Lancet post number 200

The WikiLeaks Iraq archive, while incomplete, reveals many more previously unreported violent deaths in the Iraq war — Iraq Body Count say that the archive reveals 15,000 people shot, blown up, had the heads cut off or killed in some other way that they had not recorded. So Tim Blair, who claimed that the Iraq Body Count was way way too high (and predicted that the coalition would suffer “below 50” casualties) has posted a correction. Ha ha, just kidding. Blair has a post claiming that the WikiLeaks archive, which is, as I have already noted, incomplete, proves that the Lancet study on war-related deaths in Iraq is wrong. This does not follow. Since the WikiLeaks archive is incomplete, the number of deaths recorded is just a lower bound. That’s because the archive is incomplete. This is just the latest in Blair’s innumerate criticisms of the Lancet study.

We also have Fred Kaplan, who writes:

However, the WikiLeaks documents add further doubts to a controversial report in a 2006 issue of the medical journal the Lancet, claiming that, even that early in the war, 655,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, most of them by U.S. air and artillery strikes.

In fact, the study attributed 31% of the roughly 600,000 violent deaths to the coalition , and just 13% to air strikes. I guess checking what the study actually found is too much trouble if you are a journalist.

And it’s not just Blair and Kaplan. Thers on Glenn Reynolds:

In the world where things like human beings dying and being tortured in the course of senseless wars matters, the recent Wikileaks documents release is accompanied by headlines like “A Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths in Iraq.”

In Glenn Reynold’s squalid little world, however, what the documents show is that the war was even more glorious than one he’d always masturbated to, and will be good news for Republicans!


  1. #1 Donald Johnson
    November 4, 2010

    “People here”

    I got distracted and forgot to finish the sentence. People here will be familiar with the attempt in that IBC link to establish a gap between ILCS and the L1 estimate. If I recall correctly, it later turned out that the ILCS estimate didn’t include some of the most violent areas in Iraq, because they were too dangerous for the interviewers.

  2. #2 Donald Johnson
    November 4, 2010

    “I recall correctly, it later turned out that the ILCS estimate didn’t include some of the most violent areas in Iraq, because they were too dangerous for the interviewers.”

    I didn’t mean to print that–I wanted to have a link for it, but so far my googling for one hasn’t succeeded.

  3. #3 Robert Shone
    November 5, 2010

    Donald Johnson:

    Here’s an attack on L1 by IBC.

    That’s not an attack on L1. It contains criticisms of things Les Roberts said outside L1, and some mentions of L1 (in similar terms to the 2005 report, which you now seem to admit wasn’t “denigrating” or an “attack” – unless your memory’s still playing tricks).

    I don’t really get what your stand is, Robert.

    My “stand” is that I think you should get the facts right.

  4. #4 Jeff Harvey
    November 5, 2010


    It is you who ought to get his facts straight. Here is John Sloboda speaking in 2006:

    *Some critics of the Lancet study have said it’s like a drunk throwing a dart at a dartboard. It’s going to go somewhere, but who knows if that number is the bulls eye.
    Unfortunately many many people have decided to accept that that 98,000 figure is the truth – or the best approximation to the truth that we have*


    *We’ve always said our work is an undercount, you can’t possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the deaths. Our best estimate is that we’ve got about half the deaths that are out there*

    If this isn’t an ‘attack’ on L1, I do not know what is. This was also happening before the Media Lens furore. It seems to me that Sloboda and IBC were annoyed that a study in a top, peer-reviewed journal by experts in the field produced results that greatly exceedded their own and that they were more concerned about the credibility of IBC than of uncovering the true civilian death toll.

    The IBC team also took exception to the fact that they were called ‘amateurs’, which seems surprising to me given that it seems that none of them are trained in the way that Roberts, Burnham and others are. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    Most annoyingly, and this is a point you continually ignore, IBC never appeared to respond by the use of their database by the media or the US and UK governments to downplay the death toll in Iraq. If my data was being used to support something that I was strongly against, I would say so. IBC figures became ‘accepted’ pretty much at face value only after the L1 and especially L2 studies were published. As I have said several times, the western media, most of which were complicit as accessories in supporting the invasion based on lies and disinformation, were anxious to manage public percpetions by downplaying the death toll or by attributing most of the violence to Iraqis. This is when the IBC figures became the rule simply because their estimates were profoundly lower than those from L1, L2 and OBR. I was waiting for IBC to bitterly denounce abuse of their data by the war party but, as far as I can see, it never happened. Correct me if I am wrong. Instead, they spent more time trying (and failing IMO) to defend their figures which it must have been apparent to many anyway seriously underestimated the carnage.

    Robert has little in the way of defence against these points. As I have said before, I salute Media Lens for exposing western hypocrisy, as well as that of the IBC. They have done a great job.

  5. #5 Robert Shone
    November 5, 2010

    Jeff Harvey:

    Here is John Sloboda speaking in 2006:

    Yes, speaking in an interview. There are no “direct attacks” on L1 in any IBC report.

    This was also happening before the Media Lens furore.

    Let’s see how many examples you can provide to support that falsehood.

  6. #6 Wow
    November 5, 2010

    Way to avoid the point by closing your eyes, Kate…

  7. #7 Jeff Harvey
    November 5, 2010


    In the interview he specifically addresses the 98,000 estimate from L1 – and then makes a dumb remark about critics saying the the figure being like throwing a dart at a dart board, which is patently false, if one knows anything about statistics and confidence intervals.

    Moreover, where was your indignation over the media smears of Roberts, Burnham and others when they were desperately trying to downplay the death toll? I think IBC gets off lightly by comparison. And for the ‘nth’ time, please explain to me why you think IBC was silent when Bush, Blair and the corporate media were using their mortality figures to downplay the death toll, at least when juxtaposed with L1, L2 and OBR. No, instead of responding to those abusing their estimates to downplay the civilian toll, IBC were writing lengthy rebuttals of the much higher estimates measured in L1 and L2 and also in refuting criticisms from ML. Methinks their frustration was misplaced, and it was at this time that I began to be much more critical of IBC.

    Given that you avoid the most important comments by myself and others here, Robert, its clear that you have nix left to say. No wonder ML refuses to respond to you. They have bigger issues to address.

  8. #8 SteveK
    November 5, 2010

    Jeff Harvey, your posts here typically consist of you giving lectures to people about what they should and shouldn’t feel “indignation” or “rage” over. It’s very repetitive and usually not very on-topic. Meanwhile you consistently show no regard for facts. And why do you keep referring to the ORB poll as “OBR”? Can you not demonstrate at least a minimum amount of care over these matters of detail while you lecture people on what they must think?

  9. #9 Wow
    November 5, 2010

    Kate, can you stop with the sockpuppets.


  10. #10 Wow
    November 5, 2010


    > Typical arrogant elitist city slicker

    Actually, born in a rural, heavily agricultural town. Raised in another rural agribusiness town.


  11. #11 Donald Johnson
    November 6, 2010

    Of course it was an attack on L1, Robert. There was a context here. L1 was under heavy attack by defenders of the Iraq War and IBC comes out with a report that tries to establish that L1’s number (the 57,000 figure) was probably too high. And JoshD was arguing that case much more forcefully here and other places.

    “My “stand” is that I think you should get the facts right.”

    That’s a weirdly hostile and evasive response. I tried to see if we had some beliefs in common, but you won’t say, for some reason.

  12. #12 Robert Shone
    November 6, 2010

    Donald Johnson:

    Of course it was an attack on L1, Robert.

    Your assertions owe more to myth than to fact. I’ve searched every reference in it to L1 – there are no “attacks” on L1. The closest thing I could find to a so-called “attack” was the following:

    The ILCS survey is superior to the Lancet’s on sample size, geographical distribution of samples, and number of deaths recorded.

    So, IBC express a preference for ILCS, but they certainly don’t “attack” or dismiss L1. In fact they go out of their way to emphasise that L1’s findings are important and shouldn’t be dismissed (eg see abstract and page 6 – they also did this in their 2004 press release and 2005 report). As for the “57,000 figure”, here are the two references to it (excluding footnotes & appendix):

    But data from the Lancet study itself shows that only a third of 57,600 violent deaths were due to criminal activity, leaving 38,400 combat-related violent deaths. A later re-analysis of Lancet data by the Small Arms Survey placed this figure at 39,000.


    Of the 98,000 Lancet-estimated deaths applicable to the entire country outside Falluja, 57,600 were violent. Forty-three percent of the violent deaths were caused by US forces, 67 percent of them by air strikes.

    The first was made in the context of comparing L1 to ILCS; the second in a comparison of US-caused deaths between IBC and L1. Neither of these contexts contains anything remotely resembling an “attack” on L1.

    There was a context here. L1 was under heavy attack by defenders of the Iraq War…

    You can invoke “context” all you like, but it doesn’t change what’s in the report.

    You said earlier that your memory had “blended” two different reports – that this explained why your assertion about the 2005 IBC report was incorrect. I conclude from the above that your memory has blended fact and myth regarding the 2006 IBC report. Mostly myth, I think.

    Or perhaps, like the misinformed at Medialens, you saw some of the criticisms of misleading statements made by Les Roberts about L1, from outside L1, and formed the incorrect impression that these were “attacks” on L1.

    As Josh Dougherty commented in a Deltoid thread which discussed the above IBC report at length:

    You say that Lancet reports five times as many deaths as IBC. This is not true. Roberts’ own comparisons (excluding deaths from accidents or disease, which are the comparisons used in our own paper) show that the real difference is closer to three times. More generally, IBC is not “taking on the Lancet study” but various misinterpretations of it.

  13. #13 Jeff Harvey
    November 8, 2010


    Go jump in the lake.

    My posts were aimed at highlighting the apparent hypocrisy of IBC, which appeared to be much more critical of L1 and L2 but gave the war party a free pass when their own figures were (ab)used by the said war party to downplay the civilian toll in Iraq. And, if you understood even the basics of the PR industry going back to the time of Edward Bernays (ever heard of him?), then you’d understand that the main aim of PR has always been to “manage the outrage”. Propaganda with respect to the initial war, which targeted the civilian infratructure of Iraq, the subsequent sanctions, which left more than 500,000 dead in their wake, and lastly the Iraq invasion and destruction of the country, was always aimed at western public opinion, and not anyone else, certainly not public opinion in Iraq.

    As for ORB/OBR mistake, here are my humblest apologies for making such a profoundly important error.

  14. #14 Wow
    November 8, 2010

    > “My “stand” is that I think you should get the facts right.”

    > That’s a weirdly hostile and evasive response.

    Also rather hypocritical from someone who continues to avoid the facts of the death toll and IBC’s under-reporting bias.

    One would hope that someone demanding others get the facts right would first get their facts right or say they don’t know the facts.

  15. #15 Jeff Harvey
    November 9, 2010

    A new and comprehensive debunking of IBC estimates of the civilian toll in Iraq has been posted on the latest Media Lens alert. Its a great read.

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