Deaths in Iraq

I think it is worthwhile to update James Wimberly’s comparison of surveys of deaths in Iraq. In the table below death tolls have been extrapolated to give a number of deaths due to the war so far.

Survey Violent deaths Excess deaths
ILCS 150,000
Lancet 1 290,000 420,000
IFHS 280,000 700,000
Lancet 2 1,100,000 1,200,000
ORB 1,300,000

It is interesting to see that the IFHS ends up right in the middle, between the two Lancet studies. If you think that the IFHS study is reasonable then you must conclude that Lancet 1 has been confirmed and the critics of Lancet 1 were wrong.

What about the comparison between Lancet 2 and the IFHS? Some folks are arguing that the larger sample size of the IFHS meaning that its estimate trumps Lancet 2, but the larger sample size just reduces the sampling error. The top of the IFHS confidence interval for violent deaths (220,000) is much smaller than the bottom end of the Lancet 2 interval (420,000) so the difference can only explained by non-sampling error, and here the IFHS isn’t necessarily better. It was too dangerous to visit 11% of their clusters and in the ones they could visit they say that as many of 50% of the violent deaths may have gone unreported. They have attempted to correct for these problems, but the corrections may be not be enough. For example, they use the IBC numbers to estimate the violence in the unvisited areas relative to those they visited. But the most violent areas are going to be too dangerous for reporters as well, so the IBC will tend to undercount deaths in those areas relative to less violent areas. This doesn’t mean that the Lancet 2 estimate doesn’t have non-sampling errors as well — Iraq at present is just a really difficult place to survey. I think that the best we can do is guess that the real number of violent deaths in Iraq to date is somewhere in the range 300,000 to 1,0000,000. Even the lowest number in the range is a horrendous death toll.

The numbers for excess deaths are for Lancet 2 and the IFHS are closer to each other, which suggests that some of the difference in violent death rates could be deaths being misclassified (either as violent by Lancet 2, or non-violent by IFHS). Since the Lancet usually checked death certificates, it seems that they would be less likely to misclassify deaths.

Notes: I did the calculations a little differently from Wimberly. He used the published totals on a given date from the IBC to scale the figures — I used the actual total number of deaths in the current IBC data base for a given time period. For example, the ILCS covered the first 13 months, so it is scaled by (IBC current total)/(IBC total for first 13 months). In addition, I only used IBC scaling for violent deaths. For excess non-violent deaths I assumed that the death rate was constant.

The IFHS did not publish an estimate for excess deaths, so I computed it from the rates in the paper. The IFHS FAQ states:

Further analysis would be needed to calculate an estimate of the number of such deaths and to assess how large the mortality increase due to non-violent causes is, after taking into account that reporting of deaths longer ago is less complete.

Taking this factor into account would reduce the IFHS excess deaths estimate in the table above.

Comments

  1. #1 Donald Johnson
    January 15, 2008

    I’m going to forward a link to this post to the public editor at the NYT. I don’t see why the press can’t do analytical pieces like this now and then. Or alternatively, I wonder if there’s any chance they’d publish it on the op-ed page. Of course it would have to be submitted. (Hint.)

  2. #2 David Kane
    January 15, 2008

    Your Lancet 1 violent death estimate seems to exlude Falluja. Is that correct? What would the violent death estimate be if you included Falluja, as the L1 authors did in every discussion that they give in the paper of violent deaths? I think that it would match more closely to L2 (and be much higher than IFHS).

    For example, here are some statements about violent deaths from L1.

    Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces.
    Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in
    the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1-419) than in the period before the war.

    Third, interviewers might, by chance, have gone to an
    atypical area for the Falluja cluster. We do not believe
    this to be the case. In the random selection process,
    other heavily damaged cities such as Ramadi, Najaf, and
    Tallafar were not selected. Moreover, the cluster in
    Thaura (Sadr City), the site of the most intense fighting
    in Baghdad, by random chance was in an unscathed
    neighbourhood with no reported deaths from the
    months of recent clashes. In Falluja, the team noted that
    vast areas of the city had been devastated to an equal or
    worse degree than the area they had randomly chosen to
    survey. We suspect that a random sample of 33 Iraqi
    locations is likely to encounter one or a couple of
    particularly devastated areas. Nonetheless, since 52 of 73
    (71%) violent deaths and 53 of 142 (37%) deaths during
    the conflict occurred in one cluster, it is possible that by extraordinary chance, the survey mortality estimate has
    been skewed upward.

    There is no doubt that the L1 authors feel that Falluja is representative of the devestation in many parts of Iraq and that, were another survey done at the time, it would have included at least similarly horrific cluster. From that, it seems like any estimate of the number of violent deaths from L1 ought to include Falluja. (This is not true for excess deaths, since the authors explicitly provide an estimate for that. They provide no estimate for violent deahts.)

  3. #3 David Kane's friend
    January 15, 2008

    I’ll second what Donald Johnson said. This would make an excellent “Op-Chart” as the Times calls them. They run an Op-Chart every couple of months by Iraq War booster (yet self-described critic) O’Hanlon. If he doesn’t have an exclusive license, this would make a good change.

  4. #4 David Kane's friend
    January 15, 2008

    I see the Washington Post still has their Iraq casualties widget using IBC only. They show a “maximum count” of 88,004 “Iraq Casualties (estimates)” as of Jan. 14.

  5. #5 David Kane's friend
    January 15, 2008

    PS on the WaPo widget: In fairness if you click on the (tiny) “about these figures” link it will take you to an explanation that does mention Lancet 2. But what fraction of readers are going to do that? Since Donald hit up Times Public Editor Hoyt, I’ll hit up WaPo Ombud Howell.

  6. #6 James
    January 15, 2008

    Given that ORB admitted to problems with their survey I’m surprised that you would try to throw it in with the others.

  7. #7 dbomp
    January 15, 2008

    You really should have the date ranges in that grid. The various studies covered different time periods which is a big deal if you’re comparing raw total numbers.

  8. #8 Crust
    January 15, 2008

    Given that ORB admitted to problems with their survey I’m surprised that you would try to throw it in with the others.

    Which of these surveys didn’t admit to problems?

  9. #9 dhogaza
    January 15, 2008

    Given that ORB admitted to problems with their survey I’m surprised that you would try to throw it in with the others.

    So did the new IFHS survey, problems in execution so extensive they didn’t even survey baghdad or anbar (due to danger), and problems in analysis because they had to fill those holes with estimates.

  10. #10 Donald Johnson
    January 15, 2008

    “There is no doubt that the L1 authors feel that Falluja is representative of the devestation in many parts of Iraq and that, were another survey done at the time, it would have included at least similarly horrific cluster.”

    They thought it was likely that any sample of 33 clusters might contain a horrific cluster, but to say they thought there was no doubt is an overstatement.

    And people who criticized L1 at the time criticized its estimates with and without Fallujah. The 100,000 total excess widely cited (with about 57,000 violent deaths, as the National Journal article mentioned) was widely cited and these more conservative numbers were widely dismissed, though now supported by the latest study.

  11. #11 sod
    January 15, 2008

    Your Lancet 1 violent death estimate seems to exlude Falluja. Is that correct? What would the violent death estimate be if you included Falluja, as the L1 authors did in every discussion that they give in the paper of violent deaths?

    David, i used this opportunity to again work through the Lancet 2004 paper with a “falluja” search and i would advice everyone to do the same.

    http://web.mit.edu/humancostiraq/reports/lancet04.pdf

    they give numbers for both cases (with and without Falluja) in most cases and argue SPECIFICALLY about the exclusion for the confidence interval.
    i still do not see the basis for your attack on the authors.

    More thana third of reported post-attack deaths (n=53), and twothirds of violent deaths (n=52) happened in the Falluja cluster. This extreme statistical outlier has created a very broad confidence estimate around the mortality measure and is cause for concern about the precision of the overall finding. If the Falluja cluster is excluded, the post-attack mortality is 7·9 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 5·6-10·2; design effect=2·0).

    As
    mentioned above, the Falluja cluster is an obvious
    outlier and might not belong with the others. When
    included, we estimate that the rate of death increased
    2·5-fold after the invasion (relative risk 2·5 [95% CI
    1·6-4·2]) compared with before the war. When Falluja
    was excluded, we estimated the relative risk of death for
    the rest of the country was 1·5 (95% CI 1·1-2·3)

    and i can not understand, how you manage to sum up this:

    We suspect that a random sample of 33 Iraqi
    locations is likely to encounter one or a couple of
    particularly devastated areas.

    with this:

    There is no doubt that the L1 authors feel that Falluja is representative of the devestation in many parts of Iraq and that, were another survey done at the time, it would have included at least similarly horrific cluster.

    the restriction “at the time” is an important one, btw. the concentrated destruction that happenend in Falluja has not been repeated afterwards. and a poll today would most likely not bring up a similar cluster in falluja, as the city has changed massively as population numbers sank and increased again.

  12. #12 SG
    January 15, 2008

    and so the misrepresentation continues… David, is there anything you have ever read that you haven’t turned completely on its head?

  13. #13 Ian Gould
    January 15, 2008

    So if IFHS proves in the minds of David Kane et all that L1 and L2 were fraudulent it presumably also proves ILCS is fraudulent.

    I look forward to David’s posts on this.

  14. #14 David Kane
    January 15, 2008

    What is everyone’s problem? I quoted the study. If I felt like it, I could provide numerous quotes of Roberts emphasizing over and over again how the 98,000 number was “conservative”, how the true number was almost certainly much higher. It is clear from every public statement that I have seen from the Lancet authors that their honest belief, as they say in the paper, is that the Falluja cluster is not “atypical.” It may be an “outlier” in the sense that it is a much bigger number. But is an accurate outlier. There were, in 2004, many equally decimated neighborhoods in Falluja and elsewhere which the Lancet authors could have sampled but didn’t. That is why they are so comfortable, in the paper, saying things like “Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children,” when such statements are only true if you include Falluja.

    If you had asked the L1 authors, in 2004, what their estimate for violent deaths in Iraq was, they almost certainly would have included the data from Falluja, just as they included Falluja when making claims about all the women and children killed by US forces. And that is a perfectly reasonable and defensible opinion. And, since they do not cite an estimate for total violent deaths in the paper, Tim has no good reason to exclude that data. Certainly, an estimate that throws out all of Anbar is hardly comparable to an L2 or IFHS estimate that does not.

    And, even better, if you include all the data from L1, the results for violent deaths for L1 and L2 match up almost perfectly! It would be nice if Tim gave us details on the calculation. But it looks like he takes a 57,000 violent death estimate from L1 which excludes Falluja and then scales up by 5.1. If you take the 200,000 estimate for violent deaths from L1 (which includes Falluja), then multiply by 5.1, you get 1,020,000. Presto! The L1 and L2 numbers in the table would be a perfect fit!

  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    January 15, 2008

    David Kane claims:

    >If you had asked the L1 authors, in 2004, what their estimate for violent deaths in Iraq was, they almost certainly would have included the data from Falluja

    Not so. From an interview with [Richard Garfield](http://www.epic-usa.org/Default.aspx?tabid=440):

    >Excess deaths by cause

    >* Violence 57,600

    Even Lancet denialist Neil Munro used the 57,600 figure in his NJ piece.

  16. #16 ben
    January 15, 2008

    Why not at least assign blame for the deaths of women and children accurately: the cowardly insurgents who hide behind them. Would anyone here do the same thing should we be in a fight with a foreign force? I doubt it. I’m certain that we would send our women and children as far away from the fight as possible.

  17. #17 David Kane
    January 15, 2008

    I stand corrected! I did not recall that Garfield interview. But I have never seen Les Roberts or Gilbert Burnham say anything along the same lines. (Counter examples welcome.) So, please correct my claim to “If you had asked Les Roberts . . . ”

    Perhaps this was the first example of how/why Garfield had a falling out with the other authors, perhaps because he felt that their estimates were too high?

    But describing Munro as a “denialist” seems a bit much. Would you also apply that terminology to the authors of IFHS? They claim that “Both sources indicate that the 2006 study by Burnham et al. considerably overestimated the number of violent deaths.”

    And, not to get off topic, but does anyone have thoughts on why Burnham and Roberts are confused about death certificates?

  18. #18 Donald Johnson
    January 15, 2008

    To stay on the topic, David, how many L1 critics can you name who said that 57,000 deaths was a reasonable estimate for Sept. 2004? Why are you only interested in the possible mistakes of the Lancet authors?

    And anyway, so what if Roberts did think one Fallujah-type outlier might be typical in a sample of 33 clusters? It was a perfectly valid thing to suspect, given the evidence. It turns out it probably wasn’t typical and the more conservative analysis was (if the IFHS paper is right) closer to the truth.

  19. #19 David Kane
    January 15, 2008

    [H]ow many L1 critics can you name who said that 57,000 deaths was a reasonable estimate for Sept. 2004?

    Uh, none. Why would they? Who would care about a number that does not appear in the paper? Why not ask me about L1 critics who thought that 40,000 or 80,000 or pick-your-favorite number was reasonable?

    And anyway, so what if Roberts did think one Fallujah-type outlier might be typical in a sample of 33 clusters?

    Because we are trying, I thought to have a good faith discussion of how to compare the IFHS number of 151,000 with other numbers. It seems fairly comparable (but not perfectly) with the 601,000 number for L2. (The comparison is not ideal because L2 includes several deaths from July 2006, while IFHS does not.)

    But, if 151,000 for IFHS is fairly comparable with 601,000 for L2, what is the comparable number for both of them for L1. Since L1 does not answer that question directly, we need to answer it ourselves. Throwing out Falluja (and, therefore, all of Anbar) does not seem like a good idea to me. Although it does make L1 look more like IFHS, it also makes L1 look less like L2.

    And again, my claim is that if you had asked Les Roberts for his best guess, based on the data that he had collected for L1, about violent deaths in Iraq, I have no doubt that he would have said something much closer to 200,000 than 50,000. Indeed, anyone who still thinks that L2 is closest to the truth would be even more likely to say that today.

    Perhaps Tim could ask Les: What is the best estimate for the total excess violent deaths in Iraq through Sep 2004 using just the data that was available at that time from L1?

    Do you really think that Roberts, who is always happy to use Falluja data when complaining of US bombing, would really say 57,000? I’ll take the other side of that.

    In terms of violent deaths, L1 and L2 are quite consistent.

    That’s why I think that Tim’s table is misleading.

  20. #20 Donald Johnson
    January 15, 2008

    “Uh, none. Why would they? Who would care about a number that does not appear in the paper? Why not ask me about L1 critics who thought that 40,000 or 80,000 or pick-your-favorite number was reasonable?”

    Okay, I will. There’s nothing sacred about that precise figure of 57, 600. But it’s clear to anyone reading L1 (including non-experts like me) that if 100,000 excess deaths occurred then something like 40,000 or 60,000 or 80,000 were by violence. Something in that neighborhood is a reasonable estimate, given L1 data. Somehow I suspect you know that David, and you’re just trying to dodge the question. So why didn’t L1 critics say that the number of violent deaths implied in L1 is quite reasonable if you exclude Fallujah?

    They didn’t do this, of course, because even without Fallujah the death toll was much higher than IBC’s and before L1 was published, even IBC was sometimes criticized by prowar types as giving numbers that were too high.

    As for Tim’s treatment of L1, he could break it into two pieces if he wants–one with Fallujah and one without. That’d be fine. Lancet1 did the analysis both ways. But somehow you think he should only do it with Fallujah, because it just sticks in your gut that any aspect of the Lancet papers might be supported by later evidence.

    And yes, Les Roberts might pick the higher number. But David, outside of your own head the world doesn’t revolve around your vendetta with your nemesis. Tim’s site was the place to go for Lancet 1 debates and people on both sides of the argument generally used the more conservative Fallujah-less numbers.

  21. #21 Eli Rabett
    January 15, 2008

    Ah, but it’s part of the strategy. If like David, you have nothing new to say, and if what you say is often wrong, and if people point this out to you, and show you evidence, what to do, what to do.

    What David does, is endlessly recycle at length and claim that everything and everyone who does not agree with him is
    wrong, false, degenerate, loves Sadaam, etc.

    Soon (OK some of us have more staying power than others) David hopes that his bad dream will go away as he blathers on.

    The posts that really get me, are the ones where David discovers something new. And he shares it with us, at length as usual, and it usually is about something that anyone with half a brain who was paying attention thought about 20 years ago because he or she was paying attention while David was not paying attention. Probably because in his usual little davidlike monochromatic grinding way he was doing something else, at length, in detail, with twenty repetitions.

    And oh yes, about 20 years ago anyone who was paying attention figured out that that bright new davidthought had a huge flaw. So we had a beer with a friend and smiled.

    **20 years is roughly when the first Gulf war and the Afghan expulsion of the Soviets occurred, but obviously the current war and the Lancet studies are not that long ago, it’s just that David makes time fly.

  22. #22 David Kane
    January 15, 2008

    So why didn’t L1 critics say that the number of violent deaths implied in L1 is quite reasonable if you exclude Fallujah?

    Well, as for me, it never really came up. Don’t forget, I was quite comfortable with high numbers more than a year ago.

    If I had to bet, I would provide much wider confidence intervals than either the Lancet authors or most of their critics. Burnham et al. (2006) estimate 650,000 “excess deaths” since the start of the war with a 95% confidence interval of 400,000 to 950,000. My own estimate would center around 300,000 and range from 0 to 1.2 million.

    Those numbers (pre IFHS) are, obviously, perfectly consistent with 57,000 violent deaths through Sep 2004.

    Again, I have no dog in this fight. If you want to compare IFHS/L2 with Anbar to L1 without Anbar, be my guest. I just don’t think that the comparison is that useful and, in fact, causes the L1/L2 numbers to be much more different than they should be.

    Perhaps we agree that two lines in the table (one for L1 with Falluja and one for L1 without) would be better than what Tim has now?

  23. #23 wildlifer
    January 16, 2008

    How many of these deaths are combatants?

  24. #24 Sortition
    January 16, 2008

    All,

    You are struggling in vain. Much as I admire your tenacity in trying to corner Kane into making some kind of sense, you must never forget the wisdom of Upton Sinclair:

    *It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.*

    In Kane’s case, it is not his salary that is put in jeopardy by understanding, but his hopes for wealth and status through adoption and celebration by the right-wing establishment.

  25. #25 Davis
    January 16, 2008

    Yes, the excess death rate in Iraq is terrible!

    (PS, lets hope nobody catches on to the fact we oppose the surge tooth and nail, despite it reducing death rates dramatically. People might think we are huge hypocrites who don’t really give a toss about Iraqi deaths after all, and are simply using this issue as propaganda!)

  26. #26 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2008

    “Why not at least assign blame for the deaths of women and children accurately: the cowardly insurgents who hide behind them.”

    The question of how many people died is entirely separate from the question of who is responsible for those deaths.

    Other than the IBC people, who have their own ax to grind, virtually everyone criticising the Lancet figures appear to be doing so because they support the decision to invade Iraq.

    Political partisanship is not a good starting point for rational analysis.

  27. #27 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2008

    Davis (Jefferson I assume) writes: “we oppose the surge tooth and nail, despite it reducing death rates dramatically. People might think we are huge hypocrites who don’t really give a toss about Iraqi deaths after all, and are simply using this issue as propaganda!”

    Can you cite ANY examples of anyone on this site saying anything about the surge?

  28. #28 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2008

    “Would anyone here do the same thing should we be in a fight with a foreign force? I doubt it.”

    Yes because during World War II the British were widely condemned for housing women and children in their cities as human shields against German bombing.

  29. #29 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2008

    BTW Ben during World War II, the Americans actively encouraged Filipino children to take part in attacks on Japanese troops.

  30. #30 dhogaza
    January 16, 2008

    Yes because during World War II the British were widely condemned for housing women and children in their cities as human shields against German bombing.

    Not to mention the Japanese using women and children as human shields to protect Hiroshima in 1945.

  31. #31 SG
    January 16, 2008

    Ben, for several years I lived one block away from a very important Australian Naval base, which happens to be in the very middle of one of its most densely populated areas. Should that base have been bombed, and me accidentally killed in the resulting carnage, does that mean the aggressor force can blame my “cowardly government” which hid “behind me”?

    When one is fighting a war to defend one’s homeland from invasion, one tends to have to fight in one’s homeland. Just because you don’t think the Iraqis should defend their homeland doesn’t make them any more or less cowardly for doing so in the cities and towns where they live.

    Plus you might like to consider that the Geneva convention requires civilised nations to make a bit of an effort to avoid civilian targets. Or is that irrelevant to you?

  32. #32 SG
    January 16, 2008

    David, a “conservative” estimate of deaths excluding Fallujah maybe doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means “biassed towards the null”, i.e. not including data which you think are likely to bias your conclusions away from the null on account of their wierdness. As a critic of the lancet papers you should welcome their decision to adopt a conservative analysis plan.

    My God, your ability to misrepresent commonly understood words and phrases is unparalleled!

  33. #33 Marion Delgado
    January 16, 2008

    In keeping with my policy of avoiding colloquy with the trolls directly (and for all they puff him up, Kane is just that – a typical anti-scientific net troll), I want to point out that one of the problems here is a very common troll tactic. The Climate Audit people live and die by it.

    Roughly, they don’t, or pretend not to, get that if you only eliminate the error that doesn’t favor you, you’re not increasing precision, you’re increasing distortion.

    There are always elements of error and uncertainty. If there is no one with an axe to grind evaluating them, you nearly always find that overestimation and underestimation balance out if the science and statistical methods are fundamentally sound, especially over large samples or numerous different studies.

    But what they claim is that if you can find any overestimation error at all (if they want an underestimate) or any underestimation error at all (if they want an overestimate) then that proves that you have to modify your conclusion in their direction. That’s saying you have to base your conclusions partly on noise.

    To denialist trolls, all reality is political and economic. There really, truly is no real world of laws and accurate data “out there”, and everyone’s a hustler and a demagogue. To this sociopathic worldview, the rules of science are just a con game, and the only way to determine reality is by a shouting match. They just assume the people shaving points in a “not us” direction will always balance out the people (them) shaving points in an ‘us’ direction, and a servicable truth will emerge from this adversarial process.

    They routinely confuse this courtroom or forensic approach with the actual, also in a sense adversarial but also honest and cooperative process of peer review and filtering out of unsound science.

    To give a concrete example, if your 1st grade class project wanted to know the average temperature at your elementary school, and you had testing that showed that in the field, children taking temperature were about as likely to go over as under, if you as a teacher who for some reason wants to brag about how hot the temperature is at your school remeasured only the lowest temperature spots, and only corrected the ones where the children had underestimated the temperature, and you ignored the others, both accurate and overestimated, you would end up with a hotter average temperature, but you would not be justified in saying the estimate should be moved in the direction of your revised estimate, nor would you be justified in saying you had improved precision, even though you are replacing erroneous measures with demonstrably better measures (for instance, you use a couple different thermometers and take a lot of measurements in the same spot).

  34. #34 Jeff Harvey
    January 16, 2008

    Ben, taking the last refuge of a scoundrel, said, “Why not at least assign blame for the deaths of women and children accurately: the cowardly insurgents who hide behind them”.

    Ben, how much longer can you infuse such utter nonsense into these debates? First, according to international law, which the current DC regime ignores on a serial basis, the occupying force is responsible for providing security in the land they occupy. Thus, the US and UK are responsible, or should be, for every single death that has occurred there since they invaded and occupied the country. What you are saying is akin to saying that the deaths of French civilians in German-occupied France during WW II was due to the cowardly behavior of the resistance fighters who hid amongst the general population. One can only make such bland assertions as you do if one believes that the US owns and runs the world.

    Second, you are intimating that the occupiers really care about the life of Iraqi civilians (much like they allegedly cared about south Vietnamese civilans during the Viet Nam war, Korean civilians during the Korean war, and, for that matter, the million or so dead Iraqis who died under the crippling sanctions regime between 1991 and 2003). The fact is, that while the occupiers do not intentionally set out to kill civilians (well, at least most of the time), probably mainly for propaganda reasons, the truth is that they don’t really care much about them either. Not when there is a larger economic and political agernda to pursue. In my view, the occupiers view Iraqi civilians much in the same way we think of ants. As Noam Chomsky said last year, whenever he goes for a walk he probably kills many thousands of ants by inadvertently stepping on them. He didn’t intend to kill them, but its an unfortunate by-product of his walking. This is a horrific perspective, but in all probability a true one.

    Finally, you should read John Tirman’s excellent post yesterday. The reason for the insurgency is that people tend not to like their countries to be occupied by an invading force, especially one which invaded on the basis of a brazen economic agenda. As I have said a million times, Iraq and the region surrounding it was described as the ‘Greatest material prize in history’ and a ‘Source of stupendous strategic power’ by the State Department more than 50 years ago. Nothing has changed. A recent poll suggests that 99% of Sunnis and 84% of Shia want the occupation to end. But now the Bush administration has chyanged the wording of ‘permanent military bases’ to an ‘enduring relationship between Iraq and the United States’, a sleight of hand that suggests that the invaders will never leave the country. But they never intended to: the invasion was all about controlling a region of immense economic importance to state and corporate planners, and stay they will, irrespective as to what the Iraqis want.

  35. #35 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 16, 2008

    I have no doubt that the death toll in Iraq is at least in the hundreds of thousands, and since the US started the war, we are indirectly responsible for most of those deaths. However, most of those deaths are NOT from US fire, deliberate or inadvertant. They are from car and suicide bombings and inter-tribal massacres and “ethnic cleansing.” The situation is very like the one that prevailed in Yugoslavia after the death of Tito — a strong dictator was holding the country together by sheer force, including secret police and labor camps/mass executions, and with the dictator removed, the various ethnic factions tried to kill each other. I place more blame on the Serbians, but that’s beside the point.

    We should have seen the insurgency coming. If we were going to conduct a successful occupation of Iraq (like the successful US occupations of Germany and Japan), with minimal casualties, then we should have gone in with at least three times the troop strength we actually had. We should never have fired the Iraqi army before disarming them. We should have controlled and suppressed looting from the very beginning. And if an insurgency broke out despite all that, we should have used an area-specific “oil spot” strategy like the British successfully used against the insurgency in Malaysia.

    The war was not necessarily an immoral one in intent; removing a genocidal dictator and would-be conqueror is a good thing. But it was conducted in such an incompetent manner that hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed. The present administration deserves the blame for all of that.

  36. #36 Barry
    January 16, 2008

    Posted by: Sortition
    “…you must never forget the wisdom of Upton Sinclair:

    ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.’

    In Kane’s case, it is not his salary that is put in jeopardy by understanding, but his hopes for wealth and status through adoption and celebration by the right-wing establishment.”

    That brings up a question – who pays Kane’s salary?

  37. #37 sod
    January 16, 2008

    If you had asked the L1 authors, in 2004, what their estimate for violent deaths in Iraq was, they almost certainly would have included the data from Falluja, just as they included Falluja when making claims about all the women and children killed by US forces.

    and

    I stand corrected! I did not recall that Garfield interview. But I have never seen Les Roberts or Gilbert Burnham say anything along the same lines. (Counter examples welcome.) So, please correct my claim to “If you had asked Les Roberts . . . “

    David Kane at his best. making a completely baseless claim. refuted immediately.
    instead of being all ashamed, rethinking his position, trying to be humble for a moment, he immediately brings up a minor adjustment to his nonsense.

    In Kane’s case, it is not his salary that is put in jeopardy by understanding, but his hopes for wealth and status through adoption and celebration by the right-wing establishment.

    this is the truth.

  38. #38 Donald Johnson
    January 16, 2008

    Tim could include an L1 entry with Fallujah if he wants and if one can decide on what number to assign, but what is more interesting is that the conservative analysis of L1 data, the analysis that the statisticians here supported, where one throws away the outlier that is so hard to interpret, ends up giving numbers extremely close to the IFHS. That’s something that should be stressed to all the L1 critics, because they were so vehemently opposed to it and now embrace a report that supports one of the two analyses given in L1. Since you are so often cited as an authority by certain people online, maybe you should point this out to them.

    Your claim that including Fallujah makes L1 more similar to L2 is sounds correct to my nonexpert mind, but it’s not the spin you were putting on it last summer, when by your own version of statistical analysis, including Fallujah would have widened the CI so much the lower end would have included decreases in the death rate. That doesn’t remotely resemble L2.

    Barton–It’s likely that most of the deaths in Iraq are caused by other Iraqis, but “most” could mean 70 percent or 90 percent or 95 percent. I think it’s unlikely to be the case that the US kills several thousand insurgents per year (as shown by the statistics released by the government to USA Today some months back, where they gave a year-by-year breakdown of the number of insurgents they claim to have killed) and only kills several hundred per year (excluding the opening two months and the two assaults on Fallujah), which is the figure reported by Iraq Body Count. I’d bet that in the uncounted civilian deaths you’d find a higher fraction caused by the US than you do in the ones that reach the media.

  39. #39 Donald Johnson
    January 16, 2008

    First couple of paragraphs above were in response to David.

  40. #40 sod
    January 16, 2008

    But, if 151,000 for IFHS is fairly comparable with 601,000 for L2, what is the comparable number for both of them for L1. Since L1 does not answer that question directly, we need to answer it ourselves. Throwing out Falluja (and, therefore, all of Anbar) does not seem like a good idea to me. Although it does make L1 look more like IFHS, it also makes L1 look less like L2.

    David, it is all smoke screen with you.
    rather obviously, an overview looking at violent and total excess deaths, gives some variation but there is no major doubt about the effect of this war.

    it is pretty absurd, that Kane, who thinks we can NOT refute the null hypothesis, is trying to argue which study L1 agrees with, if we make his weird adjustments.

    again: the authors write A LOT about why they think Falluja is an outlier and should be handled as one.
    the war in Iraq changed massively after Falluja. the US army gave up the tactics of clearing towns by force.
    Violence increased MASSIVELY (this is not shown by the IFHS numbers. a major problem, that David avoids), but is more spread out now.
    it would be extremely unlikely for any later poll, to chose a “falluja L1″ type of cluster.
    David is obviously doing nothing, but throwing sand in peoples eyes here….

  41. #41 dsquared
    January 16, 2008

    Surely this suggests that if the IHFS study had come across a single Fallujah-like cluster they would have got results similar to L2? (and given that they didn’t survey Anbar or the dangerous bits of Baghdad, well, you can fill in the reasoning)

  42. #42 Kevin Donoghue
    January 16, 2008

    The IFHS visited 1,086 clusters so one Fallujah-like cluster wouldn’t make that big a difference (said he, not bothering his arse to do the arithmetic). But dsquared has a point nonetheless: the IFHS can reasonably be compared to Lancet 1 excluding Fallujah, since in different ways they both exclude the most violent areas.

  43. #43 jodyaberdein
    January 16, 2008

    Regarding salaries:

    I think David runs a hedge fund. This leads me to believe that either he knows a lot more statistics than he presents himself as knowing, or my former default position, that the world of high finance is largely one of fluff and bluster, with a bit of luck thrown in.

  44. #44 Jeff Harvey
    January 16, 2008

    Barton, I agree with some of the things you said. But the aim of the Iraq war was not to remove a genocidal dictator. If that was the case one must ask why the US has a habit of supporting genocidal dictators and even helping them into power. One can list Suharto, Montt, Marcos, The Shah, Pinochet, Habre, and even Saddam Hussein who were given huge financial and military support in full knowledge of their crimes. The reason, as Edward Herman has written, is not that the US government likes regimes that torture and murder their own citizens. It is just that these countries tend to be good places for businesses to invest, and for profits to be repatriated. It was recently shown that 20 of the top 25 regimes that receive the most US economic and miltary ‘aid’ have abhorrent humans rights records.

    The aim for aggressing against Iraq was (1) regime change, and (2) to control a region of vital importance ot the US (and global) economy. The war party must have reckoned on the possible quagmire that would result, but they clearly balanced this against the benefits of controlling a region that planner George Kennan once said would give the United States ‘Veto power over the global economy’.

    As far as successful occupations go, Iraq is a proud nation with a long history and they know exactly what the motives of the US and UK planners were and are. They know full well what the invasion was all about, even if our corporate media in the west aims at ‘dumbing us down’ as to the real motives. People just do not like their countries to be occupied, especially by a foreign power that has contributred significantly to their misery in the past. They also do not like to be occupied when they know the real reason for the occupation has nothing to do with liberation and everything to do with plunder.

    Bush and his regime weren’t interested in allowing Iraqi economy to develop internally, as the war was aimed at outsourcing the profits to US contractors and corporations. All of the points you made were valid but must have been considered by Bremer and others in the Bush administration. But they were dismissed.

  45. #45 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 16, 2008

    Jeff Harvey writes:

    [[The aim for aggressing against Iraq was (1) regime change]]

    Wasn’t that what I said?

    [[All of the points you made were valid but must have been considered by Bremer and others in the Bush administration. But they were dismissed. ]]

    Sorry, I don’t buy into conspiracy theories, including ones where the administration knew ahead of time that the war would become a gigantic mess but deliberately did it badly for sinister reasons. I didn’t vote for Mr. Bush, but he is not exactly a master of subtlety. If it looks like a giant fiasco and talks like a giant fiasco, it probably is a giant fiasco.

  46. #46 MikeT
    January 16, 2008

    Jeff writes:

    Ben, how much longer can you infuse such utter nonsense into these debates? First, according to international law, which the current DC regime ignores on a serial basis, the occupying force is responsible for providing security in the land they occupy. Thus, the US and UK are responsible, or should be, for every single death that has occurred there since they invaded and occupied the country

    That’s utterly absurd logic. Yes the occupying force does have a responsibility to set up security forces, and they are doing that, but to blame them for every single act by Al Qaeda and anyone else who decides to blow up a funeral march is complete moral gibberish. You cannot believe that for a second.

    Moreover, the very same people who say this are also those who oppose the surge which has reduced casualties. You people are extraordinary hypocrites.

  47. #47 MikeT
    January 16, 2008

    Imagine if we had handed the country over to Al Qaeda a few years ago as people like Jeff were begging us to do.

  48. #48 Eli Rabett
    January 16, 2008

    Mike, so instead we handed it over to G. Bush and he did the job better than O. Laden.

  49. #49 ben
    January 16, 2008

    What you are saying is akin to saying that the deaths of French civilians in German-occupied France during WW II was due to the cowardly behavior of the resistance fighters who hid amongst the general population.

    Were the resistance fighters in France busy blowing up the general population as well?

    Second, you are intimating that the occupiers really care about the life of Iraqi civilians (much like they allegedly cared about south Vietnamese civilans during the Viet Nam war, Korean civilians during the Korean war, and, for that matter, the million or so dead Iraqis who died under the crippling sanctions regime between 1991 and 2003).

    Yes I am.

    The fact is, that while the occupiers do not intentionally set out to kill civilians (well, at least most of the time), probably mainly for propaganda reasons, the truth is that they don’t really care much about them either.

    I disagree.

    As Noam Chomsky said last year…

    Oh brother.

    …whenever he goes for a walk he probably kills many thousands of ants by inadvertently stepping on them.

    Methinks he grossly overestimates the number of ants he kills on a walk.

    He didn’t intend to kill them, but its an unfortunate by-product of his walking. This is a horrific perspective, but in all probability a true one.

    It might be true for Noam, but I don’t think it’s true for the American Military. While the “insurgents” are busy bombing children, the Americans are busy trying to save them.

  50. #50 wildlifer
    January 16, 2008

    HOW MANY OF THESE DEATHS ARE COMBATANTS???

  51. #51 Lee
    January 16, 2008

    46, MikeT writes:

    “Yes the occupying force does have a responsibility to set up security forces, and they are doing that”

    We’re 4 years and somewhere between a half million and a million dead, and nearly 5 million refugees, into this war, and we ‘are doing that.’ That is as searing an indictment of the mass-murderous incompetence of this administration in the planning and execution of this utterly bungled war, as I’ve seen anywhere. Thanks, Mike.

    “oppose the surge which has reduced casualties”
    I’d argue that the reduction of violence is at least a much a function of what US military has taken to calling the ‘self-sorting’ of the Iraqi population. Much of that violence was aimed at driving certain factions out of certain neighorhoods. It worked – the target populations are largely gone. The violence is dropping because its purpose has been accomplished. We failed to protect people – the violence is dropping because what we promised to protect people from, continued through the early surge, and now has largely happened already.

    Meanwhile, the political objectives of the surge, the primary objective of the surge, has failed completely.

    Pointing all this out does not make us hypocrites. It does show why we are outraged.

  52. #52 MikeT
    January 16, 2008

    Lee, the most recent and credible study finds that the terrorists are responsible for killing 150,000 people, not half a million. I hate them even more than you do, but lets keep the record straight. We shouldn’t use propaganda.

    You can’t on the one hand claim the political objective of the surge has failed, then pretend you are concerned about Iraq casusalties. The mainstream does understand the hypocrisy of this; that’s why people rarely state these high figures as fact. You people cannot be trusted under any circumstances.

  53. #53 Lee
    January 16, 2008

    MikeT, would you at least try to look at the top of the thread, before you make such absurd statements.
    the most recent of many studies finds some 150,000 VIOLENT deaths through mid 2006. Using their number, others have found that the total excess deaths derived form their data are in line with Lancet 1 and Lancet 2, even though the violent deaths are off by a factor of 4 from Lancet 2. Pretending that this means that there are only 150,000 deaths attributable to the decision to invade, is laughable.

    “You can’t on the one hand claim the political objective of the surge has failed, then pretend you are concerned about Iraq casusalties.”
    Why in the hell not. Is it necessary, if one is concerned about Iraqi deaths, to stick one;s head in the sand and pretend that the political goals have been achieved?

    The heinous number of excess deaths is clearly due at least in large part to the incompetence of this administration in planning and prosecuting this war – saying so does not mean in any way that I don’t care about those deaths.

    The political goals of the surge have failed completely – saying so does not mean that I’m not very, very much in favor of lower death rates. The MILITARY goal has largely failed – the protection of people where they live. Saying so does not mean I don’t see the tragedy of the dead and the refugees that we failed to protect in their neighborhoods, or that I don’t consider it a major improvement to see the falling death rates. Fewer people dying is good.

    Ethnic purification of Iraqi neighborhoods is not good, and a failure. To point out that the reason fewer people are dying is a result of a failure to protect them from death and displacement over the past years, is NOT to favor additional death. Rather the opposite in fact, despite your despicable charge.

  54. #54 Lee A. Arnold
    January 16, 2008

    “most of those deaths are NOT from US fire, deliberate or inadvertent.” We may find out that this is not the case.

    There are new books about personal war experiences in Iraq (a publishing growth industry) reviewed here:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20906

    which indicate a different story. We read that nothing much happened in the initial invasion for three days, until hell broke loose. The Marines took fire and lobbed about 2000 artillery shells (155 mm) over thirty-six hours into Nasiriyah, a city of about 400,000 people. Entering the city, the Marines found plenty of dead, including women and children.

    This sort of thing was replayed and intensified as the forces got nearer to Baghdad. When the story is finally told, we may learn that (wild guess) 100,000 to 150,000 civilians were killed BEFORE Baghdad fell.

    There is also the not-so-little matter of aerial bombardment, which has gone unreported in the U.S. news except for campaigns in 2005 (I seem to remember,) the beginning of 2007, and right now. This too leaves few respondents to interview.

  55. #55 Ian Gould
    January 17, 2008

    “The war was not necessarily an immoral one in intent; removing a genocidal dictator and would-be conqueror is a good thing. But it was conducted in such an incompetent manner that hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed. The present administration deserves the blame for all of that.”

    Having supported NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo; the first Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan and having condemned the lack of intervention in Rwanda and Sudan (and Clinton’s withdrawal from Somalia), it would be hypocritical of me to disagree in principle.

    But it seems to me that any humanitarian intervention needs to meet certain objective criteria which Iraq did not.

    First and foremost is that the intervention is likely to result in a net saving of lives and that the saving justifies both the risks in terms of human life and the financial cost of the intervention.

    Iraq was always going to be a very difficult country to successfully invade and occupy even if the numerous strategic blunders on the party of Cheney, Rumsfeld et al had not occurred.

  56. #56 Lee A. Arnold
    January 17, 2008

    Well, nobody knows how it’s going to end up.

    But one thing we have to do is keep correcting these falsehoods, otherwise there will certainly be more bad choices.

    For example, crediting the “surge” with improvements in Iraq is technically incorrect — and even dangerous, because it may give people the wrong idea about what to do next.

    The actual reason why violence is (temporarily?) down in Iraq is given by the redoubtable Col. Pat Lang, here:

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2008/01/the-surge-and-i.html

    In short, the reason is that Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy includes making friends with the people who were previously shooting at you — and a perfect opportunity came quite by accident, with the Sunni Revolt against the takfiri jihadis.

    The “surge” of more U.S. troops didn’t have much part to play. Indeed the surge would have looked a loser, had it not been for the unexpected change in Sunni behavior due to the jihadi’s overreach.

    The U.S. has also achieved a temporary halt to ethnic rearrangement in Baghdad by dividing the neighborhoods into walled fiefdoms. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. Certainly it ties down the U.S., maybe for generations. The U.S. troops are on a treadmill and losing morale, and frequently suspect that they are being used by one faction or another. they are having to micromanage situations they barely comprehend. For Iraqi civilians, the checkpoints are not always manned by friendlies. It can take you hours to travel a mile, and you may not come back alive.

    The big question as always is what comes next. Anyone who stands pro or con U.S. policy in Iraq ought to attempt to answer that question with a minimum of fantasy. We rarely see this, in these discussions.

    It should be pointed out that this current stalemate was predictable, and was in fact predicted almost a year ago by U.S. politicians who accused Bush of cynicism in announcing the “surge” strategy without having a followup plan. Because it was already possible to guess that Iraq might not be nearer to political reconciliation.

    People who know the area and culture now appear to be losing patience. If the comments of retired brass are any indication of wider sentiment, then most of the military is of a mind to soon get out, and leave the Iraqis to their own fates.

    In the larger picture what no one seems to have noticed is that Bush is pushing the U.S. military into forming a “nation-building” apparatus. There has been no domestic discussion of this. It’s an interesting twist, because it’s certainly a military security issue, and at the present time in foreign affairs, (on account of their excellent officer education,) the U.S. military may have the most brains.

  57. #57 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2008

    I don’t even know if its worth bothering answering the primary school-level of understanding of US foreign policy demonstrated with such acumen by Ben and Mike T.

    First, of all, Mike, Al Queda wasn’t in Iraq before the US invaded. Whatever we can say of Saddam Hussein’s brutality, he and Al Queda were bitter opponents. The US invasion facilitated Al Queda’s entrance into the country. Moreover, the vast amount of insurgency comes from within Iraq.

    As for Ben’s rather infantile assertion that the US miltary cares deeply for human life, all I can say is that I guess that they cared so much when they bombed 300,000 civilians out of Falluja. The US didn’t mobilize the people and evaculate them; no, it bombed them out. Other examples are legion. The US funneled huge amounts of cash and arms to death squads battling independent nationalism across Latin America in the 1980’s, many of whom (liker the AtlCatl battalion) were trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Yet I am sure that US government military planners cried themselves to sleep knowing that the death squad leaders they trained were ‘going primitive’ (as one senior US official later said the training invoved) and were massacring tens of thousands of civilians, including women and children. Greg Grandin writes quite graphically about this in his book, ‘Empire’s Workshop’. Lee above provides other arguments that pretty well demolish everything Ben and Mike said.

    As the US bombed Cambodia between 1969 and 1973, killing up to 600,000 civilians, I can rest easily knowing that the pilots dropping the payloads wept as they did do, because they treasured the human lives they were obliterating. After all, Richard Nixon had ordered the pilots to drop “Anything that flies on anything that moves”, and that it what they did. But they did it with heavy hearts. Same story in Viet Nam. Carpet bombing, naplam, you name it, they dropped it. But Ben will assure us that they did it with love.

    Ben’s heartwrenching picture of a soldier carrying a wounded child probably comes from the State Department archives or from one of the many corporate mainstream media sources which supported the aggression in the first place. Heck, for all we know the child was the victim of a US artillery barrage. Certainly the US forces havce killed thousands of women and children in Iraq. Heck, they did that in Gulf War I, when they targeted the entire civilian infrastructure of the country. It was deliberate, as were the subsequent sanctions that killed up to a million Iraqi civilians and was ‘genocide masquerading as policy’ according to Dennis Halliday, former head of the UN relief programme there.

    Lastly, note how the war party supporters avoid the underlying factors for the invasion that I have spelled out on numerous occasions (I guess its inconvenient so it is ignored). We can cite the State Department’s infamout 1950 report where it stated that the Middle East region was ‘The greatest material prize in history’ and a ‘Source of stupendous strategic power’. But let’s look even before that. The influential Council on Foreign Relations had formulated the ‘Grand Area Strategy’ in the 1930s, in which it argued that any country controlling the oil and antural gas rich region of central Asia and the Persian Gulf would be able to have control over the global economy, and that the aim of US foreign policy should therefore be to control the ‘Grand Area’. And that’s the way it has been ever since. And even earlier, there was Halford John MaKinder’s ‘Heartland Strategy’ which said effectively the same thing. Two disciples of MaKinders work were George Kennan and Zbignieuw Brezinski, hardly uninfluential planners.

    As for Ben dismissing Noam Chomsky (a standard strategy of many who are losing an argument is to try and belittle the credentials of an opponent not with facts but with a roll of the eyes). FYI Ben, Chomsky was voted the world’s leading intellectual a couple of years ago; where on the list did you come? Are your public lectures booked solid for two years?

  58. #58 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 17, 2008

    Jeff Harvey writes:

    [[FYI Ben, Chomsky was voted the world's leading intellectual a couple of years ago; where on the list did you come? Are your public lectures booked solid for two years? ]]

    Noam Chomsky is a lunatic. His defense of the Khmer Rouge and his rabid anti-Semitism (yes, I know he’s nominally Jewish, but non-anti-Semites don’t write prefaces to books by Holocaust deniers) are enough to show how completely divorced from reality he is. His one constant premise is that the US and Israel are responsible for all the evil in the world, and people like Jeff have apparently sucked all that up without bothering to check with independent sources. You can see that in his long litany of US crimes above. Typical Chomsky material. The US deliberately targets civilians, killed millions, worse than Nazis, etc., etc., etc. Fortunately most people recognize this stuff as propaganda just because it is so over the top.

  59. #59 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2008

    Barton, the world authority has spoken!!!

    Chomsky a rabid anti semite? B*S. Chomsky rightfully criticizes Israel for its poor human rights record. If that makes him a raving anti-Semite, then Barton, you might as well lump half of the planet or more into it. Moreover, since the Palestinians are also Semites then I suppose he’s against them, too.

    Support for Pol Pot? B*S. Chomksy has dealt with that nonsense a million times and still Barton and apologists for US/UK ‘humanitarian bombing’ wheel it out. As for the rest of your rant, Barton, save it for your living room.

    Youn see, Barton is one of those who thinks that the litany of US foreign policy is not systematic but all of the examples of it are ‘mistakes, aberrations, accidents ‘etc. How many ‘exceptions’ does it take to make the rule? Moreover, Chomsky was never part of the Council on Foreign Relations nor did he formulate post WW II State Department Policy. Why not check up on that, Barton? Or read comments from the likes of influential people or groups like Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Project for a New American Century etc. and see if that suggests a humanitarian motive in US Middle Eastern policy these days. There’s nothing conspiratorial about it.

  60. #60 Ian Gould
    January 17, 2008

    “It might be true for Noam, but I don’t think it’s true for the American Military. While the “insurgents” are busy bombing children, the Americans are busy trying to save them.”

    Back in the 1990’s, Iyad Allawi (former Ba’athist turned “opposition leader” later Us appointed interim President of Iraq) led an opposition group which regularly bombed soft targets in Iraq such as public transport and neighbourhood clinics.

    Right now, today, the US is funneling millions of dollars into terrorist groups inside Iran such as JUndullah which use the same tactics.

    Oh and Ben have you ever heard of:

    The King David Hotel bombing?

    http://britains-smallwars.com/Palestine/Kingdavid.htm

    Folke Bernadotte:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folke_Bernadotte

    The Stern Gang:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Irgun_attacks_during_the_1930s

    Baruch Goldstein

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_the_Patriarchs_massacre

    (Goldstein is treated as a hero and a martyr by the west bank settlers who commemorate the anniversary of his death every year.)

    But I’m sure all this is completely different.

    Say Ben maybe you shoudd call Chemcal Ali’s defence team and suggest that they blame the civilian deaths in Halabja on the cowardly Pesh Murga terrorists using innocent civilians as human shields.

  61. #61 Jeff Harvey
    January 17, 2008

    My final comment on the matter is this, because its clear that some of the contributors to this thread have a wordview taken straight out of the NYT/Washington Post (and perhaps NY Post) playbook. In other words, they’re worldview is exceedingly narrow.

    Barton’s insinuation is that my perspective comes from Noam Chomsky and nowhere else. Fact is, I’ve read some 50 books in the past two years, mostly from Americans who I’d hardly call ‘extremists’. James Carroll, Andrew Bacivich, Anatol Lieven and others write pretty moderate stuff, but they have a common theme: that the US is using militarism to promote an nakedly economic agenda (based around the ‘Washington Consensus’ and its attendant obsession with free market absolutism), and that the current military adventures are interlocked with this. As I said earlier, if one wants to find out what a government’s agenda is, its no use listening to politicians (they lie) or to the corporate media, which is beholden to the same interests. One should consult declassified planning documents from past years, and I’ve done that. And there is a consistent theme that runs through most of them: that the US/UK governments (as well as others in the western world, to be fair) are not at all interested in spreading democracy, freedom and human rights in their foreign policy, but in promoting the interests of their own corporate elites. Some of the documents actually claim to express concern that governments in resource-rich regions will embrance ‘nationalist’ policies that would redirect the profits of these resources towards internal development. Why are western planners worried about this? Because it will conflict with the business interests of western corporations and investors.

    Lieven has written at length about American exceptionalism, based on the mistaken belief that the US must be a noble superpoower because it supposedly espouses a belief in democracy and human rights. But the fact is that there is loads of evidence countering this. However, when people have been indoctrinated with it for their whole lives, its no wonder that anyone expressing a different view is going to be ridiculed and attacked remoreslessly. They either believe that ‘the opposite of everything is true’ (Ben) or that the US is a noble superpower but makes mistakes in pursuit of good polcies (Barton). I’m sorry to spoil the party, but if one looks beyond the end of their noses, they’ll find a lot of sordid happenings going on out there that contradict these perspectives.

  62. #62 Donald Johnson
    January 17, 2008

    Barton, your knowledge of the Faurisson affair and Chomsky’s attitude towards the Holocaust seems limited to what Noam’s attackers claim. His attitude towards the Holocaust is the same as yours or any other sane person–that it was one of the worst crimes in history and that it is dehumanizing even to get into a debate on whether it happened. That’s a near-quote from one of his books. He was ill-informed on Faurisson’s views when he wrote the piece that later became a preface to Faurisson’s book and made a fool of himself, IMO, but he continued to defend Faurisson’s free speech rights even after he knew what his views were. Which is fine with me, though this free speech absolutism is not as popular a view in France. His stance on the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s was that they were brutal killers, but that the evidence wasn’t strong enough to say on what scale. By 1980, after the Vietnamese had overthrown them and the evidence was clear, he agreed they were genocidal.

    As for Chomsky’s view on US foreign policy, I never to cite him as a source on anything, because his name evokes kneejerk reactions and because if it’s true that the US foreign policy is often monstrous, one can show this more directly using other sources. And one can. Jeffrey Harvey listed some authors, at least one of whom is a conservative.
    I’ll add one more–the late Jonathan Kwitny, an advocate of free market policies and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. On specific places like Indonesia, East Timor, Latin America, Africa (which Noam never wrote about anyway), and the Middle East, there are plenty of sources on US crimes and the crimes of its allies. On Israel, for instance, the best sources are Israeli journalists and historians like Meron Benvenisti, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, and the defender of ethnic cleansing Benny Morris.

    But this thread is drifting rather badly.

  63. #63 JB
    January 17, 2008

    I always find it interesting when a person plays the “He’s anti-Semitic [anti-Christian, racist, etc]” card in response to someone who points out an uncomfortable truth to them.

  64. #64 Will McLean
    January 17, 2008

    A study based on the Iraq Family Health Survey (IFHS) and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds new light on violent deaths in Iraq. It estimates that violent deaths are 2-4 times higher than the tally of civilian deaths collected from media reports by Iraq Body Count (IBC). This disparity is unsurprising, since that tally attempts to screen out combatant deaths, and media reports will miss some deaths. The study period ended in June of 2006: applying the same ratio to the current IBC tally would give a death toll in the 150,000-300,000 range.

    This fits with the earlier ILCS survey, which estimated violent deaths 2-3 times the contemporary IBC count. This estimate based on cemetery traffic suggests a ratio in the 2.5-4.5 times range.

    The study by Burnham et al published in The Lancet estimated violent deaths 10-20 times higher than IBC. There’s an obvious conflict between Burnham et al and IFHS. IFHS had a larger sample size, more resources and better supervision. Both studies failed to survey some of the planned clusters: 11% in IFHS, 6% in Burnham et al. IFHS made an effort to compensate for the missed clusters, Burnham et al did not. IFHS also made an effort to reflect regional population changes from migration during the study period. Burnham et al did not.

    Some supporters of Burnham et al are still defending that study. One argument they make is that IFHS isn’t so different if you measure “excess death,” that is the increase in death rates, including nonviolent deaths, over pre-war conditions. I don’t think this works: the IFHS authors didn’t try to calculate that and argued, I think correctly, that recall was worse for the pre-war period. Certainly the recalled death rate for that period was low compared to neighboring countries. Subtracting the pre-invasion death-rate from the post invasion rate could give a spurious increase because of recall issues.

    Supporters of Burham et al also complain that the IFHS annual death rate does not show the strong increase from 2003 to 2006 recorded in other sources. However, the range of sampling error is substantial for the annual figures, and the difference in the IFHS trendline and that shown by IBC is not statistically significant.

    One of the strengths of the IFHS data is that it also looked at other demographic data, and the large sample size narrowed the margin of error. If Burnham et al was closer to the truth about violent deaths than IFHS, the result should be visible in the IFHS demographic data. If 2.5% of the population is being killed in an armed conflict, (as Burnham et al claim) and most of those deaths are military-age males (one of the few points on which Burnham et al and IBC agree), then the result should be a strong male/female imbalance in adult Iraqi demographics.

    The predicted imbalance does not occur in the IFHS data, except for the cohort that was unfortunate enough to reach fighting age back when Saddam Hussein was invading his neighbors.

  65. #65 Lance
    January 17, 2008

    Jeff Harvey,

    Ironically your hero, Chomsky, scoffed at the death toll due to Pol Pot’s regime when it was revealed. Not that Chomsky was an open supporter of the Khmer Rouge, just that they weren’t the US, and they were communist, so they couldn’t be all bad.

    Even after the truth was known Chomsky tried to blame the US, if indirectly, for the genocide wrought by the communist Khmer Rouge.

    The deaths in Cambodia were not the result of systematic slaughter and starvation organized by the state but rather attributable in large measure to peasant revenge, undisciplined military units out of government control, starvation and disease that are direct consequences of the US war, or other such factors.

    Jeff, this sort of myopia is quite evident in your views of the current situation. You are more interested in supporting your conspiratorial views of the US and evil corporations than the plight of the people involved. No wonder you mention Chomsky so often.

  66. #66 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 17, 2008

    Jeff Harvey posts:

    [[Chomsky a rabid anti semite? B*S. ]]

    Nope. Not really. The “tribal” remark about Jews, the constant Israel-bashing, the flirtation with Holocaust deniers — put them all together, they spell anti-semite.

  67. #67 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 17, 2008

    Donald Johnson writes:

    [[His stance on the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970's was that they were brutal killers, but that the evidence wasn't strong enough to say on what scale. By 1980, after the Vietnamese had overthrown them and the evidence was clear, he agreed they were genocidal.]]

    The rest of us knew that in 1975. And Chomsky still maintains that the deaths are the US fault because we destabilized the region, bombed Cambodia, etc. He can’t seem to acknowledge that non-American/non-Israeli governments can also do bad things. He has some kind of psychological block against it.

  68. #68 Lee A. Arnold
    January 17, 2008

    Barton Paul Levenson at #67: absolute nonsense. If Chomsky’s writing can be reduced to a single concern, all along it has been about the status of definitions (of such things as “genocide” and “state interest”) in international law, explicitly with regard to the actions (as opposed to the ideological self-justification) of ANY nation. He has argued time and again that the West and in particular the U.S. sometimes does the same things that it blames other nations for doing — and that under the strictures of international law, there is in fact no difference, other than the reasons why you say you do it. And as Jean Renoir pointed out long ago, everybody has their reasons… So then, where are we? Well, when you add to this the fact that the West has in fact helped to create some of the problems, for example overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953 or Israel’s present expansionb of its settlements in violation of international law, any healthy and sane person would have a sense of wary skepticism. And that is exactly where we are, and should be. Because the final issue is how you get to a world with an international law that everybody respects, if you yourself are violating it to get there. Chomsky is so far inside the mainstream by this time that he just lectured at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3740467851698161135

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3740467851698161135

  69. #69 sod
    January 17, 2008

    i have two request:

    1. please move the Chomski debate somewhere else. this is an important topic, and the discussion is not moving it forward.

    2. anyone got a link to some lancet skeptic, who has written some critical review on the new IFHS study? because i get the feeling that many Lancet supporters endorse the study and just find minor problems with it.
    so the question is: do skeptics do the same?

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/01/ifhs_study_on_violent_deaths_i.php

  70. #70 sod
    January 17, 2008

    It estimates that violent deaths are 2-4 times higher than the tally of civilian deaths collected from media reports by Iraq Body Count (IBC). This disparity is unsurprising, since that tally attempts to screen out combatant deaths, and media reports will miss SOME deaths.

    Will, i think your work is an extremely sloppy (and of course one sided) analysis. i will take a look at a couple of points and hope that i can post more later.

    media will miss SOME deaths? sorry, but this is a MAJOR understatement. IBC is only collecting data from english language news.
    apart from major incidents, i have NEVER seen any update of death numbers in the days after an event. IBC will ALWAYS miss people dying to wounds later on.

    IFHS had a larger sample size, more resources and better supervision.

    IFHS was conducted by the health ministry run by Sadr members. it does not concentrate on mortality but is a health survey with death being handled on page 16.
    the survey did NOT ask for death certificates, even though the Lancet had established this as good practise before.

    IFHS also made an effort to reflect regional population changes from migration during the study period.
    IFHS was a later poll, i guess that displacement increased between the two, but i ll have to take a closer look.

    One argument they make is that IFHS isn’t so different if you measure “excess death,” that is the increase in death rates, including nonviolent deaths, over pre-war conditions. I don’t think this works: the IFHS authors didn’t try to calculate that and argued, I think correctly, that recall was worse for the pre-war period.

    just because they didn t calculate it, doesn t make it false. (did you read the TITLE of the study?)
    i still doubt the racall argument. we are talking about deaths in YOUR household and a couple of years. the only thing they need to get right is a deathdate before or after the invasion.

    Supporters of Burham et al also complain that the IFHS annual death rate does not show the strong increase from 2003 to 2006 recorded in other sources. However, the range of sampling error is substantial for the annual figures, and the difference in the IFHS trendline and that shown by IBC is not statistically significant.

    have you got a link to that statistical analysis?
    do you think that violence in Iraq did NOT significantly increase between 2005 and 2006?

  71. #71 Donald Johnson
    January 17, 2008

    I disagree with virtually everything you said in #66 and 67, Barton, but Sod is right–the Supreme Evilness of the Noamster is off topic, so I’ll shut up.

    On the rise in death rate 2005-2006, my impression (no cite handy) is that it started after Feb 2006 after the bombing of that famous mosque. So maybe the killings from then until June 2006 wouldn’t show up as statistically significant, but like Sod, it’d be nice to have a cite.

  72. #72 Will McLean
    January 17, 2008

    If you look at the IFHS article, the estimated rate of violent death is 68-271 per day for March 2004-April 2004 and 84-200 a day for June 2005-June 2006. The midpoint estimate looks flat, but the actual death rate might be, for example 80 a day for the first period and 160 a day in the later, and still fall within the error band.

    So you could easily have a large rise masked by sampling error.

  73. #73 Sortition
    January 17, 2008

    > i get the feeling that many Lancet supporters endorse the study and just find minor problems with it.

    For whatever it is worth, I think that IFHS has serious problems. (Although I don’t think there is a significant contradiction between Lancet 2 and IFHS even if the latter is taken at face value).

  74. #74 Donald Johnson
    January 17, 2008

    “(Although I don’t think there is a significant contradiction between Lancet 2 and IFHS even if the latter is taken at face value).”

    Could you elaborate on that?

  75. #75 sod
    January 17, 2008

    If you look at the IFHS article, the estimated rate of violent death is 68-271 per day for March 2004-April 2004 and 84-200 a day for June 2005-June 2006. The midpoint estimate looks flat, but the actual death rate might be, for example 80 a day for the first period and 160 a day in the later, and still fall within the error band. So you could easily have a large rise masked by sampling error.

    hm. both Lancet studies, but especially the 2004 one got massively attacked for the huge confidence intervals. the way you are handling it here, it looks like an advantage for the IFHS article!
    both IBC and lancet show a doubling between the 04/05 and 05/06 periods (and i cannot a remember a single source that did NOT notice a significant increase!). the IFHS numbers are extremely different.
    shouldn t you have at least noticed this somewhere in your paper?

    did you do any statistic test of significance, or did you just make the claim by looking at the intervals?

    On the rise in death rate 2005-2006, my impression (no cite handy) is that it started after Feb 2006 after the bombing of that famous mosque. So maybe the killings from then until June 2006 wouldn’t show up as statistically significant, but like Sod, it’d be nice to have a cite.

    i have been following the news pretty close back then. there was an increase before the Samarra bombing, but numbers got massively worse afterwards.

    icasualties has a nice graph:

    http://icasualties.org/oif/IraqiDeathsByYear.aspx

  76. #76 Sortition
    January 17, 2008

    >> (Although I don’t think there is a significant contradiction between Lancet 2 and IFHS even if the latter is taken at face value).

    > Could you elaborate on that?

    See here.

    In short, the excess death rates are similar, considering the uncertainty ranges. The rates of violent deaths are significantly different, but in my mind this is a secondary matter that is being played up by the media and right-wingers for obvious reasons.

  77. #77 frankis
    January 17, 2008

    The important thing is the increased death rate in Iraq, not the attribution of causes of deaths. The first is a matter of statistical fact, the latter a mere matter of opinion. Those making a great fuss about the causes of death in these studies are missing the point (mostly intentionally, and mostly in bad faith).

    The attack was a crime, the bad consequences of the crime were readily forseeable and were forseen, the excess death toll in the hundreds of thousands or more, so far, is completely unsurprising and a tragedy wrought by us. The rest is details.

  78. #78 Eli Rabett
    January 17, 2008

    The anonymice are having a David Kane sing along over at Rabett Run.

  79. #79 Antagony
    January 23, 2008

    @Tim: Please can you tell me how you arrived at the figure of 280,000 violent deaths from the IFHS study?

    Working with rough estimates, I calculate that the survey’s time range has to be increased by 50% to get to the present. Whereas your figure is an 85% increase on the published 151,000 deaths estimate.

    I should note that I mean to imply there’s anything wrong with your figures–I’m probably missing something obvious in my own calculations–just that I am trying to understand how you arrived at them.

    Regards

    -Ant

  80. #80 Antagony
    January 23, 2008

    That should read “I don’t mean to imply…”

  81. #81 Ian Gould
    January 23, 2008

    Antagony, I think Tim used the reported increase in violence in 2007 from IBC as a multiplier.

  82. #82 Antagony
    January 23, 2008

    Ian Gould wrote:

    Antagony, I think Tim used the reported increase in violence in 2007 from IBC as a multiplier.

    I don’t think that can be it, Ian. Casting a totally unscientific glance over the trend graphs in the IBC analysis for 2007, I can’t see enough of an increase in reported violent deaths to account for an extra 35% increase in the IFHS data. If anything, they seem show a slight falloff overall since June 2006.
    No, I’m sure there must be another factor I’m missing.

  83. #83 Tim Lambert
    January 23, 2008

    That is it. IBC figures total 43k deaths to June 2006. Now they are up to 80k.

  84. #84 Antagony
    January 23, 2008

    Right you are, Tim. I was basing my judgement on the appearance of the graphs, which looked to even out but obviously don’t show the whole picture (from before 2006). I can see how it works now.

    Thanks for the info.

    -Ant

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