Les Roberts has a given a briefing to German parliamentarians on deaths in Iraq.

Hat tip: Media lens

Comments

  1. #1 Sans
    March 19, 2008

    Well hooray for Les.
    It’d qualify as news if he did something other than talk about his Iraq death estimates.

  2. #2 Jeff Harvey
    March 19, 2008

    Well, hooray for Sans. What he/she is suggesting, is that despite the fact that the illegal invasion has turned Iraq into a land of ‘wreck and ruin’, Les Roberts and others ought to ‘move on’. So what if it is and was the ‘supreme international crime’ of aggression?

    A study by journalist Nir Rosen, called ‘The Death of Iraq’, was recently published in the respected journal Current History. In the study, Rosen says that, “Iraq has been killed never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century”. He goes on to say that, “Only fools talk of solutions now. There is no solution. The only hope is that the damage can be contained”.

    The prevailing view amongst US elites now is that they pray that the US will still win a victory in this land of ‘wreck and ruin’, a land that has been effectively destroyed, where the war has generated 1-2 million refugees who are living in utter desparation and where at least many hundreds of thousands of people are dead, and perhaps (as OBR estimates) more than a million. There’s also an assumption that if the war had led to, say, the deaths of ‘only’ a couple of hundred thousand people, that would be OK. This is how depraved the discussion of those supporting the war has become.

    By the way, the term ‘wreck and ruin’ was not my invention, but came from Arthur Schlesinger, one of the most important historians of the 1960s and an adviser to President Kennedy. In 1968, the US added another 100,000 troops to the 175,000 already Viet Nam, in what was also then described as a ‘surge’. Schlesinger stated that he hoped the surge would work, saying, “And if it does, we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a victory in a land that we have turned to wreck and ruin”. Bu Schlesinger had doubts over the effecvtiveness of the ‘surge’, and thought that the strategy should be “rethought”.

    Most importantly, thanks to Les Roberts for continuing to fight for the truth of the cost of the Iraq invasion. If it were not for him and other like minded people, the truth will be ‘buried’, sent down the ‘memory hole’, much like other western atrocities.

  3. #3 sod
    March 19, 2008

    some pieces of information:

    Heike Haensel is a member of the “Die Linke” party, which is a new founded party (very left) that is holding a few seats in the german parliament. so i fear the information will not reach a lot of the other MPs, as they tend not to listen to anything coming from the “Links” party.

    i love the first graph in the piece, comparing violence in Iraq to other countries. ( i do NOT like the comparison to US cities, as most people are too stupid to understand, that a comparison between parts of a country and a whole country are seriously flawed. i fear we will read a lot of the “iraq is more peaceful than Detroid” posts)

    but surely David Kane will pop in soon and explain in deatail, why iraq is so much more peaceful than all the countries that we don t read any news of car bombs about…

  4. #4 Jeff Harvey
    March 19, 2008

    On a recent visit to Iraq, vice-President Dick Cheney incredulously called the invasion of Iraq a “successful endeavor”. John McCain earlier said the so-called surge was ‘working’.

    Here’s the take on this by Dahr Jamail in his latest despatch:

    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/16912

    It contradicts all the crap being spewed out by the likes of Cheney and McCain as well as by the neocon think tanks.

  5. #5 Sans
    March 19, 2008

    “Well, hooray for Sans. What he/she is suggesting, is …”

    What I was suggesting was precisely what I wrote. Either grasp that or stop advocating sex with underage boys in your replies. One of the two.

    “If it were not for him and other like minded people, the truth will be ‘buried’, sent down the ‘memory hole’, much like other western atrocities.”

    Say what now ?
    http://news.google.com.au/news?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&client=firefox-a&um=1&tab=wn&hl=en&q=Les-Roberts&btnG=Search+News

  6. #6 Sans
    March 19, 2008

    Any updates on what Rachel Carson and the WHO’s respective positions are on DDT for March yet?
    Any change to the positions outlined in February, January, December, November, October, September, etc?
    I reckon we’re about due for surprise twist.

  7. #7 David Kane's friend
    March 19, 2008

    Sans:
    Any updates on what Rachel Carson … positions are on DDT for March yet?

    You are aware that Carson died more than forty years ago, right? Right?

  8. #8 Donald Johnson
    March 19, 2008

    Sans, if you’re bored, I hear there are several other sites on the internet you could visit.

  9. #9 sod
    March 19, 2008

    Sans, please keep your false claims about DDT out of this topic.

  10. #10 Sans
    March 20, 2008

    You are aware that Carson died more than forty years ago, right? Right?
    Posted by: David Kane’s friend | March 19, 2008 10:33 AM

    Yeah. That was the point pal. Great work.

  11. #11 stewart
    March 20, 2008

    Don’t feed trolls.
    It’s a pity we’re getting folks with ‘faith-based’ demographic studies and declarations of success. I wonder what ‘success in Iraq’ could actually look like now? With even a few hundred thousand dead and millions displaced, this is a catastrophe. With a million dead, it’s an apocalypse. Not to consider the loss of infrastructure and effective government, and the social fragmentation.
    We need to hear more about the consequences for the Iraqis, not the occupiers.

  12. #12 jodyaberdein
    March 20, 2008

    A resounding success I’d say:

    http://www.oil-price.net/

  13. #13 David Kane
    March 20, 2008

    Thanks as always to Tim for the link. I don’t have time for extensive comments — Apologies to all my fans! — but two points stand out.

    1) Roberts is still citing “People’s Kiffa”?! That is just pathetic. Reasonable people (UNDP, L1/L2, IBC, IFHS) can disagree about mortality in Iraq. But when you continue to cite stuff with no factual basis whatsoever, you are entering crank swamp.

    2) Love the way Roberts compares his opponents to Holocaust deniers at the end. Nice!

  14. #14 dhogaza
    March 21, 2008

    But when you continue to cite stuff with no factual basis whatsoever, you are entering crank swamp.

    My only question is, how have you avoided drowning in crank swamp?

    Nice how you have nothing to say, really.

    2) Love the way Roberts compares his opponents to Holocaust deniers at the end. Nice!

    Since you ad hom until you nearly die of suffocation, you should kiss his feet.

  15. #15 Jeff Harvey
    March 21, 2008

    Stewart hits the nail right on the head. Excellent post. The situation caused by the invasion varies from utter disaster through calamity to apocalyptic. Yet I’m still reading drivel in the Dutch media suggesting how ‘victory’ is still possible. Perhaps ‘victory’ should be summed up in the words of Thomas Jefferson when describing the slaughter of American Indians: “In a war they shall kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them”.

    Some victory. The annihilation of any opposition.

  16. #16 Bruce Sharp
    March 21, 2008

    In case anyone else was wondering what the “Peoples Kiffa” cited in Roberts’ article refers to, it should have been “People’s Kifah.” See here: http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=5525

  17. #17 sod
    March 21, 2008

    Thanks as always to Tim for the link. I don’t have time for extensive comments — Apologies to all my fans! — but two points stand out.

    yes, we do miss your well thought out answers to our question.

    oops, you never give any!

    1) Roberts is still citing “People’s Kiffa”?! That is just pathetic. Reasonable people (UNDP, L1/L2, IBC, IFHS) can disagree about mortality in Iraq. But when you continue to cite stuff with no factual basis whatsoever, you are entering crank swamp.

    you mean like bringing up the IBC, as if it was a measurement of deaths in Iraq?
    even though this claim has no factual basis whatsoever?

    2) Love the way Roberts compares his opponents to Holocaust deniers at the end. Nice!

    i don t like these comparisons, but at least in this case it makes sense. people ARE denying the deaths of 100000s of iraqis. the situations are far from equal, but in contrast to most times when the holocaust is brought up, it is somewhat similar.

  18. #18 z
    March 21, 2008

    “Love the way Roberts compares his opponents to Holocaust deniers at the end. Nice!

    i don t like these comparisons, but at least in this case it makes sense.”

    this is hardly an apt comparison. people may not have known of the Holocaust at the time, but they didn’t start denying it until a decent interval had at least passed, rather than while it was ongoing.

  19. #19 Bruce Sharp
    March 21, 2008

    Re z’s remark: “this is hardly an apt comparison. people may not have known of the Holocaust at the time, but they didn’t start denying it until a decent interval had at least passed, rather than while it was ongoing.”

    A more apt comparison might be with the far left’s response, in the late Seventies, to the genocide in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. The tactics of those on the far right who want to obscure the scope of the tragedy in Iraq are remarkably similar… as if one can conceal a river of blood with a river of ink.

  20. #20 Donald Johnson
    March 22, 2008

    That’s a fair comparison, Bruce, but in part it’s fair because I don’t think it was irrational either in the late 70’s with Cambodia or today with Iraq to be skeptical of a death toll of over 1 million. The high death toll turned out to be the case in Cambodia and may be the case now in Iraq.

    This is not to say that there wasn’t something unpleasant in some of the skepticism in both cases.

  21. #21 Bruce Sharp
    March 22, 2008

    Donald: Very well put. I agree that some skepticism is reasonable, which is why I specifically referred to the far left and far right. The “unpleasant” aspect of skepticism arises when the broad nature of the tragedy is obvious, and skeptics sieze upon trivialities in an effort to obscure that tragedy.

  22. #22 z
    March 22, 2008

    well, in keeping with the trend here today (including the new Energy and Environment thread where I have posted a related link), I now present to you: definitive proof that the Allies deliberately destroyed evidence that would blow the roof off the “Holocaust” hoax: Fuhrerpants! < http://www.revisionism.nl/Fuhrerpants/The-Mad-Revisionist.htm>

  23. #23 JB
    March 22, 2008

    David Kane says:

    I don’t have time for extensive comments”

    Thank goodness for small favors (The Scienceblogs server thanks him too!)

    But nonetheless extends himself a little:

    when you continue to cite stuff with no factual basis whatsoever, you are entering crank swamp.

    You mean like continuing to insinuate fraud in L2 based on little more than one’s own incredulity at the survey response rate?

    Right you are — deep in dark, dank crank swamp (without a paddle.)

  24. #24 Kana
    March 24, 2008

    A more apt comparison might be with the far left’s response, in the late Seventies, to the genocide in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. — Bruce Sharp

    The far left weren’t in a position to respond to that, as they were who was perpetrating it.

    If you were instead referring to people protesting in the US then that pretty much worked out the same as it has in all genocides before or since. Badly for those involved.

    I wonder what protests we’ll see about the genocide in Iraq once it resumes in full force. Either way, I do hope I won’t have to question why the analysis of death estimates dries up in places like this once the US combat troop presence does.

    It would be strange nexus of hypocrisy for those who’ve spent years bemoaning the continuing occupation, the number of Iraqis killed and the lack of attention these figures receive, once that desired outcome is obtained.

    Much like Sudan, it’s not real hard to figure out what those islamic arab death squads responsible for the ethnic cleansing to date are going to do in the absence of any interventionist force.

    The only question is going to be who’s interest is going to be maintained in recording the data once domestic politics are removed. Again, I could be wrong as to what “far left” you see as a significant factor during the genocide in Cambodia, but I think not.

  25. #25 Kevin Donoghue
    March 24, 2008

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say, Kana. Les Roberts made his professional reputation by researching mortality rates in Africa. I don’t think he went there under the impression that the US had forces in the areas concerned.It’s also worth noting that when he published those studies, they didn’t become “flypaper for innumerates” swarming in to trash his methodology. Maybe the government of Rwanda was incensed at the suggestion that the invasion of DR Congo resulted in huge loss of life, but if so they didn’t get much support from the likes of David Kane.

  26. #26 Jeff Harvey
    March 24, 2008

    Kana: it’s time that you had a history lesson. First, who were responsible for helping Pol Pot and the Khmer rouge into power in the first place? Of course, the usual suspect: the U.S. When Nixon began his bombing campaign in Cambodia enmasse’in 1969 (e.g. with his now infamous – and largely ignored by western media outlets – command of dropping ‘Anything that flies on anything that moves’), ultimately killing hundreds of thousands, Cambodia’s entire infrastructure was left in ruins by 1973. A power vacuum was created when Prince Sihanouk was deposed, and who filled it? Bingo. Furthermore, when Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia and deposed Pol Pot in 1979, which countries lined up to angrily condemn Viet Nam? One guess. Yup, the usual suspects. In fact, it was the west who formally recognized the Pol Pot regime well into the 1980’s: I recall the U.S. and Canadian ambassadors to the U.N. cozying up to the exiled Khmer Rouge leadership in New York in 1982.

    Second, the US forces are not in Iraq as peacekeepers but as occupiers – let’s get that clear. Its a bit rich to suggest that they are preventing bloodshed in Iraq when the invasion (= agression) itself and its aftermath have resulted in perhaps a million deaths and 2-4 million internally and externally displaced refugees. The country is effectively in ‘wreck and ruin’. Or, ‘Killed, never to rise again’ as writer Nir Rosen described it recently in a piece for the journal ‘Current History.

  27. #27 Bruce Sharp
    March 24, 2008

    As this is off-topic with respect to Iraq, I will try to be brief. To Kana in #24: My comments regarding the left and right were within the context of the western democracies. There were some on the left who worked hard to raise awareness of what was happening in Khmer Rouge Cambodia; examples would be Jean Lacouture and William Shawcross. On the far left, meanwhile, there were those who worked to obscure it, like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman. (For an absurdly long discussion: http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm )

    Jeff’s comments regarding Cambodia in #26 are a little misleading. First, the death toll from the US bombing was not in the hundreds of thousands. (Some details on this in the section “A Compound Estimate,” in the article at http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm ) Regarding the Vietnamese invasion, the first thing I will say is that my wife probably would not be alive today were it not for the invasion. Nonetheless, the broader question of Vietnam’s role in Cambodia can’t be reduced to a simple “good” or “bad.” And, while Jeff is correct that the US was instrumental in destabilizing Cambodia, so were the North Vietnamese. Neither the Vietnamese nor the Americans intended to destroy Cambodia; but neither particularly objected to it, either, if it furthered their own political ends.

    If we want to discuss this more, I would suggest moving the comments to the open thread.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  28. #28 Donald Johnson
    March 24, 2008

    Bruce, skimming your article, I thought the part about war deaths was very weak. You yourself pointed out why the anecdotal evidence doesn’t amount to much–the category of Cambodians most likely to write memoirs are the least likely to have had family members dying under US bombs. Then you cite an anthropologist’s data for one village. That’s like a Lancet survey of one cluster. Then there’s an estimate for the 1975 population made in 1972, in which we are supposed to think the war was taken into account.

    Kiernan estimated 50,000-150,000 deaths from American bombing, apparently based on his interviews.

  29. #29 Donald Johnson
    March 24, 2008

    And a fairly recent article by Kiernan and Owen, where they report the bombing of Cambodia involved five times the tonnage previously thought and where they speculate the death toll might be even greater than what Kiernan had estimated.

    http://www.japanfocus.org/products/details/2420

  30. #30 Bruce Sharp
    March 24, 2008

    Donald,

    It’s not the anecdotal evidence that convinces me that the toll cannot possibly be that high: it’s Heuveline’s cohort analysis, in conjunction with the ratios of deaths during the time periods in question. I don’t believe there is any way that the toll for the entire 1970-75 civil war can be in excess of 300,000. That would include all excess mortality; the toll from the American bombing (which ended in 1973) would be a fraction of that toll. How big a fraction? I’ve no idea, but I find it exceptionally difficult to believe that it could be greater than one-third.

    I don’t know how Kiernan arrived at his 50,000 – 150,000 figure, but I don’t believe that it is based on his surveys; as far as I am aware, the surveys, which were conducted by Kiernan and Dr. Gregory Stanton, focused specifically on Khmer Rouge deaths. Moreover, if Kiernan is basing the estimate of bombing deaths on the surveys, I don’t understand why he was willing to affix the Khmer Rouge death toll firmly at 1.5 million, while allowing that the toll from the bombing might be anywhere from 50K to 150K.

    As far as the Kiernan/Owen article is concerned, the fact that the tonnage dropped was greater than previously reported is irrelevant: the widely quoted death estimates are based on virtually no evidence, and changing the tonnage does not suddenly make them underestimates.

    None of this, by the way, is intended to exonerate the American role in Cambodia: In spite of my differences with regard to specific details, I agree with Jeff Harvey’s assertion that the Americans bear substantial culpability for Cambodia’s suffering.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  31. #31 JB
    March 25, 2008

    “I agree with Jeff Harvey’s assertion that the Americans bear substantial culpability for Cambodia’s suffering.’

    Just as with Iraq, if we (America) set up the conditions in Cambodia under which death and destruction became commonplace, we are responsible for their deaths, even if not directly.

    The deaths due to bombing raids are just a small part of the story — and a part of the story that is never told in our history books here (surprise)

  32. #32 Donald Johnson
    March 25, 2008

    I don’t have the competence to discuss Heuveline’s findings, so I’ll leave that alone. I think it’s hard to believe that one could drop 2.5 million tons of bombs (which I assume is the corrected figure) on Cambodia and not cause 100,000 deaths or more, but that’s all I’ll say on that. You seem to acknowledge the toll from the bombs could conceivably be that high.

  33. #33 JB
    March 25, 2008

    2.8 million tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia.

    If all those tons killed 100,000 people, that would be 28 tons per person killed.

    Hmm, seems a bit high for the “bomb tonnage to people killed” ratio.

    I’d bet there were well in excess of 100,000 killed.

    Unless the bombing was totally indiscriminate, that would seem a bit much per person killed, but perhaps they dropped all the bombs in the same deserted area…

    ooops, no that’s not right…

    This map shows where the bombs were actually dropped (Note: its easier to just note where they were not dropped)

    It’s no wonder Nixon saw red wherever he looked if he was looking at that map.

  34. #34 JB
    March 25, 2008
  35. #35 Bruce Sharp
    March 25, 2008

    I’m not sure how you would determine a ratio of expected deaths per ton of bombs. A ton of bombs dropped in central Bagdhad is not quite the same as a ton of bombs dropped in the middle of the Cambodian jungle. It’s a reasonable inference to suppose that dropping huge numbers of bombs will kill huge numbers of people. But how exactly do you define “huge”? Would 30,000 or 40,000 deaths be trivial? At what point do you suddenly exclaim, “Gee, we need to say there were MORE deaths. The number we’ve been using just isn’t horrible enough?”

    To determine casualties, it’s necessary to rely on factors that can be quantified. The cases of Iraq and Cambodia are similar in that the chaos of war makes it difficult to collect and evaluate data. So what options do we have? We might reconstruct from census data, or conduct surveys, or, more crudely, extrapolate from the testimony of witnesses.

    In the case of Iraq, we all realize that at least some of the estimates are poorly constructed. Different observers might disagree about which estimates are lousy, but the fact remains: a bad estimate is not made better by the fact that many people accept it.

    American actions in Cambodia (and Iraq) were, in my opinion, criminal. That is the critical point. The moral issues involved far outweigh the significance of particular numbers. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should just blindly accept any numbers that come our way, as long as they serve to bolster our opinions.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever undertaken a detailed effort to determine the death toll in Cambodia’s civil war. The most commonly cited figure — around 500,000 — seems to have been pulled out of thin air, and then mangled some more: I’ve seen this figure cited as the toll from the American bombing, instead of the toll from the entire war. Demographers Judith Banister and Paige Johnson estimated 275,000 war deaths; Ben Kiernan estimates 300,000. Those are, in my opinion, reasonable estimates.

    I’m fond of Heuveline’s analogy of the jigsaw puzzle, missing a piece: based on the pieces we do have, we can draw some conclusions about the piece that we don’t have. That is the point I’d stress with regard to Cambodia’s civil war: we are missing data, but we can still draw some reasonable conclusions based on what we do know. What we do know strongly suggests that the toll from the war can’t be significantly higher than 300,000.

    What portion of those deaths can be attributed to the American bombing? As Donald notes, Kiernan suggests that it could be 50,000 – 150,000. As far as I can tell, this is simply an educated guess. Was it based on Kiernan’s surveys, as Donald originally suggested? I certainly don’t believe so. Kiernan and Owen’s article on the bombing suggested that since previous estimates of the amount of bombs dropped were low, the death toll estimate might be low, too.

    Now think about Iraq for a moment, and consider the following:

    Let’s say that Lancet2 supporters learn that the amount of ordnance expended in Iraq was five times as high as previously believed. Would they then argue that the death toll was actually higher than what the survey indicated?

    Of course not: either the survey is accurate, or it isn’t. The amount of ordnance has nothing to do with it.

    If Kiernan were basing his estimate of bombing deaths on the surveys, he would have no reason to argue that we ought to suddenly start using higher numbers. And if his estimate is based on passive reconstruction from the (admittedly faulty) census data, well… there is still no reason to start using higher numbers.

    One could argue that we might attribute a larger percentage of the total deaths to the bombing, and in that sense, we could say that yes, we’ve previously underestimated the deaths from bombing… but that also implies that we’ve previously overestimated the deaths from other causes.

    In most wars, excess deaths from secondary causes (disease, lack of food, and so on) will exceed those from violence. In Cambodia, we need to keep in mind that many of those secondary causes can rightfully be described as deaths due to bombing.

    However, we need to remember a few other things, as well. The war went on for another 20 months after the American bombing stopped. Statistics from Vietnam, meanwhile, indicate that the leading cause of violent death during the war was gunshot, and not bombs or artillery. What does that suggest about deaths in Cambodia? Or, we might ask which was more deadly: a stick of bombs raining down on a jungle which might or might not conceal enemy soldiers? Or a single rocket, fired by the Khmer Rouge into a market in the heart of Phnom Penh? Sheer firepower isn’t everything. Big bangs — shock and awe — don’t necessarily translate into effective results.

    My “estimates” are nothing more than an educated guess… but the same is true for Kiernan’s estimates. Kiernan is arguing that somewhere between one-sixth and one-half of deaths during the Cambodian civil war were due to bombing. I can easily agree with the numbers at the lower end of that range; the higher end, however, seems very unlikely.

    Having said all of this, I’ll simply add that I’m a layman with no knowledge of demographics or epidemiology. I’d be delighted to see additional research on both the Khmer Rouge death toll, and the death toll from the bombing.

    Hmmm…. if only there were some demographers reading this… like, say, a Professor of Demography, who could suggest that one of his best students ought to write a thesis on the subject… hmmmm… if only someone like that read Deltoid….

    Regards,
    Bruce

  36. #36 SG
    March 26, 2008

    That’s funny Bruce, if Noam Chomsky engages in the same intellectual exercise over the Khmer Rouge death toll (even at the time, before it was fully documented), he gets to be called a supporter of genocide by you. But then you go on to pick apart calculations of the death toll from American bombing at great length – you know, in the interests of balance and all.

    Maybe if you revisit that terrible Chomsky chap and all his fellow travellers, you’ll see you and they aren’t so different.

  37. #37 Bruce Sharp
    March 26, 2008

    SG, when did I call Chomsky a supporter of genocide?

  38. #38 Donald Johnson
    March 26, 2008

    I could email Kiernan and ask him where his bomb death toll number comes from. I’m not sure what my chances are of getting a reply–any sensible academic might well be leery of getting involved in an online discussion about Cambodia. This blog comment section is (relatively) civilized, but if Kiernan has ever seen the sort of discussions one finds on usenet (at least when I visited), he’d be well advised to stay away.

    Have you thought of asking him, Bruce? You seem to have made this a fairly serious hobby, if that’s the right term for it.

    My own impression of Kiernan is that he probably does have some good reasons for his numbers–he gives a fair number of bombing death toll anecdotes in his texts and I believe he published a fairly long article about the death toll under American bombing in some scholarly journal, but I’ve only seen references to it somewhere (maybe at the back of one of his Cambodia books).

  39. #39 Bruce Sharp
    March 26, 2008

    Donald, I’ve posted a short reply in the Open Thread #2, since we’ve drifted pretty far from Iraq.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  40. #40 SG
    March 26, 2008

    sorry Bruce, confused your reply to Kana with Kana. The point’s the same though – what you’re doing for the US would be considered genocide denial by folks like Kana, if you did it for Pol Pot.

  41. #41 Bruce Sharp
    March 26, 2008

    No worries, SG. I think you are right that the nuances of Chomsky’s view probably escape Kana… but then, I suppose the nuances of my opinion about Chomsky probably escape most of Chomsky’s fans. I concur with one of Chomsky’s central points: we should be more concerned about evil in the cases where we are responsible. But I don’t believe that it’s necessary — or acceptable — to downplay atrocities committed by our enemies, simply because we have some vague idea that their actions might tempt us to rationalize our own.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  42. #42 JB
    March 28, 2008

    I’m not sure how you would determine a ratio of expected deaths per ton of bombs. ”

    I’m not sure either.

    I calculated the ratio merely as a “reality check”.

    I don’t think it is too much to assume that the USAF would most likely be dropping bombs on areas where they had reason to suspect the “enemy” were hiding and most likely not simply on uninhabited jungle.

    but I could be wrong (have been before, once or twice)

    One might also note that in that map that I linked to above, there were some 114,000 bombing sites in cambodia that the USAF targeted between 1965-1973.

    2.7 million tons total dropped on 114,000 sites is an average of 24 tons per site, not too far from the 28 tons per person that I figured before assuming 100,000 died.

    I find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that ONLY a single person died (on average) on each of 114,000 bombing raids when an average of 24 tons were being dropped on each site!

    It stretches the bounds of what is credible to the breaking point.

  43. #43 Bruce Sharp
    March 29, 2008

    Hi JB —

    On the surface, this is a compelling argument:

    “I find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that ONLY a single person died (on average) on each of 114,000 bombing raids when an average of 24 tons were being dropped on each site!”

    However, in the absence of specific evidence indicating a higher toll, it’s little more than an argument from incredulity. It’s a bit like Lancet opponents arguing that the IBC count just couldn’t possibly miss so many deaths. Why couldn’t they? Well, because it just doesn’t seem credible.

    I can’t reconcile higher estimates of the bombing deaths with what is known (or at least, with what I think is known) about other numbers. The ratio of war deaths to deaths during the Khmer Rouge seems very problematic: Steve Heder estimated that the ratio was about 1:7 for peasants, and if we start adjusting the number of war deaths upward, the number of deaths during the Khmer Rouge time quickly becomes inconceivably high.

    As you point out, the bombing was presumably aimed at areas where the enemy was hiding. In that case, I think we’d have to assume that if the bombing was even remotely effective, the Khmer Republic should have won the war. So how did they lose?

    Maybe what we really learn from these numbers is that a massive bombing campaign is a lousy way to fight a war of attrition in a sparsely-populated, unindustrialized country.

    Unpopulated areas would be the most likely locations for bases: after all, if your secret guerrilla camp is conveniently located a couple hundred yards from the village, it isn’t likely to remain secret for very long. Consequently, unpopulated areas would also be the locations most likely to be bombed.

    A couple other thoughts: I’m taking into consideration Cambodian deaths. The toll could be higher if you consider the number of Vietnamese communists killed in the bombing. And recall bias could affect Cambodians’ ability to clearly remember deaths before the Pol Pot time. Nonetheless, the disparity between Khmer Rouge deaths seems to be very dramatic, and two of the scholars I spoke with when I was working on the article on the Khmer Rouge death toll told me that they had been struck by the same thing.

    Setting that aside, however, I’d like to refer back to your remark in comment #31. (Didn’t see it earlier, sorry!): “Just as with Iraq, if we (America) set up the conditions in Cambodia under which death and destruction became commonplace, we are responsible for their deaths, even if not directly.” I agree; we’re not solely responsible, but we certainly deserve a large share of the blame. This is why I’m appalled with William Shawcross’ remarks on Iraq and Cambodia. Shawcross should have known better, and about a year ago I wrote another way-too-long article explaining why.

    Regards,
    Bruce

  44. #44 JB
    March 29, 2008

    Bruce says: “However, in the absence of specific evidence indicating a higher toll, it’s little more than an argument from incredulity.”

    I had hoped I had made it clear from my second post above that what I was doing was a “reality check”.

    The point of reality checks is not to determine the actual answer, it is to gauge whether the answer that has been previously provided was credible. I don’t think it is.

    I will be the first to admit that my above argument is “an argument from incredulity.”

    But I would nevertheless point out that I am not claiming that others have “engaged in fraud” based on such an (admittedly flimsy) argument (as some have done with Lancet). I have merely questioned the result.

    As you indicate, the actual result must be determined by scientific means — just as with Lancet.

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