Bulletin, really; I’m just interested as to which of those two descriptions you personally might find more irritating or offensive.

  7. #7 Ian Gould
    March 20, 2005

    While we’re disucssing the possible methodological flaws in the Lancet study, here’s one that hasn’t been mentioned so far: surveying households for deaths of members would seem to exclude cases where the entire household had been killed and there was no-one left to report.

    But, of course, this would imply the Lancet figure was probably low so let’s hear no more of such silly nonsense.

  8. #8 JoT
    March 20, 2005

    My understanding, Frankis, is that there’s a considerable body of well-researched and indeed “well-known” evidence that the Fox network is a “Republican propaganda machine”, to quote US film critic Roger Ebert’s review of a documentary on the subject (Outfoxed).

    Do you have any such evidence to offer with regard to the Baghdad Bulletin?

    Your apparent ad hominem interest in what I might “personally” find “irritating or offensive” is surely immaterial to these deliberations.

  9. #9 Frankis
    March 20, 2005

    I have no such evidence whatsoever, in fact, JoT. And as I said, I agree that my question was quite immaterial to your friendly chat with Shirin. Thanks for your interesting response.

  10. #10 not creatively snipping...
    March 20, 2005

    Shirin wrote: “Professionals in the field of epidemiology, and people who are knowledgeable about the principles involved in the study are in unanimous agreement that its methodology is valid, and its findings at least plausible.

    strange how shirin can speak for all professional epidemiologists…

    In fact, this article has several problems:

    1) the post-hoc data manipulation (exclusion of falluja)

    2) not all deaths were audited, and of those that were, only ~80% could be verified.

    3) the range of final values for the 95% confidence interval, of 8 to ~190 k, is a twenty-fold range. That is an appalling resolution, and in itself makes the study virtually worthless in itself.

    Shirin is very quick to raise the issue of ideological persuasion biasing the argument adopted, and this is the issue. This is a scientific study which is virtually worthless, and it is being put to ideological use.

    yours
    per

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    March 20, 2005

    per/David Bell, shirin is not speaking for all professional epidemilogists but reporting what all professional epidemiologists who have been consulted have said about it. See http://chronicle.com/free/2005/01/2005012701n.htm for more on this.

    1. If you don’t think Falluja should be excluded, then will you accept the 300,000 deaths you get if it is included?

    2. It isn’t necesaary to audit all deaths, just a random sample of them. This is basic statisitics.

    3. The CI is broad, but that doesn’t make the estimate worthless. Do you agree with the BMJ’s call for a larger survey?

  12. #12 Shirin
    March 20, 2005

    Shirin – you seem to be assuming that Wilbur and his contacts are US military, as opposed to being members of a national force that doesn’t bring a Burger King with them on operations.

    I am assuming nothing. I have concluded based on his comments that is what he is talking about. If you are suggesting that he might be saying he works with Iraqi “servicemen”, for starters one has to wonder how they can communicate with him, given that according to him hardly any Iraqis know English because learning English was a special privilege for Iraqis that could only be undertaken with the approval and patronage of the Ba`th party.

    You also seem a bit light on actual rebuttals and heavy on appeals to authority (ie, your own).

    Really? I have only made one “appeal to my own authority” here. I made it in response to Wilbur’s appeal to the authority of “all those servicemen (including one close relative)” he works with. I am not sure how else you would have had me answer that particular argument, but I do think my actual experience living in Iraq as an Iraqi, not to mention my close relationship with all different kinds of Iraqis with actual experience living in Iraq as Iraqis trumps his servicemen (including one close relative) pretty thoroughly.

    I’m a passerby with no strong opinion on the Lancet study

    What has that to do with my supposed appeals to authority (i.e. my own)? I have made no appeals whatsoever to my own authority in the matter of the study published in the Lancet.

    (the moment I found out it was a largely statistical analysis based on a poll I lost interest due to my distrust of and, I openly admit, ignorance of the finer details of statistics/probability).

    You say you have no strong feelings about the study, yet you admit you have a knee-jerk negative reaction to it due to your distrust of statistical analyses, which is apparently largely based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of it.

    I have to say, your contributions are too strident to convince me either way (you are trying to convince middle-of-the-road people like me, yes?).

    Well, I am sorry you find my comments strident and are unable to see past that to their content.

    As for 100,000 people being killed in Iraq because of the invasion – until we see list of their names people are going to find that number, or any number arrived that way, hard to believe. What are the victims’ names? Seriously, who are they?

    How would you suggest one go about obtaining the name and cause of death of every Iraqi who has died since March, 19, 2003? What methodology would you employ? How much time and money do you suppose your methodology would cost? And how accurate would it be in a situation in which many thousands of people have been disappeared, or buried in the rubble of their bombed homes, or burned beyond recognition, or blown into small pieces?

    A statistical study based on a small sample is ALWAYS going to be the subject of debate, even if the number arrived at seems reasonable to most people

    As I have already pointed out before, for this type of study it was not a small sample but was, in fact, somewhat larger than the norm. However, I don’t know of anyone, including the authors of the study, who does not believe that more studies are indicated.

    (I will admit that 100,000 seems awfully high to me, especially given the study’s own estimate of its likely accuracy).

    On what basis does it seem small to you?

    most of the Nazi holocaust victims eventually had names, dates of birth, etc (except, tragically, many of the “gypsies”).

    I believe that would be most of the JEWISH holocaust victims. Either way, you are talking apples and oranges. A large number of very dedicated people to whom it was personally extremely important have devoted years of time, and a great deal of money to the research that yielded that information.

    Sure, the Nazi’s affection for paperwork certainly helped a lot…

    And the Bush administration’s efforts to conceal reality is a major impediment to efforts to obtain any kind of count.

    and even then it took a while

    It was a major effort involving a lot of time, a lot of people, and a lot of money, and it would take a great deal more resources and time in the case of Iraq.

    but in the end we didn’t have to rely soley on statistical guessing (see my distrust of stats in my use of the word guessing?

    What I see is a lack of knowledge and understanding, which could be overcome by taking a basic course at your local community college. If you did that you would, at the very least, realize that the correct word is estimate, not guess. :)

    the Lancet study makes the Iraq Body Count site look grounded in concrete by comparison.

    Only if you don’t understand the principles and methodology involved in the two different methods of tallying. For starters, they are not keeping track of the same thing.

    it’s really annoying that all we have to go on is the Iraq Body Count website and the Lancet study. Surely at least ONE of them is way off?

    1) It is the responsibility of the occupying power to obtain reasonable estimates of casualties they are causing.

    2) IBC and the authors of the study in the Lancet do not count the same thing.

    3) 98,000 “excess” deaths is actually shockingly low considering the deterioration of basic civilian services such as electricity, water, sewage, transportation, communication and medical facilities.

  13. #13 Shirin
    March 20, 2005

    strange how shirin can speak for all professional epidemiologists…“strange how shirin can speak for all professional epidemiologists…

    I have not spoken for anyone at all. What I have done is cite the stated position of every professional epidemiologist who has publicly commented on the study.

  14. #14 Jeff Harvey
    March 20, 2005

    Shirin, Your posts are excellent and thoughtful.

    You must remember that writers like Skev and JOT are like many others bamboozled by our establishment, corporate media which has been drip feeding the public brazen lies over Iraq and the “war on terror”. They have learned nothing from history: the slaughter of faraway peoples (either directly or by proxy) to support US/UK foreign policy in conflicts camouflaged by the fear of communist expansion (e.g. Viet Nam, Cambodia, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Korea) and in the original US colonial expansion a century ago (e.g. the Phillipines, Cuba, Haiti etc). The fear of communism lost its utility with the collapse of the system in the Soviet Union, hence a new bogeyman has been called upon to replace it, and its called terrorism. Not terrorism of the state, whereby the U.S. Britain, and some of its allies (e.g. Turkey, Colombia, Algeria, Uzbekistan along with Russia and China) rank near the top of the list, but that of individuals and loosely organized groups (e.g. Hezbolloh, Al Queda). Our media does not include state terror in its lexicon. Nor does it appear to inlude aggression (which is, in fact, what the attack on Iraq was – pure and simple godfatherly aggression). Since they can’t come to believe that ‘our systems’ are anything other than honest and democratic, its inconceivable to them that we live in plutocracies and oligarchies, where the policies of our nations are dictated by a small coterie of individuals shoved in front of the electorate every few years who are dedicated to creating a local and global community in which a few wealthy groups or individuals rule, with the primary aim of enriching themselves and their cohort even further, at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. Its clear that domestic poverty is irrelevant to the ‘crazies’ who are currently in charge of US policy, so why in hell would they worry about people with a different color of skin and ethnic background on the other side of the planet?

    As for JOT wanting evidence that the Baghdad Bulletin is biased, I would refer him/her to the atrocious warmongering columns of Judith Miller in the NY Times or Charles Krauthammer in the Wasbhington Post, whose pro-aggression rants were hardly if ever challenged in these so-called ‘liberal’ papers. Same goes for the grand apologist of western aggression, Thomas Friedman. If you look at the situation in Iraq, how on Earth can the media there be free and independent when the occupation has completely reorganized the Iraqi government and bureaucracy, chosen judges, installed 24 ministers, placed advisers with multi-year contracts in these ministries, all of which give the occupation and its political agents economic and political leverage. It has also issued Transitional Administrative Laws that will control Iraqi governance while the transitional National Assembly operates and well into the period following a presidential election. The National Assembly is thus handcuffed and must answer more-or-less to the occupation authorities. Before he left, Bremer handed down 100 or more rules with force of law that have had significant effects on the Iraq economy, privatizing large segments of state-owned property in violation of international law, and creating a new structure of vested interests to ensure continued US domination. With direct respect to the media, we all know that Allawi (with US backing) shut down Al Jazeera, has refused to co-operate with ‘non-embedded’ repoprters, that US forces have been justifiably accused of intimidation of media in Iraq that have not been in general support of the occupation, and, most importantly, that the media can NEVER be regarded as free under conditions of a brutal military occupation. I am sure that when the Soviet Union occupied much of eastern Europe the media was similarly chained to a leash – why does it not apply under conditions of a US occupation? Again, JOT, its a situation where you’ve been seriously brainwashed into seeing the world through a one-way moral lens. Its time our media was unleashed from establishment control and started challenging accredited lies of our politicians, instead of rehashing them as truth. As fr the Lnacet study, its a great piece of work and was desperately needed at a time that the ‘crazies’ in the Bush-Cheney junta refused to consider the human toll of their little adventure. None of the critics have bothered to talk about the human toll of Gulf War I (approximately 200,000 dead), the effects of the sanctions as evidenced by two UN reports and two senior UN officials (500,000 to 1,000,000 dead) not of the historic precedents that I have discussed earlier. Nor have they in any way explained why none of the recycled Reaganites in the current US administration, who wholly supported Saddam in full knowledge of his crimes (and exhorted him to attack Iran) are not sitting in glass cells in the Hague along with lesser thugs like Milosovic on charges of war crimes.

  15. #15 Andjam
    March 20, 2005

    I assume that if vaccination works for westerners, it’d work for Iraqis. Then again, I’m one of those naive people who assume that democracy can work for Iraqis.
    Ah, the old ‘racism’ card.

    Do you regard a card only 3 years old as “old”?

    You’re not only insulting, you’re not very bright either. I bet you think the only reason a vaccination campaign can be unsuccessful is biological differences between Iraqis and non-Iraqis.

    If you bet that, you’d have bet wrong. I know that even the Australian government has been half-assed in the past about the number of times some vaccinations have been done.

    I didn’t say that the study had holes “an idiot” could pick. You said: “I know you meant this as satire, but sometimes the peer-review process lets through some papers with flaws any idiot can point out.”

    I said sometimes, not all the time.

    If you acknowledge that the Lancet paper does not match your characterization then this discussion is pointless

    At no time in this thread did I attack the methodology in the paper. That does not mean I cannot discuss things such as the interpretation of the paper, what Tim regards as “real”, or who, if anyone, should do additional studies.

  16. #16 Nabakov
    March 20, 2005

    “At no time in this thread did I attack the methodology in the paper. ”

    No, yer just attacking anyone who agrees with the paper.

    Can you, Andjam, in just one sentance of 15 words or less explain why yer so het up about this issue. Without attacking the paper’s methodology obviously.

  17. #17 JoT
    March 20, 2005

    You must remember that writers like Skev and JOT are like many others bamboozled by our establishment, corporate media which has been drip feeding the public brazen lies over Iraq and the “war on terror”.

    We’re all fallible, Jeff, and I’m no exception. Show me where I’ve been bamboozled on any subject, and I’ll be grateful for the enlightenment. Fail to do so, and I’ll thank you to withdraw your remark.

    As for JOT wanting evidence that the Baghdad Bulletin is biased, I would refer him/her to the atrocious warmongering columns of Judith Miller in the NY Times or Charles Krauthammer in the Wasbhington Post, whose pro-aggression rants were hardly if ever challenged in these so-called ‘liberal’ papers.

    A specific allegation was made on this page about the Baghdad Bulletin which has so far not been withdrawn (or defended). All that I’ve consistently and I believe patiently requested is for Shirin to substantiate her description of the Baghdad Bulletin (not the NY Times or the Washington Post) as “a well-known pro-”coalition” (sic) propaganda organ”. Your effusions on the corporate media notwithstanding, you are unlikely to shed much light on this until you engage with the specifics. Would you take seriously critics of the Lancet study whose arguments rest solely on the evils of “Big Medicine” and the pharmaceutical industry?

    Again, JOT, its a situation where you’ve been seriously brainwashed into seeing the world through a one-way moral lens.

    Again, Jeff, you feel free to make swingeing judgements on no stronger evidence than my request that a serious allegation against a small newspaper be substantiated. Bold conclusions about me seem to be quite your forte.

  18. #18 Skev
    March 20, 2005

    iangould said:

    1. Do you apply the same “name and address” standard to Darfur, the Asian Tsunami and, for that matter, smoking?

    I don’t agree with the comparison I think you’re trying to make. Iraq, for all its many ills under Saddam, was at least a developed nation with communities and a census. These people had names, on that we can agree I’m sure. Where we seem to disagree is that you’re implying that the level of death in Iraq was the same as the tsunami (which swept away entire communities and all their knowledge about themselves), and government records in Iraq were similar to those communities affected by the tsunami. Is that what you’re suggesting? Seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    Even WITH your comparison, the level of confidence of, say, the tsunami victim numbers is much greater. Counting actual bodies, or noting that a community of 300 people is simply gone leads to better estimates than the Lancet study, surely?

    Like I said, the 100,000 figure seems high to me, but I have a genuinely open mind on the subject. I don’t see the figure, in itself, as overtly political (though the lack of any real effort to gather real information on deaths is very frustrating).

    2. Compared with the estimated one million dead in the Iran-Iraq War; the two million dead in the Vietnam War; the one million dead in the civil war in the Congo and the hundred thousand Kuwaitis and Iraqis estimated to have died in the invasion of Kuwait and Gulf War I, 100,000 dead isn’t a particularly large number.

    If you say so, though most of those conflicts were very different (and lasted longer) than the one we’re talking about. Eventually, if Iraq winds up with a reasonable open and democratic government, I guess we’ll find out much better numbers after several rounds of Iraqi national enquiries. It’s hard not to be impatient for more “real” figures though.

    As I’ve said before on this board, the Lacent study is not saying “the evil Americans brutally murdered 100,000 innocent people” it’s saying that mortality from all sources increased, with a major part of that increase attributable to allied bombing. The authors aren’t responsible for the misinterpretation or misuse of their results by others.

    Agreed.

    All the best,

    Skev

  19. #19 Skev
    March 20, 2005

    Shirin said:

    I am assuming nothing. I have concluded based on his comments that is what he is talking about.

    Based on what exactly? There is more than one country’s forces in Iraq.

    If you are suggesting that he might be saying he works with Iraqi “servicemen”

    No, I’m trying to suggest that he’s not necessarily a Yank and so when making snide cracks you should keep them general so not as to appear presumptious. It just seemed odd to me that you assumed he was US, that’s all. Not a major point!

    When I suggested you relied on appeals to your own authority too much and then said: “I’m a passerby with no strong opinion on the Lancet study you replied:

    What has that to do with my supposed appeals to authority (i.e. my own)? I have made no appeals whatsoever to my own authority in the matter of the study published in the Lancet.

    Sure you have. You were responding to the suggestion that the interviewers were not to be trusted. You said (to Wilbur):

    I’ll say this for you, Wilbur, I haven’t seen many more creative attempts to discredit the study. Unfortunately for you, your argument fails completely because both of the premises on which you base it are complete BS, as I tried to tell you before. I don’t know where you get your information about Iraq, but you need a better source.

    And when challenged on that you appealed to your own authority as an Iraqi, rather than any actual evidence or link etc. Again, not a major point, but hardly an invalid one.

    You say you have no strong feelings about the study, yet you admit you have a knee-jerk negative reaction to it due to your distrust of statistical analyses, which is apparently largely based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of it.

    Close! ;-) What I actually said is that I lost interest in the study, not disliked it. That’s all. I find statistical extrapolations dull and frequently irritating, which led me to largely ignore the study as I’d much prefer something more grounded in, dare I say it, “reality”. The range of possible death numbers in the Lancet study is just too wide and the picking of the middle of the range too arbitrary for me to find the resulting number even interesting, let alone credible. It may turn out to be right. Or under. Or over. What annoys me is the waiting to find out! :-)

    Am I negative towards statistical analysis in general? I guess. Towards the Lancet study? Not really. i was trying to make light of the fact that I have only skim read the Lancet study (and reports on it). Surely we can agree that this kind of study would be a lot more useful if it was more certain of its own results?

    Well, I am sorry you find my comments strident and are unable to see past that to their content.

    Are you really sorry? Or was that sorry in a “I’m sorry my cigar smoke bothers you” kind of way? :-)

    I said: “most of the Nazi holocaust victims eventually had names, dates of birth, etc (except, tragically, many of the “gypsies”).” to which you replied:

    I believe that would be most of the JEWISH holocaust victims.

    Your point? You lost me there, especially since I acknowledged that we weren’t referring to the gypsy victims of the holocaust. Your later point about the time and cost of finding names for the victims of the holocaust was actually one I thought I had made myself, so I’m not sure what that was about.

    1) It is the responsibility of the occupying power to obtain reasonable estimates of casualties they are causing.

    Agreed, I guess, but in the mean time the Lancet guess (ahem) estimate is the best we have? Frustrating!

    2) IBC and the authors of the study in the Lancet do not count the same thing.

    Okay, but they have a big overlap don’t they? Why the significant apparent difference?

    3) 98,000 “excess” deaths is actually shockingly low considering the deterioration of basic civilian services such as electricity, water, sewage, transportation, communication and medical facilities.

    Is it? So… The Lancet study indicates that the Iraq invasion was, relatively, LIGHT on civilian deaths? I don’t think I’ve heard ANYONE spin it that way, not even the White House! ;-)

    All the best

    Skev

  20. #20 Skev
    March 20, 2005

    In a single stream-of-consciousness paragraph, Jeff Harvey said (many snips):

    You must remember that writers like Skev and JOT are like many others bamboozled by our establishment (…) They have learned nothing from history (…)The fear of communism (…) terrorism of the state (…) its inconceivable to them that we live in plutocracies and oligarchies (…) a few wealthy groups or individuals rule (…) the ‘crazies’ who are currently in charge of US policy (…) people with a different color of skin and ethnic background on the other side of the planet (…) grand apologist of western aggression (…) handcuffed (…) violation of international law (…) US domination (…) intimidation of media (…) brutal military occupation (…) Soviet Union (…) chained to a leash (…) you’ve been seriously brainwashed (…) one-way moral lens (…) challenging accredited lies of our politicians (…) the ‘crazies’ in the Bush-Cheney junta (…) their little adventure (…) recycled Reaganites (…) wholly supported Saddam (…) glass cells in the Hague (…) thugs like Milosovic (…) war crimes.

    Is any of this meant to be remotely convincing to anyone not already in agreement with you? Seriously, tone it down a little if you want to be taken seriously by the genuinely centrist. Yeesh! ;-)

    All the best,

    Skev

  21. #21 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2005

    JOT, You never answered my point. How can the Baghdad Bulletin be considered to report news independently under a brutal occupation by a foreign power? Answer: it can’t. If it was truly independent, it would have met the same fate as Al Jazeera and the 30 or so reporters killed by coalition forces.

  22. #22 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2005

    JOT, While I am at it, where do you stand on international law, the Nuremburg code and aggression? I’d also like to ask you in you have any evidence that papers in former communist blok countries were biased. I assume, like everyody else, that they were. But what’s the difference between this and a Baghdad paper operating under a military occupation?

  23. #23 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2005

    Skev, JOT, Sorry, and point taken. I was having a heavy day yesterday and let it go too far! But the stuff Skev pasted (above) that I said in my email I do stand by. The current US administration is pursuing criminal foreign policies in my opinion that are creating misery abroad. If one reads the National Security Document (Bush’s grand imperial strategy) verbiage you should get a good perspective of where these people in his administration are coming from. While everyone here argues about the validity (or lack thereof) of the Lancet study, they are forgetting relevant history, that human life is utterly irrelevant in the pursuit of global economic and military domination. The NSD spells all of this out, and it is reinforced by Project for the New American Century. Its a suicidal foreign policy that these neoconservatives – too kind a word in my opinion, hence why I prefer Ray McGovern’s term ‘crazies’ – have embarked upon, but this is where the world is now headed. Regimes that routinely kill and torture their citizens (e.g. Uzbekistan, Turkey, Colombia, Nigeria, Indonesia and others) will continue to receive huge amounts of military aid and hardware from ‘our side’ shedding full light on the hypocrisy of the media’s rehashing of Bush’s words and the “march of democracy”. The NSD and PNAC contradict this, and most of the Bush team are signatories on both. I am convinced that the loss of 100,000 or more people in Iraq does not matter to these people. Many of them were in the Reagan administration which blockaded Nicaragua leading to the deaths of an estimated 35,000 people, and for which the US was found guilty at the International Criminal Court for “Unlawful use of aggression” (another way of saying state terrorism). So why the vast denial over the possibility of 100,00 dead civilians in Iraq? John Bolton apparently said in an interview during the war that he thought that 10,000 dead (a figure cited to him) wasn’t so bad. He then went on to ask the interviewer if he was a communist. Unless we abandon the notion of a black and white world, in which we see our governments are “defenders of freedom” (in light of volumes of evdence to contradict it), then there may be more Iraqs in the near future. This is what I meant by one-way moral mirror in which we are primed by our media to see the world.

  24. #24 Andjam
    March 21, 2005

    Can you, Andjam, in just one sentance of 15 words or less explain why yer so het up about this issue. Without attacking the paper’s methodology obviously.

    I’m jealous – not only did they get published in the Lancet, but they dictated conditions. :p

  25. #25 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2005

    This outstanding piece by David Edwards sums up exactly what I mean by ‘compliant media’:

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7447

  26. #26 Skev
    March 21, 2005

    Jeff Harvey said:

    Skev, JOT, Sorry, and point taken. I was having a heavy day yesterday and let it go too far!

    Okay, but then you say:

    But the stuff Skev pasted (above) that I said in my email I do stand by.

    So why apologise? Seriously, if you think the extreme language you used was okay, then stand by it. We can agree to disagree. I won’t do the little snip snip I did last time with your larger comment, but I could.

    Basically, you assume the worst of motives (criminal) to those you disagree with, and assume the worst of outcomes (suicidal). Apart from anything else, your language gives you no where to go if those you disagree with come out with policies that strike you as being worse! What will you say then? “Even more criminal”? “Even more suicidal”?

    This one stuck out for me though:

    Many of them were in the Reagan administration which blockaded Nicaragua leading to the deaths of an estimated 35,000 people

    So, you were opposed the UN’s sanctions against Iraq too? Were you were in favour of the US/UK-initiated oil-for-food exemptions?

    and for which the US was found guilty at the International Criminal Court for “Unlawful use of aggression”

    The ICC has handed down a ruling on a country not part of the ICC? When did that happen? Got a link? It’s news to me and I’m genuinely interested.

    (another way of saying state terrorism).

    Is it? That seems a stretch, and doesn’t sound like a legal argument. But I’m no lawyer.

    All the best,

    Skev

  27. #27 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2005

    Skev, If you think what I am saying is based on anger and frustration with the ‘system’, then it is. Do you also disrespect writers like Robert Fisk, Mark Curtis, Saul Landau, Mickey Z, John Pilger, George Monbiot, Gore Vidal, Paul Street, Tom Engelhardt, Edward Herman and other strident critics of western policy simply because their columns also reflect their anger over western foreign policies which create carnage and suffering on a mass scale around the world? Nothing I said in my email that you cut and pasted is in any way exceptional. You might just not be looking hard enough for the facts.

    So the US is not a signatry to the ICC. What does this tell you about their respect for international law? Imperial America (the United States of Amnesia) has unilaterally opted out of one international treaty after another. The neocons believe that they are to be the ‘law’: no constraints. Bear in mind that the US not only ignored the findings of the ICC, which also stated that they owed $5 billion in reparations to Nicaragua for their terrorist war, but that they increased their efforts to destroy the Nicaraguan economy in order to put a client regime in place. By 1984, four years after the Sandanistas had overthrown the brutal US-supported Somosza regime, the World Bank and Inter American Development Bank stated that Nicaragua had the fastest growing economy in Latin America, and constituted a model system for alleviating poverty and creating a just society. The fear that this “disease” – nationalism, in which a country’s assets are used to benefit all sectors of society, rather than a narrow, elite sector – terrified the Reagan planners and it was George Schultz who famously said in 1985 that “we have to cut out the disease” (meanig Nicaraguan nationalism). By 1990, five years after initiating their terror war, Nicaragua’s economy was the second poorest in Latin America (all but ruined) and it has never recovered. Last year I learned that Nicaragua has the second highest infant mortality rate in the Americas (after Haiti). I don’t need anyone to tell me how the US wants to “spread the seeds of democracy” when they have been propping up vile regimes for years and actively suppressing real bottom-up democracy in order to serve the interests of US investors. I am surprised that you knew nothing of the Nicaraguan case, but why should you? Our media has the habit of sending the volumes of unsavory actions taken by ‘our side’ down the memory hole. One has to look for the ‘truth’ in books and on internet sites.

  28. #28 Skev
    March 22, 2005

    Jeff Harvey said:

    Skev, If you think what I am saying is based on anger and frustration with the ‘system’, then it is.

    Nothing wrong with anger, in moderation. Too much is bad for you and your arguments though. Simply emoting does not add anything to one’s position, and makes people like me suspicious of your motives and opinions. There seems to be a tendency in many places to overstate one’s opinion in an effort to make it more convincing and urgent. It has almost precisely the opposite effect on me and many others.

    Do you also disrespect writers like Robert Fisk, Mark Curtis, Saul Landau, Mickey Z, John Pilger, George Monbiot, Gore Vidal, Paul Street, Tom Engelhardt, Edward Herman and other strident critics of western policy simply because their columns also reflect their anger over western foreign policies which create carnage and suffering on a mass scale around the world?

    Actually, the names I recognise in that list are exactly what I’m talking about. People who call themselves journalists or commentators who let their emotions, opinions, and prejudices cloud their ability to argue their points rationally or even, in some cases, faithfully report the facts.

    Nothing I said in my email that you cut and pasted is in any way exceptional. You might just not be looking hard enough for the facts.

    What facts? Strip away the invective and hyperbole and I’m mostly left with unsupported assertions.

    So the US is not a signatry to the ICC. What does this tell you about their respect for international law?

    Not much. Doesn’t tell me much about “international law” either. If countries don’t agree on the basis of transnational rules, then there aren’t any.

    Imperial America (the United States of Amnesia)

    Overly negative slogans like that are the kind of thing that make moderates like me simply tune you out as background noise. If you only want to preach to the converted, then go ahead and overstate, bluster, and chant. But if want to reach out you’ll have to moderate your tone.

    has unilaterally opted out

    Heh – is there any other way to opt out of something other than unilaterally? :-) For some people, the word “unilateral” has almost become a negaive in and of itself these days.

    of one international treaty after another.

    One after the other eh? You’re not overstating again are you? Name six. :-)

    The neocons believe that they are to be the ‘law’: no constraints.

    Hang on, wasn’t the US refusal to sign first made clear under Clinton? Was his administration full of neocons too? Has it occured to you that when both a noble Democrat president and a RethuglicanBushitlerhaliburton stooge agree on policy that maybe it’s in the US’s best interest? It’s okay for you to disagree with that assessment, but to simply assume that it’s made out of some imperial disdain for international relations says more about you and your beliefs than the policy itself.

    (SNIP much paranoid “analysis” in which the US is all poweful and evil) I don’t need anyone to tell me how the US wants to “spread the seeds of democracy” when they have been propping up vile regimes for years and actively suppressing real bottom-up democracy in order to serve the interests of US investors.

    More paranoid rantings, assuming the worst yet again. I’m not even American and I roll my eyes at this sort of stuff. Look, I spent a few years in government, not long but enough to know that the complicated conspiracies that people like you believe in betray only your own ignorance as to how democratic governments actually work.

    When the US holds its nose and does limited business with governments it dislikes, they get criticised (with some validity). But when the US government tears down those same governments, the fact that they once had very limited dealings with them is flung in their faces as if it’s some kind of sin for them to do anything different or shift position. Simply pointing out a shift or inconsistency in policy over time is a pretty hollow point to make. Judge the current policy on its merits, don’t assume it more of the same.

    I remember hwen it was the left that wanted to tear down tyrants, even if it meant dealing with institutions and methods they disliked, in the short term.

    I am surprised that you knew nothing of the Nicaraguan case,

    Well, I had heard the allegations before, but I knew nothing of the ICC “decision” (was the US tried in absence? Was there any defence? Is it any wonder the ICC is not taken seriously?).

    but why should you? Our media has the habit of sending the volumes of unsavory actions taken by ‘our side’ down the memory hole. One has to look for the ‘truth’ in books and on internet sites.

    Yes, but only certain books and websites, right? Just the ones that support your views and permanent outrage. Doesn’t it ever bother you that in order to find supporting material you have to narrow the scope of publications and authors in a way that excludes most of the mainstream?

    I realise that excluding the mainstream press fits nicely with your “the mainstream has been bamboozled” views, but it’s a pretty small loop you’ve trapped yourself into. Step back and listen to yourself – only you and those that agree with you can see the truth? If you want me to belive that then you’ll need much better arguments presented much more rationally.

    And use more paragraph breaks… :-)

    All the best,

    Skev

  29. #29 Jeff Harvey
    March 22, 2005

    Skev,

    Turns out the US terror war on Nicaragua was condemned by the World Court, to which the US was a signatory. So much for their compliance with international law.

    You might also consider the fact that the attack on Iraq constituted aggression which was condemned by the World Court as the “supreme international crime”, and is based on the Nuremburg trails, which produced the Nuremburg Code. This code was effectively written by US international attorneys who argued that Nazi Germany was guilty of systematic agression against its neighbors. US actions in Viet Nam and Iraq also qualify as aggression. So clearly the US has no utility for international lws it helped to formulate if they conflict with the interests of US elites (two examples already).

    The US has also opted out of the non-nulcear proliferation treaty, the small arms treaty, the intercontinental ballistic missle treaty (thanks to neocon Bolton for his efforts in this regard) and are actively trying to saboutage the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances and the comprehensive landmines treaty, as well as the refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and be subject to the International Criminal Court. They have violated a number of the Geneva Convention codes in Iraq. Skev, you should check out there voting record at the UN generals assembly. Some of the motions they have vetoed over the past thirty years would even embarrass you. Let’s see, that makes 7 treaties violated and several more that have they have refused to sign. This sounds very much like an wholesale rogue state to me.
    Lastly, I have read much of the mainstream material, and I have learned to read it with very much of a large bag of salt. I trust it no more now than I would have trusted Pravda or anymedia that was controlled by a narrow range of vested interests that are bolstering their own agenda. The mainstream press does not permit dissent, or a deviation from the views of the establishment in any significant way. This may explain why there is a witch hunt currently underway against liberal US academics who haved challenged ‘official’ views whereas journalists like Judith Miller were able to print nonsense about the non-existent threat posed by Iraq on the most wafer-thin evidence (mostly from Ahmed Chalabi) and have seen their careers unaffected. Some of Miller’s information was apparently even chanelled directly to her from from the White House which was subsequently used by White House staff (e.g. Cheney) in press conferences and interviews that Iraq was somehow involved in the 9/11 atrocity, that Saddam Hussein supported Al Queda, and that Iraq possessed arsenals of WMD (they stated that it must be true because it was printed on the front page of the NY Times). Why did the ‘mainstream’ not challenge these lies? Why have these lies faded from memory and been replaced by the latest spin which is a desire to bring “democracy” to the Middle East, which contradicts the aims and objectives of the PNAC and NSD of which most of the current administration are signatories? Why is the utter hypocrisy of many of the claims of Bush and his staff not challenged by the ‘mainstream’? Why did and does the ‘mainstream’ refuse to publish dissenting views? The same is true in the UK, where the BBC still wheels out the same discredited hype. Skev, with respect to recent history, I also suggest you read up on the first ‘war on terror’ declared by the Reagan administration in 1981, and escalated in 1985, which warned against the ‘imminent threat’ of a Nicaraguan attack on US soil. Although Nicaragua has a population of just over two million, I remember reading about the fact that it was “two days by road from Texas” and that it was a “dagger pointed at the state”, and similar nonsense. The media, which played the fear card in 1983 over the threat (non-existent, of course) posed by Grenada, switched to Nicaragua which of course was also defenseless. But the aim was to scare the daylights out of the US population which would allow the Reagan adfministration to push through unpopular legislation at home (as Bush is doing now) while forcing them to huddle under this umbrella of fear. Nothing changes. Most of the current incumbents, to repeat what I said earlier, are recycled from the Reagan government, and their vision of democracy is probably much like it was in the 1980′s, with ‘model’ systems being Guatemala, El Salvador, and latterly Nicaragua. All of these countries are among the poorest in the western hemisphere.

    Lastly, I don’t now how to use the paragraph break in this blog. Please advise!

    Best,

    Jeff

  30. #30 Tim Lambert
    March 22, 2005

    The way you are supposed to put paragraph breaks in is with <p>.

    I’ve modified the code so that if you don’t specify any manual breaks, it automatically put a paragraph break whenever you press return.

  31. #31 Jeff Harvey
    March 22, 2005

    Skev, More non-mainstream material FYI. I don’t think any of this by Bill Blum is remotely controversial. Its just that our mainstream media choose to ignore it. I wonder why?

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=7491

  32. #32 Skev
    March 22, 2005

    Hi again. Jeff Harvey said:

    Turns out the US terror war on Nicaragua was condemned by the World Court, to which the US was a signatory.

    No wonder I couldn’t find any links!

    So much for their compliance with international law.

    A country has to RECOGNISE a court before it can be judged by it. By not being part of the court, the US is outside its jurisdiction. Think about it – imagine if any international court could simply determine for itself which country is covered? But I’m no lawyer, and I suspect you aren’t either. In fact I think your focus on “international law” is bogus.

    I’m curious. Do you believe in civil disobedience? If a law is wrong it’s morally/ethically okay to break it and even encourage others to do so, right? As long as one is willing to bear the consequences. Why should international law be any different?

    I suspect your real objections to certain US policies is not that they are “illegal”, but that they are immoral or unethical or politically unnacceptable or dangerous etc etc. I doubt their legal status is really what irks you. Unless I’ve misjudged you and you’re a bit law-and-order type. ;-)

    You might also consider the fact that the attack on Iraq constituted aggression which was condemned by the World Court as the “supreme international crime”, and is based on the Nuremburg trails, which produced the Nuremburg Code.

    That sentence was unclear. Are you saying that the World Court condemned the latest Iraq invasion? I can’t find that on Google. Or did you mean that invasions in general are condemned? Why is it that the only links you seem to give are to zmag rants and yet on stuff like this you provide no links? :-/

    This code was effectively written by US international attorneys who argued that Nazi Germany was guilty of systematic agression against its neighbors. US actions in Viet Nam and Iraq also qualify as aggression.

    Is that a legal opinion? Whose?

    So clearly the US has no utility for international laws it helped to formulate if they conflict with the interests of US elites (two examples already).

    And when did the US leave the World Court? Hardly part of a recent trend…

    The US has also opted out of the non-nulcear proliferation treaty

    Heheh… You mean the nuclear non-proliferation treaty I assume! :-D

    the small arms treaty, the intercontinental ballistic missle treaty (thanks to neocon Bolton for his efforts in this regard) and are actively trying to saboutage the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances and the comprehensive landmines treaty, as well as the refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and be subject to the International Criminal Court.

    That will do for now – look at those examples. They are either obsolete treaties that had lost their relevance, or proposed treaties/obligations that were clearly either against US interest or else would make no sense to sign, such as Kyoto (no credible observers think Kyoto will ever work, and it will probably not be renewed).

    They have violated a number of the Geneva Convention codes in Iraq.

    More legal opinion. Whose?

    Skev, you should check out there voting record at the UN generals assembly.

    Surely you know that nations make votes in the UN for all sorts of tactical and strategic reasons. Alas, you don’t get specific so I can’t comment.

    Some of the motions they have vetoed over the past thirty years would even embarrass you.

    EVEN ME? Gosh! ;-)

    Let’s see, that makes 7 treaties violated and several more that have they have refused to sign.

    Not quite seven! One can’t violate a treaty one never signed, and I don’t count seven violations there. And if a treaty is quietly put to death (nuclear non-proliferation) because it was out of date (the other main signatory didn’t even exist any more), and no nation kicks up a stink, that hardly counts as a violation.

    This sounds very much like an wholesale rogue state to me.

    Huh? And there you lose me. To describe a nation as generous, free, tolerant, and courageous as the US as “an wholesale rogue state” (whatever “wholesale” means in this context) staggers my credulity. I really am starting to suspect that you’re taking the piss now. Are you just trolling me for a reaction? There’s no way you could seriously believe that the points you just made, even if true, lead to “an wholesale rogue state”. I don’t even know how to frame my reply. When I think of a “rogue state”, the mental description doesn’t even come CLOSE to the US.

    Look, it’s OKAY to disagree with US policy (I know I often do). But rogue state? I laugh outloud when i read crap like that – you reveal either a total lack of imagination as to how bad things could get, or a total misunderstanding of the way tolerant democratic governments work, or you don’t know what “rogue state” means.

    Lastly, I have read much of the mainstream material, and I have learned to read it with very much of a large bag of salt. I trust it no more now than I would have trusted Pravda or anymedia that was controlled by a narrow range of vested interests that are bolstering their own agenda.

    The New York Times is to be trusted no more than Pravda was? That’s not just unsupportable, it shows a disconnect from reality that casts a doubt over everything else you say. Can’t you see the trap you made for yourself? it’s like a self-imposed non-religous cult.

    The mainstream press does not permit dissent, or a deviation from the views of the establishment in any significant way.

    Evidence for this extraordinary assertion? Please, no links to zmag or similar, that would only bolster my point.

    I feel like I’m having a conversation with a Bible literalist. The only evidence they will accept is evidence that supports their views. There’s just nowhere to go.

    Sorry, I can’t go through the rest of your post and comment. Partly because I’m busy, and partly because, after your earlier comments, it’s hard to make the effort to comment on a series of over-stated unsupported assertions. I can’t even ask you to link your assertions to credible sources, because our definitions of credible sources is so different. We live in different worlds with different standards of evidence.

    Your other post linked to a zmag article and said:

    Skev, More non-mainstream material FYI. I don’t think any of this by Bill Blum is remotely controversial. Its just that our mainstream media choose to ignore it. I wonder why?

    Why? Perhaps because it’s a hollow list of baseless assertions that wouldn’t make the grade at a half-decent paper. Here’s just two excerpts:

    As numerous interventions have demonstrated, the engine of American foreign policy has been fueled, not by a devotion to democracy, but rather by the desire to:

    1) make the world safe for American transnational corporations

    2) enhance the financial statements of defense contractors at home

    3) prevent the rise of any society that might serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model

    4) extend political and economic hegemony over as wide an area as possible, as befits a “great power”

    5) fight a moral crusade against what cold warriors convinced themselves, and the American people, was the existence of an evil International Communist Conspiracy.

    The notion that US policy makers formulate policy with these aims in mind is A FANTASY. Pure and simple. Looking at outcomes and deducing that they were intended and assuming they were intended for all the worst reasons is the height of foolishness. Stop doing it. The world will make a lot more sense if you do, and you’ll be able to make real change. The other excerpt is the author’s own bio:

    William Blum is the author of “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.” The book has been endorsed by Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, A.J. Langguth (former NY Times Bureau Chief), Thomas Powell (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist) and Dr. Helen Caldicott (international leader of anti-nuclear and environmental movements)

    Wow. Check out those endorsements. Another guy traped in an echo chamber.

    All the best,

    Skev

  33. #33 Kristjan Wager
    March 23, 2005

    Skev, you might feel that those threaties are obsolete, but speaking as a non-American (and I think our host will agree with me in this), it’s a very big thing for the rest of the world that the US unilateral decides that they don’t want to follow treaties they have signed. Of course, we aren’t too happy about the treaties they haven’t signed either, but that’s on a whole different level, and part of international politics.

  34. #34 Andy B
    March 23, 2005

    The Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty is no longer valid! Thank God! Now Bush no longer has any excuse for attacking Iran – they can build as many nuclear weapons as they want. North Korea too!

    Shev -

    While I can’t particulary endorse Blum, it is not just “Looking at outcomes and deducing that they were intended and assuming they were intended for all the worst reasons” that results in this understanding of the creation of US policy. One could also read the internal discussion creating the plans – to the extent they are made public.

    To go through Blum’s 5 motivations list aboveone by one:

    1:see Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (Expanded) By Stephen Kinzer, Stephen Schlesinger. Harvard University Press. http://www.fetchbook.info/fwd_reviews/search_0674075900.html

    2:I generally think this one is overhyped by anti-war activists, but one book that made me question myself on that was Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to Deceive the Nation
    By Frank Kofsky Palgrave Macmillan. Contains detailed examination of discussions between airplane manufactures and foreign policy makers.

    3: Chomsky’s Detering Democracy. You can roll your eyes if you want, yell echo chamber again or whatever, or try to address the points. Personally when I was a rightwing highschooler and heard Chomsky saying nasty things about my country I tried to prove him wrong by looking up every reference and reading every counter point – and at the end I had to admit his point stood.

    I f you want something a little less polemic Try Gabriel Kolko The Politics of War. Again extensive documentation of internal discussions showing that this was a motivation for US policy.

    4:Imperial Brain Trust: The Council On Foreign Relations And United States Foreign Policy
    By William Minter, Laurence H. Shoup. Or heck just read the Project for the New American Centrury’s Rebuilding Americas Defenses.

    5: Are you really going to debate this one?

    The notion that US policy makers formulate policy with these aims in mind is A FANTASY

    You have already stated that you believed that the US has accidently became a superpower and disregard the actual outcomes of US actions (“opps did we just overthrough a democracy and impose a pro-american neoliberal dictator, dangit we were trying for freedom, Real!y!!”), Now the question becomes – should we ignore extensive documentation of the decision making process also? Perhaps we should assume that there is nothing going on in the decision making process other than what is handed to us on sheets of talking points.

    Andy

  35. #35 Jeff Harvey
    March 23, 2005

    Skev, are you serious when you state that Blum’s 5 point assertions are inadmissable? Heck, I dont even think the neocons themselevs would be able to deny it. There are volumes of eidence to support it. As I am a busy scientist, this is my last long post (because you will NEVER accept what is clearly right in front of you) and if you honestly believe that these assertions are baseless then you’ve been living in a bubble for way too long. Why not read Tom Athansiou’s excellent “Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor” for a start. Amy Goodman’s “The Exception to the Rulers’ might open your eyes a bit too. Add to this Mark Curtis’ “Web of Deceit”, and you’ll even learn a bit more. One little fact: research by Edward Herman in the 1980′s (and unchanged today) revealed that the US gave and still gives more economic and military ‘aid’ to countries with vile human rights records than to countries with better records in this capacity. Why is this, I wonder? Herman spelled it out: countries that routinely torture priests, murder union leaders, and have non-existent human health and environmental regulations tend to be the best countries for business investment. Period. In fact, human rights appears to be off the scale as far as US investment is concerned. This is because it actually conflicts with the two primary aims of US foreign policy: business and military expediency. That is point one. Point two is that a whistleblower last year leaked a document to journalist Greg Palast, that was an internal memo in the department of Homeland Security under then-attorney general Jonathon Ashcroft. The memo stated that there were three countries of ‘great concern’ with respect to US security, listed as ‘terrorist risks’. I ask you now, before you read on: which countries do you think the document highlighted? Perhaps Iran, Syria amd North Korea? No. The countries were Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. The document went on to state that the US government had hired the company “Choicepoint” (you may recall Choicepoint was involved in the 2000 Florida election recount fiasco because it was in charge of obtaining voter lists for registration). Now I ask you: what is the security risk to the US from these three Latin American countries? Go to Blum’s list and check off number 3. Each of these countries had elected a populist leader (Kirscher in Argentina, Lulus in Brazil, and Chavez in Venezuela) who were politically left of center and who have stated that they wanted to invoke political systems that challenge the existing order and redirect more of their respective countries wealth to all sectors of society, including the poor. Kirschner also wants to challenge IMF/World Bank ‘rules’ with their brutal strategic adjustment programs and austerity policies that always harm the poorest sectors of society. Of course, there are two big concerns here for the US plutocrats: the first is that these governments threaten the existing order, whereby it is deemed that the profits of their resources and capital are ‘by right’ the property of US investors. Higher taxes on US-owned multinationals will eat into profit margins. This cannot be allowed (read Guatemala, 1954). Second, the success of these new governments may encourage others in the region to follow suit (as they have done recently in Uruguay, for example). Those in power in the US are terrified that this ‘real democracy’ will become a pandemic and you know what that means. This is why the Reagan administration, in George Schultz’s famous words, had to “Cut out the cancer” in Nicaragua, as they did earlier in Guatemala at the cost of an estimated 300,000 lives (admitted to by Clinton who publicly apologized for longstanding US behavior towards the country during his presidency). So sorry, Skev, its time you put aside your mainstream papers and started hunting a little further for the truth. However, I will admit that it ain’t pretty.

  36. #36 Skev
    March 23, 2005

    Kristjan Wager said:

    Skev, you might feel that those threaties are obsolete,

    I referred to only one treaty as being obsolete (nuclear non-proliferation). The other major signatory didn’t exist anymore.

    but speaking as a non-American

    I’m also a non-American, by the way…

    (and I think our host will agree with me in this), it’s a very big thing for the rest of the world that the US unilateral decides that they don’t want to follow treaties they have signed.

    The US had to withdraw unilaterally. There was no one else (that mattered) left apart from the US. Not much of a treaty.

    Of course, we aren’t too happy about the treaties they haven’t signed either, but that’s on a whole different level, and part of international politics.

    Quite so. Which action is worse? Signing a treaty and not honouring it, or refusing to sign it in the first place? Good people can disagree on these things and still be good people, yes?

    All the best,

    Skev

  37. #37 Skev
    March 23, 2005

    Andy B said:

    The Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty is no longer valid! Thank God! Now Bush no longer has any excuse for attacking Iran – they can build as many nuclear weapons as they want. North Korea too!

    Umm… you’re kind of making my point for me. Iran and North Korea were clearly not bound by the treaty. And the USSR was gone. Hence it was obsolete. Why pretend? :-)

    (SNIP)

    You have already stated that you believed that the US has accidently became a superpower and disregard the actual outcomes of US actions (“opps did we just overthrough a democracy and impose a pro-american neoliberal dictator, dangit we were trying for freedom, Real!y!!”),

    If you’re going to misrepresent my statements like that, I see no point in debating you. You’re essentially debating someone else anyway, don’t let me interrupt. :-)

    All the best,

    Skev

  38. #38 Kristjan Wager
    March 23, 2005

    Which action is worse? Signing a treaty and not honouring it, or refusing to sign it in the first place? Good people can disagree on these things and still be good people, yes?

    Speaking in general terms: Signing and not honouring it. By not signing it, you have clealy show your stance, that’s not the case in the other situation.

  39. #39 Skev
    March 23, 2005

    Jeff Harvey said:

    Skev, are you serious when you state that Blum’s 5 point assertions are inadmissable?

    Not inadmissable. Unsupported.

    Heck, I dont even think the neocons themselevs would be able to deny it.

    Dunno, ask a neocon! :-)

    There are volumes of eidence to support it. As I am a busy scientist, this is my last long post (because you will NEVER accept what is clearly right in front of you) and if you honestly believe that these assertions are baseless then you’ve been living in a bubble for way too long.

    “clearly right in front” of me? “living in a bubble”? This sort of language is not conducive to making me want to plough through yet another long l o n g solid paragraph of assertions backed up only with clearly biased and non-mainstream “sources”. And you know what? I can’t do it. Looking at the rest of your solid mass of text, I just can’t make myself scan through it, looking for anything remotely like a realistic argument backed by credible sources.

    So if the object of this discussion was to see who gave in first, then you win. Congrats!

    Oh, and you mentioned that you’re a scientist. I realise that social sciences are “wretched” and have difficulties “testing” their theories, but if you really ARE a scientist, doesn’t the way you restrict your sources of trusted information even give you SOME pause? (shrugs)

    Anyway, real life intrudes here too. All the best, I guess we disagree less on the issues themselves than we do on what are the best ways to form opinions on the issues. I just can’t make myself believe that these small fringe publications and clearly biased writers hold the truth when most of the mainstream disagree with their extreme interpretations.

    Difficult to have a dialogue in this situation. Ah well.

    Skev

  40. #40 Jeff Harvey
    March 23, 2005

    Skev, Sorry you didn’t read the rest of my post, cos’ it provided some of the evidence you asked for but say is unsupported. Still, my advice is to read a bit more around the subjects we’ve discussed rather than to deny arguments I have made that have volumes of evidence to back them up. I’d throw in Bill Blum’s book while I am at it. Good luck in your reading.

  41. #41 Jeff Harvey
    March 23, 2005

    Skev, Last two points then I am gone! First, I am not a social scientist but a population ecologist. Second, you state: “I just can’t make myself believe that these small fringe publications and clearly biased writers hold the truth when most of the mainstream disagree”. You are hung up on the ‘mainstream’. Who fits into this class, in your opinion? Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, etc. because they appear on ‘mainstream’ media outlets? Or Wolf Blitzer and Jim Clancy at CNN? Tom Brokaw? Dan Rather? WHO? Your strategy has been to marginalise those writers – including eminent academics like Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, historians like Gore Vidal, Bill Blum and Mark Curtis, and reporters like Robert Fisk and John Pilger – simply because their views and literature (with plenty of empirical evidence to back them up) are shunned by – here we go again – the ‘mainstream’, whatever that is (shrugs). Perhaps they have been shunned not because their views are so outlandish, but because they threaten to ‘expose’ the mainstream for what it is – a narrow sector of elite opinion shared by those who have both wealth and political power which they use to further enrich themselves. And who controls the media by and large? The establishment – hence why dissenting views are excluded or marginalized.

  42. #42 Paul Crowley
    March 23, 2005

    I’m surprised that the confidence interval is so large – can someone help me explain how that comes to be?

  43. #43 Shirin
    March 23, 2005

    Paul, the confidence interval is NOT large. 95% is the most commonly used confidence interval in any kind of sampling study from opinion polls to product quality control to. 99% confidence intervals are not terribly uncommon, and in my experience, 90% is the smallest confidence interval you will ever see in any kind of common use.

  44. #44 Andy B
    March 23, 2005

    Shev-
    Iran and North Korea were clearly not bound by the treaty

    Iran and North Korea have faced sanctions, threatened war, and diplomatic isolation in the name of the NNP treaty – how does this make it null and void? You are aware that Iran definately has no weapons and virtually no one outside of the US believe North Korea does (despite what North Korea may say to get attention).

    Perhaps the sarcastic ender was unfair, if so i’m not sure what your point was when you derided looking at the outcomes of events. But anyway we are ignoring the main point – the internal discussion have all been extensively documented in well respected works and show those motivation showing major role.

    Andy

  45. #45 JoT
    March 23, 2005

    Shirin, in an earlier post on this page you claimed that the Baghdad BulletinBaghdad Bulletin – a small newspaper with a reporting staff of seven Western and four Iraqi journalists which was edited by David Enders, who now reports for The Independent (London) and The Nation, among others – was “a well-known pro-”coalition” (sic) propaganda organ”.

    I have repeatedly (four times) asked you to provide evidence in support of this serious allegation, which simple request you have consistently dodged and finally ignored. If you are unable to substantiate this defamatory remark then admit it was baseless and retract it – or are you waiting for Tim Lambert to request that you do so?

  46. #46 JoT
    March 23, 2005

    Apologies for the broken html code in my post, Tim – please edit if necessary.

  47. #47 not creatively snipping...
    March 24, 2005

    Dear Tim/ Shirin

    you believe you speak for all professional epidemiologists. Strange, but the UK government took advice from its own epidemiologists, and they took the view that the lancet study was insufficiently robust to be relied upon. This is in the public domain, and you know so.

    1) If falluja is included, is there any statistical significance to the 300,000 deaths ? I believe not.

    2) The whole point of auditing is to find out that in the case of the lancet study, up to ~20% of the deaths may be made up or imaginary. This uncertainty isn’t factored in to the analysis, because it is of such borderline significance in any case

    3) I would say that the estimate is virtually worthless. It adds virtually nothing new to knowledge

    4) Finally your link from the chronicle is amusing. Apart from whining from the lead author (why does no-one believe me ?), it makes several howlers. Just for example, the 95% confidence interval does not take into account mis-reporting of deaths.

    yours
    per

  48. #48 Kevin Donoghue
    March 24, 2005

    “not creatively snipping…”:

    “This is in the public domain, and you know so.”

    It is news to me so perhaps you will oblige with a link?

    “If falluja is included, is there any statistical significance to the 300,000 deaths?”

    “Statistical significance” makes sense only when a hypothesis is being tested. What hypothesis are you asking about here?

  49. #49 Skev
    March 24, 2005

    Andy B said:

    Shev-

    That’s the second time you’ve called me “Shev” instead of Skev. I accept that you’re unwilling or incapable of correctly representing my views, but could you at least get my name right? Use copy and paste if you have an eyesight problem. :-)

    “Iran and North Korea were clearly not bound by the treaty”

    Iran and North Korea have faced sanctions, threatened war, and diplomatic isolation in the name of the NNP treaty – how does this make it null and void?

    Because they were clearly ignoring their treaty obligations. And their pariah status has many causes, including human rights.

    (SNIP)But anyway we are ignoring the main point – the internal discussion have all been extensively documented in well respected works and show those motivation showing major role.

    The examples you gave of internal discussions were mostly historical and did NOT match the negative fanasy descriptions of the motivations given in the article mentioned earlier by way of… Wait – THIS is the main point? :-P I think not!

    I think if you scroll up halfway you’ll find that MY main point was that statistical studies based on scant evidence and resulting in findings with wide margins for error SUCK as a way to assess national policy outcomes. My first few comments were a lament over the lack of dependable info we have on Iraqi casualties. This segued into me lamenting the way some here rely on what can only be described as fringe sources (yes, when Chomsky talks about anything other than linguistics, he’s on the fringe). The rest is way, WAY off topic.

    All the best

    s-K-ev

  50. #50 Jeff Harvey
    March 24, 2005

    Referring to North Korea, Skev talks about ‘treaty obligations’ and ‘pariah status’ apparently without noting any hypocrisy over the current view by most of the world’s nations of the U.S. (as a wholesale rogue state) and of its traditional stance of opting out of its ‘treaty obligations’. C’mon man! Gimme a break, I can’t take this much humor leading up to Easter!!!

  51. #51 Skev
    March 24, 2005

    Jeff Harvey said:

    Referring to North Korea, Skev talks about ‘treaty obligations’ and ‘pariah status’ apparently without noting any hypocrisy over the current view by most of the world’s nations of the U.S.

    Most of the world’s nations do not view the US as a pariah, not even close. I DARE you to back that one up with any real credible data (yes, it has to be from the mainstream – I’ll let you decide what is mainstream (hint: I don’t mean Fox)).

    (as a wholesale rogue state)

    Whatever that means…

    and of its traditional stance of opting out of its ‘treaty obligations’.

    Yeah. A grand and consistent US tradition. All those hundreds of treaties signed over a couple of hundred years, all of them backed out of. If it’s such a tradition then why are you outraged?

    I can see why Americans who love their country can’t stand statements like yours. All invective all the time with no balance.

    C’mon man! Gimme a break, I can’t take this much humor leading up to Easter!!!

    Actually, I can handle it. You crack me up! ;-)

    Skev

  52. #52 Jeff Harvey
    March 25, 2005

    Skev,

    Its obvious that you are one of the many denialists. uch of the world regards the US as theplanet’s ultimate rogue state, and, yes, a pariah. There’s the blood of tens of millions of people around the world on the hands of successive US (and UK) governments, Democrat and Republican alike over the past 100 years. I am not blaming the populace of the country, as there are millions there who abhor what is being done by the established order in ‘their name’. Why on Earth did Bill Clinton publicly apologze for successive US supported quasi fascist regimes in Guatemala that have murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians since the US-bakced overthrow of the socialist president Arbenz in 1954? There are countless examples of this around the world since World War II. You just don’t wanna face the truth. A poll was held in 50 or so countries just over two years ago in which they were asked the question: “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace and stability?”. Six per cent said Iraq, and another 11 per cent said North Korea. But eighty-three per cent of respondents said the United States. The game is up.<>p

    Finally, refect on the words of U.S. state planner George Kennan who died on March 17 at the age of 101. Kennan was a leading diplomat and played a key rle in the truman administration.<>p

    One of his best-known pieces of writing is “Policy Planning Study 23″, written for the State Department planning staff in 1948. It read in part:<>p

    “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. … In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. … To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. … We should cease to talk about vague and … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”<>p

    What’s the difference today Skev?!?! Nothing. Nothing at all has changed. At least Kennan, who was considered a moderate, was brutally and amorally honest. The current gang in DC certainly are’nt. They are veiling their lies and deceit with catchy phrases like ‘democracy’, but the real agenda coud not be more different. Have you heard of Kennan, Skev? Probably not.

  53. #53 Skev
    March 25, 2005

    Jeff Harvey used paragraphs! Some were a bit large and poorly spelled, but actual paragraphs! Hooray! ;-)

    Okay, you gave a list of reasons why YOU feel people SHOULD regard the US as a pariah or “wholesale rogue state” (I’m calling it a WRS from now on), but that’s not quite what I asked for is it. You gave no actual evidence that these people DO regard America as a WRS etc. I’ll come back later to see if you can. Citing a single semi-related poll without linking to it (or even naming it so I could find it) is not very convincing.

    Here’s a hint: if you hadn’t used such over-the-top language you might have got away with it – it would be easy to find evidence that many people strongly disagree with this or that US policy position (heck, so do I), but since you’re now looking for evidence that entire nations regard the US as a pariah or WRS, you’re going to come up empty. Ah well.

    As for Kennan, your quote was a baffling choice to use as what he was arguing was hardly in keeping with the picture you’re painting of US policy approaches. Did you think I wouldn’t check? In the same paper he also says:

    It is urgently necessary that we recognize our own limitations as a moral and ideological force among the Asiatic peoples. (…)

    We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have the answers to the problems which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples.(…)

    We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.

    …and so on and so on. You or I as 21st century people may not like his condescending tone towards Asia, nor his selfish concern for the US and to heck with everyone else, but he was writing not long after a brutal war with Japan and he was hardly arguing for world conquest or empire. He’s suggesting the US pull its head in and mind it’s own business and stop trying to meddle and be liked internationally. How is that strongly relevant to your arguments?

    But what would I know, I’m “bamboozled” and I’m a “denialist” and I “just don’t wanna face the truth”. Now where’s that send button, oh there it is…

    Bye!

    Skev

  54. #54 Shirin
    March 27, 2005

    you believe you speak for all professional epidemiologists.

    Reporting what others have stated publicly is hardly speaking for them.

  55. #55 Shirin
    March 27, 2005

    the UK government took advice from its own epidemiologists, and they took the view that the lancet study was insufficiently robust to be relied upon. This is in the public domain, and you know so.

    Who were those epidemiologists? What did they actually say, and in what context did they say it? For my part, I would far rather hear on any subject from non-government sources than those working for any government. That is particularly true of a government such as Tony Blair’s, which has a track record of consistent mendacity on the subject of Iraq.

    1) If falluja is included, is there any statistical significance to the 300,000 deaths ? I believe not.

    2) The whole point of auditing is to find out that in the case of the lancet study, up to ~20% of the deaths may be made up or imaginary. This uncertainty isn’t factored in to the analysis, because it is of such borderline significance in any case

    3) I would say that the estimate is virtually worthless. It adds virtually nothing new to knowledge

    4) Finally your link from the chronicle is amusing. Apart from whining from the lead author (why does no-one believe me ?), it makes several howlers. Just for example, the 95% confidence interval does not take into account mis-reporting of deaths.

  56. #56 not creatively snipping...
    March 27, 2005

    Shirin wrote:

    For my part, I would far rather hear on any subject from non-government sources than those working for any government…

    so I guess that you are now speaking for all epidemiologists, except those that disagree with you.

    I guess that is a step forward.

    per

  57. #57 Shirin
    March 27, 2005

    No, I am speaking only for myself about my own preferences regarding sources. I am speaking only for myself when I say I do not trust what political sources have to say. I am speaking only for myself when I say I most particularly do not trust governments and politicians when they make assertions and statements that serve their own agendas. And I am speaking only for myself when I say I do not trust governments and politicians when they make self-serving statements regarding issues on which they have a history of consistent mendacity.

    I notice that you have not answered my questions, so I will ask them again. Who were those epidemiologists? What did they actually say, and in what context did they say it? And I would appreciate seeing some sources, too, if you would be kind enough to provide references.

  58. #58 Ian Gould
    March 27, 2005

    “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” – From the essay “Notes on Nationalism”

    George Orwell has been dead for over 50 years, it’s remarkable how his work continues to become more, rather than less, relevant.

  59. #59 Shirin
    March 27, 2005

    it’s remarkable how his work continues to become more, rather than less, relevant.

    Remarkable in a terrifying kind of way.

  60. #60 Jeff Harvey
    March 27, 2005

    Skev, Kennan was expressing the view that has dominated US thinking for almost 60 years. You cited perhaps his most relevant part of the quote: that the US cannot afford world benefaction or altruism. This is absolutely the case if it wants to retain its status on the world stage. Further, it has to dispense with idealistic slogans and thus get on with the job of enriching itself while abandoning the notion that it should seek to redress imbalances in the world. When George H.W. Bush said in 1991 that “The American way of ife is not up for negotiation”, he was stating a simple fact: that the US establishment will take whatever measures it needs to ensure that it will continue to overconsume depleting global capital (resources) and in order to do this it maintain an inequity in the way in whic the capital flows.

    At present, humanity is living off a one-time inheritance of natural capital, in the form of fossil-age groundwater supplies, deep rich agricultural soil and biodiversity. Research on ecological footprinting by Bill Rees and Mathis Wackernagel reveal that mankind has been living in deficit ecologically since about 1980 – and that the richest 16% of the world controls and consumes something like 80% or more of the planet’s resources. Based on 1999 data, we have overshot the planet’s sustainable carrying capacity by about 40%. And the US alone maintains a per capita deficit of about 5 hectares per person. This means that it has to be appropriated from elsewhere, because there are insufficient quantities of natural capital to retain the lifestyle of the average US citizen within the borders of the US. To be fair, all of the developed nations are financing huge ecological deficits (Holland and the US have the largest per capita deficits). Where do our countries obtain this capital to maintain bloated rates of overconsumption? From underdeveloped countries with puny per capita impacts and a surplus in resources. This is why our governments are pushing to deregulate national economies and to create a system of unfettered globalization. The way this is currently structured, it allows us to get our hands on desperately needed capital as cheaply as possible, hence why then WTO, IMF, World bank and ICC (all western bodies) are pushing for ‘free trade’ and economic ‘liberalization’.

    THIS is what I frequently give lectures on at universities and elsewhere with respect to the attempt of a small number of very wealthy people – not just in the US, but across the world and even in poorer countries – to do whatever it takes to ensure that the poor remain poor in order to further enrich themselves. I suggest you log into Quark Soup and read some of my comments with respect to the continued depletion of our planet’s ecological support systems mostly as a measure by the rich nations (and the rich within the rich nations) to maintain the status quo. It is all connected – hence why the war in Iraq was nothing more than an imperial adventure that was based on the aim of political control of a critically vital resource-rich region and ready access to another in the Caucasus. Lastly, it was about power. I reiterate that you should check out economist Tom Athanasiou’s book, “Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor”, or else Brian Czech’s “Shovelling Fuel for a Runaway Train”. My lectures highlight the link between corrupt corporate behavior and government policies, overconsumption and the undermining of our global ecological life-support systems.

  61. #62 JoT
    March 27, 2005

    And, my apologies to Tim for making a second post I neglected to preview and which contains an html error. The sentence was meant to read:

    I’ve repeatedly and civilly asked you to provide some evidence in support of this highly defamatory description of the BB and by direct inference its very small team of journalists (I’ve mentioned one of them, editor David Enders, in an earlier post).

  62. #63 JoT
    March 27, 2005

    …and then I posted a useless link! OK, maybe third time lucky:

    Shirin, are you ever going to stand by your claim that The Baghdad Bulletin was “a well-known pro-”coalition” (sic) propaganda organ”? I’ve repeatedly and civilly asked you to provide some evidence in support of this highly defamatory description of the BB and by direct inference its very small team of journalists (I mentioned one of them, editor David Enders, in an earlier post).

    Nothing I have seen or read to date supports this serious allegation, which in view of your inability or reluctance to substantiate you appear to have made in error. If any such evidence specific to the BB exists I am genuinely interested in seeing it, but arguments like those of some of your supporters (just look at Judith Miller at the NYT! Krauthammer at the WP! What about Fox? or Pravda?) fail to convince, let alone provide a shred of evidence that the BB was “pro-coalition”, nor that it was a “propaganda organ”, nor that this was “well-known”.

    If you are this cavalier and unrepentant about making egregious but unfounded accusations, why should anyone take seriously anything you have to say about realities in Iraq, of which you claim firsthand knowledge? So for the sixth and final time of asking, either support your comment about the BB or retract it.

  63. #64 Jeff Harvey
    March 28, 2005

    OK JOT, I have spent the better part of a day looking into the record of the Baghdad Bulletin and, although not speaking for Shirin, I retract what I said about it. It looks to be about the best in terms of independent journalism that could be said about conditions in a country that is illegally and brutally occupied by a foreign invader. So I give you the nod on this one. The editors and writers look like they are doing a pretty good job with the paper under pretty bad circumstances. My mistake, and I retract it.

    However, not to give everything away, I wonder how much leeway they really have to ‘tell it like it is’. This is not to say that they don’t want to be fully independent, but that they will be muzzled by the US authorities if they go TOO far. If the media in the US fears the same thing, what can be said by a paper that will be read by the occupying forces, and what will be their reaction to undue criticism? Just a point for further debate.

    Over here in Europe we have ‘Euronews’, which always makes a big pitch of being ‘independent’. For the most part I agree, but occasionally they make a statement that has no proven credibility or which supports the official version only. Just over a week ago, they made this howler in discussing the Halabja massacre: “This was one of the reasons for the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003″. There is not a shred of evidence to support this claim except to accept the ‘official reasoning’ of Bush and Blair at face value. If they had said one of the ‘alleged reasons’ I would have thought this was bad enough, but to state it as a clear reason without any criticism dents their ‘independent’ veneer.

  64. #65 Paul Crowley
    March 28, 2005

    I don’t mean that 95% is large. I’m surprised that quoting the results at 95% confidence means that the bounds given on the result differ by nearly 200,000.

    I’m not expressing suspicion of the study, I just want to understand it better.

  65. #66 Kevin Donoghue
    March 28, 2005

    Paul,

    The main reason is that some neighbourhoods surveyed did much worse than others. Comparing mortality rates before and after, it is up by a factor of 1.5 on average. But for some clusters the factor is below 1.3 and for others above 1.9. So the 95% confidence interval for that statistic is a rather wide 1.1 to 2.3. Extrapolating from these numbers (of course the cluster-by-cluster figures are unavailable) gives the wide excess-deaths CI.

    All that is excluding Falluja. See pages 4 and 5 of the study.

  66. #67 Skev
    March 28, 2005

    Hi again. Jeff Harvey said:

    Skev, Kennan was expressing the view that has dominated US thinking for almost 60 years.

    Across all that time, all those presidents, all those Congresses/Senates, and both the major parties, there has been no shift at all? I guess from your side of the fence, viewing the mainstream parties from way, way over there, they could seem a bit similar. But surely you’re engaging in lazy big-picture analysis?

    You cited perhaps his most relevant part of the quote: that the US cannot afford world benefaction or altruism. This is absolutely the case if it wants to retain its status on the world stage. Further, it has to dispense with idealistic slogans and thus get on with the job of enriching itself while abandoning the notion that it should seek to redress imbalances in the world.

    THAT’S your summary of US policy over the last 60 years? This is teenager stuff, beneath you or any adult. And you lecture on the subject? Not in a formal educational context I hope. If so then I pity your students, having to listen to that sort of childishly simplistic “analysis” and having to spout it back to you to get good grades. Ugh.

    When George H.W. Bush said in 1991 that “The American way of ife is not up for negotiation”, he was stating a simple fact: that the US establishment will take whatever measures it needs to ensure that it will continue to overconsume depleting global capital (resources) and in order to do this it maintain an inequity in the way in whic the capital flows.

    I’m curious – what exactly do you think the big plan is for the “US establishment”? To consume all the resources and then… what? Eat the poor? Then what? Eat each other? Then what?

    Give “the establishment” credit for SOME brains, or at least survival instincts. If the maths of it all is SO obvious to you, then why isn’t it obvious to “the establishment”? Are they blind? Do they not care? Or maybe, just maybe, do they see a different outcome?

    At present, humanity is living off a one-time inheritance of natural capital, in the form of fossil-age groundwater supplies, deep rich agricultural soil and biodiversity.

    One of those three “one-time inheritances” is renewable, and the other is protectable, so I’m not sure what you mean by “one-time”. And isn’t running out of oil going to be a GOOD thing?

    Research on ecological footprinting by Bill Rees and Mathis Wackernagel reveal that mankind has been living in deficit ecologically since about 1980 – and that the richest 16% of the world controls and consumes something like 80% or more of the planet’s resources. Based on 1999 data, we have overshot the planet’s sustainable carrying capacity by about 40%. And the US alone maintains a per capita deficit of about 5 hectares per person.

    Blah blah, and not a credible link to be had. This sort of empty stats is why the environmental movement is in political trouble.

    (SNIP) This is why our governments are pushing to deregulate national economies and to create a system of unfettered globalization. The way this is currently structured, it allows us to get our hands on desperately needed capital as cheaply as possible, hence why then WTO, IMF, World bank and ICC (all western bodies) are pushing for ‘free trade’ and economic ‘liberalization’.

    These institutions are all houses with many rooms – do you really believe the simplistic paranoia you’re promoting? I don’t mind paranoia as such, it’s the ridiculously simplistic aspect of it that cracks me up.

    THIS is what I frequently give lectures on at universities and elsewhere

    Is this an attempt at an appeal to authority? That is, your own? I give lectures too, sometimes with other people present! Can we zip up our pants and put away the rulers now? Look, either back up your positions with short summarised arguments or give it up.

    with respect to the attempt of a small number of very wealthy people – not just in the US, but across the world and even in poorer countries – to do whatever it takes to ensure that the poor remain poor in order to further enrich themselves.

    Even if this was true, it cannot possibly last. You said so yourself!

    I suggest you log into Quark Soup and read some of my comments with respect to the continued depletion of our planet’s ecological support systems mostly as a measure by the rich nations (and the rich within the rich nations) to maintain the status quo.

    I’ll decline that invitation thanks – one comment thread with you is enough (and even now you STILL don’t provide a link! Was I supposed to do a search for the exact domain name?). Feel free to copy and paste anything relevant to my original concerns (if you even remember what they were).

    It is all connected –

    Whoopsie! Your tin hat is slipping. Here, let me… hold still… there you go, all safe now!

    hence why the war in Iraq was nothing more than an imperial adventure (…) political control of a critically vital resource-rich region (…) it was about power.

    YAWN. Fascinating story, but free of convincing MAINSTREAM evidence.

    I reiterate that you should check out economist Tom Athanasiou’s book, “Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor”, or else Brian Czech’s “Shovelling Fuel for a Runaway Train”.

    I’m always deeply suspicious of people debating ONLINE who, instead of making a convincing argument with links to credible sources, instead tell me to go off and read PAPER books and get back to them when I have. In my experience, the books are usually either not relevant or as empty as the person who made the recommendation. Once bitten…

    No, I will not read those books. We’re online in a comment section right now, so put your case appropriately. Either make a short sharp explanation of your position, or link to someone else who has, or else give it up. No disguised appeals to authority please.

    My lectures highlight the link between corrupt corporate behavior and government policies, overconsumption and the undermining of our global ecological life-support systems.

    You DO know I’ve never attended any of your “lectures”, right? ;-) Seems an odd thing to say… twice.

    All the best,

    Skev

  67. #68 Jeff Harvey
    March 29, 2005

    Skev,

    The articles by Rees and Wackernagel are based on peer-reviewed studies in journals like Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They aren’t opinion papers at all, but based on empirical research. Methinks boy you need to get to an academic library fast and do some reading, instead of blathering on about lack of empirical evidence. In coming posts, I will give you a list. Rees and Wackernagel’s book is full of cited references, but you will probably ignore them anyway.

    Second, you reveal a brazen ignorance of the way in which the world works. As I have said a million times, there is plenty of empirical evidence that humans are depleting natural capital through overconsumption. The fact that we are losing biodiversity at 1,000-2,000 times the natural background rate for well-studied vertebrate groups is clear evidence, as is research detailing the continued overpumping of aquifers (check out the rates of overpumping of the Oglalla aquifer, for example) and of the fact that agricultural soils, which take thousands of years to be generated are being exahusted in decades. Lots of evidence there, if you bother to get off your backside and go to the library and look through the web of science instead of sitting atop a pedestal of ignorance and claiming that it ain’t so with no evidence whatsoever.

    I would be very interested to know what kind of professional line you are in. Certainly not a scientific field. That is patently obvious. But do you honestly think that many of those living high off the hog today give a damn about what will happen in 50 or 100 years? They are too busy wallowing in contemporary excess to care less about it. They are also in collective denial – hence their refusal to accept humanity as a global force that is simplifying natural systems at an astonishing rate. Most worrying or all is that these systems generate a range of conditions that in the words of senior scientist Simon Levin at Princeton permit our existence – they do not exist by virtue of doing so. No, our existence hinges on a a critical range of ecological services that emerge over variable spatial and temporal scales as a function of the biological processes of communities and ecosystems. But since I suspect that you have never so much heard of an ecosystem service then I am probably wasting my breath.

    Skev, if you want to discuss science with me, prepare to learn something, but do not blindly dismiss what you do not understand.

  68. #69 Jeff Harvey
    March 29, 2005

    Skev,

    This is just for starters (a few eco-footprint studies – there are hundreds more that track the overshoot of the material economy). If you want references that deal explicitly with loss of biodiversity, overuse of water and soil, I’ll be happy to oblige.

    By the way, ALL of these natural resources are renewable is used sustainably (I suspect that you were referring to water). But based on current levels of human overconsumption, all three are in rapid decline. Thus, humans are living off a one-time inheritance of natural capital instead of on income. The Living Planet Index of the U.N. and World Bank (initiated in 1970 with an index of 100.0) based on the health of coastal marine, inland freshwater and forest ecosystems reported by 1998 a 30% decline on average of all three indicators (by 1998 the index had dropped below 70% and it continues to fall).

    This is proof enough that we are eating into the account of the natural economy to support vast amounts of overconsumption in the developed world. The Iraq conflict is just part of a wider pattern of resource wars that will emerge as we continue to drain the natural economy to support the material economy. Another example from many: eleven of the world’s fiftenn major fishing grounds are on the verge of collapse because of overharvesting. Historically, local populations had to make do on the local resource base or else face societal collapse. Now, thanks to improved technologies, Homo sapiens is a global force and we can move to new areas when resources in old ones have been depleted.

    But the planet is finite – Earthlike planet’s are hard to find these days. In the current bloated, hair-trigger economy, globalization allows conglomerates to move around in search of desperately needed capital. Hence why ‘free trade’ is the credo of corrupt western financial institutions. Protectionism – in the name of protecting local markets, human populations and the environment – is the big enemy of free trade. As humans are currently co-opting more then 40% of net primary production, and 50% of freshwater flows, increased population and per capita consumption is going to drive these figures up, leaving less for nature. And humans will sadly lose more in the process.

    Here are the references:

    Exploring past and future changes in the ecological footprint for world regions van Vuuren DP, Bouwman LF
    ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS 52 (1): 43-62

    Historical accountability and cumulative impacts: the treatment of time in corporate sustainability reporting
    Lenzen M, Dey CJ, Murray SA
    ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS 51 (3-4): 237-250

    Tracking the anthropogenic drivers of ecological impacts
    Rosa EA, York R, Dietz T. AMBIO 33 (8): 509-512

    Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy. Wackernagel M, Schulz NB, Deumling D, Linares AC, Jenkins M, Kapos V, Monfreda C, Loh J, Myers N, Norgaard R, Randers J. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 99 (14): 9266-9271

  69. #70 Skev
    April 5, 2005

    Hi Jeff,

    Sorry for the delay in replying, I’ve been on the other side of the country for a few days for my brother’s wedding. You said:

    The articles by Rees and Wackernagel are based on peer-reviewed studies in journals like Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They aren’t opinion papers at all, but based on empirical research.

    I wasn’t suggesting that they were opinion papers, nor that they were unscientific. Where did you get that? I was complaining about your lack of links to external pages. WEB pages. Are you seriously suggesting that there is NOTHING online that supports your views outside of places like zmag etc? I’m a busy guy having a chat with someone online that is trying to convince me of something, yet that person won’t link to anything but fringe online publications or irrelevent science papers.

    Why do I say your science references are irrelevant? Because the things you say that I strongly disagree with are your political “analyses” such as (to pick one example):

    hence why the war in Iraq was nothing more than an imperial adventure (…) political control of a critically vital resource-rich region (…) it was about power.

    Can you find a peer-reviewed science publication that supports this view? No? I thought not. Your repeated attempts to sidetrack the issue to areas that are not relevant (areas that, incidentally, we may even agree on, such as resource depletion) are no longer amusing. Do you not even remember my first few comments? Scroll up if you care to.

    Hmm, it occurs to me that maybe the reason you never link to anything isn’t so much because there are no links out there, but because you don’t know how to insert a clickable link into a comment. After all, it took a while for you to master the art of the paragraph! :-) If so, I suggest you go Googling for some introductory HTML tutorials, after all, a “scientific” guy like you should pick up the basics of HTML in no time. You then said:

    Methinks boy you need to get to an academic library fast and do some reading, instead of blathering on about lack of empirical evidence.

    This sentence is a straw man (I complained that YOU didn’t have any linked data, not that it didn’t exist) combined with mild ad hominem (“boy”, “blathering”). Boring. And beneath you.

    As stated, I was complaining about the lack of links in your posts. Look, I’m a busy guy with better things to do than go to libraries to look up stuff I never disputed with you in the first place.

    I’m not looking for links to academic articles about species vanishing, I want you to back up your political assertions. Instead you twist and squirm around like a… twisty… squirmy… thing. :-)

    (SNIP)Skev, if you want to discuss science with me, prepare to learn something, but do not blindly dismiss what you do not understand.

    Actually I DON’T want to discuss science with you. I want to discuss politics. What followed in the rest of your posts was more of the same – several appeals to authority, more attacks on straw men, and various vague insults, all in an attempt to prove points that were not in dispute here (that we are consuming too much), while avoiding the points that I actually stated disagreement on. Try again, and pay attention next time. The closest you get to the conversation I’d LIKE to have is this:

    This is proof enough that we are eating into the account of the natural economy to support vast amounts of overconsumption in the developed world. The Iraq conflict is just part of a wider pattern of resource wars that will emerge as we continue to drain the natural economy to support the material economy.

    THIS is your non sequitur. How does one (overconsumption) lead you to the other (Iraq is part of “resource wars”)? I’m not interested in disputing the science right now, I’ll accept (for argument’s sake) all the claims of all the mainstream science community on resources and the environment (while recognising that there is diversity of opinion within the scientific community). But how do you get from this to your (frankly, slightly nutty) political opinions?

    You’re confusing outcomes with intent. No? Then back up your claims.

    All the best,

    Skev

  70. #71 Jeff Harvey
    April 6, 2005

    Hi Skev,

    Busy this week but will get back to you.

    Jeff

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.