A tale of two estimates

As my readers know, the reason why the Lancet study and the ILCS give different numbers for deaths in Iraq is because the studies measured different things over a different time periods. Of course, that fact isn’t going to stop pro-war columnists from claiming that the ILCS refutes the Lancet study. Here is Tony Parkinson writing in The Age.

How many people, for example, still swear blind that 100,000 civilians have been killed in the war in Iraq? For some, it has become an article of faith that this is the cost of an illegal war of aggression waged by a ruthless imperial power.

For this we can mainly thank the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, which published a controversial survey on the impact of war in Iraq ahead of last year’s US presidential election. Based on a sample of 788 households in Iraq, it estimated the “excess deaths” resulting from war to be in a range between 8000 to 194,000. It claimed a 95 per cent confidence that the actual death toll was at least 98,000.

Now, the United Nations Development Program in association with Iraq’s Ministry of Planning has published its own survey, based on a much larger sample of almost 22,000 households. The Iraq Living Conditions Survey estimated war-related deaths to be nearer 24,000, including both civilian and military casualties. Still hideous, but not the apocalyptic vision of industrial-strength slaughter embraced so readily, so ghoulishly, by some critics of the war.

Fortunately, Anthony O’Donnell has sorted Parkinson out in a letter to the editor:

Tony Parkinson (Opinion, 27/5) and the accompanying illustration by John Spooner each claims that the recent UNDP finding of 24,000 war-related deaths in Iraq somehow discredits an earlier study published in The Lancet which estimated 100,000 excess deaths since the allied invasion. In fact, the UNDP study does no such thing.

The Lancet figure included all excess deaths, whether caused directly by armed combatants, homicide, disease, accident and so on. Within this, it is possible to estimate about 33,000 deaths directly attributable to coalition and insurgent forces. The UNDP study focused solely on such deaths and in turn came up with a figure of 24,000. However, the UNDP study covers only the first year of occupation while the Lancet study covered 18 months. The UNDP study therefore suggests a toll as high or higher than the Lancet study for this type of death. Contrary to Parkinson and Spooner’s claims, the UNDP figure represents a partial but significant vindication of the method and results of the Lancet study.

John Quiggin notes how many factual errors Parkinson makes and observes that blogs have done a much better job on this issue than the papers.

There also seems to be a trend amongst Lancet denialists to keep reducing the sample size of the Lancet study. In spite of the fact that they surveyed 988 households, Tim Blair claimed they only surveyed 808, and now Parkinson has further reduced the number to 788.

And what of Parkinson’s charge that those concerned about the number of Iraqi deaths are behaving “ghoulishly”? Here is Parkinson being just as ghoulish last year:

Finally, there is the harrowing evidence of the regime’s monstrosity, with the uncovering of 300,000 corpses. Saddam was not just another tinpot dictator. This was slaughter on a historic scale.

Now the “300,000 corpses have been uncovered” claim has been embraced by the pro-war crowd just as the readily as the Lancet’s 100,000 number has been embraced by the other side. The big difference is that the 300,000 number is known to be false. Last year, the Observer reported:

Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that ‘400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves’ is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.

It seems that an estimate by Human Rights Watch that 290,000 Iraqis were “missing” was turned into claims that 300,000 or 400,000 bodies had actually been found. Furthermore,

Hania Mufti, one of the researchers that produced that estimate, said: ‘Our estimates were based on estimates. The eventual figure was based in part on circumstantial information gathered over the years.’

I’m sure they’ve done the best they could with the information they had, but an estimate based on other estimates and circumstantial evidence cannot be considered as reliable as the Lancet study using state-of-the-art random sampling and deaths verified with death certificates.

Comments

  1. #1 Flashman
    May 31, 2005

    I estimate that there’s a 95% probability that Tim Blair won’t back down from his praise for Parkinson’s dodgy stats.

  2. #2 Ender
    May 31, 2005

    In my opinion the saddest thing about the whole debate is the use of the word ‘only’. It is not anybodys fault it is just the depersonalisation that occurs whenever death statistics are discussed. To say that ‘only’ 24 000 people died and this better that 100 000 is to forget that multiple thousands of men, woman, and children were killed and left orphans, dependents and loved ones to fend for themselves. Similarly the fact that ‘only’ 5000 corpses were found conceals the grim tales of these deaths.

    It is too easy to forget that the 24 000 or 5000 or whatever figure that died is only the tip of the iceberg. For each death there are orphans, traumatised people that will never recover, permanently disable people that will require care all their lives and new recruits for the insurgency.

    This is not a critism of this post but just a warning not to let statistics conceal the human toll of however many ‘excess’ deaths that happened in Iraq due to this war.

  3. #3 Ender
    May 31, 2005

    In my opinion the saddest thing about the whole debate is the use of the word ‘only’. It is not anybodys fault it is just the depersonalisation that occurs whenever death statistics are discussed. To say that ‘only’ 24 000 people died and this better that 100 000 is to forget that multiple thousands of men, woman, and children were killed and left orphans, dependents and loved ones to fend for themselves. Similarly the fact that ‘only’ 5000 corpses were found conceals the grim tales of these deaths.

    It is too easy to forget that the 24 000 or 5000 or whatever figure that died is only the tip of the iceberg. For each death there are orphans, traumatised people that will never recover, permanently disable people that will require care all their lives and new recruits for the insurgency.

    This is not a critism of this post but just a warning not to let statistics conceal the human toll of however many ‘excess’ deaths that happened in Iraq due to this war.

  4. #4 Ian Gould
    May 31, 2005

    Even if there were *NO* excess deaths – and remember we’re talking excess over the death-toll exacted by Saddam’s regime and by sanctions – you’d have to question what had been achieved in Iraq to justify the spending of around half a trillion dollars (that’s US spending on the war; allied sepnding and spending both by Iraq and the international community to repair the damage caused by the invasion.

    TallDave used a dodgy industry-backed estimate of $600 billion in costs to argue that Kyoto would have wrecked the US economy. The Iraq war has cost as much in a little over two years as Kyoto would have cost in five – even on very pessimistic estimates of the cost of the Kyoto.

  5. #5 Jeff Harvey
    May 31, 2005

    Ian,

    George Monbiot made this very point in January: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/01/04/killing-vs-helping/

  6. #6 Mike
    June 1, 2005

    Parkinson’s errors make one cringe. I’ve always held the impression that journalists generally have fairly substantial egos. As a consequence, one would expect every column to be scrupulously fact checked, to avoid professional humiliation. I mean, unpaid bloggers and blog commenters go to great lengths to avoid humiliation on a much smaller scale (within the scope of their limited audience).

    It isn’t simply the frequency and magnitude of Parkinson’s errors. It’s the fact that even a cursory examination of his subject would have preempted these.

    Still, to be even-handed, some anti-regime change journalists in the corporate media have been guilty of presenting the 100,000 Lancet figure as though all of that number died violently.

    I do disagree with your characterization of the 300,000 death estimate from the Saddam period. With the passage of time, it becomes easy to forget that this estimate is based on extensive interviewing of survivors by NGOs, as well as (in the case of Anfal) captured regime documentation.

    The Human Rights Watch reports from 1991 detail the scale and widespread nature of the post Gulf War 1 rebellions, and a resulting carnage consistent with such a conflict. There are numerous anecdotal accounts of severe fighting in many major Iraqi centres, accounts that include massive casualties inflicted on Saddam loyalists initially, resulting in far higher retaliatory death tolls once Saddam regained the initiative. HRW cites an intercepted remark from a Saddam official in which he claims 250,000 were killed in the 1991 fighting alone.

    It becomes rather specious and revisionist to call in to question the Saddam era death toll on the basis of a lack of death certificates (why would we expect there to be any for campaigns like Anfal?), or the inability to find mass graves (where do you begin to look?).

    It’s also worth repeating that much of the evidence related to the scale of Saddam’s killing is based on anecdotal evidence. Numerous anecdotal accounts, but anecdotal nonetheless. Calling into question the 300,000 figure necessitates the calling into question of the truthfulness of those interviewed by HRW and other NGOs. Given the indignation of Lancet defenders over the “lying Iraqis” insinuations made during the Lancet debate, I’d expect you’d want to steer clear of any ” lying Kurds ” suggestion, however unintended it may have been.

  7. #7 Thomas Palm
    June 1, 2005

    Mike, while you are right that one shouldn’t ignore the victims of Saddams regime. The complaint from Tim was how estimates of 300,000 dead had suddenly been turned into 300,000 corpses found, presumably so that authorities wouldn’t have to answer questions on how they knew and whether that knowledge were any more exact than about casualties after the invasion.

    It might also be useful to separate cases of people being murdered just because they had the wrong political opinion, and those killed as part of a rebellion. To “liberate” a country because innocent people are being murdered at least makes some sense, to do it because an armed rebellion against the regimed failed makes no sense whatsoever. (especially when said rebellion was encouraged by the countries that performed the invasion)

  8. #8 Donald Johnson
    June 1, 2005

    Mike, my guess is that Saddam killed hundreds of thousands and that the sanctions also killed hundreds of thousands, but that said, I don’t know if anyone has done a survey along the lines of the Lancet study to accurately determine either number, nor what the error bars on the estimates we often see actually are. That’s what’s interesting to me about the Lancet study–in this one case there’s all this fascination with confidence intervals and the trustworthiness of the estimate, something you never see when the newspapers casually report that Saddam murdered this number or that number.

    As for “lying Iraqis”, in general I’d trust ordinary people to be accurate about the number of family members killed or to remember the names of friends that had died. It’d then be up to the analyst to design a study based on what people can remember accurately which would give accurate numbers for the total number murdered in all of Iraq. I wouldn’t trust ordinary people to be accurate about the numbers killed in their village or their region or about the number of corpses likely to be found in a mass grave. My impression is that people tend to treat numbers the way the medieval chroniclers did–as things to be inflated in order to make the story more impressive.

  9. #9 David Tiley
    June 1, 2005

    Saddam did suppress a rebellion, and all dictators do that savagely. He did commit his people to a horrible foreign war which killed far more men than that (encouraged at the time by the West).

    But the Coalition argues that Saddam is distinctively evil, a particularly brutal thug whose removal ultimately justifies the war. The 300,000 figure is part of this argument:

    “In the past ten days, Mr. Blair has said at least three times – including once on the floor of the House of Commons – that the United Nations is claiming that some 300,000 bodies lie in mass graves in Iraq, and that this alone justifies the US-UK invasion.” Thus says the Mail on Sunday for August 6th 2003.

    But if he ruled with no more than conventional ferocity, the metric by which we judge his role changes. The scale of the bad he did no longer overwhelms any possible good, so we can ask ourselves whether life really is better under Saddam or after.

    The Indonesians run a brutal regime. They suppress rebellion. They are very ugly. But, if we argued that this was a reason to invade the country, change the constitution and set up another government, the very apologists for the current war in Iraq would be berserk with outrage.

    They would be pointing out that a) Indonesia is a difficult country to govern and force is necessary and b) it must make its own transition to democracy and c) you can’t judge Indonesia by a one size fits all theory of civil order and d) the nascent middle class is growing steadily and this is vital in the creation of a modern Islamic state that won’t degenerate into theocracy.

    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps Howard is lobbying Bush right now to shock and awe Djakarta into the rich flood of joy that comes with freedom.

  10. #10 Tex
    June 1, 2005

    At least Schapelle would be free then…

  11. #11 Mike
    June 1, 2005

    Thomas:

    The Tony Blair quote concerning 400,000 corpses having been found is fair game. I take no issue with Tim’s criticism on that point. That Blair made such a demonstrably false assertion is mind boggling.

    “It might also be useful to separate cases of people being murdered just because they had the wrong political opinion, and those killed as part of a rebellion.”

    Thomas, the latter occurred in large part because of the former. A government which engages in the wholesale murder of its political opponents deserves to be overthrown. Would you have excused the former Soviet Union if it had committed mass slaughter to prevent the end of communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe? A government that has lost the support of the majority of its citizens, or a government that never had it in the first place, and attained power through force, has no moral prerogative to retain power by unleasing its army on a killing spree.

    “To “liberate” a country because innocent people are being murdered at least makes some sense, to do it because an armed rebellion against the regime failed makes no sense whatsoever.”

    Thomas, HRW states that thousands of civilians were killed by Saddam forces in putting down this rebellion, often through intentional targeting. Thousands of captured combatants and men of military age(and boys who weren’t), who may or may not have taken part in the fighting were rounded up and executed as well.

  12. #12 Mike
    June 1, 2005

    Donald:

    “That’s what’s interesting to me about the Lancet study–in this one case there’s all this fascination with confidence intervals and the trustworthiness of the estimate, something you never see when the newspapers casually report that Saddam murdered this number or that number.”

    Donald, no one, including the Left, saw any reason to take issue with the death estimates for Saddam’s rule, so long as the U.S. and Britain were doing nothing more than containing him.

    As long as that status quo remained in effect, everyone agreed that Saddam was evil, had murdered several hundred thousand of his own citizens, and caused the deaths of at least a million other human beings in two wars of aggression. It wasn’t until the implementation of regime change that we began to see this challenging of death figures for Saddam’s tenure, and the slow and steady transformation of his legacy, from “Saddam the Evil,” to “Saddam the Not-so-Bad.”

    “I don’t mind the skepticism regarding the Lancet number–we need more data. But the skepticism about numbers should be spread around a little more evenly.”

    I don’t disagree with you on this. As stated above, I do have a problem with the fact that the Saddam era skepticism is a recent phenomenon. I also think we need to remind ourselves that repressive dictatorships which resort to mass murder usually strive to conceal evidence of the scale of their genocide. Human rights investigators and the world community at large have an obligation to place a number on these acts, based on the totality of the information and evidence available to them.

    “As for “lying Iraqis”, in general I’d trust ordinary people to be accurate about the number of family members killed or to remember the names of friends that had died. It’d then be up to the analyst to design a study based on what people can remember accurately which would give accurate numbers for the total number murdered in all of Iraq.”

    And that’s what Human Rights Watch did. I agree that this is a far from ideal method for arriving at an overall death figure. As I mentioned earlier, the actions of the perpetrators of the violence leave investigators no other option. Many accounts of Saddam’s crimes have been recorded. These accounts vary in circumstance, time, and choice of victim, and encompass killings in numbers great and small. Moreover, some of them are so horrific (murdered children being fed to starving dogs, in the presence of their imprisoned parents, helicopter gunships strafing refugee columns of women and children) that they serve as strong circumstantial evidence to suggest the killing perpetrated by Saddam was not limited in scope, or exaggerated, as some suggest.

  13. #13 Mike
    June 1, 2005

    David:

    “Saddam did suppress a rebellion, and all dictators do that savagely.”

    More than one rebellion in fact. The Anfal campaign in 1988 and an earlier Kurdish rebellion from the late 1970’s were the others.

    “But the Coalition argues that Saddam is distinctively evil, a particularly brutal thug whose removal ultimately justifies the war. The 300,000 figure is part of this argument:”

    Yes, the 300,000 figure was “part” of the Coalition’s argument for regime change, but in the remainder of your post you inexplicably adopt the position that this was the only element of the argument for removing Saddam, and as a result you find it lacking as sufficient justification for said removal.

    As a result, I don’t see the relevance of your Indonesian analogy. Saddam was ” distinctly evil ” in comparison to the Indonesian regime. The bloody wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait, the extensive use of WMD and a determination to retain and enhance his WMD capabilities, the overt hostility to the U.S., and the potential benefit from a democratic and benign Iraq in the region that spawned the 9/11 terrorists were all factors in the decision to remove Saddam. These factors did not, and do not, exist in the case of Indonesia.

    As a final point, it is neither feasible in practice nor logical in theory to demand that the U.S. use military force in every instance to advance democratic and humanitarian reforms.

  14. #14 Steve Edwards
    June 1, 2005

    “As a final point, it is neither feasible in practice nor logical in theory to demand that the U.S. use military force in every instance to advance democratic and humanitarian reforms.”

    I’d agree fully, although that should be taken further to the conclusion that no government (or international body – like the UN) should intervene anywhere to “promote democracy” and “save lives”.

    Soldiers are supposed to be kept in the barracks until you really need them to take apart your enemies – not to engage in half-assed social work trying to mend ancient tribal animosities.

  15. #15 Mike
    June 1, 2005

    “Soldiers are supposed to be kept in the barracks until you really need them to take apart your enemies – not to engage in half-assed social work trying to mend ancient tribal animosities.”

    Like Rwanda?

  16. #16 David Tiley
    June 1, 2005

    Mike, I think you accept my position that the moral argument for invading Iraq does not turn on the slaughter of the various rebellions. They are over and done. Revenge is not a motive for fighting a war.

    You are saying that I am putting the position that the Vile Torturing Monster argument is the only one for invading Iraq, and then you lay out the other arguments in one very useful paragraph.

    However “the extensive use of WMD and a determination to retain and enhance his WMD capabilities..” is no longer convincing. The WMD was a decade ago, and he did not have the capability through the 1990’s. The assertions that he did are simply untrue, and known to be untrue at the time.

    His “determination” and his “overt hostility” are not good arguments. Even in the schoolyard, you can’t clobber someone because they intended to hurt you, and they don’t like you.

    “the potential benefit from a democratic and benign Iraq in the region that spawned the 9/11 terrorists” is not a reason for holding a war.

    Fighting a war is a crime, for which there are very limited justifications. There are really only two. We can defend ourselves against actual aggression to us or our allies. When they pour across the border, we can fight.

    We are allowed to march in and support a people whose own government have effectively declared war on them. Hence Rwanda, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, and I would argue Burma.

    Strategic benefits just don’t rate.

    This is why I reckon the question of the alleged three hundred thousand is so important. Can Saddam be considered to be at war with his own people in 2003?

    He was in 1991, no doubt about it. We intervened to protect the Kurds, and shut the whole thing down with free-fly zones, but we failed to defend the Shi-ites in the south, despite encouraging them to rebel. That was wrong then, and I think we should have done more about it.

    But in 2003? Worse than many other dictators that we would not say we are justified in attacking?

    The trouble is, you see, when your government tells lie after lie after lie.. sooner or later, you don’t believe them.

  17. #17 :
    June 1, 2005

    Good post, David. I would disagree with the last sentence, though, because my mother believes the lies and frequently passes them along to me, believing they are true. If you want to believe, you can.

    Best,

    D

  18. #18 :
    June 1, 2005

    Good post, David. I would disagree with the last sentence, though, because my mother believes the lies and frequently passes them along to me, believing they are true. If you want to believe, you can.

    Best,

    D

  19. #19 :
    June 1, 2005

    Good post, David. I would disagree with the last sentence, though, because my mother believes the lies and frequently passes them along to me, believing they are true. If you want to believe, you can.

    Best,

    D

  20. #20 :
    June 1, 2005

    Good post, David. I would disagree with the last sentence, though, because my mother believes the lies and frequently passes them along to me, believing they are true. If you want to believe, you can.

    Best,

    D

  21. #21 Dano
    June 1, 2005

    Oops. Me above.

    D

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    June 1, 2005

    “Saddam was ” distinctly evil ” in comparison to the Indonesian regime. The bloody wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait, the extensive use of WMD and a determination to retain and enhance his WMD capabilities, the overt hostility to the U.S., and the potential benefit from a democratic and benign Iraq in the region that spawned the 9/11 terrorists were all factors in the decision to remove Saddam. These factors did not, and do not, exist in the case of Indonesia.>

    Ever hear of East Timor, Mike? Or Aceh? East Papua?

    The 500,000 killed in Suharto’s “clean sweep” are ever bit as dead as the victims of Hallabja despite being killed by bullets and machetes rather than chemical weapons.

    How is a region region that produced Jemaah Islamiyah; Laskar Jihad and the Bali bombers and includes dictatorships such as Burma and Vietnam any less in need of democratic reform than the middle east?

  23. #23 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    David:

    ” However “the extensive use of WMD and a determination to retain and enhance his WMD capabilities..” is no longer convincing. The WMD was a decade ago, and he did not have the capability through the 1990’s. The assertions that he did are simply untrue, and known to be untrue at the time.”

    David, I’m not sure where you’re getting your facts from concerning the WMD issue. Your assertions that Saddam ” did not have the capability.. Through the 1990’s,” and this was ” .. known to be untrue at the time…” are simply false.

    There was overwhelming reason to believe Saddam was lying about his WMD status, right up to the time of regime change. The final UNSCOM report, issued in 1999 after inspections had ceased, essentially accused Iraq of lying about retaining a biological weapons program. The final substantive UNMOVIC report (Cluster Document) issued before regime change, on March 14th 2003, raised serious questions about the truthfulness of Iraq’s declarations concerning retained possession of anthrax and VX. Hans Blix himself, in his book written after regime change, states that he expected the coalition would find WMD in the aftermath. Yet one never hears anyone accusing the UN inspectors of lying, only the Bush administration.

    Some of the most strident and vocal accusers of the ” Bush lied ” fraternity, including Scott Ritter, Robin Cook, and numerous Democrat politicians, are on record making extremely alarmist past statements about the threat posed by Saddam and his WMD, which further undermines your claim that the allegations about Saddam’s WMD were ” known to be untrue.”

    “His “determination” and his “overt hostility” are not good arguments. Even in the schoolyard, you can’t clobber someone because they intended to hurt you, and they don’t like you.

    the potential benefit from a democratic and benign Iraq in the region that spawned the 9/11 terrorists” is not a reason for holding a war.”

    The U.S. didn’t move to oust Saddam until after the occurrence of the 9/11 attacks. At that point, Saddam’s past behaviour was viewed in a far different context by the U.S., in terms of the potential threat posed not only by a Saddam ruled Iraq, but also by the virulent anti-Americanism of the region as a whole. The U.S. didn’t ” clobber ” Saddam to the point of removal prior to 9/11, therefore I fail to see the merit in that particular statement.

    Had 9/11 not occurred, there is a strong likelihood that the Saddam regime would still be in power today. While there is no denying the desire of some of Bush’s inner circle to remove Saddam prior to 9/11, there was no indication in the first 8 months of Bush’s presidency that the U.S. was creating the necessary pretext for invading Iraq, nor was there any massive movement of troops and equipment into the region for invasion, a process that takes many months. Had 9/11 not occurred, just when was Bush going to get around to invading Iraq? He was certainly aware that second term presidencies were far from guaranteed, given that 3 of his 5 predecessors had been one term presidents.

    You may not view the potential benefit resulting from a democratic and benign Iraq as being a reason for regime change, but the Bush administration, and many observers, see this entirely differently. This is one of the fundamental disagreements between those who advocated Saddam’s removal, and those who argued for leaving him in power.

    ” Fighting a war is a crime, for which there are very limited justifications. There are really only two. We can defend ourselves against actual aggression to us or our allies. When they pour across the border, we can fight.
    We are allowed to march in and support a people whose own government have effectively declared war on them. Hence Rwanda, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, and I would argue Burma.”

    You’re contradicting yourself here David. The claim that the invasion of Iraq was ” illegal ” under international law is a favourite mantra of the Left. The examples you cite are also ” illegal ” and violations of the UN Charter. Contrary to your claim, we are ” not ” allowed to march in and support a people whose own government has effectively declared war on them,” at least not in the eyes of international law. The Kosovo intervention was illegal, as was Cambodia. Rwanda was a Chapter VI peacekeeping operation, meaning the UN was there at the behest and pleasure of the Rwandan government. The Rwandan government had the power to ask the UN to leave whenever it pleased. I can’t recall off the top of my head if there was ever a SC resolution authorizing armed intervention to stop the genocide after the fact, (I know the French went in unilaterally after most of the killing had occurred) but without that, any military invasion would have been illegal as well.

    “This is why I reckon the question of the alleged three hundred thousand is so important. Can Saddam be considered to be at war with his own people in 2003?
    He was in 1991, no doubt about it. We intervened to protect the Kurds, and shut the whole thing down with free-fly zones, but we failed to defend the Shi-ites in the south, despite encouraging them to rebel. That was wrong then, and I think we should have done more about it.”

    A while back, I raised this same question with Ian. The argument that Saddam was committing genocide in 1988 and 1991, but hadn’t done anything similar since, is akin to suggesting that serial killers still at large pose no threat to the community so long as no bodies bearing their M.O. have shown up for a few years. It’s a highly flawed argument to suggest that we have the luxury of waiting for Saddam to start up again, then we’ll jump in and stop him.

    Life doesn’t play out that way in the real world. That was actually one of the most valuable lessons derived from the Rwandan horror. Once genocide starts, it is often too late to save most of the victims. The logistics of moving the necessary military assets into theatre to stop it, along with the political implications that often impede rapid intervention, fatally hinder an effective response to mass slaughter.

    I take no issue with your statement that we ” should have done more ” in 1991, although I disagree that we ” protected ” the Kurds in any meaningful way. The establishment of the protected enclave occurred after Kurdish resistance had been crushed, and was more in response to the serious refugee crisis that ensued.

    But David, if it was acceptable for the U.S. to intervene in 1991, why not in 2003? In effect, you are giving Saddam amnesty for 1991, as well as crediting him with some sort of new found benevolence toward his people. The reason there have been no repeats of 1988 and 1991 is because the Iraqi people have been understandably reluctant to engage in revolt that would likely have been as futile and bloody as the past attempts.

  24. #24 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    Ian:

    I don’t see your point. I didn’t (and don’t) dispute David’s point that Suharto’s crimes against his own people were on a par with Saddam’s.

    That doesn’t change the fact that Indonesia hasn’t embarked on exceedingly bloody wars of conquest like Saddam, doesn’t have a government virulently hostile to the U.S., has never posed a WMD problem, and isn’t in the Middle East.

    Is the region in need of reform? Of course it is. I don’t see what that has to do with this particular thread, however.

  25. #25 Shirin
    June 2, 2005

    if it was acceptable for the U.S. to intervene in 1991, why not in 2003?

    Ummmmmmmm – let’s see. Because in 1991 Saddam had invaded an occupied another soveriegn state in an act of unprovoked aggression, and the UN Security Council decided to use force to expel him, whereas in 2003 Saddam had been sitting quietly for over a dozen years in a broken country and hadn’t made a hint of a move toward anyone during that entire time? Because in 1991 even those of us who disagreed with the choice to use coercion and force as the first option could clearly see that Saddam had committed an act of unprovoked aggression and that the use of force was therefore not completely without justification, whereas in 2003 the Bush administration was forced to create a false crisis based on torturously spun, distorted, exaggerated, and fabricated information in order to justify carrying out what was in fact an unprovoked act of aggression of their own?

  26. #26 Shirin
    June 2, 2005

    “if it was acceptable for the U.S. to intervene in 1991, why not in 2003?”

    Oh yes – I forgot to add that the U.S. didn’t intervene in 1991, the U.N. did. In 2003, on the other hand, the U.N. very correctly did not find intervention necessary or appropriate, and so declined to give its imprimatur to the U.S.’s act of naked, unprovoked aggression.*

    * According to the latest in the daily drip of leaked documents the U.S. and Britain even tried – and failed miserably – to provoke Saddam into taking some action that they could use to justify their planned attack

  27. #27 Shirin
    June 2, 2005

    exceedingly bloody wars of conquest like Saddam…

    Are you trying to use actions taken in the ’80’s and early ’90’s to justify attacking Iraq in 2003, more than a dozen years later?

    doesn’t have a government virulently hostile to the U.S.

    1. Are you saying that its having a government hostile to the U.S. is justification for attacking, invading and taking over another country?

    2. Are you suggesting that Iraq’s government was hostile to the U.S. “just because” or “because they hate our freedom”, and not because of specific actions taken by the U.S. against Iraq?

    has never posed a WMD problem

    Are you suggesting that having a “WMD problem”
    more than a dozen years ago makes a country a justified target of attack, invasion, and takeover, even though it was not a justified target of attack, invasion and takeover when it actually had AND WAS USING unconventional weapons?

    and isn’t in the Middle East.

    Is being in the Middle East necessary for a country to be a justified target for attack, invasion, and takeover, or is it a justification all by itself?

  28. #28 Ian Gould
    June 2, 2005

    Actually Mike Suharto DID embark on an exceedingly bloody war of foreign conquest – hence my reference to East Timor. Esimntes of deaths resulting from the Indonesian invasion of East Timor range from 100,000 to 300,000+. (The figure is likely closer to the lower end though. THe 300,000 figure came from a comparison between pre- and post-invasion census figures. But much of the drop in population was attributable to refugees fleeing the country or to people fleeing to rebel-held areas excluded from the census).

    Suharto made noises from time to time about pursuing nuclear weapons and Indonesia had nuclear power-plants. If Iran, a major oil exporter is argued to have no need of nuclear power then why does Indonesia, also a major oil exporter, need it?

    Certainly at the time of his overthrow, Suharto was closer to actually possessing nuclear weaposn than Saddam was in 2002.

    So really, your list of complaints comes down to “Saddam was anti-American”.

    Want to discuss Pakistan – supports terrorist groups in Kashmir; helped put the Taliban in power; probable hiding place of Osama Bin Laden (remember him?); sold nculear weaposn technology and ballistic missile technology to anyone willing to pay for it.

    Ah but I forgot, the current islamist-backed military dictator of Pakistan claims to be pro-American.

    Does a pattern begin to emerge?

  29. #29 Disputo
    June 2, 2005

    mike said, as part of his reasoning why Indonesia remains untouched by the US military:

    Indonesia… doesn’t have a government virulently hostile to the U.S….

    That’s really all that needs to be said.

    All this talk about who killed how many, when, and why and whether it justifies this or that level of intervention is all so much hot air. Hegemons don’t overthrow their client states — no matter how much blood is on their hands — unless and when their clients turn on them.

  30. #30 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    Ian:

    To say you’re really reaching here is an understatement.

    Equating Saddam’s invasions of Iran and Kuwait to Indonesia and East Timor is an apples to Volkswagons comparison.

    East Timor, with a population of less than a million people, was independent for all of 9 days before Indonesia moved in to annex it. Indonesia, as I understand it (I don’t claim to be an authority on the subject) had always claimed the east half of Timor belonged to Indonesia, and was as much a part of its contiguous territory as the west half of the island, and a look at the map would suggest they had a case. The plight of the East Timorese was far more an internal oppression than it was one sovereign country invading another. That being said, Indonesia’s actions in East Timor qualify as genocide in my books, and as a result East Timor’s independence is an exceptionally good thing.

    “Suharto made noises from time to time about pursuing nuclear weapons and Indonesia had nuclear power-plants. If Iran, a major oil exporter is argued to have no need of nuclear power then why does Indonesia, also a major oil exporter, need it?”

    First off, Indonesia is not a major oil exporter. In fact, it is now a net importer of oil. It is natural gas that Indonesia possesses in abundance. I have to confess, I’d never heard any rumours of Indonesian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Is there any IAEA concern? I did an archive search at The Economist, and came up with zero hits in relation to this subject.

    “Certainly at the time of his overthrow, Suharto was closer to actually possessing nuclear weaposn than Saddam was in 2002.”

    Is that a meaningful comparison? On what evidence is it based? Do the highly unsubstantiated rumours involving Suharto stack up against not only Saddam’s indisputable history of pursuing nuclear weapons, but his advanced progress in this regard as of Gulf War 1? Has Indonesia ever used chemical weapons? Has it ever had a biological weapons program? Like the East Timor analogy, this is seriously stretching things, Ian.

    “So really, your list of complaints comes down to “Saddam was anti-American”.”

    Nope, and not only for the reasons I list above. Indonesia hasn’t moved one kilometer closer to the Middle East since your last post, Ian.

    “Want to discuss Pakistan – supports terrorist groups in Kashmir; helped put the Taliban in power; probable hiding place of Osama Bin Laden (remember him?); sold nculear weaposn technology and ballistic missile technology to anyone willing to pay for it.”

    Sure, I’ll discuss Pakistan. And yea, I remember bin Laden. Are you suggesting that Musharref is sheltering him? Sure sounds like it to me. Unless he is, you didn’t score with that one. Kashmiri separatists are not engaged in an al Qaeda-like jihad against the U.S.

    Pakistan certainly has its share of sins to account for. For the time being, it has an American friendly government. Overthrowing a friendly government like Pakistan by military force, whatever its warts, is a ridiculously foolish move. My intention isn’t to come across as being dismissive here Ian. I just don’t see the relevance of Pakistan as it relates to the discussion at hand. Another thread perhaps, but not this one.

  31. #31 Ian Gould
    June 2, 2005

    Mike,
    I’ll be suire to tell the Timorese refugees I know who were raped, tortured and watched family members die that the invasion was a-okay with you.

  32. #32 Ian Gould
    June 2, 2005

    First off, Indonesia is not a major oil exporter.

    Not now but It was at the time.

  33. #33 Ian Gould
    June 2, 2005

    AS for “Indonesia hasn’t moved an inch closer to the middle east” your initial post referred ot Iraq’s potential to create trouble in a political unstable and critical important area of the wrold.

    Ever hear of the Straits of Molucca?

  34. #34 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    Shirin:

    “if it was acceptable for the U.S. to intervene in 1991, why not in 2003?”
    Ummmmmmmm – let’s see. Because in 1991 Saddam had invaded an occupied another soveriegn state in an act of unprovoked aggression, and the UN Security Council decided to use force to expel him,…”

    Shirin, David and I were discussing whether the U.S. should have intervened in the internal attempts to overthrow Saddam in 1991, to remove him from power. You are conflating this with the military campaign that removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait. They are two separate matters. My point to David was, if you believed the U.S. should have militarily assisted the Iraqi people in overthrowing Saddam in 1991, then opposing regime change in 2003 seems highly hypocritical.

    Expanding upon this, I argued that the fact Saddam had not engaged in wholesale butchery since 1991 had nothing to do with a sudden benevolent impulse on his part, but rather originated from the stark realization among the populace that future attempts at overthrow would encounter the same response and end with the same result.

    “According to the latest in the daily drip of leaked documents the U.S. and Britain even tried – and failed miserably – to provoke Saddam into taking some action that they could use to justify their planned attack.”

    I don’t dispute that the U.S. and Britain had decided shortly after 9/11 that they were going to overthrow Saddam by force. Bush and Blair were quite confident that Saddam would not step down voluntarily. They were equally confident that Saddam would not be able to prove he had disarmed, because there was no reason to believe he had, based on the reports from UN inspectors and the litany of lies his regime had told on the matter of its WMD programs.

    I do take issue, as I mentioned in an earlier post, with the suggestion that the invasion of Iraq was a forgone conclusion even if 9/11 hadn’t occurred. To put this another way, the neo-cons in the Bush administration may not have approved, but Bush was grudgingly resigned to the status quo of Saddam remaining in power, just as Clinton had, in the absence of any defensible pretext for removal. 9/11 provided that pretext. You can disagree that 9/11 fit the bill in this regard. That doesn’t change the fact that no other pretext was on the table on September 10th, 2001. If you have information to the contrary, I invite you to share it with me.

    ” Are you trying to use actions taken in the ’80’s and early ’90’s to justify attacking Iraq in 2003, more than a dozen years later?”

    Nope. Just as David did, you’re moving the goalposts, claiming that this was the sole rationale for regime change. It wasn’t, but it is a part of the case for regime change, for the reasons I’ve stated in this comment and earlier comments. I’d like to hear your response to the ” serial killer ” analogy I use, as well as the point that a future genocidal suppression of rebellion by Saddam, once underway, could not be halted in a meaningful way through foreign intervention.

    “1. Are you saying that its having a government hostile to the U.S. is justification for attacking, invading and taking over another country?”

    Sorry Shirin, the ” divide and conquer ” debating tactic doesn’t work on me. A hostile government, in the region that produced the 9/11 attackers and their parent organization, in the wake of 9/11, was PART of the justification for regime change.

    “2. Are you suggesting that Iraq’s government was hostile to the U.S. “just because” or “because they hate our freedom”, and not because of specific actions taken by the U.S. against Iraq?”

    I haven’t provided any opinion on this point. Since you raise it, I see Saddam’s hostility to the U.S. stemming from Gulf War 1 and the sanctions that followed.

    “Are you suggesting that having a “WMD problem” more than a dozen years ago makes a country a justified target of attack, invasion, and takeover, even though it was not a justified target of attack, invasion and takeover when it actually had AND WAS USING unconventional weapons?”

    The first half of your paragraph is a misrepresentation of the ” WMD problem” posed by Saddam after Gulf War 1. I’d be grateful if you would attempt to address the points I raised with David concerning Iraq’s WMD. While you’re at it, I’d also be interested in any rationale you might provide on the question of why Saddam should have been believed, when he had lied for the four years of UNSCOM inspections (1991-1995) about the very existence of an entire WMD program (biological weapons). The same goes for VX, which Iraq had denied producing in its initial 1991 post Gulf War declarations, until being forced through UNSCOM detective work in 1995 to admit it had not only produced it, but had weaponized it.

    In relation to the second half of your paragraph, I’m wondering why you would dismiss Saddam’s prior use of WMD as an element in the case for removing him? That he was a U.S. ally at the time he used WMD on the Iranians and Kurds is a black eye for the U.S. He was also an ally of several other western nations at the time. That doesn’t mean that this can be placed in isolation as some sort of permanent firewall argument against regime change.

    “Is being in the Middle East necessary for a country to be a justified target for attack, invasion, and takeover, or is it a justification all by itself? “

    You’re at it again Shirin. See ” divide and conquer,” above. Enough said.

  35. #35 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    “Mike, I’ll be suire to tell the Timorese refugees I know who were raped, tortured and watched family members die that the invasion was a-okay with you.”

    Why don’t you let them read this thread themselves Ian, and let then judge for themselves whether I said the invasion was ” a-okay with (me).” I’m a-okay with that. If you re-read the thread, I don’t think you should feel the same way.

    “First off, Indonesia is not a major oil exporter.
    Not now but It was at the time.”

    An exporter, but no where near a ” major oil exporter.”

    “AS for “Indonesia hasn’t moved an inch closer to the middle east” your initial post referred ot Iraq’s potential to create trouble in a political unstable and critical important area of the wrold.”
    Ever hear of the Straits of Molucca?

    And……..?

  36. #36 Eli Rabett
    June 2, 2005

    A number of issues.

    First, as has been pointed out elsewhere, an intervention in 1991 would have been welcomed. Indeed, since the US stirred up the rebellion, it was expected. Instead the Shi’ites in the south were destroyed when the US and UK allowed Sadaam to use his helicopters. Having passed that up a great deal of mistrust was created which greated the 2003 invasion. The chaos that followed, thanks to having neither enough troops or a clue cemented the distrust.

    Second, Indonesia’s oil production is about half of Iraqs http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/steo/pub/3atab.html, but it is a hell of a lot closer to Japan and China, so it is very important.

    Third, it ain’t just East Timor bucky, but Irian, Aceh, Borneo etc. Javanization is real. I suppose our Australian hosts could tell you a lot more.

  37. #37 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    Eli:

    “Bucky?” Is that a term of endearment? Nope, didn’t think so.

    “First, as has been pointed out elsewhere, an intervention in 1991 would have been welcomed.”

    Okay Eli, jump to the front of the queue. Why would intervention be ” welcome ” in 1991, but morph into the epitome of all evil in 2003?

    “Instead the Shi’ites in the south were destroyed when the US and UK allowed Sadaam to use his helicopters.

    Some informed observors believe the controversy over helicopters has been exaggerated, and Saddam’s armour and artillery were collectively much more decisive factors in crushing the rebellions than gunships.

    “Indeed, since the US stirred up the rebellion, it was expected.”

    And lost over the passage of time, and buried by the reflexive need to waste no opportunity to tar and feather the U.S., is the fact that Bush 1’s Arab partners in the coalition to liberate Kuwait had told him that Saddam was ripe for overthrow in the wake of his Kuwaiti defeat, and wouldn’t survive the year.

    “Second, Indonesia’s oil production is about half of Iraqs but it is a hell of a lot closer to Japan and China, so it is very important.”

    Bad link, Eli. Indonesia’s proven reserves are less than 5 billion bbl, a fraction of Iraq’s. You must have missed the ” net importer of oil ” phrase in one of my earlier post. That means Indonesia’s domestic consumption is not being met by its production capacity. Accordingly, any attempt to exaggerate Indonesia’s status among oil producing/exporting nations is an exercise in embarrassment for the author.,p>

    “Third, it ain’t just East Timor bucky, but Irian, Aceh, Borneo etc. Javanization is real. I suppose our Australian hosts could tell you a lot more.”

    Old ground you’re covering, Eli. I agreed long ago in this thread that Indonesia has been guilty of using genocide as a tool for crushing dissent and separatist sentiments.

    Shirin aside, are you folks deliberately hijacking this thread away from Iraq? Sure seems that way.

  38. #38 Ian Gould
    June 2, 2005

    Mike, my crack about your indifference to the plight of the East timorese was simply rude and uncalled for.

    I apologise unreservedly. I’m having a God-awful day but that doesn’t justify my rudeness in any way.

  39. #39 Eli Rabett
    June 2, 2005

    Dear Bucky, in love and war timing is everything.

  40. #40 Mike
    June 2, 2005

    Ian:

    I have those days too. Thanks for the gracious apology. This is one of the few blogs where I see people make any apologies, let alone sincere apologies, and it speaks highly of you and the other regulars here.

  41. #41 Shirin
    June 2, 2005

    Shirin, David and I were discussing whether the U.S. should have intervened in the internal attempts to overthrow Saddam in 1991, to remove him from power. You are conflating this with the military campaign that removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

    My apologies. That’s what comes of rushing to respond to one statement that catches the eye without reading the whole post first. One risks misinterpreting what one has read, as I clearly did.

    My point to David was, if you believed the U.S. should have militarily assisted the Iraqi people in overthrowing Saddam in 1991, then opposing regime change in 2003 seems highly hypocritical.

    Not at all. Unequivocally the U.S. should not have taken any active role whatsoever in the 1991 uprising (as a matter of fact they DID take an active role, as we shall see), but there is nothing at all hypocricital or inconsistent in suggesting that they should have assisted the rebels in 1991, and then opposing the U.S. starting a war to impose “regime change” on any foreign state.

    1. Particularly as the instigator of the uprising of 1991, George Bush I had, at the very least, an obligation not to interfere with it himself, or to take action to allow Saddam Hussein to interfere with it or to facilitate such interference. In fact, he violated that obligation on both counts. The U.S. military actually facilitated Saddam’s brutal crushing of the rebellion. For eight days in a row the U.S. gave Saddam Hussein permission to enter the rebel areas with his military, including with armed helicopters, where day after day for eight days the Iraqi military conducted brutal, bloody slaughters while U.S. military aircraft flew overhead and watched the scene of carnage. Second, U.S. forces blocked rebel movements on the roads they controlled, and confiscated vehicles and weapons from them, thus interfering directly with the effectiveness of the uprising.

    2. There is simply no equation between a popular uprising against the ruling power by citizens of a country, as in 1991, and an attack, invasion, and occupation by an external power aiming to unseat a foreign government it happens to dislike.

    3. There is simply no equation between the 1991 so-called “gulf” war and the uprising that followed, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 1991 a popular uprising occurred in Iraq in the aftermath of a war that was, whether or not one agrees that it was necessary or even warranted, legally undertaken under the auspices of the U.N. for the limited and legitimate purpose of ending an aggression by one member state against another. The 2003 attack, invasion and occupation was undertaken in the absence of any attack or threat of attack whatsoever from Iraq, and without U.N. imprimatur. The Bush administration attacked Iraq in 2003 for the specific purpose of effecting “regime change” followed by U.S.-imposed economic, political, and social reform. As such the 2003 invasion was, at least arguably, an illegal invasion of one sovereign state by another. The only uprising to follow from the 2003 invasion has been in opposition to the U.S. occupation and attempts to impose its economic, political and social will on the country.

    Expanding upon this, I argued that the fact Saddam had not engaged in wholesale butchery since 1991 had nothing to do with a sudden benevolent impulse on his part, but rather originated from the stark realization among the populace that future attempts at overthrow would encounter the same response and end with the same result.

    First, unless you have some special insight into Iraqi thinking, you have no way of knowing what realizations, stark or otherwise, the Iraqi populace had, or how it influenced them, and are therefore merely making self-serving assumptions. You are also overlooking completely the crippling and devastating effect of the 1991 deliberate destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, the sanctions (which were, according to some contemporary U.S. officials designed to profoundly affect the Iraqi people), and the U.S. betrayal of the uprising on the people themselves.

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but it does sound as if you are somehow trying to use your assumptions about the reason that Saddam Hussein “had not engaged in wholesale butchery” for a dozen years to justify attacking Iraq in 2003. It would be easier to carry water in a sieve. Your reasoning isn’t just full of holes, that bucket doesn’t even have a bottom.

    1. Attacking a country whose government is not “engaged in wholesale butchery” and has not “engaged in wholesale butchery” for a dozen years is completely unjustified regardless of the real or imagined reason for its lack of “engagement in wholesale butchery”.

    2. The fact that a government has “engaged in wholesale butchery” in the past, and speculation that it may “engage in wholesale butchery” at some time in the future cannot be used to justify attacking the country.

    3. Even ongoing “engagement in wholesale butchery” is at best an extremely questionable justification for attacking a country. The concept of “humanitarian war” is absurd on its face, even in the case of ongoing “wholesale butchery” that is so massive that rises to the level of genocide. There are guidelines to assist in determining whether military intervention is warranted in such a case, and they are very difficult to meet.

  42. #42 Donald Johnson
    June 2, 2005

    Mike, your response to me was fair. I’ll stay out of the rest of the discussion/debate you’re having (I’m more on the side of your opponents), except to point out one thing. It’s true East Timor was only independent for a few months before the invasion, but before that they were ruled by the Portuguese for centuries. I don’t know about the western part of Timor, but the people of East Timor were largely either animists or Catholics, which to my mind means their culture was significantly different from most Indonesians. So it’s hard to see how Indonesia could have a serious claim to East Timor–I’m not at all sure of this, but Iraq might have had a better claim to Kuwait. In both cases, though, what we were dealing with was a brutal invasion by a foreign power. The US reacted somewhat differently in the two cases–we helped Indonesia commit genocide.

  43. #43 Shirin
    June 2, 2005

    I do take issue, as I mentioned in an earlier post, with the suggestion that the invasion of Iraq was a forgone conclusion even if 9/11 hadn’t occurred.

    It is hard to say whether it was a foregone conclusion, but it certainly appears to have been on Bush’s A list if things to do since before he became president.

    Bush was grudgingly resigned to the status quo of Saddam remaining in power, just as Clinton had, in the absence of any defensible pretext for removal.

    I don’t see any evidence for that, and there is strong evidence in the form of several reports of pre-9/11 statements and behaviours by Bush that he was not resigned to it at all. It appears, instead, that he was passionately, if not obsessively, attached to the idea of removing Saddam from power.

    9/11 provided that pretext.

    One thing this shows very clearly is that Bush was so passionately set on “taking Saddam out” that he was willing to put the perpetrators of the Sept 11 atrocity on the back burner in order to use that event as an excuse to go after him, despite the fact that Saddam had exactly nothing to do with Sept 11, or anything remotely related to it.

  44. #44 Mike
    June 3, 2005

    Donald:

    “Mike, your response to me was fair. I’ll stay out of the rest of the discussion/debate you’re having (I’m more on the side of your opponents),”

    Thanks, for calling my response fair, and for staying out of the fray….. :-)

    “So it’s hard to see how Indonesia could have a serious claim to East Timor–I’m not at all sure of this, but Iraq might have had a better claim to Kuwait.”

    I still see the comparison to be a real stretch. I did a little more research after seeing your post. East Timor had a population of only 650,000 at the time it was annexed by Indonesia. I’m not sure that it makes much difference that East Timor was a Portugese colony, while the remainder of the Indonesian archipelago had been a Dutch colony. When half of Timor was already Indonesian territory, and the island was generally surrounded by other Indonesian islands, I can see where Indonesia felt it had a claim of sovereignty once the colonial masters decided to pack it in. That doesn’t mean they were entitled to use military force to annex it, if the majority of East Timorese wanted independence. All things considered, I just can’t see this qualifying as one sovereign state invading another. Moreover, I don’t find that it bears much similarity to the invasion of Kuwait or any Iraqi claim that Kuwait was in fact an Iraqi province. Kuwait had been independent for nearly 30 years when Saddam invaded.

  45. #45 Mike
    June 3, 2005

    Shirin:

    Sorry, I’m up against the clock tonight, and have to work tomorrow. I’ll have a reply for you tomorrow night.

  46. #46 Disputo
    June 3, 2005

    Yet another datapoint from the WaPo:

    Iraq Puts Civilian Toll at 12,000


    Violence in the course of the 18-month-long insurgency has claimed the lives of 12,000 Iraqis, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Thursday, giving the first official count for the largest category of victims of bombings, ambushes and other increasingly deadly attacks.

    Interior Ministry statistics showed 12,000 civilians killed by insurgents in the last year and a half, Jabr said. The figure breaks down to an average of more than 20 civilians killed by bombings and other attacks each day. Authorities estimate that more than 10,500 of the victims were Shiite Muslims, based on the locations of the deaths, Jabr said.

    Note that this is the death toll of Iraqi civilians at the hands of insurgents.

    What of non civilians killed and civilians killed by those other than the insurgents?


    Bombings and other insurgent strikes have killed thousands of Iraqi security force members. No official totals have been released for those dead, or for the total number of civilian casualties since the start of the war.

    Let the comparison of apples and oranges begin!

  47. #47 NEll
    June 3, 2005

    Tim L.- have you found out how “War-related death” was defined in the ILCS study yet?

  48. #48 Donald Johnson
    June 4, 2005

    Mike, I’m a little baffled at what East Timor’s population has to do with Indonesia’s right to seize the territory in an extremely brutal invasion. Very few of the East Timorese wanted to join Indonesia, which seems to me to be the most important consideration, , along with the fact that in the process of taking East Timor they may have killed a sizeable fraction of the population. Morally speaking, this was as bad as anything Saddam did and there was no legal justification for it either.

  49. #49 Mike
    June 4, 2005

    Mike, I’m a little baffled at what East Timor’s population has to do with Indonesia’s right to seize the territory in an extremely brutal invasion.

    In my view Donald, the size of the population of East Timor is relevant when assessing the merits of an attempt to equate what is being characterized as Indonesian foreign aggression, with Iraq’s foreign aggression. The argument that has been advanced in this thread is that they are of similar proportions.

    Is an invasion of a “country” with a population of 650,000 comparable to an invasion of a country like Iran, with a population of (I’m guestimating) 60 million at the time of the Iran/Iraq war? I don’t think that most of us commonly associate nation status with populations of this size, especially given the location of East Timor in relation to a nation of 180 million or so people that was laying claim to it.

    From a geographic and size of population perspective, the East Timor experience would be similar to Long Island or the Florida Keys demanding independence from the United States.

    I see substantial difficulties in selling the concept that Iraq’s wars of aggression (which were motivated in large part by good old fashioned lust for treasury) are on a par with an Indonesian annexation of a fairly worthless half of an island that Indonesia really believed should become its territory if the former colonial masters were walking away from it.

    I also want to reiterate two other points. The exceedingly brief period in which east Timor claimed to be independent (I have it as 9 days, you mention several months. I’m too lazy and too tired tonight to fact check)is an important factor in this debate (Was East Timor recognized as sovereign by the U.N. back then?). Secondly, that doesn’t change the fact that Indonesia committed genocide in East Timor that was comparable to Saddam’s crimes of genocide in Iraq. But that’s what both are in my view; genocide. Genocide against the Kurds and Shia, genocide against the East Timorese. Not wars of conquest.

  50. #50 Mike
    June 4, 2005

    Shirin:

    Before I respond to the rest of your most recent comments, I wanted to deal with this one assertion of yours as a separate entity:

    “Particularly as the instigator of the uprising of 1991, George Bush I had, at the very least, an obligation not to interfere with it himself, or to take action to allow Saddam Hussein to interfere with it or to facilitate such interference.”

    I’m not so sure it’s entirely accurate to paint Bush as ” the instigator of the uprising of 1991.” I had long held this view myself, but when refreshing my memory last night with some Gulf War 1 reading, it seems to me that the passage of time has facilitated some distortions of the historical record on this point.

    Up until last night, my perception, like most people I suspect, had always been that Bush had made his now famous call for Iraqis to ” take matters into their own hands ” and oust Saddam, after Iraqi forces had been ousted from Kuwait, and negotiations over a cessation of hostilities were ongoing.

    This isn’t the case. Bush’s speech was made on February 15th 1991, 9 days before the massive coalition ground assault on Kuwait commenced. Moreover, Bush didn’t simply suggest the Iraqi people rise up. He also encouraged the Iraqi military to revolt and depose Saddam. I see the timing of Bush’s appeal to be a mitigating factor in the controversy over the post Gulf War rebellions, for the following reasons.

    Bush and his advisors had decided that eliminating Saddam was the simplest and least painful way to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. That was why the coalition had attempted to kill Saddam through a targeted air strike during the preliminary bombing campaign, and why Bush made the appeal for an uprising on February 14th. The coalition was seeking a way of getting Iraq out of Kuwait without resorting to sending in ground forces to root out the Iraqi army, and all the potential uncertainties and possibly significant casualties that this entailed.

    But the Iraqi populace, as well as the military, didn’t take Bush up on his suggestion, at least not until after the Iraqi army had been utterly routed.

    This complete demolishing of Saddam’s forces in Kuwait turned the previous dynamic on its ear; prior to the 96 hour ground war, the coalition wanted the Iraqi people to solve the Kuwait problem for them, by eliminating Saddam. The Iraqis were understandably reluctant to try, and didn’t. However, after the manner of defeat suffered by the Saddam forces in Kuwait, the Iraqi people, as well as elements of the military, were now understandably buoyed by the apparent ease with which the army had been crushed, and were now eager to take to the streets in armed rebellion.

    The problem was, Bush and his coalition partners were now ambivalent at best concerning Saddam’s fate (which explains much about the apparent contradiction that ensued from a Bush call to arms to the Iraqi people, followed not only a failure to assist them, but, as you point out, some incidents that actually impeded the rebel response somewhat). While previously believing that the least costly way to liberate Kuwait was to eliminate Saddam, events on the ground had proven this assumption wrong. The goal of liberating Kuwait had succeeded beyond everyone’s wildest expectations. Bush’s problem was now solved, and it hadn’t required Saddam’s elimination after all. Bush had no intention of tainting his triumph with a potentially messy slog to Baghdad. For Bush and the coalition, what now became of Saddam was fairly meaningless.

    My apologies for eating up a lot of bandwidth (more than I intended) over this tangential straying. If Bush or a member of his administration had called for an uprising after Saddam had been defeated, I see this as providing a far more provable case in alleging Bush was responsible for the uprising. I couldn’t find any such statements having been made at that time. If you’re aware of any, let me know. Obviously, that would likely invalidate my point.

    I still believe Bush bears some responsibility for the occurrence of the uprising, by virtue of his February 15th remarks, even though they were made before the ground assault on Kuwait. Now, however, I’m of the view that the fact that the coalition so easily kicked Saddam’s ass had more to do with instigating the uprising than did Bush’s earlier speech. And yes, I still believe Bush 1 should have committed American forces to complete the overthrow of Saddam.

  51. #51 Mike
    June 4, 2005

    Shirin:

    I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of my reply. I often don’t realize how much I’ve written until after I’m finished. Hope it all seems coherent.

    “…but there is nothing at all hypocricital or inconsistent in suggesting that they should have assisted the rebels in 1991, and then opposing the U.S. starting a war to impose “regime change” on any foreign state.”

    Shirin, I’ve gone over this post several times. I can’t find anything you’ve said here that corroborates or even begins to tackle the question of whether there is hypocrisy or inconsistency in “suggesting that they should have assisted the rebels in 1991, and then opposing the U.S. starting a war (in 2003)…”

    As I see it, you’re essentially saying that there is no hypocrisy or inconsistency if you believed the U.S. should have stayed on the sidelines during the 1991 revolt, and also not imposed regime change in 2003. This is your viewpoint, and yes, it is consistent. I don’t agree that this can be said about those who now claim that the U.S. should have intervened and tipped the scales in favour of the rebels in 1991, but who also opposed regime change in 2003. If I’ve missed a passage where you have addressed this, could you clarify it for me?

    “As such the 2003 invasion was, at least arguably, an illegal invasion of one sovereign state by another.”

    In terms of the UN Charter, the invasion was illegal. Some have tried to advance the argument that the U.S. and Britain were simply enforcing existing UN resolutions on Iraq, but I don’t see this holding up under any sustained scrutiny. Still, intervening militarily to assist the rebels in 1991 would have been similarly illegal.

    “but rather originated from the stark realization among the populace that future attempts at overthrow would encounter the same response and end with the same result.”

    “First, unless you have some special insight into Iraqi thinking, you have no way of knowing what realizations, stark or otherwise, the Iraqi populace had, or how it influenced them, and are therefore merely making self-serving assumptions.”

    I don’t claim to have any special insight into Iraqi thinking. I don’t see that this is necessary to come to this conclusion, which is based on logic and reason. Having seen two rebellions in a three year period not only fail, but result in horrific slaughter, I can’t see how this can be dismissed as the primary reason (or at the very least a significant reason) as to why no other attempts at overthrow occurred.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish with this particular point. Are you suggesting that the Iraqi people who rose up in rebellion in 1991, sometime over the next dozen years had a change of heart and decided that they liked being ruled by Saddam? This makes no sense. We know they hated him enough to go to war with him in 1991, and threaten his very existence. Surely they hated him infinitely more afterward, for the crimes he committed in crushing them.

    “You are also overlooking completely the crippling and devastating effect of the 1991 deliberate destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, the sanctions (which were, according to some contemporary U.S. officials designed to profoundly affect the Iraqi people), and the U.S. betrayal of the uprising on the people themselves.”

    If I’m overlooking it, it’s because I don’t see the relevance of it to this particular debate. It is absolutely relevant to many aspects of the controversy involving Iraq under sanctions. In retrospect, U.S. actions involving sanctions were inexcusable, and in my opinion represent the most reprehensible and shameful part of America’s legacy with Iraq. Smart sanctions should have been implemented from the onset. They weren’t. There is no defense available to exonerate the U.S. for the lives of the several hundred thousand Iraqis who died as a result.

    “Forgive me if I am wrong, but it does sound as if you are somehow trying to use your assumptions about the reason that Saddam Hussein “had not engaged in wholesale butchery” for a dozen years to justify attacking Iraq in 2003.”

    The most concise way I can respond to this Shirin, is that I’m attacking the assumption that Saddam’s lack of wholesale butchery since 9/11 was a reason to oppose regime change.

    Saddam’s past history indicated that any future rebellions, if he had been left in power, would have resulted in the same brutal response. As I mentioned earlier, there would have been no feasible means of minimizing the casualties through foreign intervention, once the carnage was in progress yet again. We know that Saddam was willing to resort to armed resistance even in the face of a coalition military force that he had no hope of defeating and retaining power.

    “The fact that a government has “engaged in wholesale butchery” in the past, and speculation that it may “engage in wholesale butchery” at some time in the future cannot be used to justify attacking the country.”

    To reiterate, this is only one of several grounds for regime change, not the sole justification.

    “Even ongoing “engagement in wholesale butchery” is at best an extremely questionable justification for attacking a country. The concept of “humanitarian war” is absurd on its face, even in the case of ongoing “wholesale butchery” that is so massive that rises to the level of genocide. There are guidelines to assist in determining whether military intervention is warranted in such a case, and they are very difficult to meet.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. I really hope you’ll elaborate on this one, because I’m baffled by such a stance. What are your ” guidelines ” that you envision would justify military intervention? What past humanitarian catastrophes can you cite that satisfy your criteria?

    “I don’t see any evidence for that, and there is strong evidence in the form of several reports of pre-9/11 statements and behaviours by Bush that he was not resigned to it at all. It appears, instead, that he was passionately, if not obsessively, attached to the idea of removing Saddam from power.”

    I probably didn’t word my statement that ” Bush was resigned ” to Saddam remaining in power, very well. I agree with your version. Bush definitely wanted to remove Saddam from power, there was no grey area for him on that subject, and he was in sync with the members of his inner circle who were pushing for the same thing.

    However, I still maintain that Bush was not prepared to act without a suitable pretext, and I’ve yet to see any evidence that Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz, or any of the other neo-con hawks, were engaged in creating this suitable pretext prior to 9/11. To repeat what I believe is a key point on this issue, it appears there was no such pretext on the table on September 10th, 2001. This is a huge hole in the insinuations of people like Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, who, with the help of the anti-Bush factions of the media, have created an impression with the public that regime change was just around the corner without 9/11.

    “One thing this shows very clearly is that Bush was so passionately set on “taking Saddam out” that he was willing to put the perpetrators of the Sept 11 atrocity on the back burner in order to use that event as an excuse to go after him, despite the fact that Saddam had exactly nothing to do with Sept 11, or anything remotely related to it.”

    From what I’ve read on the subject, there wasn’t just a reluctance among Bush and some of his advisors to accept that Saddam wasn’t involved in 9/11. There was an honest belief in the days immediately after 9/11, particularly by Wolfowitz, that Saddam probably had a hand in the attacks. However, all came to grudgingly accept that the origins of the 9/11 attacks came from Afghanistan and bin Laden, and we know that Afghanistan became the priority and was dealt with first, not Iraq.

    One final note. I see you didn’t respond to my request for a reply concerning the questions I raised with David Tiley and yourself over the issue of Saddam’s WMD. If you have the time and the inclination, I’d be interested in your response.

    Thanks Shirin.

  52. #52 Ragout
    June 4, 2005

    Prof. Lambert,

    This isn’t the first time you’ve suggested that your estimate of 33,000 “war-related” deaths (derived from Lancet) is comparable to the ILCS’s 24,000. You’ve even claimed that this similarity vindicates the Lancet study. But this just isn’t so.

    Surely you haven’t forgotten that the Lancet estimate is derived by excluding the one cluster (out of 30) with the most war-related deaths (in Falluja)? If the Falluja deaths are included, Lancet’s estimate of war-related deaths is 189,000, an order of magnitude higher than the ILCS’s.

    Now, I don’t deny that there are good reasons to exclude the Falluja cluster. But if you do so, you can’t claim to have an estimate of war-related deaths in Iraq. Your estimate could more accurately be described as war-related deaths in areas without intense combat. Hence, 33,000 is not comparable to the ILCS’s estimate, which is for the whole of Iraq, and does not exclude places where the fighting was particularly intense.

    Further, the Lancet figures exclude those who did not reside in the sampled household for at least two months. As the Lancet authors state, this means that the Lancet figures exclude Iraq soldiers who died during “major combat operations.” Also, it excludes those who died in an institutional setting such as a hospital or a prison. And it also excludes babies killed in the first few months of life (the Lancet authors don’t discuss this, but it seems obvious). Again, the ICLS figures include all these deaths.

    If the Lancet study was correct, we’d expect it to estimate a much lower death rate that the ICLS study: it excludes soldiers killed during major combat operations, civilians killed in areas of intense fighting, young babies, and deaths in institutions.

    So the fact that the Lancet estimates for a narrow population are so similar to the ILCS estimates for the whole population suggests that something went very wrong with the Lancet study. It certainly doesn’t “vindicate” it.

  53. #53 Eli Rabett
    June 4, 2005

    The population of Kuwait is about 2.1 million, of which only about 1 million are Kuwaiti, the rest pretty much being hired hands. Now, Mike what were you were saying about Timor?

  54. #54 Ian Gould
    June 4, 2005

    <I don’t think that most of us commonly associate nation status with populations of this size, especially given the location of East Timor in relation to a nation of 180 million or so people that was laying claim to it.>>

    So presumably you feel that Stain’s annexation of Latvia was defensible given its small size; its proximity to Russia and Russia’s historic claims to it?

    As a citizen of a country with a population of 20,000,000, I’d be quite interested to hear exactly what the threshold size is for a given area to be considered a “real” country.

    New Zealand used to be part of the colony of New south Wales, we have at least as much in common with them as the East timorese did with the majority of Indonesians. (The East Timorese spoke different languages and practised a different religion and were Melanesian rather than Malay.)

    Is New Zealand’s population of 3.5 million enough to justify its continuing independence?

  55. #55 Tim Lambert
    June 5, 2005

    Ragout, the ILCS excludes the intense fighting in Falluja as well, since it was conducted before that started. Like the Lancet study it was conducted on a household basis, so it would also exclude deaths of soldiers who were living in barracks. Finally, the Lancet study does not exclude those that died in a hospital and nor does it exclude infant deaths. I don’t know why you would make such claims since the methodology is clearly described.

  56. #56 Ragout
    June 5, 2005

    Prof. Lambert,

    Falluja in November 2004 was not the only scene of intense fighting in Iraq! There was also Falluja in April 2004, the fighting against Muqtada al-Sadr, and in general lots of fighting in the first year after the invasion that killed a large fraction of people in a cluster of 30 housing units. The Lancet methodology simply cannot cope with this.

    The Lancet study essentially provides an estimate of deaths in areas where there was not intense fighting — excluding Falluja, certain neighborhoods in Baghdad, and other lesser-known neighborhoods. The Lancet authors acknowledge this, and their defenders on the web have as well. The Lancet authors and Daniel Davies, for example, have emphasized that Lancet provides a very conservative estimate of excess deaths in Iraq. I had thought that this point was not controversial, and I’m surprised to see you denying it now.

    The ILCS study asked about the deaths of “regular household member[s],” which presumably includes those who were not living in the household at the time of death. In contrast, the Lancet study states “The deceased had to be living in the household at the time of death and for more than 2 months before to be considered a household death.”

    In other words, the ILCS study does not “exclude those who were living in barracks” while the Lancet study does. This is not just my opinion, it is also the opinion of the study authors. The ILCS authors state that they have obtained a count of military and civilian deaths, while the Lancet authors state that they have obtained a count only of civilian deaths.

    Finally, I think the Lancet study excludes deaths of infants less than two months old, and deaths in hospitals, because they only count those who were living in the household at the time of death and for two months prior (see the exact quote above). This defintion obviously excludes deaths in hospitals and deaths of very young babies. It is certainly possible (likely, in my view) that the Lancet authors did not follow the protocol described in their article. But the protocol as stated does imply that deaths of soldiers living in barracks, young babies, and in hospitals and prisons are not counted.

  57. #57 Ragout
    June 5, 2005

    Prof. Lambert,

    Falluja in November 2004 was not the only scene of intense fighting in Iraq! There was also Falluja in April 2004, the fighting against Muqtada al-Sadr, and in general lots of fighting in the first year after the invasion that killed a large fraction of people in a cluster of 30 housing units. The Lancet methodology simply cannot cope with this.

    The Lancet study essentially provides an estimate of deaths in areas where there was not intense fighting — excluding Falluja, certain neighborhoods in Baghdad, and other lesser-known neighborhoods. The Lancet authors acknowledge this, and their defenders on the web have as well. The Lancet authors and Daniel Davies, for example, have emphasized that Lancet provides a very conservative estimate of excess deaths in Iraq. I had thought that this point was not controversial, and I’m surprised to see you denying it now.

    The ILCS study asked about the deaths of “regular household member[s],” which presumably includes those who were not living in the household at the time of death. In contrast, the Lancet study states “The deceased had to be living in the household at the time of death and for more than 2 months before to be considered a household death.”

    In other words, the ILCS study does not “exclude those who were living in barracks” while the Lancet study does. This is not just my opinion, it is also the opinion of the study authors. The ILCS authors state that they have obtained a count of military and civilian deaths, while the Lancet authors state that they have obtained a count only of civilian deaths.

    Finally, I think the Lancet study excludes deaths of infants less than two months old, and deaths in hospitals, because they only count those who were living in the household at the time of death and for two months prior (see the exact quote above). This defintion obviously excludes deaths in hospitals and deaths of very young babies. It is certainly possible (likely, in my view) that the Lancet authors did not follow the protocol described in their article. But the protocol as stated does imply that deaths of soldiers living in barracks, young babies, and in hospitals and prisons are not counted.

  58. #58 Mike
    June 5, 2005

    Eli, Ian:

    Gentlemen, I concede your point in relation to size when bringing countries like Kuwait and Latvia into the debate. There are many nations with small populations. However, there is an established history of nationhood and sovereignty for Kuwait and Latvia prior to their invasion/annexation. I don’t see that being the case with East Timor.

    If Indonesia had invaded several years after East Timor had declared itself independent, been recognized by the UN, set up its own government and civil institutions, then I’d say yes, this should be characterized as a foreign invasion. As I understand the situation at the time of Indonesia’s annexation, East Timor had three armed factions vying to impose their preference. One group wanted independence, another wanted a continued connection to Portugal through some form of sovereignty association, and the third and smallest faction wanted to become Indonesian. Given that Indonesia moved in immediately upon Portugal’s renunciation of title to East Timor, I don’t see that East Timor had the time to establish any nation-like bona fides.

    As I’ve said in previous posts, even if you could make a solid case that Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor fit the commonly accepted definition of foreign invasion, as do Iraq’s invasions of Kuwait and Iran, can you realistically place them in the same context in terms of geo-political significance? Iraq’s invasions were huge military undertakings, motivated in large part by a desire to steal assets and resources worth many billions of dollars. In the case of Kuwait, the invasion quickly evolved into an international crisis, ending in a multi-national army going to war with Iraq. Compare that to the annexation of East Timor, an economically worthless half of a small island, which the world largely ignored.

    I see East Timor in the same boat as the other separatist movements in Indonesia, such as Aceh and Irian Jaya. And that’s how these issues are characterized as, separatist movements, not foreign conquest. In fact, isn’t Irian Jaya’s situation almost exactly like East Timor? It wasn’t part of Indonesia either, at the time of Indonesia’s birth in 1945. When the Dutch relinquished it in 1961, Indonesia annexed it, despite widespread local opposition to annexation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the population of Irian Jaya have even greater ethnic and cultural differences with the rest of Indonesia than the East Timorese?

    As I mentioned in my last post to Donald, Indonesia/East Timor is a very similar scenario to Saddam and the Kurds. Both were genocides, not foreign conquests. What substantive differences are there between the Kurdish situation and that of the East Timorese? The Kurds have a lengthy history of fighting for an independent state in northern Iraq, and claim justification for this on similar grounds as the East Timorese. But when have we ever heard Saddam’s repression of the Kurds being portrayed as a war between two sovereign entities?

  59. #59 Ian Gould
    June 5, 2005

    Mike,

    The reason that Kuwait escalated into a major crisi was simple: oil.

    We are talking, I hope, matters of morality and principle here, not simple expediency. East timor does actually have significant oil and gas reserves, the difference with the Kuwait situation is that is Indonesia cut a deal with Australia to divide those offshore reserves with the bulk going to Australia.

    Subsequent to East Timorese independence, the division was revised on terms substantially mroe favorable to East timor. It is difficult to characterise the original deal in any wat other than as a bribe to Australia to accept Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

    This is probably one of the most shameful acts Australia has ever committed and both sides of Australian politics are complicit in it.

    A little bit of added history: During world War II, fascist Portugal invited Japan to occupy East Timor. Britain and Australia responded by invading East Timor.

    Fro the next several years, an Australian/Britihs/Dutch guerilla force fought the Japanese occupation. The East Timorese, believing the Australians and British were goign to offer them independence after the war, supported the guerillas and fought the Japanese. The end-result was the deaths of around 100,000 Timorese.

    After the war, Australia and Britain not only supported Portugal’s claim to East Timor, they prvovided Portugal logistical support whithout which they would not have been able to restore their power there.

    The situation in East Papua is different. Prior to 1945, East Papua was indeed part of the Dutch East Indies.

    Between 1945 and 1947 the Dutch fought to re-establish their control over the former NEI. when it became apparent that they weren’t going to be able to retain the principal Sunda islands including Java, Flores and Bali, the Dutch recognised a “Republic of Indonesia” restricted to those islands. At that point they attemtped to set up separate administrations not only in East Papua but also in Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and other areas including East Papua.

    The Indonesian claim to East Papua is substantially stronger than its claim to East timor – and I say this as an advocate of East papuan independence.

    Culturally the Timorese are probably closer to the Papuans than to the Sundanese although 400 years of Catholicism has had a profound impact on the Timorese.

    The differnece between the Kurdish and East timorese situations is that the incorporation of part of Kurdistan into Iraq has been recognised by the international community for 80 years – unfortunately.

  60. #60 Eli Rabett
    June 5, 2005

    Mike you might want to do some reading about Latvian history. Let us say Latvia was not an independent country from about the 13th to the early 20th century. http://www.aic.lv/HE_2002/HE_LV/factsheets/hist.htm As to Kuwait, the closest European analogy might be one of the cities of the Hansa, but of course, much later as the city was only established about 300 years ago.

    A piece of advice. Google first.

  61. #61 Mike
    June 5, 2005

    Ian:

    You know a helluva alot more about East Timor and Indonesia than I ever will. Thanks for the tutorial, I’m always looking to get a little smarter :-)

    “We are talking, I hope, matters of morality and principle here, not simple expediency.

    Definitely. That wasn’t the angle I was working. I was emphasizing the differences in scale and proportion between the two analogies. On one hand, we have a single armed takeover of a very tiny land mass that may or may not have met the definition of a nation, that was relatively economically inconsequential. In the case of Iraq, we have not one but two invasions, which certainly meet the criteria of foreign invasions of recognized nations. Both of the invasions were of far more consequence internationally, and one involved the invasion of a country with some 60 million people.

    “The differnece between the Kurdish and East timorese situations is that the incorporation of part of Kurdistan into Iraq has been recognised by the international community for 80 years – unfortunately.”

    Even this can be shown to illustrate the similarities between the Kurds and East Timorese. Iraq (and a potential Kurdistan) were also formed from the ashes of a dying colonial empire (Ottoman), just as East Timor and Indonesia sprung from the Portugese and Dutch empires respectively.

    “The Indonesian claim to East Papua is substantially stronger than its claim to East timor – and I say this as an advocate of East papuan independence.”

    I agree with that, but still don’t see where you’ve identified any crucial differences between the Indonesian annexation of West Papua after Indonesia had already been established, and that of East Timor, so as to make a case that one isn’t foreign conquest, but the latter is.

    We’ve really done a Frankenstein job on my original treatise, Ian, which was, to refresh our memories; Indonesian bad deeds did not mirror Saddam’s bad deeds. Of late, the debate has been confined to only one element (whether Indonesia, like Iraq, is guilty of foreign wars of conquest) of this original bigger picture.

    I’m comfortable with my argument that the equating of East Timor versus Kuwait and Iran is a poor comparison, for the reasons I’ve given. Beyond that however, we still have the other non-similarities:

    WMD

    Hostility to the U.S.

    Geographical location of Iraq vs Indonesia.

  62. #62 Mike
    June 5, 2005

    Eli:

    Please see my ” Frankenstein ” metaphor above. The goalposts are getting moved into the parking lot here.

    I don’t really care if Latvia wasn’t independent for 7 centuries. It was for 20 years between the two World Wars. That puts it light years ahead of East Timor in the definition of “What-constitutes-a-sovereign-nation game?” which, as I understand it, had declared itself independent for 9 days before Indonesia annexed it. Prior to that, it had been ruled by Portugal for 450 years. Bad example Eli, no Googling required. :-)

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at with Kuwait/Hansa. In any event, as I’ve mentioned before, Kuwait had been an independent country for nearly 30 years when invaded.

  63. #63 Tim Lambert
    June 5, 2005

    Ragout, I’m not denying that the Lancet estimate does include much of the intense fighting — I’m putting out that the ILCS doesn’t either, since the intense figting was mostly after the ILCS was conducted.

    In earlier questions in the ILCS survey they make it clear that to be a regular household member you had to have lived their for at least three months, so it is actually slightly more restrictive that the Lancet’s two month rule.

    The Lancet counted deaths of household members no matter where they occured, so that deaths in hospitals were counted. It is bizarre for you to claim otherwise. AS for babies under two months, you are indulging in an excessively literal reading of their description. Use some common sense.

  64. #64 Eli Rabett
    June 6, 2005

    Oh yes, for sure 20 and 30 years in an interwar intergium doth the centuries make. And, btw way Mike, Kuwait at best is a city state, you know like independent Hamburg and Hong Kong (Singapore is about the last of these left). You won’t get much further with claiming that Latvia had an independent culture and language (which it does)because the same exists in Timor.

  65. #65 Ragout
    June 6, 2005

    Prof. Lambert,

    The most important point is this: the Lancet estimate you cite excludes the 3% of households where most deaths occurred. The ICLS estimate includes all households. It is absurd to suggest that they are comparable. Certainly you have offered no convincing argument.

    I think you are arguing that there is something so unique about Falluja that it can be excluded without bias. But Falluja is far from unique: there were many other places that experienced intense fighting. The Falluja data in Lancet should be understood as representing all these areas, not just Falluja itself.

    You also seem to be wrong when you claim that “the intense fighting was mostly after the ILCS was conducted.” In fact, both surveys exclude the fighting in Falluja during November 2004. Both surveys include the intense fighting during the conventional war itself (March-April 2003). And I think both surveys include the intense fighting in Falluja in April 2004.

    I’m not positive about this last point because the ILCS ws conducted at around the same time as the first round of fighting in Falluja. It’s not worth my time to verify this because, as I said, the Falluja cluster should be understood as representing all areas of intense combat in Iraq. If the Lancet authors had sampled, say, devastated neighborhoods in Shiite Baghdad, they would have excluded those clusters too.

    You are completely wrong about the meaning of “regular” household members in the ILCS survey. Early in the survey, the ILCS enumerates household members on a “household roster,” who had to have been living in the household for at least 3 months, or intend to stay more than 3 months. Later in the survey they asked about the deaths of “regular” household members. Nothing in the survey suggests that “regular” household members had to be living there for 3 months, or had to be people enumerated at the beginning of the survey. Indeed, that would make no sense: the people enumerated on the household roster are supposed to be alive!

    The Lancet survey, as described in the article, does not make this distinction between enumerated household member and “regular” members. The authors explicitly say that they asked only about the deaths of enumerated household members — those who had been living there for at least 2 months (and there’s nothing about intentions). True, this makes no sense, but that is what they say.

    Of course, I am quite sure of what the ILCS did, because they made their questionaire available on the web. To my knowledge, the Lancet authors have not, so we can only speculate about how closely the terse and ambiguous description they give in their article corresponds to what happened in the field.

    I think you would be surprised by how carefully and precisely the sample universe is spelled out in most surveys, such as those conducted by the US Census Bureau. This is doubly important for a survey that attempts to count dead people, who aren’t around for an interviewer to speak with. Most surveys do not have to ask the reader to rely on “common sense” to determine the sample universe.

    For the record, my guess is that the Lancet did count infant deaths (I said as much in my previous comment), but probably only counted some deaths in hospitals, and did not count deaths of those living in military barracks or prisons. But since the Lancet authors have not made their survey instrument available, I can only guess.

  66. #66 Mike
    June 6, 2005

    Eli:

    Okay, this has now officially become silly.

    Eli, the Latvian analogy was one of Ian’s contribution to this debate. He’s on your side, remember? It didn’t originate with me, I simply agreed with him. One has to ask then, why you’re coming after me over it, and not Ian.

    “Oh yes, for sure 20 and 30 years in an interwar intergium doth the centuries make.”

    And what does 9 days do for your argument?

    “And, btw way Mike, Kuwait at best is a city state, you know like independent Hamburg and Hong Kong (Singapore is about the last of these left).”

    So, if Kuwait is nearly 3,000 sq. km. bigger than East Timor, and had a bigger indigenous population when it was invaded than did East Timor when it was annexed, then I guess that makes East Timor something less than a city state.

    Eli, right now I’m having a tough time figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish with this line of debate.

  67. #67 Tim Lambert
    June 6, 2005

    Mike, please close your tags properly: <i>italic text</i>

  68. #68 Tim Lambert
    June 6, 2005

    Ragout, most of the intense fighting occured in April 2004 or later. A small part of this might have been covered by the ILCS since it was mainly conducted in April, but we don’t know.

    You assert that I am wrong about the definition of regular houshold memver in the ILCS, but fail to offer any evidence to support your claim. If there is a different definiton in the questionaire or report, let’s see it.

    Journal articles usually do require you to use common sense to interpret them, since there isn’t space to go into infinite details.

  69. #69 Ragout
    June 6, 2005

    Prof. Lambert, you are wrong that most of the intense fighting occurred in April 2004 or later (and actually the relevant period is April 2004-Sept 2004). I notice that you cite no evidence.

    I’m going to write something about the facts on my blog. When I demonstrate (using Iraq Body count figures) that the large majority of the deaths covered in the Lancet survey were also covered in the ILCS survey, will you admit that your comparison is wrong?

    Of course there wasn’t space in the journal article to include the survey instrument, but the Lancet authors could easily have made it available on the web. They haven’t.

    I asserted that you inaccurately described the ILCS survey defition of regular household members and wrote an accurate description, even giving specific wording and pointing you to the specific sections. What more can I possibly do? The evidence is the survey instrument itself. Read it and you’ll see that I’m right and you’re wrong.

    Finally, if you knew more about survey methodology (and not just statistics) you’d realize that your description of the ILCS survey is just nonsensical. I don’t mean this as an insult, but survey methodology is obviously not your field.

  70. #70 Tim Lambert
    June 6, 2005

    If you can show that the large majority of the deaths covered in the Lancet study were also covered in the ILCS I’ll be very very impressed. Large majority would be 80,000 or so: go for it. Why don’t you plot IBC deaths vs time? Should be interesting.

    You have not offered any definition of “regular” houshold member in the ILCS. Saying you have does not make it so.

  71. #71 Ragout
    June 6, 2005

    Prof. Lambert,
    You can now see my blog post showing that civilian death rates were very similar during the ILCS and post-ICLS time periods. I assume you will now admit that you are wrong?

    As to “regular” household members, I have given you all the definition there is. Contrary to your claim, this term is not defined in the ILCS survey (except implicitly by listing categories of deaths). Interpretation is left up to the respondent. It’s not the greatest procedure in the world, but is better than the Lancet’s procedure (as described in their article).

  72. #72 Mike
    June 6, 2005

    Sorry Tim.

    I thought you might have been correcting them on my behalf.

  73. #73 lemuel pitkin
    June 7, 2005

    I hope Lambert and Ragout continue with their debate. It’s very rare (and very illuminating) to have two thoughtful, intelligent people on opposite sides of something like this engage with each other seriously & respectfully.

  74. #74 Donald Johnson
    June 7, 2005

    Ragout, I read your blog post and it doesn’t sound as if you looked at the Lancet paper before typing it. If you look at the plot of deaths in the Lancet paper (Figure 2) you’ll see that nearly all of the ones in Fallujah occurred in April, June, August, and September of 2004, with the ones in August appearing to be about as large as the other months put together. The violent deaths outside Fallujah in the Lancet paper appear to be roughly evenly spaced from the invasion on, but everyone agrees these other neighborhoods missed the neighborhoods where heavy fighting took place. Therefore, if we take the Fallujah cluster as being representative of very heavy civilian casualties in a small portion of Iraq, most of those casualties occured in the period from April 2004 through September 2004. Whether it is correct to assume that this one neighborhood in Fallujah represents a huge number of civilian casualties I don’t know, but the ICLS survey can’t possibly refute it.

    If my memory is correct, I also remember that the fighting against Sadr’s group occurred a little while after the first springtime assault on Fallujah. So again this wouldn’t show up in the ICLS survey that finished earlier. But I’m too lazy to go googling at the moment, so I’m not certain of the dates.

  75. #75 Donald Johnson
    June 7, 2005

    I didn’t mean to say that the “other neighborhoods missed the neighborhoods”. I meant that excluding Fallujah, the Lancet survey missed neighborhoods where heavy fighting had taken place.

    One other point–I don’t have the link, but Seymour Hersh said that in the second part of 2004 there was an exponential increase in American bombing raids. I remember reading (and have cited) a NYT article about the bombing of Fallujah which appeared in the fall of 2004 where anonymous Pentagon officials said that civilian casualties had a silver lining if the suffering people were undergoing under American bombing made them resent the insurgents. So it seems clear to me that the latter part of 2004 would be the period when you’d have the largest number of civilian casualties from American air strikes.

  76. #76 Ragout
    June 7, 2005

    Donald, you are right, I had not realized that Prof. Lambert was basing his claim that most fighting took place after April 2004 on the Lancet study. I am surprised to hear that he was engaged in the same type of absurd circular reasoning as you are.

    Let me repeat, I share the belief ot the Lancet authors that the Lancet study does not do a very good job of capturing areas where the most intense fighting took place. They are represenented by only one cluster of 30 households in Falluja. Therefore, we have to turn to other data sources to learn about the time pattern of the fighting, and the IBC is a good source for this.

    By the way, the IBC data seems to indicate that civilians were killed at the highest rate during the conventional war itself (March-April 2003). Are you really denying this? This period is of course captured by both surveys.

    Finally, the ILCS survey continued through late May 2004, and may well have captured much of the intense fighting in April 2004 (although I don’t think the report says one way or another). One indication that the ILCS survey did capture the fighting in Falluja in April 2004 is that Al-Anbar province (Falluja) had the highest rate of damage to buildings from military activity (with the exception of the Kurdish north). See table 2-17 of the tabulation report.

  77. #77 Ragout
    June 7, 2005

    Donald, I didn’t notice your last point. Yes, the IBC does show an especially high number of civilian deaths in “fall 2004.” Specifically, in November 2004, when there was heavy fighting in Falluja. This period is covered by neither the ILCS nor the Lancet.

  78. #78 Ragout
    June 7, 2005

    If anybody’s interested, I’ve posted a little “quiz” about the sampling issues underlying Apfelroth’s criticisms of the Lancet study on my blog.

  79. #79 Donald Johnson
    June 7, 2005

    Ragout, your concept of circular reasoning is odd–I pointed out that the Lancet graph showing repeated incidents of civilians dying in Fallujah during April, June, August and September agreed with NYT reports saying that we were bombing Fallujah during those times–by the time the US military took Fallujah most of the civilians had fled, so it’s possible that most of the civilian casualties there occurred in the time between the first and second American ground incursions there. There was also the Seymour Hersh claim which I’ve heard on the radio (and haven’t tracked down) when he said that American bombing sorties were increasing exponentially during the second part of 2004. This was also the period (I think) when Sadr’s forces were fighting it out with the US. So if the US has killed a large number of civilians with air strikes in urban areas, it seems likely that this would be the time period to examine. During the first month of the invasion I don’t know if Iraqi cities were hit as hard as Fallujah was during the period covered in the Lancet survey. My impression is that they were not.

    I don’t think you can get an accurate number for this death toll from the Lancet study. It’s suggestive that the one neighborhood they surveyed showed repeated episodes of high casualties from US attacks–the 50 deaths were not the result of one single bomb landing in a neighborhood, but the result of several separate incidents. To me this suggests that the high casualties there aren’t a fluke–if a neighborhood has been hit repeatedly then a large number of the residents will be killed. How many neighborhoods have been hit like this? I don’t know. We need another study. It’s that simple. I’m not dogmatic about how many people have died from air strikes in Iraq. I accept maybe 30,000 war deaths in the less heavily bombed areas is reasonable and then on top of that you’d add the deaths from Fallujah and a few other towns. How many? I don’t know and the ICLS study misses nearly all the period when the Lancet report claims that Fallujans were dying.

    IBC follows media reports and there’s no reason to think the media has done a good job counting the number of civilians who’ve died in Fallujah, or telling us anything about the trend that you couldn’t know from common sense–if the US bombed the place for several months, civilian casualties were presumably higher in those months.

  80. #80 Dano
    June 8, 2005

    All this energy wasted looking for tick turds on nit’s *sses. Think of how all that energy would be positively utilized shaking some trees, scaring up some money to get another team over there counting the dead.

    Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!

    Of course, you’d have to shake a lot of trees to scare up enough money to buy Kevlar, helmets, guns, bodyguards, Humvees, ammo, etc so that you’d be safe in the war zone while you’re counting the dead. See, a lot of people are dying over there right now, believe it or not.

    Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!

    And what would we get after all this new, surely improved counting? Would we get new lil’ naysayers saying the new study was flawed in some way?

    For what? So red-blooded Murricans can feel good that our bombs are great and don’t kill nobody but f-n terrists?

    Gimme a break. We killed a lot of innocents in our lil’ wargasm fantasy and you know it.

    It’s not, ultimately, important whether we get it perfectly counted that we killed 25,000 or 30,000. We killed a lot. Stop obfuscating and mendacicizing.

    Stop. Just stop.

    Use your energy to pull the troops out of the quagmire and avert a civil war.

    Stop the obfuscating.

    D

  81. #81 NEll
    June 8, 2005

    Dano- the point of this thread is to disuss the exisiting estimates of civilian casualties. If you don’t like it then take it up with Tim. L.

  82. #82 Dano
    June 9, 2005

    Well, Nell, the point of my comment was the very last word. But perhaps I was unclear.

    Looking for tick turds and making a dung pile out of that turd is a strategy of the doubt-sowers. There are a lot of deaths over there. Let’s point out the implications of that first. IMHO, if there was such a large imperative to get the number right, there’d be lots of people over there counting.

    D

  83. #83 Nell
    June 10, 2005

    Well you know Dano I’m sure there are right-wingers who would label you a “doubt sower” for raising questions over Iraq.

    IMHO a certain amount of doubt is important- vital in fact as a defense against anyone peddling their version of the truth.

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