Neil Munro goes after Riyadh Lafta

Neil Munro has had another go at the Lancet studies. This time he has gone on right-wing talk shows to attack Riyadh Lafta.

On Glenn Beck he claimed

This study — the guys in this study have not shown the forms and the date and the sheets collected by the surveyors who worked for an Iraqi without U.S. supervision. This particular Iraqi was once employed by Saddam Hussein, where he produced crummy scientific papers as part of Saddam`s effort to lift economic sanctions in the 1990s.

On Mike McConnell he elaborated (search for “neil munro” at the link):

The strange thing is that the entire study depends on the data delivered by the Iraqi research team. There were no Americans on this study in Iraq, none at all. …

The person they hired used to do propaganda journals for Saddam back in the 1990s when Saddam was trying to break the sanctions. He was sending his flacks and minions out to the United Nations and American universities saying “Hundreds of thousands of children are starving to death etc”. He would get his Iraqi researchers to do studies that backed up this claim. And one of the guys who was doing it for Saddam was a fellow named Dr Riyadh Lafta. …

When they hired this Iraqi researcher they never went back and read his 1990s articles about “times are terrible, let Saddam have his sanctions lifted”. I called the two chief guys running the study and one told me “I never read those articles” and the other said “I don’t have copies of those articles”. Would you buy a car for your daughter from a guy and not test drive it? They hired this guy in Iraq without actually trying to find out much about him. …

I asked the guys: “Why did you not look into the background of this fellow? Did you not do your due diligence? When you buy a house, you check for termites. When you buy a researcher do you not check for Saddam?” And they said to me: “He’s a researcher, that’s good enough for me”.

The two articles that Munro described as “crummy” and “propaganda” are on child malnutrition rates and on risk factors for child deaths. You can read the papers yourself, but neither one seemed to me to be “crummy” or to be propaganda.

But then, I’m not an expert, so I asked Richard Garfield, who is an expert on the effects of the sanctions on Iraqi children.

He replied:


Thanks for asking about this. I knew Riyadh’s boss some years before
the invasion and he had introduced me to his assistant (Riyadh) as
well. I got to know Riyadh in the days following the invasion, when I
worked closely with his department chair and I am the one who
initially linked him up with Les.

I did not read or know of authorship for any papers prior to the
invasion, but there is no surprise there (in contrast to the
condemning statements by Munro). These were in Iraqi journals, that
were essentially ‘publishing’ without paper. I saw about a dozen of
papers like the one (there is only 1 on your website), but I was aware
that there were many more that I could not put my hands on as
libraries were closed and even WHO and UNICEF in Iraq had been able to
acquire only a few in the years of the embargo, not including this one
as I had pored through any I could put my hands on for a review of 46
nutrition assessments done in Iraq during those years (reference
Garfield R. Changes in malnutrition levels in Iraq, 1990 1999.
Nutrition Reviews 2000; 58(9); 269-77.)

Reading this paper now, my conclusion is quite the opposite to Munro’s
about its political bent. Many of those that I did read prior to 2003
were laced with political comments, making the separation of primary
data and interpretation nearly impossible. This, by the way, is not
uncommon in countries even without dictatorships where peer review and
a tradition of scientific inquiry is weak. But this paper by Lafta is
almost completely devoid of such political commentary, including only
a few words about the social and political situation of the country
among a substantive report on the weights and heights of children
attending one clinic. This paper, among the ones that I read in Iraq
prior to 2003, would stand out as an apolitical report, one that might
even get the author in trouble for its lack of repetitive politicized
language commonly used then in Iraq. I would have read this and
assumed that the author was not supportive of the regime, just the
opposite conclusion that some of the critics, who knew nothing of the
times and context for such work, seem to have made.

Note that Munro was in contact with Garfield but failed to ask him about Lafta’s papers. I asked Munro if he had consulted with any experts at all before claiming that the papers were “propaganda”. His reply:

I’d love to know if I missed any
sections in the papers that showed how sanctions-era death rates were
higher than pre-sanctions-era death rates, that provided independent
data to back up those claims, or that provided evidence that sanctions -
which were prompted by Saddam’s refusal to open up his police-state to
outside inspection – were the cause of the increased death rate. Also,
I’d like to know of any other papers that reconcile Lafta’s 2000 claim
of a high Saddam-era death rate with Lafta’s 2004 discovery of a low
pre-war death rate.

So not only did Munro not consult with experts, he doesn’t even understand what the papers were about. Munro seems to have confused malnutrition rates with death rates.

I also got comments from Gilbert Burnham:

Riyadh has worked with a number of international researchers, and we
checked his work out with them first. All found him to be a diligent and
responsible researcher who understood the scientific and ethical basis
of research involving human subjects. When WHO wanted to investigate an
possible polio outbreak in the Iraq, Riyadh was their choice to head the
investigation.

As far as the papers go, I did look at the 1997 Nutritional survey (the
second NJ link never worked for me–but send me the pdf file if you have
it), and this is a perfectly respectable nutrition survey. At the time
of the sanctions many people were concerned at the impact of sanctions
on the children of Iraq. UNICEF mounted several very large nutrition
surveys to this effect. To document the impact of political events on
children of a country is an important safeguard. Sanctions are supposed
to protect the vulnerable in the process of creating political change.
If the vulnerable are suffering almost everyone would agree that the
sanctions are off target. I am not arguing the right or wrong of
political sanctions, but if malnutrition is a problem or is increasing
among the children of the affected populations, then something is wrong
with the implementation of the sanctions. I think all would agree that
Saddam manipulated the sanctions to his own benefit, and this itself may
have increased malnutrition among children. This is exactly the thing
that repressive governments often do. But documenting the nutritional
effects of sanctions is nothing that would cast doubt on someone’s
integrity.

As far as the survey forms, we have all the original field survey forms.
Immediately following the study we met up with Riyadh (in this very
hotel I am now in) and Shannon, Riyadh and I went through the data his
team had computer entered, and verified each entry line-by-line against
the original paper forms from the field. We rechecked each data item,
and went through the whole survey process cluster-by-cluster. We
considered each death, and what the circumstances were and how to
classify it. Back in Baltimore as we were in the analysis we checked
with Riyadh over any questions that came up subsequently. We have the
details on the surveys carried at each of the clusters. We do not have
the unique identifiers as we made it clear this information was not to
be part of the database for ethical reasons to protect the participants
and the interviewers.

I have tried to point out that Riyadh Lafta is part of the university
system (Ministry of Higher Education) not the Ministry of Health. He was
one of the very few doctors who refused to join the Baath Party under
Saddam. This meant that he had limited career prospects in the in the
Ministry of Health. But this information seems a bit to complex and
unsupportive for the critics of the study.

Virtually all international research relies on
team work. No one person can be everywhere at any time, and many times
it is unsafe to do so–both to the interviewers as well as members of
the international team. The data on decreased infant and child mortality
in Afghanistan, which both Munro, President Bush and President Karzai
have cited as examples of success in Afghanistan, were collected in
exactly the same way, by ‘local’ teams working in communities where any
foreigner would be at very high risk of a quick death. (I am the PI on
this work). This is not unique to Afghanistan or Iraq, but is true in
the Congo (from where IRC recently published mortality data), Darfur,
Chad, and certainly during the Balkan wars. On a survey team not
everyone can do everything and be everywhere–it is very much a team
effort. Having a solid team with trust and respect that works closely
together is what makes sound research.

For the 2004 survey Les went to Baghdad, in safer days, and worked with
Lafta directly on the design of the study, the training of the
interviewers and actually physically oversaw a quarter of the clusters.
He was satisfied with the methods, understanding, and the quality of his
work. Based on that work, and the day-to-day work with Riyadh and his
team in Iraq that we decided to go ahead with him in 2006. Before the
survey we first worked out the study design with Riyadh by e mail. Then
we went met up in Jordan and spent several days carefully going through
each part from consent forms to the interview and interviewer training,
to the selection of clusters, to alternative plans for insecurity, to
the classification and recording of data. For the 2006 survey we had
many of the same interviewers that Les had worked with in 2004, but
because of security we could not again participate with them in the
field (same as with Afghanistan when we did our first surveys in
2002-2004 sleeping and eating with the field teams in the provinces).

Les Roberts added:

Note that the malnutrition rates shown in the 1996 Lafta study are I believe
a little below the UNICEF estimates of the time?

I would add to Gil’s comments below that I could monitor the houses with
deaths in the 2004 survey without the interviewers knowing. By watching
from the car, I could see where people went at the end of the interview to
collect a death certificate. I never saw a dataform with a reported death
before I had seen the person go to fetch the certificate. This is not
perfect confirmation in these clusters, but it is better than can usually
be done. Those 8 clusters I visited had almost an identical CMR as the
other clusters when the Kurdish north (lower) and Falluja(higher) were set
aside. Thus, I have very high confidence that the 2004 data were valid. I
suspect that it is rare that a mortality or nutritional survey article of
this sort is published in a top flight journal where the PI went to 1/4th
of the sampling sites as occurred in 2004.

Comments

  1. #1 bi
    February 11, 2008

    “The strange thing is that the entire study depends on the data delivered by the Iraqi research team. There were no Americans on this study in Iraq, none at all.”

    Why yes, doing a proper study can be hard. Not only do you need Americans, you also need Patriotic Americans. Because otherwise you may end up having a team wholly comprised of pinko commie terrorist enablers, and we won’t want that, will we?

    By Patriotic Americans, of course, we mean Americans who are well-versed not just in the Classical Scientific Methodology, but also in the new methodology of Freedom Science (or, if you prefer, £reedom $cience) — a methodology which is informed by the values of Freedom and Capitalism and the American Way.

    In fact, it’ll be best if the entire research team consists exclusively of Patriotic Americans, in order that the research may be seraphically free from even the slightest taint of Un-Freedom.

  2. #2 Donald Johnson
    February 11, 2008

    Les Burnham? *[Oops. Fixed. Thanks. Tim]*

  3. #3 David Kane
    February 11, 2008

    Thanks for posting these comments and gathering the papers. Very helpful to anyone interested in the debate. Just curious: Who supplied you with those pdfs?

    And, vaguely related, I do not think that any of the authors has confirmed that this or that is the specific form that was used, either in the 2004 or 2006 survey. Or am I wrong on this? Has someone either confirmed or denied that the forms that Munro published are the actual forms that were used? If we could just nail that down, it would help to resolve a variety of issues. Mike Spagat addresses some of this topics in his latest paper (pdf).

    Thanks, as always, to Tim for providing such a useful forum for these discussions. The truth is out there.

  4. #4 SG
    February 11, 2008

    Yes Bi, not only were no americans on the team, but according to Spagat the researchers didn’t use the same high ethical standars shown by market researchers when they ask you what your favourite brand of car is. This is the researchers’ fault, mind you, not the consequence of the fact that they are doing a rapid assessment of death in a war zone. But in any case they should have used the Market Researchers’ higher standards, because really, who would compromise the highest standards of ethics just to find out how many people the americans killed? It’s hardly more important than asking the same Iraqi households if they prefer coke over pepsi…

  5. #5 bi
    February 11, 2008

    SG:

    Of course, even after using the Market Researchers’ higher standards, we’ll also need to correct the survey results to remove any hint of liberal bias (since the survey subjects themselves may themselves be pinko Islamo-terrorists, thus tainting the results). If the post-invasion death rates — I mean malnutrition rates — are too high, then we must apply the “I don’t believe this, ergo this is not true!” method and adjust the death, um, malnutrition rates downwards.

    All Hail £reedom $cience!

  6. #6 ben
    February 12, 2008

    I assume, SG and bi, that you both drive Lada’s to work, or whatever it is you do.

    …since the survey subjects themselves may themselves be pinko Islamo-terrorists…

    Well duh.

  7. #7 SG
    February 12, 2008

    Actually Ben, I don’t drive – I live in Japan, so I ride a bicycle everywhere or catch public transport. If we were to buy a car, my partner and I would get a Nissan Figaro, which is all you need to look at to see why the US car industry has been overtaken by the Japanese.

  8. #8 bi
    February 12, 2008

    ben,

    Rest assured that I don’t drive Lafta to work.

    And now, to continue from where I left off… After the paper is written, it should be submitted for Peer Review. The reviewers, of course, will be fully-qualified experts in the field of £reedom $cience — luminaries such as Michelle Malkin, Neil Munro, and Steven Milloy. As reviewers, they’ll give feedback by pointing out any remaining traces of Un-Freedom and Un-Capitalism in your paper which you should remove.

  9. #9 mndean
    February 12, 2008

    SG,
    That little Figaro looks a lot like a Goggomobil or Glas microcar from the ’50s. Very cute.

  10. #10 Vagueofgodalming
    February 12, 2008

    Having a solid team with trust and respect

    One can’t help wondering if this is the real beef of people like Munro. They just can’t cope with the idea of one person relying on another. It’s not just that they think paranoia is the natural state, they see it as a positive moral good.

  11. #11 David Sketchley
    February 12, 2008

    Reply to David Kane. I am quite concerned that too many people are not aware of Spagat’s own conflict of interest which has never been debated.

    Has no one stopped to consider for one minute the reasons why someone like Spagat would spend so much time and energy trying to discredit the Lancet reports?

    The answer is quite simple: because if he doesn’t, his own work becomes discredited.

    Spagat, according to his own website, launched “a new web site called Civil Conflict Analysis Resources”, or CERAC, which he hopes “will become a major resource for conflict researchers, especially economists and political scientists.”

    According to Spagat, CERAC is “a think tank that we have set up in Bogota specializing in the analysis of conflict and violence” (the ‘we’ being Spagat and his colleague PhD student Jorge Restrepo).

    (The wording has now been [changed](http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/))

    At the CERAC website there are published several research papers. In several of these CERAC research papers, calculations and conclusions were made, based on data for civilian killings provided by Iraq Body Count (IBC).

    [Cerac](http://www.cerac.org.co/publications.htm)

    [Research](http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Research.htm)

    Apart from CERAC using IBC as part of its Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID), it transpires that the Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway (Spagat’s Dept), University of London, also uses IBC in its country specific datasets (click on ‘datasets’ at [link](http://www.rhul.ac.uk/economics/Research/conflict/))

    If IBC figures are a gross undercount and distortion, and the Lancet figures are closer to the true number, then the conclusions reached in Spagat’s research papers and indeed any other that used the IBC figures, could and would be seriously compromised. Therefore, Spagat cannot possibly be considered an ‘honest broker’ in this affair but is merely defending his own interests which include funding…

    I put these points to Dr. Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks, who also briefly [entered the fray](http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607600609/fulltext) to [discredit Lancet in favour of IBC](http://www.hicn.org/research_design/rdn3.pdf).

    She never replied, but interestingly she is also a research associate of CERAC, and as such, a [colleague of Prof. Mike Spagat](http://www.cerac.org.co/hicks_madelyn.html)

    The shocking thing is that in her letter to the Lancet criticising the Iraq Mortality Study, she has stated quite clearly at the bottom “I declare that I have no conflict of interest.” A porky if ever there was one…

    Has Spagat ever signed this declaration?

  12. #12 ben
    February 12, 2008

    That Figaro is cute, looks like something my metro friends might drive. I don’t drive to work either, living in Seattle, I also bike, walk or take transit. It’s about an hour walk to my lab at the UW, or a 15 minute bike.

    When I graduate this spring, I’m getting one of these to go along with my guns and to help make up for my lack of a gargantuan penis. I won’t drive that to work though, it’s just for terrorizing nature on weekends.

  13. #13 saurabh
    February 12, 2008

    Just for the sake of fairness, I’d like to point out that, though the IBC numbers have become the favored “real” numbers of the right wing, they shouldn’t by any means be considered a distortion – the IBC has always been clear about its methodology and the limits of that methodology. In any case, methodological debates aside, IBC has consistently argued, based on their figures, that the war is horrible, that the US should leave, that the surge is failing, etc. In other words, even as a low-ball estimate, the IBC numbers don’t somehow justify or excuse the war.

  14. #14 ben
    February 12, 2008

    saurabh, I’ve never heard of any number of civilian casualties used as a justification or an excuse for war. The justification and excuse for the current war were:

    1. Saddam was in violation of the terms of cease-fire of the first gulf war.

    2. Saddam appeared to be trying to develop WMDs, appeared to possess them, and had already demonstrated his willingness to use them. It is common knowledge that he went out of his way to make everyone think that he had these weapons. Bill Clinton sure believed this to be true. He still says so to this day.

    3. Saddam was supporting terrorism (note the payments to families of suicide bombers in the Palestinian territories).

  15. #15 saurabh
    February 12, 2008

    ben,

    My meaning was not that civilian casualties were good or that they could (somehow, before the fact) be used as an argument for war, but rather that a sufficiently low civilian casualty rate could be perceived as “not that bad”, or “low enough” that it would not pose a moral quandary in evaluating the impact of the war. The IBC numbers fail on that ground; they’re still quite high, and they still suggest a huge toll on Iraqi civilians.

    As to your points – (1) which terms of the cease-fire (Security Council resolution 687) did you mean to suggest Iraq violated? At best this is an extension of (2), if we accept your premise that it was plausible Iraq still had WMDs. Obviously it did not, and given the litany of observations and reports that have come out about the buildup to war and pre-war intelligence, (2) seems almost entirely indefensible. Saddam’s demonstration of willingness to use WMDs came in the 1980s, well before the Gulf War, while the US was supporting him, in the absence of the sanctions regime. On this basis one could argue that preemptive strikes against the US are entirely permissible, given our demonstration of willingness to use WMDs in 1945. Furthermore, if you make even a cursory review of the Iraqi government’s behavior prior to the war, it’s obvious that Saddam was going out of his way to demonstrate that he did NOT have any WMDs left, and that he was willing to cooperate with any international body to prove it.

    Finally, as for his “support of terrorism”, payments to Palestinian families of suicide bombers is weak sauce at best. First, this does not directly fund terrorism; second, the motivation for these payments was entirely propaganda, contrasting with the Israeli practice of destroying the homes of said families. More plausible is Saddam’s support of (current US favorites) Mujahideen-e-Khalq, but given that the likes of recent US presidential candidate Tom Tancredo ALSO support MEK, I doubt you’re going to bring them up.

  16. #16 z
    February 12, 2008

    “Saddam was in violation of the terms of cease-fire of the first gulf war.

    Saddam appeared to be trying to develop WMDs, appeared to possess them, and had already demonstrated his willingness to use them. It is common knowledge that he went out of his way to make everyone think that he had these weapons. Bill Clinton sure believed this to be true. He still says so to this day.

    Saddam was supporting terrorism (note the payments to families of suicide bombers in the Palestinian territories).”

    “I worry that for many Europeans, the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused,” he explained. “And what I want to try and focus on is why Afghanistan is important to Europe. Many of them, I think, have a problem with our involvement in Iraq, and project that on Afghanistan, and don’t understand, for them, the very different kind of threat.”
    “Gates: NATO May Supply More Troops for Afghanistan” < http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-02-08-voa52.cfm>

    silly Europeans. how do they get confused between afghanistan and iraq? hasn’t the bush administration done everything in its power to make it clear that iraq is “very different” from the hunt for al qaeda?

  17. #17 bi
    February 12, 2008

    ben,

    “Bill Clinton sure believed this to be true. He still says so to this day.”

    It’s always about Clinton. Clinton Clinton Clinton. Clinton did it, Clinton did it, Clinton did it…

    Even if we put aside the lame justification for the Iraq War, what’s the brilliant idea for not having any semblance of a post-war plan? This is what’s causing the snafu that’s Iraq today. Insurgents don’t infest Iraq because there weren’t WMD under, but they sure do infest Iraq because some people magically think that once US troops take hold of Iraq, magically Everybody Will Live Happily Ever After.

  18. #18 SG
    February 12, 2008

    Ben, a simple fact you might like to consider: buy one of those vehicles, you will end up on cheaters. This is a true statement about causation, not correlation.

  19. #19 ben
    February 12, 2008

    Furthermore, if you make even a cursory review of the Iraqi government’s behavior prior to the war, it’s obvious that Saddam was going out of his way to demonstrate that he did NOT have any WMDs left, and that he was willing to cooperate with any international body to prove it.

    That’s not how I remember it. I recall Saddam kicking the inspection teams out, receiving pressure, letting them back in, not sticking to the agreement, kicking them out again, etc.

    Ben, a simple fact you might like to consider: buy one of those vehicles, you will end up on cheaters.

    Way to go and ruin it for me.

  20. #20 saurabh
    February 13, 2008

    You remember it wrong, then. Saddam “kicked out” the inspectors exactly once, in 1998, although he didn’t even kick them out that time – he merely refused them access to certain sites, because he alleged they were spying on him (they were). The US then withdrew inspectors prior to bombing. That was UNSCOM, which, as a result of the US spying, fell apart. A few years later, UNMOVIC began inspections, which continued until March of 2003. We all know what happened then. In the final months, Iraq was HIGHLY cooperative, for obvious reasons.

  21. #21 SG
    February 13, 2008

    Just reporting the facts, Ben. It is a science blog after all. I’ve watched enough of Cheaters to know that the safest protection against cheating or being cheated on is to not drive a car like that. You’re just asking for a visit from Joey…

  22. #22 z
    February 13, 2008

    “But forget about whether the weapons were there for a moment. The inspectors definitely went to Iraq. They left only because the United States warned them to get out before the bombs started to fall on March 19, 2003. But for some reason the president of the United States keeps saying — in public and on the record — that the inspectors weren’t there.”

    “Saddam chose to deny inspectors”
    Bush repeated this bald-faced lie recently. The cowering press still lets him get away with it, but the public is no longer fooled.

    March 31, 2006

    < http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2006/03/31/bush_lies/>

    “As the Washington Post noted the following day, “the president’s assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.”

    “President Bush’s astonishing new reason for the war with Iraq: Saddam wouldn’t let weapons inspectors in.”

    Jul 15, 2003

    <
    http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/conason/2003/07/15/bush/index.html>

    “Monday, 18 November, 2002, 16:42 GMT

    UN inspectors begin Iraq mission

    International inspectors have returned to Iraq for the first time in four years with a sweeping new mandate to search for weapons of mass destruction. ”
    <
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2488189.stm>

    I would hazard that believing Bush’s blatherings does not support one’s position as a reasonable critic/skeptic of death rates in Iraq. Or AGW.

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    “If IBC figures are a gross undercount and distortion,…”

    If?

    Following the release of the NEJM paper isn’t it a question of whether they’re understated by a factor of four or a factor of 10?

  24. #24 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    “Saddam was supporting terrorism (note the payments to families of suicide bombers in the Palestinian territories).”

    Yeah, if the civilian population allow their government to support terrorism they deserve e3verything that happens to them.

    I’m sure if Cuba had the means to launch a full-scale attack on America in retaliation against the support for Luis Posdaa provided by the Bush government, Ben would support that entirely.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5338930.stm

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    AS for the claim that Saddam was “pying the families of suicide bombers”.

    1, The Arab word “shaheed” is typically translated as “martyr”. The Palestinian Authority uses the word for all Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel – including the extremely small percentage (less than 1%) killed whilr carrying out suicide bombings.

    The American right chooses in context and only in this context to translate Shaheed as meaning :suicide bombers”. The money in question was paid to the Palestinian authority run by Mahmud Abbas – Bush’s new best buddy in the middle east. Given the massive amounts of American aid that have been poured into propping up Abbas, more US money has probably been paid to the family of “Shadeed” than Saddam ever did.

    2.The families of suicide bombers are regualrly subject to illegal extrajudicial collective punishment by the Israelis regardless of whether they had any prior knowledge of their relative’s plans.

    The bizarre and obscene fantasy of Arabs being paid off to commit suicide bombings ignores the reality that their families will almost definitely have their houses and land confiscated; their businesses destroyed and be subjected to detention without trial for weeks, months or years.

  26. #26 bi
    February 13, 2008

    “If IBC figures are a gross undercount and distortion,…”

    If?

    Score one for the methodology of £reedom $cience — to show that a well-established fact is in fact highly uncertain, simply prefix it with the magic word “if”.

  27. #27 bi
    February 13, 2008

    (OK, admittedly David Sketchley is not a practitioner of £reedom $cience…)

    Anyway, after all of ben’s “justifications” for the Iraq War, what’s the excuse for the total lack of a post-war plan again?

    Can we get an answer other than the sound of crickets?

  28. #28 Barton Paul Levenson
    February 13, 2008

    I’m glad Ian Gould is once again setting the record straight about the middle east. The real horror is the Israelis bulldozing homes of suicide bombers’ families. The suicide bombers themselves are… why, they’re victims! Victims of the evil Jews and the fascist Americans.

  29. #29 saurabh
    February 13, 2008

    What the heck, Barton. In a sane world, one shouldn’t punish people for the crimes of their relations, and one also shouldn’t punish people who happen to live in the same building as the relatives of criminals. And one also shouldn’t punish people who happen to live in the same city as criminals. Etc. Perhaps this is not as morally indefensible as suicide bombing, but – low bar to clear.

  30. #30 ben
    February 13, 2008

    If I get a Subaru will Joey stay away? I’m really confused now. I could get a used car, but that might make things even worse.

  31. #31 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    “I’m glad Ian Gould is once again setting the record straight about the middle east. The real horror is the Israelis bulldozing homes of suicide bombers’ families. The suicide bombers themselves are… why, they’re victims! Victims of the evil Jews and the fascist Americans.”

    Come nowe Barton surely you know that the real victims are the Israelis who arer forced by the vicious massacres of DOZENS of their citizens to regretfully engage in purely defense actions against the subhuman beasts which may happen purely because of factors beyond their control to kill a few thousand subhuman Arab scum here and there,

    Besides, most of them are Muslims and as such as doomed to an eternity of unspeakable torment courtesy of your loving God. Surely anything we do to them here on Earth is insignificant in comparison to the just and righteous punishment they’ve already called down upon themselves by rejecting your lord Jesus Christ.

    Similarly it’s just common sense that if my brother, uncle or cousin commits a crime I’m equally guilty of that crime and fully deserve to be punished for it.

  32. #32 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    I’m sure Barton will please3d to learn that while a massive 13 INNOCENT Isrlaeis were viciously murdered by the Arab demons in 2007, Israle’s extremely restrained and purely defensive actions resulted in a mere 2000 or so Arab terrorists being returned to the embrace of their Satanic master.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jan/01/israelandthepalestinians.international

    On a personal note I am a Jew and I have friends and family in Israel. While no-one I know has died, one friend came very close to dying.

    Ignorant, self-righteous outsiders like Barton who have no personal stake in the conflict but nevertheless know which side is right and are quite happy to back their opinion to the last Jew (or the last Arab) disgust me.

  33. #33 Ian Gould
    February 13, 2008

    “In a sane world, one shouldn’t punish people for the crimes of their relations, and one also shouldn’t punish people who happen to live in the same building as the relatives of criminals.”

    Yes but while he probably doesn’t admit it even to himself, Palestinians aren;t really people to Barton.

  34. #34 Vagueofgodalming
    February 13, 2008

    Can I just get some clarity here? As I understand it, if suicide bombing is worse than collective punishment, then Riyadh Lafta is a fraudulent Ba’athist lackey who manipulated the suffering of innocent children to help his evil boss, whereas if collective punishment is worse than suicide bombing, he is a shining hero of scientific integrity bringing to light the ghastly legacy of imperialist aggression. Or am I missing something?

  35. #35 luminous beauty
    February 13, 2008

    …am I missing something?

    Posted by: Vagueofgodalming | February 13, 2008 11:17 AM

    Some unknown unknown, most likely.

  36. #36 bi
    February 13, 2008

    Vagueofgodalming is t3h win. :-B

    Now, back to the subject of global warming… oops.

  37. #37 Davis
    February 13, 2008

    Ben, a simple fact you might like to consider: buy one of those vehicles, you will end up on cheaters.

    Due to family loyalty (my brother is an engineer at Ford), I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from discouraging Ben’s purchase of that fine truck.

  38. #38 Donald Johnson
    February 13, 2008

    The I/P debate already took over one of the Iraq mortality threads (I was one of the culprits). I’m happy to see I’m not involved in the current hijacking, and plan to keep it that way.

    Anybody have anything to say about Iraqi mortality, btw?

  39. #39 Barton Paul Levenson
    February 13, 2008

    Okay, so I was wrong. It’s worse to destroy property than to kill people. My bad.

  40. #40 saurabh
    February 13, 2008

    Personally, my idea of integrity and morality isn’t “Anything that is not as heinous as what my enemies do.” And if we’re going to give a full account, I think Israel does just a little bit more than destroy property, eh?

  41. #41 z
    February 13, 2008

    In the end, is the question whether the Israeli 2 year old is more guilty than the Palestinian 2 year old? Or is it whether “we” can restrain those on both sides who think that’s a valid question, and one upon which questions of life and death should be based?

  42. #42 SG
    February 13, 2008

    Ben, my extensive statistical analysis of Cheaters has convinced me that:

    a) subarus don’t exist
    b) used cars are definitely a sign you are going to cheat but only IF your wife/girlfriend is supporting you
    c) all other cheaters drive big trucks
    d) people who use public transport either don’t exist, or never cheat, or don’t have partners
    e) if you cheat with more than one person at the same time, not only do none of these rules apply, but your partner will take you back

    These are universal truths, Ben, possibly created by Barton’s god. I would listen to these truths over Davis’s family loyalties – after all, what are family loyalties against the irresistible lure of The Truck of Dooooom

  43. #43 ben
    February 14, 2008

    It is true, the lure of the Truck of Doooom is irresistible (and all this time I thought the word was spelled resistable… good greif but I can’t spell).

    In the end, is the question whether the Israeli 2 year old is more guilty than the Palestinian 2 year old?

    I think it’s more on the parents of the 2 year olds. Which parents are teaching one 2 year old to hate the other one day in and day out. Which 2 year old has television programs telling them to hate the other 2 year old year in and year out. That conflict will not end until the one side learns to stop the relentless fomenting of hatred.

  44. #44 bi
    February 14, 2008

    I think it’s more on the parents of the 2 year olds.

    Yeah, the parents are Murderers, so it’s OK to kill their children, and Riyadh Lafta is a Baarthist hireling!

    Score another one for £reedom $cience…

  45. #45 ben
    February 14, 2008

    Yeah, the parents are Murderers, so it’s OK to kill their children, and Riyadh Lafta is a Baarthist hireling!

    No, but it is OK to kill their dentists. Unless they drive a Ford F150, then we just stick ‘em on Cheaters, or didn’t you read above.

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