I really don’t know where to begin with this anti-Lancet piece by Michael Fumento. Should I start with the way Fumento describes Kane’s paper as “so complex” that it “may cause your head to explode” while being utterly certain that Kane has demolished the Lancet study? Or with his assertion that I’ve been ignoring criticism of the Lancet study? Or with the way he quote mines me? Or that after again and again arguing that Lancet was wrong because they included Falluja when they should have left it out, he is embracing Kane’s argument that they were wrong because they excluded Falluja? Or with a picture of a rake?
Ah heck, let’s look at the quote mining:
Upon including the Fallujah data, Kane concluded that as incredibly wide as the confidence interval was as given, it now became so wide “that the lower bound is negative.” This means the figures the Lancet came up with are not of statistical significance and therefore, in statistician lingo, “don’t count for squat.” …
Lambert, in his blog, after three years of blasting critics of the Lancet study, conceded, “I would suggest that [Kane] has proven that this confidence interval is wrong,” indeed, “obviously so.”
Fumento makes it look like I was referring to the confidence interval for excess deaths, but look at my full comment:
[Kane’s] argument turns on the CI for the post-invasion mortality rate (including Falluja) of 1.4-23.2. I would suggest that he has proven that this CI is wrong (as it obviously is, since there is no way the mortality rate could be below 4) rather than that the risk ratio CI is wrong.
Notice how he couldn’t have quoted any more of it without giving the game away.
Now for his charge that I have “ignored” his arguments against the Lancet study. Let’s see. Fumento says:
Further, the researchers used death certificates but didn’t feel bound by them — interviews were fine. “In the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths,” they wrote. Sorry guys, but I’ve reported from Iraq three times and I’ve written that interviewing Iraqis is essentially worthless because “they just tell you what they think will prove advantageous to them.”
I dealt with this almost three years ago: 81% of those asked produced death certificates. There is little scope for invented deaths in the study.
Then Fumento has this:
The 100,000 figure is allegedly the excess over pre-war Iraqi mortality, which they claimed was 5.0 per 1,000 people annually. That was a fabrication absolute vital to the overall calculation. According to the CIA World Factbook, the pre-invasion (2002) rate was over 20 percent higher at 6.07 per 1,000. Remember, the study was allegedly looking for excess mortality; therefore the lower the authors set pre-war mortality the higher the excess post-invasion mortality looks.
I must confess not have rebutted this one before. But that’s because last time round, Fumento offered this:
The alleged 100,000 deaths were those above the pre-war baseline. That baseline was predicated on a figure of 5.0 deaths per 1,000. BUT the figure for the US at the time was 8.3 deaths per 1,000. Obviously Iraq was one of the safest countries on the face of earth prior to the Yankee imperialist invasion. In fairness, the CIA Worldbook uses a 5.6 per 1,000 figure for Iraq but what was it’s source? Saddam’s ultra-trustworthy government, of course.
So, in rebuttal to his new argument, I would suggest that the CIA number is unreliable. And if Fumento wants to dispute this, he should take up with the guy who said that the number could not be trusted. Which was one Michael Fumento.
Back to Fumento’s latest attempt:
Consider, too, that 100,000 deaths during the survey period meant an average of over 180 a day, of which the Lancet attributed a majority to airstrikes. Have you heard anyone claim our airstries [sic] killed over 90 civilians on any one day during the entire course of the war?
The Lancet did not attribute the majority of the 100,000 deaths to air strikes. The 100,000 number excludes Falluja, which was where most of air strike casualties were.
Anti-war and anti-American groups even said the Lancet figure was ridiculous. The website iraqbodycount.org estimated at the time about 14,000-16,000 deaths since the war began, a figure that even now ranges from about 68,000 to 74,500. The Evil One himself, bin Laden, in his pre-election video, made reference to the Iraq war and stated “over 15,000 of our people have been killed.”
The Iraq Body Count is not an estimate of the total number of deaths. It just counts the number reported in the media. Not every death is reported in the media. No doubt the IBC people will be emailing Fumento and asking him to correct his mistake. Osama bin Laden’s “over 15,000″ does not contradict the Lancet number at all. Does Fumento not realise that 100,000 is “over 15,000″?
(Hat tip: Russel Seitz.)