John Tirman has an article in Editor and Publisher. Extract:
The charge, repeated in all these media, that the Iraqi research leader, Riyadh Lafta, M.D., operated “without U.S. supervision” and was therefore suspect is particularly interesting. Munro, in a note to National Review Online, asserted that Lafta “said Allah guided the prior 2004 Lancet/Johns Hopkins death-survey,” which he also had noted in the National Journal piece. When he interviewed me he pestered me about two anonymous donors, demanding to know if either were Arab or Muslim. A pattern here is visible, one which reeks of religious prejudice.
Munro had also ignored the corroborating evidence I sent him, the 4.5 million displaced (suggesting hundreds of thousands of fatalities, drawing on the ratio of all other wars); estimates of new widows (500,000 from the war); and the other surveys done in Iraq suggesting enormous numbers of casualties (ABC/USA Today poll of March 2007, showing roughly 53% physically harmed by war). When I mentioned these things to him on the telephone, he literally screamed that such data didn’t matter, that the Lancet probe was “a hoax.” Lancet article authors also cite several cases where they were misquoted. The National Journal’s editors have been informed of their reporters’ misconduct and errors, and have not responded.
So the smear is complete–a “political hit” by the “anti-Bush billionaire,” complicity by anti-war academics, fraud by Muslims devoted to Allah–and repeated over and over in the right-wing media. Little has of this has appeared in the legitimate news media, apart from right-wing columnists like Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe.
One might expect that such nonsense is obvious to neutral observers, but it constitutes a kind of harassment that scholars must fend off, diverting from more important work. Gilbert Burnham, the lead author on the Lancet article, runs health clinics in Afghanistan and East Africa, and is spending inordinate amounts of time responding to the attacks. Les Roberts, a coauthor, and I have both had colleagues at our universities called by Munro to ask if they would punish us for fraud. The OSI people have also been writing letters to set the record straight. Most important, Riyadh Lafta, who has been threatened before, may be in more danger due to these attacks. …
The topic of the war’s exceptional human costs, now inflamed by these calumnies, appears to be too hot to handle. Even with all this fuss in January, no explorations of the Iraqi mortality from the war have appeared in the major dailies. No editorials, no examination of the methods (or the danger and difficulty of collecting data), no sense that the scale of killing might affect the American position, or might shed some light on U.S. war strategy, or might point to honorable exits and reconstruction obligations. Remarkably, no curiosity at all about the dead of Iraq, and what they can tell us.
There’s a discussion thread about the article here.