ORB revises estimate of Iraqi deaths

ORB has revised their estimate of violent deaths as a result of the Iraq war (discussed earlier here). They write:

Further survey work undertaken by ORB, in association with its research partner IIACSS, confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003.

Following responses to ORB's earlier work, which was based on survey work undertaken in primarily urban locations, we have conducted almost 600 additional interviews in rural communities. By and large the results are in line with the 'urban results' and we now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000.

ORB Press release

Tables

My table of Iraqi deaths to date now looks like this:

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 1,100,000

Hat tip: Stephen Soldz.

Tags

More like this

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…
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 up to Oct 08. Survey Violent deaths Excess deaths ILCS 160,000 Lancet 1 350,000 510,000 IFHS 310,000 740,000…
Mark Goldblatt mounts an attack on the Lancet study: The JHBSPH study attempts to calculate the number of civilian deaths "above what would have occurred without conflict." I wonder, therefore, if the survey group was taking into account the effects of United Nations sanctions on Iraq prior the…
As my readers know, the reason why the Lancet study and the ILCS give different numbers for deaths in Iraq is because the studies measured different things over a different time periods. Of course, that fact isn't going to stop pro-war columnists from claiming that the ILCS refutes the Lancet…

Prediction: a comment thread of over 125 comments, the vast bulk of vitriol aimed at leftists, lib'rulls and other such mamby-pambies. Yet, the complaints about vitriol will come from the vitriol-spewers.

Note: not a "projection".

Best,

D

David Kane watch - predictions on when he appears?

Iraq has a population of about 28 million. So approximately one in 28 Iraqi's died violent deaths as a result of the war?

I'm curios who actually committed the killings, i.e. how the killings break down in terms of US military, insurgents, ordinary criminals, etc.

Now I know that the death toll is used to claim that starting the war was a bad idea. What is the predicted death toll in the five years from now going forward if the US stay in Iraq? What is the predicted death toll if we leave? Should these predictions be used to determine what to do next, or should we just leave, sorry for your trouble, and not worry about the consequences of that action? Seems to be what's being called for now from the left.

Can I blame future deaths in Iraq on the peaceniks if we pull out? Will there be a Lancet study of excess deaths due to our leaving the place to sink or swim right before an election? I'd like to know.

Yes, ben, because it's important to establish that when the pro-war right causes a catastrophe, the antiwar left receive the blame.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

The interview with the pollster is very revealing--the difficulties of doing this kind of work and the attitudes towards it on the part of the government and the insurgents are about what you'd expect. The government thinks it is pro-terrorist because people say bad things about the government and the insurgents think it is an attempt to gather information about them.

The interview is here--

http://www.opinion.co.uk/Documents/MRS%20story.pdf

Which brings back the issue of how people might have responded to the IFHS survey team, given that they told people they came from the government. Maybe you don't tell all you know under the circumstances.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

The interview with the pollster is very revealing--the difficulties of doing this kind of work and the attitudes towards it on the part of the government and the insurgents are about what you'd expect. The government thinks it is pro-terrorist because people say bad things about the government and the insurgents think it is an attempt to gather information about them.

Sounds about right to me.

And I'm not saying the anti-war left should receive the blame. However, we are in this mess, it's there, isn't going away, and what now is the anti-war left going to do about it? Nothing? Tough-bananas for the Iraqis? Make sure our enemies know we'll quit before they will if we ever go to war, for legitimate reasons or not?

What's it going to be?

Ben, it appears from table 2 that between 8% and 56% of deaths were caused by the coalition of the stupid, depending on what proportion of "other ordnance" and "gunshot wound" were coalition-related. One assumes that the 8% of dead caused by "aerial bombardment" are entirely America's fault (unless you want to blame Iran...?) That would amount to 100000 people right?

I do agree with you about the assessments which need to be made now about staying to fix things vs. leaving, and I don't think there are many in the anti-war crowd who differ with you on this. It's really hard to see how we are improving the situation there, though, or how it can get worse.

But I don't see why you need to ask the question of the anti-war left so vehemently. Are you trying to pretend that the US is staying in Iraq at the moment purely for the sake of the Iraqis? This question needs to be asked even more forcefully of the pro-war right, for whom generally the interests of a million dead Iraqis count only so much as they are a propaganda plus or minus.

Ben, I'd respond, but SG did a better job then I would have, so I'll just point to his post 9.

BTW, I was a lurker in the thread where your sister showed up and I'll be an interested reader when she gets her blog going.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

ben wrote,

What is the predicted death toll in the five years from now going forward if the US stay in Iraq? What is the predicted death toll if we leave? Should these predictions be used to determine what to do next, or should we just leave, sorry for your trouble, and not worry about the consequences of that action? Seems to be what's being called for now from the left.

As a member of the antiwar "left," though not necessarily a representative one, I do agree that the likelihood of the civil war in Iraq heating up increases if we (Americans) leave.

But that's not the issue we should be concerned with. Rather, the issue is this: what impact will various courses of action have on the long-term welfare of Iraqis?

Given that (1) the US cannot and will not occupy Iraq forever, and (2) history shows that it's doubtful the US will be successful in (what passes for) its nation-building project there, there's no reason to think that there's any net benefit to Iraqis over the long run from the US occupation.

And the costs are pretty high. (Though the funny thing about things like the occupation of Iraq and the US military budget is that right-wingers are the ones who are incapable of cost-benefit calculations.)

Best thing for the US to do is engage in a kind of "peaceful realism": our only strategic interest at stake is access to gulf oil reserves at fair market value, and the only real threat to that is either the rise of a single regional hegemon, or a widespread nasty war.

Thus, we should get out, and encourage local interested parties (e.g. Iran and Saudi Arabia) to come to terms regarding Iraq's future.

But our staying there isn't helping anything, ISTM.

Iraqi's have made it quite clear they want the US out (variation exits only in how to conduct the pullout), and that they believe the US military causes more violence than it prevents.

If you believe in democracy that settles the question of what the US should do about the catastrophe it created.

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=55&ItemID=14686

By Joe Emersberger (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

"Now I know that the death toll is used to claim that starting the war was a bad idea. What is the predicted death toll in the five years from now going forward if the US stay in Iraq? What is the predicted death toll if we leave? Should these predictions be used to determine what to do next, or should we just leave, sorry for your trouble, and not worry about the consequences of that action? Seems to be what's being called for now from the left."

Ben, we've been debating these issues long enough that you should know my position by now: invading was a mistake, leaving prematurely would also be a mistake.

But, it's a logical error to assume that things have been going less badly for the past several months that this trend will inevitably continue.

The Kurds are already trying to ban the Us-backed Awakening movement from Mosul- the key area of conflcit between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq.

Meanwhile much of the reduction in violence is attributable to the decision by Al Sadr to cease violence for six months. Al Sadr's basically lying low until the US leaves.

Oh and the US has to start reducing troop numbers soon unless it's going to extend deployments even more. We'll see if the surge's success lasts when US forces reduce to pre-surge levels.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ben, when are you going to get it through your head that the US and UK military are not in Iraq as 'peacekeepers' but as 'occupiers'. As you seem so eager to forget, the State Department and influential planners labeled the Middle East region as 'The greatest material prize in history' and a 'Source of stupendous strategic power' back in the 1940s. Controlling the region has always been an aim of US foreign policy, because, to quote planner George Kennan, it gives the US 'Veto power over the global economy'. But this fact seems to perpetually escape those defending the appalling current policy.

Moreover, I note, Ben, how often you tend to parrot current State Department nonsense i.e. if 'we' pull out, chaos will ensue. But what about the opinion of Iraqi civilians? Does that not matter? Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Iraqi people want the Americans and British to leave a.s.a.p. But to you and like thinkers, their views apparently don't count at all. What counts are the views of the occupiers. So much for democracy. I am sure, had a vote been taken during WWII, that the majority of Dutch, French, Belgian etc. etc. citizens under German occupation would have wanted the German army to leave immediately. But, as will all aspects of naked power, the views of the occupied never seem to matter. Ditto for Afghanistan during the Russian occupation.

Lastly, chaos works in the favor of the occupying army, because it provides a convenient excuse for them to stay. In my view, and clearly the view of many others, chaos is being cultivated in Iraq and Afghanistan because both countries are vital cogs in extending control over a region rich in oil and natural gas. Journalist Pepe Escobar sums it up when he says the US/UK model for the Middle East is 'Eternal chaos, no nation building and puppet governments'. The fact is that the US never intends to leave Iraq, hence the use of terms like 'an enduring relationship' over 'permanent occupation' (Paul Street has discussed this cunning use of English). By the way, this is nothing new, but has many historical precedents.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 29 Jan 2008 #permalink

However, we are in this mess, it's there, isn't going away, and what now is the anti-war left going to do about it? Nothing? Tough-bananas for the Iraqis? Make sure our enemies know we'll quit before they will if we ever go to war, for legitimate reasons or not?

What's it going to be?

I don't have a ready answer to your question. I don't pretend to know what a solution would look like.

HOWEVER, with any problem, one's ability to formulate a workable solution depends first and foremost on accurate data. And with this problem, "accurate data" includes "just how violent is the place, now, vs. before the invasion?".

Trying to formulate a solution based on an assumption that the place is only 1/30th as violent as it appears it might be (using Bush's "30,000 deaths" figure) isn't going to work.

I would personally be supportive of just about ANY plan based on a realistic assessment of the situation there today (it's far too late to worry about the spilt milk of the past, pre-invasion Iraq is distant history) and guided by the principle of making an honest effort to improve the situation in Iraq for the greatest number of her citizens.

If we left today, there'd be civil war. This is a no-brainer, as it's quite clear that there's civil war today, and the situation today is not nearly as constrained by our presence as the administration wants you to believe. Indeed, we may well be making it worse, because our presence bolsters the current unworkable scheme of government which would probably disappear overnight in our absence. It may be that getting the civil war over with, and the country split into three parts, might be the least bloody solution that's possible. Who knows? I don't.

But planning to stay there indefinitely, bolstering a government no one likes, unable to suppress violence to an acceptable level (if there is such a thing), absolutely no sign of acknowledging the horror that Iraqis are suffering ("30,000 dead", not even the 151K of the IHFS report) ... this is a recipe for a long-lingering bloodbath.

Dhogaza,

Normally I agree with most of what you say. But I just can't go along with this: "If we left today, there'd be civil war. This is a no-brainer".

Is it? The real problem is that we are always conditioend to see the world through the eyes of the aggressor. The victims of our aggression just don't have voices. They just have our leather boot on their heads and their faces shoved into the mud and are told that its being done for their own good. The current necessary and manufactured illusion is that the US and UK must stay in Iraq to provide security. In other words, that is their role. Forget the pretexts. Forget history. That's why US/UK forces are there now. As I said earlier, its utter nonsense.

This interview with Noam Chomsky sums up the current ethos:

http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20080123.htm

In other words, our society is littered with double standards. Standards we apply rigorously to others we rarely if ever apply to ourselves. The bottom line is this: In Iraq, we (meaning the occupiers) are the problem and not the solution. We may have short or non-existent memories, but the memories of the victims and recipients of western policies go back a lot longer. They remember. They also know what the current agenda of the US and UK are, even if our servile mainstream media paints a completely different picture. Take Iran. As Chomsky says, the US has been hammering that nation for more than half a century. We may not know or remember it, but they sure do.

So is there or will there be a civil war? I am sure that many of the senior western planners hope so, because it creates a pre-condition for the US/UK military to stay in Iraq indefinitely. Thus we are going to be fed with this line time and time again over the coming years. Otherwise, the overwhelming wishes of the Iraq population (ie. withdrawl of US/UK troops) might become a deafening roar. They want us out. ASAP. They know the real reason we are there, even as our governments and the echo chamber promulgate myths of our benevolent intent.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Jeff, it's amazing how Noam Chomsky manages to divine the intent and the thoughts of so many government officials. It's even more amazing that you can't seem to tell the difference between the US and Nazi Germany.

I know it's a cliche, and a right-wing cliche at that, but if you hate the US so much, why not move to a better place? One more in line with your views? Iran or North Korea come to mind.

yes Barton, it's a cliche. A tired and stupid one.

If things are going well, that shows the occupation is working and that we should stay. If things are going badly, that shows that Iraq is on the brink of civil war and we should stay.

Can anybody spot the problems with that "reasoning"? At this point, I'm completely at a loss as to what would constitute either "victory" or a valid reason for withdrawal according to the war's supporters.

It's even more amazing that you can't seem to tell the difference between the US and Nazi Germany.

Well, one used their vastly superior military forces to invade and occupy other countries on transparently false pretexts whilst claiming it was for their victims' benefit, and the other... did exactly the same. Perhaps you can explain the difference to me? (In the realm of geo-politics, that is, as I don't think anybody thinks that the US is running an industrialised extermination program similar to the "Final Solution". That's about the only real difference I can see any more.)

BPS, What is your feeble point? Most importantly, why the heck can't you ever see what its like to be at the receiving end of US foreign policy? The victims sure understand where the US is coming from. There are perhaps a million of them in Iraq (excluding sanctions, with which we can add another 1 million); there were 1-3 million in Viet Nam and the same total in Korea; 600,000 in the Phillipines (1899-1902), another 15,000 in Haiti 1918, 3,000 in Panama in 1989, hundreds of thousands across Latin America in the 1980s and on and on and on and on.

What really irks me is that you lump in critics of US foreign policy with 'hatred of the US'. By your numb-headed association, I suppose the many thousands of critics of US foreign policy who are Americans ought to leave too. You are effectiovely saying that dissent should not be tolerated and that the critics should shut up and keep silent as the US commits one international crime after another (aided and abetted by junior partners in Europe). And, like so many who can't argue with facts, you have to dig out the 'Why don't you go to Iran or North Korea' chestnut.

This is the same kind of twisted logic that the Nazis used during the 1930s to stifle internal dissent. By calling the opponents of the Nazi regime 'anti-German', they were able to pursue horrific policies.

What a crock. What utter hypocrisy. BPS, you are living in a fantasy world, expunging reality. The truth is that the real citizens of any country can love their country but hate what it does and thus try and work for progressive change. Given your blithe comment about Nazi Germany, its ironic that its you who seem to suggest that dissent is a crime. And you profess to be born again Christian? I suggest that you take a good, long hard look at the world, at the billions of 'have nots' and try to see things through their eyes. For once, anyway.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Well, Jeff, perhaps they'd all shake hands and go their own way in peace if we left.

I personally have no reason to believe this. The Kurds want Kurdistan back, and the central government in Iraq and the Turkish government, and their supporters (us), are the only things preventing it.

The Shi'ites and the Ba'aths aren't exactly friends, and aren't likely to be any time soon. Can they put differences aside and quit killing each other if we leave? If so, why can't they do it while we're there? Why aren't they co-operating on killing our troops, doing a Mao-Chiang "we'll fight each other after we kick the invader out" kinda truce for the time being, instead of concentrating on killing each other?

It seems a tad bit condescending to suggest that "we" are the problem, as though those in the middle east aren't capable of having problems, in particular ethnic problems, of their own.

Please. Iraq's only been held together by strongmen since its creation during Versaille (the modern version of the country). We kicked out the latest asshole, Saddam, and have left a vacuum of power and no clear path towards stability. Big sin, for sure. It was stupid of us to do so. The only workable alternative to Saddam was a put in puppet asshole dictator of our choosing (Chalabi was interviewing for the job, remember?), i.e. to pile immorality upon immorality.

But to imagine that somehow after we leave a nice, friendly lovefest would result is pretty damned naive.

I think leaving is the least painful path for the country, because the civil war would settle itself fairly quickly IMO. Either the country would split into three (which would leave Turkey wanting to occupy the Kurdish splinter, but that's another story), or a new undemocratic strongman would re-unify the country under his heel.

"Controlling the region has always been an aim of US foreign policy, because, to quote planner George Kennan, it gives the US 'Veto power over the global economy'. But this fact seems to perpetually escape those defending the appalling current policy."

Not exactly working that way in practice now is it?

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

"The Shi'ites and the Ba'aths aren't exactly friends, and aren't likely to be any time soon."

Quick factual correction: the term you're probably thinking of is Sunnis not "Ba'aths".

The Sunnis (20-25% of the population)were over-represented in the Ba'ath party (where they probably made up around 50% of the membership) but there were plenty of Shia and Kurdish Ba'athists too.

It just suits both those groups to pretend otherwise now.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Yes, I meant Sunnis, thanks.

Dhogaza,

I understand your points. When the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, a power struggle ensued amongst the Taliban and Nothern Alliance that led to utter carnage between 1990 and 1995. But should the Russians have stayed in Afghanistan longer? The point is that the Iraq war was about putting a US/Israel-friendly regime in place of the old regime (Saddam) who was no longer reliable to US interests. It was about controlling a region vital to US economic interests (although, as Ian has pointed out, it ain't exactly turned out that way, but then again this was forewarned by many opposed to the war). This goes back to the Carter doctrine - in fact even well before then. But the neocon 'crazies' (to quote Ray McGovern) who are responsible for this vile invasion and occupation never could have thought that in their worst nightmares there might be a Shia-dominated government in Iraq that would naturally ally itself with Iran and the Shia minority in the oil-rich parts of Saudi Arabia. But that is what they have, and this is also a major concern for US planners who had a Chalabi (Saddam 'lite') government in mind. It also might explain why the US does not intend to leave Iraq, regardless of wht the Iraq people want. But that should be the bottom line: what do the Iraqi people want, NOT what the occupiers want. And its pretty clear: they want the occupation to end, regardless of the short-term consequences, simply because (1) they know that the occupation is part of the problem, and (2) they know what the real agenda of the invasion was; NOT democracy building, NOT weapons of mass destruction, but the other reason that the media is loathe to discuss. If one spends some time perusing through some declassified planning documents from the 1950s and 1960s (as I have done) then it becomes clear what the agenda of the US and UK was and is. Sadly, there are those who still wish to cling to illusions of US 'good intentions' and 'benevolence', even though the facts are staring at them in the face.

At the end of the day, given the outcome of the Nuremberg trials, and the summary statement read by chief prosecutor Robert Jackson (as an historical precedent) the invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are not a 'mistake', an 'aberration', or an 'accident' but a vast crime; the 'supreme international crime' as it was then described.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Does this mean that David Kane's research is now clearly "outside the mainstream" of the science?

It does appear that their numbers are outliers.....

Normally I agree with most of what you say. But I just can't go along with this: "If we left today, there'd be civil war. This is a no-brainer".

Is it? The real problem is that we are always conditioend to see the world through the eyes of the aggressor.

Yes it is Jeff. See the article you are posting under? With the number of Iraqis killed and stuff? Them numbers be from the civil that's already going on.

So unless you wanted to explain how Iraq looks to you through the eyes of a Shia death squad member, this should be where you drop that premise. You're not here reading vigorous examinations of numbers killed in Iraq without being unaware of who's responsible for those numbers. It's just too big of a lie to float here, of all places.

In fact, I don't think even Chomsky has written enough misguided drivel for you to read, digest, look at Iraq and be unsure as to what's going to happen with that civil war when the world's only viable candidate for a peacekeeping force is removed.

What part of the ethnic cleansing party puzzle do you think is missing Jeff? I cant think of one. You?

What about just the civil war itself, which has seen a major decline in violence recently due to a number of factors, all of which get removed with the US troops. What are we thinking keeps that going? Promise rings?

Well, Jeff, I see nothing major to disagree with in your last post.

I certainly don't claim that our occupation isn't a real problem, that most Iraqis (except possibly the Kurds) want us out, and it was obvious to me that the reasons for invading were a sham before we did it, and never believed for a moment that Iraqis would welcome us afterwards.

I only argue with those that would claim that our occupation, rather than a much longer history, is responsible for the ethnic tensions that are driving the current civil war (and I believe that description is apt), or that our leaving would somehow relieve the tensions and the history that drive that internal conflict.

But the neocon 'crazies' (to quote Ray McGovern) who are responsible for this vile invasion and occupation never could have thought that in their worst nightmares there might be a Shia-dominated government in Iraq that would naturally ally itself with Iran and the Shia minority in the oil-rich parts of Saudi Arabia.

From all I've seen and heard, the naivete that led to the belief that Iraqis would welcome an american-led effort to build a western-friendly "democracy" was real.

Don't underestimate the inability of most Americans, including high-ranking ones in the government, to understand the world outside our borders.

The same idiots don't understand the internal changes that happened within the USSR and led to the rise of Gorbachev, attributing it all to our needless build-up of the military.

The same idiots don't understand Europe, that "freedom fries" are really Belgium, and "freedom toast" named after the American John French :)

Americans are amazingly myoptic as a general rule. If they can't understand the European countries of their forefathers, there's no hope that they'll understand the Middle East.

Especially when they grow up in Texas...

Cain, you, like all the rest of the apologists for this massive crime fall into the same tried-and-trusted trap: the Iraqis 'need us' to provide security. Therefore, we gotta stay. Strange, I am sure the Russians said the same thing while they were in Afghanistan. The Russian propaganda-ridden state media was rife with articles saying how the Russian troops had to stay to keep the peace. That they were 'liberators'. What's the difference? Because we are the 'good guys'? Based on what? Certainly not historical precedents. Oh, but then again you don't knwo any of them. So they can be dismissed.

The US forces as peacekeeping troops? Are you serious? Apparently you are. Apparently you believe that the invaders thought they'd be welcomed with open arms in Iraq (in spite of their wretched history with respect to Iraq, which is well known by the people in the country) and that when things got tough they'd stay out of some altrusitic and magnanimous gesture. This is a government (the Bush regime) that cocnsists of many of the same recycled people from the Reagan and Bush I administrations that cozied ip to Saddam Hussein, extended him loan guarantees and full diplomatic cover for his crimes (until he committed the cardinal sin and invaded Kuwait, thereby losing credibility as a 'reliable' tyrant). Now we are told that these same politicians suddenly care about the Iraqi people, for whom their own forces have killed tens of thousands. Gimme a break.

Most imporantly you totally ignore the wishes of the Iraqi people. They want the US forces out. To go. Leave. Go home. ASAP. Can they make their opinions any clearer?!?! And why is this irrelevant? They don't want to be occupied for heaven's sake! They know why the US and UK are there, even if you want to believe in tooth fairies and the like.

Moreover, like many defending the US position you are unable to counter a thing Chomsky said in the interview. Thus, you are reduced to calling it 'drivel'. Please enlighten me as to the inaccuracies?

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Is George W. Bush going to open a new front with Iran? He continues to posture regarding them. Iraq was supposed to prove American hegemony, of the Axis of Evil it was obviously the easiest to win.

P, your guess is as good as mine. The current administration appears to have no limits when it comes to crazy and illegal military adventurism. The National Security Strategy of 2002 - effectively a preventive war doctrine underlying a brazenly political and economic agenda - means this lot could do the unthinkable and attack Iran. If they do, then who knows what kind of madness this will unleash in the Middle East.

You are correct with respect to Iraq. The US knew that it was ostensibly defenseless but that it would be easy to manipulate intelligence to paint it as a threat to our very existence. Moreover, given its location and economic importance, an invasion was seen as being worth the trouble. Iran is a whole different ballgame, and as nutty as the Bush gang are, I am not too sure that they would risk creating a massive quagmire in the Middle East by attacking the country. But then again I wouldn't put anything by them.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Jeff Harvey posts:

[[What really irks me is that you lump in critics of US foreign policy with 'hatred of the US']]

Nope. I do no such thing. I was not talking about critics of US foreign policy, in general, at all. I am a critic of US foreign policy myself.

I was talking about you, and your equating the US with Nazi Germany. The comment about Korea is especially revealing. Do you really think we were pursuing Imperialist goals in the Korean War? Some of us have rather a different view of that, Comrade.

Alright, I'm convinced. Every American and other European or Asian foreigner in Iraq should leave tomorrow. Whatever happens after that, I don't care.

Iran is a whole different ballgame, and as nutty as the Bush gang are, I am not too sure that they would risk creating a massive quagmire in the Middle East by attacking the country. But then again I wouldn't put anything by them.

Too crazy. For one thing, they wouldn't get the congressional support they did for Iraq. For another, I'd assume that Iran was after "things go as plannedin Iraq" on the TODO list, and things didn't. Also the balance of power between State and DOD has been restored to some degree, and though Condie's not my favorite person (to put it mildly) she's not nearly as batshit crazy as Perle, Feith, and the other Office of Special Plans goons working for Rumsfeld at DOD.

Can they put differences aside and quit killing each other if we leave? If so, why can't they do it while we're there?

I don't think anybody is suggesting that there will be a country-wide outbreak of love, peace and puppies as soon as we leave. Yes, there will be a great deal of murderous unpleasantness and quite possibly a full-scale civil war, because we've spent the last 100 years deliberately stoking those differences. In fact, we're still stoking those differences, which is exactly why they aren't uniting against us. It's a classic imperialist strategy called "divide and conquer", and it's been popular since at least the days of Rome.

The point is that those differences cannot be resolved while the country is under foreign occupation. We've fucked them already, and no amount of continued fucking is going to restore their virginity.

I agree with Jeff Harvey on at least one point. If the Iraqi people do not want us there we should leave. I think a national referendum that asks this question should be forthcoming.

It should be made VERY clear, before the referendum, that we will abide by the results and make no claim that it is a prudent action.

The reasons for the US invasion can, and will, be debated for decades, but to stay against the wishes of the people of Iraq would clearly be tyranny.

To quote John Wilkes Booth and Crazy Joe DaVola

"Sic semper tyrannus."

Duncan says,

Yes, there will be a great deal of murderous unpleasantness and quite possibly a full-scale civil war, because we've spent the last 100 years deliberately stoking those differences. In fact, we're still stoking those differences, which is exactly why they aren't uniting against us. It's a classic imperialist strategy called "divide and conquer", and it's been popular since at least the days of Rome.

Oh get a freaking grip. It couldn't have anything to do with sectarian, ethnic, tribal and political antagonisms that go back hundreds, and even thousands, of years could it?

No, in your eyes those are just little pebbles in the shoes of the Iraqi people that evil western imperialists have fooled them into slaughtering themselves over so we can exploit these innocent and loving people for material wealth.

First America is compared to Nazi Germany and now imperial Rome. Talk about delusional hatred. I can understand rational and even bitter criticism for the policies of an administration that is politically counter to your own set of values, but this stuff verges on the comical.

I agree with Jeff Harvey on at least one point. If the Iraqi people do not want us there we should leave. I think a national referendum that asks this question should be forthcoming.

I'll agree with that.

Seems to me the British are responsible for a lot of the problems in the world, what with the arbitrary way they carved up their empire before hitting the exits. Pakistan/India, Iraq, and who knows where else. Between European imperialism (you know, the real kind) and slavery in America, a lot of bad has come out of both, and it's been dragging the world down ever since.

Lance posts:

[[I agree with Jeff Harvey on at least one point. If the Iraqi people do not want us there we should leave.]]

I agree.

I'm now agreeing with Jeff Harvey and with Lance at the same time. I expect, if I walk outside, that the sky will be green.

I mentioned this when you posted the table the last time, and nothing happened, so I'll say it again: A reason for differing numbers is that the death tolls cover different time frames, so the table should state what the time frames are. Lancet I, for example, is low not because of a conservative methodology but because it covered a shorter period of time.

Is that Kumbaya I hear in the background?

Well, Bart, it's not like it's blue, you know!

Oh get a freaking grip. It couldn't have anything to do with sectarian, ethnic, tribal and political antagonisms that go back hundreds, and even thousands, of years could it?

Hundreds is likely, since that's the timeframe for the split in Islam, which formed over the "now that Mohammed has died, who's on first?" question.

The West, though, gets the blame for drawing the artificial boundaries that define the countries as they exist today.

They were redrawn by England and France after WW I, as there were ex-German colonial possessions to be split up, and of course Turkey needed to be punished for her taking up with Germany, right?

No, in your eyes those are just little pebbles in the shoes of the Iraqi people that evil western imperialists have fooled them into slaughtering themselves over so we can exploit these innocent and loving people for material wealth.

Stripped of hyperbole, there's a bit of truth in your statement, as the West is far from blameless.

A phrase like the "Iraqi people" sorta ignores the fact that Kurds consider themselves to be Kurds, first, and Turkish, second. Oh, wait, you said "Iraqi" ... hmmm ... how does my statement apply? Why is "Kurdistan" a word in the English language? Exercises for the reader.

Seems to me the British are responsible for a lot of the problems in the world, what with the arbitrary way they carved up their empire before hitting the exits.

It's unfair to tag the Brits by themselves with this particular carving.

It may please you to learn that France is at least as much to blame, perhaps more so, for the worst bits of Versailles, including the carving up of the Middle East.

However, I'd say it's understandable, as she suffered horribly, more horribly than the British (who suffered more horribly than our country has in any war other than our Civil War), and was out for revenge against a very, very old enemy.

It's easy to write off Versailles and the carving up of the Middle East as being merely a product of cynical Western Imperialism. But the British phrase "The Lost Generation" gives you some idea of the impact of WW I on the major European participants.

Between European imperialism (you know, the real kind)

We should call the American kind ... what ... hmmm ... at the moment "Republicanism" would fit (GOPism for short).

(that's a joke, dude)

We should call the American kind ... what ... hmmm ... at the moment "Republicanism" would fit (GOPism for short).

Whatever you call it, I don't think it's fair to call it "imperialism," since it seems to me that it is not empire building.

Imperialism: the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

Last I checked, we want Iraqis to run their own country, once they're capable. This begs the question of what if they're never capable? There are plenty of other countries not capable of good self government (e.g. Zimbabwe, yet another former British colony), and yet they are more or less left alone.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Iraq? Well, we pour a lot of resources into that country and we get less than nothing out, so some empire.

That little dispute over the rightful heir to the Islamic hierarchy goes back well over a thousand years, to the disappearance of the twelfth Imam in 931AD to be exact. Maybe the Mahdi will appear (or re-appear based on your particular religious delusion) and clear it all up to the satisfaction of all parties, but I wouldn't bet on it. Oh, and I wouldn't blame "W" for the blood that continues to be spilled over the matter either.

Also the "countries" that existed prior to the Brits divvying the place up were little more than tribal fiefdoms ruled by tyrannical feudal lords. Their loss is hardly a lamentable event in the history of the region, but such is the jaded view through the revisionist lens of political bias.

This is the same sort of myopia that portrays the pre-Columbian Americas as some sort of eco-utopian paradise peopled by peace loving altruists living in perfect harmony.

Their loss is hardly a lamentable event in the history of the region, but such is the jaded view through the revisionist lens of political bias.

So you're suggesting that Churchill, writing at the time of Versailles, was a "revisionist"?

A bit early for being a revisionist, since he wrote before the treaty was solidified and ratified by the countries involved.

Maybe it's just me, but I could swear that "revisionism" has to do with revising PAST history, not making cogent points about current events.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Oh, and I wouldn't blame "W" for the blood that continues to be spilled over the matter either.

If you'd pay attention, surely you'd see that I don't blame "W" for it.

I do, however, blame "W" for overturning the dictator that kept it in check in Iraq, without bothering to think ahead to devise a solution that would re-establish stability in the country after he invaded the country on false premises.

Also the "countries" that existed prior to the Brits divvying the place up

It wasn't just the Brits, as I took great pains to point out above. If you don't know this much, you don't know shit.

were little more than tribal fiefdoms ruled by tyrannical feudal lords. Their loss is hardly a lamentable event in the history of the region

Tell that to modern Europeans, most of whom live in countries originally ruled by feudal lords, which slowly matured into the Western Democracies we see today.

It's a bit condescending to you to suggest that being conquered by European powers caused a loss "hardly lamentable in the history of the region".

But perhaps you yearn for a return to the days of the Ottoman Empire? After all, the loss of those European fiefdoms was no big deal, right?

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~gov46/ottoman-empire-1580.gif

dhogaza,

My point which you either don't understand or refuse to acknowledge, is simply that people have a tendency to overstate the virtues of previous regimes when those regimes are toppled by political agents which they disdain.

If you review my posts you will see that I did not agree with the decision to go to war with Iraq the first time, over Kuwait, let alone the second.

That said I certainly don't agree with the idea that the US seeks to build an empire or that the people of Iraq were better off looking forward to a future under Sadam and sons.

The die is cast as far as invasions and occupations are concerned. I would hope that all reasonable people would hope that dynamics can be put in place that will lead to democratic self-determination in Iraq. It has been pointed out by Jeff Harvey, and others, that it is the responsibility of the occupier to provide security for the conquered country.

Now we have to decide if by security we mean abandonment to an inevitable fratricidal conflict or some more positive outcome. In light of recent success in at least calming the place down I remain hopeful that the parties involved may take the opportunity to find a peaceful and prosperous solution to their conflict.

That said, I'm all for getting the hell out if they think that's what's best for them. I'm not interested in forcing long standing enemies to reconcile against their wishes. Hey, if they're up for an all out bloodbath to settle old scores as their preferred remedy to the situation I say lat them kill each other and have Allah sort them out.

My point which you either don't understand or refuse to acknowledge, is simply that people have a tendency to overstate the virtues of previous regimes when those regimes are toppled by political agents which they disdain.

The point isn't whether or not you think they were virtuous, the point is on what grounds do you, a westerner, an outsider, get to decide for them that

Their loss is hardly a lamentable event in the history of the region.

Saudi Arabia is a "tribal fiefdom ruled by tyrannical feudal lords". It looks like it's possible, at least, that the West choose that destroying some fiefdoms was virtuous, while maintaining others was also virtuous. Probably nothing to do with oil and the British Navy's switch from coal to oil a hundred or so years ago, right?

A million people. Sweet Jesus.

Hope something good comes out of this Charlie Foxtrot.

Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | January 29, 2008 1:55 PM

Ya, I agree! It's easy to throw a number around, but the amount of human suffering involved with that number is, very sad to say, astronomical!
Dave Briggs :~)

"The comment about Korea is especially revealing. Do you really think we were pursuing Imperialist goals in the Korean War?"

To some extent, yeah. We were propping up our fascist dictator against their Stalinist one. Just because the North Koreans were under a Stalinist dictator doesn't mean our goals were noble. Often both sides in a war are bad.

Also, one can defend the US role in Korea to some limited degree(stopping a North Korean takeover)and still think the US was guilty of massive war crimes. Curtis LeMay once said that US bombing killed over a million civilians--I don't have time to find the citation. The bombing campaign in Korea is one of the forgotten parts of that war.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

dhogaza,

I think we actually agree on this one, we're just so used to verbally sparring that we keep taking shots at each other.

I think the Saudi regime is a despicable totalitarian monarchy with open ties to Wahhabist terrorists. I agree that it is reprehensible that the US, and other western countries, have looked the other way so long as the house of Saud is willing to play ball and keep the oil flowing.

You know my opinion on man made climate change, but I agree that ending the US's addiction to foreign oil would be a very good thing, no matter the ostensible reason.

It completely undermines our credibility in the Arab world, among other places, that we have a double standard for human rights when the offending parties are feeding our oil habit.

The point isn't whether or not you think they were virtuous, the point is on what grounds do you, a westerner, an outsider, get to decide for them that.

The same grounds that they, as non-Westerners, get to decide that we are a bunch of infidels.

"From all I've seen and heard, the naivete that led to the belief that Iraqis would welcome an american-led effort to build a western-friendly "democracy" was real."

Iraqis (and Egyptians, Saudis etc) probably would welcome "an american-led effort to build a western-friendly "democracy"".

Provided it didn't involve bombing the crap out of their country, destroying their public institutions, actively encouraging looting on a massive scale; appointing cronies of the former dictator to oversee the introduction of said "democracy" and allowing thousands of mercenaries to drive aroudn under minimal supervision killing at will.

You could, for example, try threatening to suspend part of Egypt's massive US foreign aid unless the next elections are free and fair.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

"Oh get a freaking grip. It couldn't have anything to do with sectarian, ethnic, tribal and political antagonisms that go back hundreds, and even thousands, of years could it?"
- Lance

You know I keep hearing how the kurds and the Arabs and the Shia and the Sunni have been killing each other at every opportunity for centuries.

People like Lance state it with the greatest confidence.

Then I ask them to cite specific examples and they usually can;t.

Becuase it's not a matter of actual fact it's just something they "know".

Funny isn't it how this psychotic savage bloodlust didn't boil over with the end of Ottoman rule; or the uprising against the British in the 192o's; or the British coup against the pro-German Iraqi regime during World WAr II; or the military coup of the 1950's or the Ba'athist coups of the 70's and 80's or during the Iran-Iraq War (despite the willingness of a few Shia to side with Iran) or the Gulf War or the post-war Shia and Kurdish uprisings.

But I'm sure those are all exceptions.

The reality is that Iraqis are all insane murderous beasts who can only be kept at bay by the boot of a tyrant on their throat - like the Irish.

Isn't that right, Lance?

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

"Oh get a freaking grip. It couldn't have anything to do with sectarian, ethnic, tribal and political antagonisms that go back hundreds, and even thousands, of years could it?"
- Lance

You know I keep hearing how the kurds and the Arabs and the Shia and the Sunni have been killing each other at every opportunity for centuries.

People like Lance state it with the greatest confidence.

Then I ask them to cite specific examples and they usually can;t.

Becuase it's not a matter of actual fact it's just something they "know".

Funny isn't it how this psychotic savage bloodlust didn't boil over with the end of Ottoman rule; or the uprising against the British in the 192o's; or the British coup against the pro-German Iraqi regime during World WAr II; or the military coup of the 1950's or the Ba'athist coups of the 70's and 80's or during the Iran-Iraq War (despite the willingness of a few Shia to side with Iran) or the Gulf War or the post-war Shia and Kurdish uprisings.

But I'm sure those are all exceptions.

The reality is that Iraqis are all insane murderous beasts who can only be kept at bay by the boot of a tyrant on their throat - like the Irish.

Isn't that right, Lance?

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

"Also the "countries" that existed prior to the Brits divvying the place up were little more than tribal fiefdoms ruled by tyrannical feudal lords."

More ahistorical nonsense.

Iraq prior to World War I was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Those whose knowledge of the Ottomans extends past "They were were Muslims and therefore evil".

Would know that the Empire extended full civil rights, legal equality and religious freedom to all it's citizens in 1876 - well before the British, for example, got around to extending such rights to its Irish citizens.

Sure they converted to a Constitutional monarchy in 1876. (Which was later suspended and then restored in 1908.)

But they were Muslim and therefore evil remember? Who cares if they were far more democratic than Germany or, for that matter, allied powers such as Serbia and Russia.

That's why in the name of peace, freedom and democracy Britain and France carved up the Arab world between themselves and replaced the local self-governing elected Millets with puppet kings who did such a great job of delivering on that peace, freedom and democracy.

Note: the Ottoman Empire was very far from perfect - but I'm sure its imperfections were all down to the insane subhuman nature of its Muslims. It couldn't have had anything to do with a century and a half of unremitting aggression on the part of Russia, France, Italy, Great Britain, Austria and the Balkan states. Those Christian powers were, of course, just recapturing land that had been conquered by those horrible aggressive Muslims - like England invaded Egypt.

Remember, folks - Muslims are innately savage and inferior and the source of all evil in the world.

Keep telling yourself that and you can avoid all sorts of intellectual pain.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ben: "Well, we pour a lot of resources into that country and we get less than nothing out, so some empire."

Why do you think Saudi Arabian kicks back about $20 billion a year in oil revenue to buy US weapons?

The British government never made a cent out of India directly. But thanks to laws which made it illegal for Indians to manufacture even the simplest items (like cloth and sandals) and imposed massive tariffs on non-British imports of those items, British manufacturers were able to make billions out of their monopolies there.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

"The point isn't whether or not you think they were virtuous, the point is on what grounds do you, a westerner, an outsider, get to decide for them that.

The same grounds that they, as non-Westerners, get to decide that we are a bunch of infidels. "

Actually you can decide whatever you like, the question is whether you're entitled to act on that decision.

Nonwesterners who do so are called terrorists.

What does that make westerners who do so?

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Hopefully catastrophic geologic activity won't result, but I'm on the same page with most on this comment thread, including Ben and Lance (sacre bleu!) If we're sincere about "democracy" in Iraq, we should leave.

IMHO, we're not sincere, and we're staying. Resource wars and all that.

Best,

D

Dano,

Thanks for aying what it probably would have taken me pages to say. Resource wars and all that. Bingo. The US is staying in Iraq. Forget the wishes of the Iraq people. They are to be ignored. Iraq is a prize that and if one bothered to read planning documents from the Eisenhower-Kenneday-Johnson-Nixon era they'd realize that all of the other pretexts are crap.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ian,

Great posts. All of them.

Robert Fisk briefly describes the history of Iraq and the Middle East in his monumental book, 'The Great War for Civilization'. I doubt that many of those defending US policy have heard of the book, let alone read it. They appear to prefer the grade-school texts coming out of the State Department, claiming that the region consisted of nothing more than a bunch of savage tribes killing one another, until we (the civilized) intervened with our humanitarian bombs. Again, its all down to the American creed which unambiguously promotes the ideas of the west (and especially the US) have an exceptional belief in freedom, democracy and human rights. The volumes of evidence shredding this myth are to be ignored. Now, what we are supposed to believe in Iraq is what Rudyard Kipling referred to as 'White man's burden', that 'we' are on a civilizing mission, but that many of the recipients of our noble 'gift' are apparently too depraved to appreciate it. And so on.

I am not wasting my breath any more on this kindergarten level of analysis and understanding.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ian Gould posts, naively, about the Ottoman Empire:

[[Would know that the Empire extended full civil rights, legal equality and religious freedom to all it's citizens in 1876 - well before the British, for example, got around to extending such rights to its Irish citizens.]]

Tell it to the Armenians.

Ian Gould posts:

[[Nonwesterners who do so are called terrorists.
What does that make westerners who do so?
]]

The old "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" lie.

Terrorists are those who deliberately and preferentially target civilians. Period.

"Terrorists are those who deliberately and preferentially target civilians. Period."

No, terrorists are those who seek to use terror as a political or military weapon.

Does the phrase "shock and awe" ring a bell?

"Tell it to the Armenians."

Tell it to the Azeris.

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

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Barton,

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The record or British and American foreign policy is pretty abyssmal too. In fact, very, very abyssmal. Mark Curtis's 'Web of Deceit' and Bill Blum's 'Rogue State' detail many of the horrors perpetrated since 1945 by the British and American governments respectively.

Moreover, the US has had a peculiar habit of supporting terrorists when it has suited their political agenda - the Contras being an apt example. These butchers - whom Reagan referred to as 'The moral equivalent of our founding fathers - had no support among the general Nicaraguan population but slaughtered with impunity. Greg Grandin gives some of the more sordid deatils in his excellent book, 'Empire's Workshop'. In it, he explains how US military personnel in Central America 'advised' the local terrorist gangs to 'go primitive'. No more details are necessary.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ian Gould,

So the Ottoman Empire was a pluralistic utopia huh? Bart beat me to the punch with that little Armenian issue. Oh and how did the Ottoman Turks get that empire? I'm sure you'll tell us it was by open democratic referendum right? Do you know what the word ghazi means?

They were such enlightened rulers that guys like Vlad the Impaler seemed like reasonable alternatives to the locals.

You are so eager to bash western civilization, in any configuration, that you completely ignored the fact that I said we should allow the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny.

Also your assault on some imaginary "Muslim = evil" straw man surely can't be aimed at me. I am not a Christian and think all religious belief is foolish and potentially dangerous. But, if you don't see radical Islam as a threat to the world community you are seriously delusional.

Hey, Lance! Now you're getting somewhere. You said, "We should allow the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny".

You know, you are absolutely right. But you know something else? This doesn't fit in with the current strategy of planners in Washington DC. And it never did. Its been said a million times but its worth repeating that the US has a history of supporting despots who in turn support US economic interests. The US is addicted to oil as I think it was you who made this comment yesterday, but its more than that. Its about CONTROLLING the oil. The US can get oil on the market. That's no problem. But it wants to have its hand on the tap, on the spigot. Do that and you have the 'critical leverage' that Brezinski and Kennan talked about. And this explans pretty much why the US routinely ignores the opinions of the Iraq majority who want the occupation to end. It can't end. Not if the US wants its hand on the spigot. Hence why the permanent occupation is being discussed in terms of an 'enduring relationship' between the US and Iraq; also why the US Embassy in Baghdad is going to be the world's largest.

As for Radical Islam, I also agree with you. But there are ways of defusing radical Islam. The current Bush strategy isn't it. Nor was the strategy of previous incumbents. Its been known for quite some time since the now infamous State Department report of 1958 (commissioned by Eisenhower and Dulles) that the reason that the Islamic World hates the US has nothing to do with Bush's nonsensical 'They hate our freedom' line. As the State Department report made clear, it is because they hate US policies of suppressing Arab nationalism, propping up client regimes, and of trying to control their resources. Even the monied Muslims who hate Bin Laden will tell you this. So what has changed since 1959? Nothing. Nothing at all.

I also wouldn't ignore world public opinion, which ranks the US as the biggest threat to world peace and stability by quite a wide margin. In fact, the ratio of first to second isn't even close. This should tell you something. Again, it has got nothing to do with hating the freedom enjoyed by US citizens but about hating US foreign policies. If you want to call this 'bashing western civilization' so be it. But in reality it is about accountability. Many defenders of US and UK policies should not ignore public opinion in other parts of the world, because it is based on the results of those policies. The voices of those at the receiving end of the club should matter too, shouldn't they?

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Hi Jeff,

I largely agree with everything you said in your above post.
I guess the problem is if the US were to end all foreign interventionist military actions, both direct and indirect, what would be the end result?

I am called naive, by some, when I suggest that the US should pull troops out of all foreign bases and cease military funding assistance to various parties. Of course the prospects for doing that anytime soon are remote, but realistically what would be the result?

Would other parties fill the void? China and Russia come to mind. Would the world be a better or worse place if one of these powers expanded its military influence to replace that of the US?

WWI and WWII dragged the US into conflicts that were largely the result of the military actions of other parties. I think the US strategy since WWII has been to be pro-active rather than reactive. I'm not saying I agree with this strategy. In fact I tend to think we should mind our own business unless directly attacked.

I notice I haven't heard you complain about the US role in wresting Kosovo from Serbian control and the thousands of US troops still stationed in that far away land. Should we have let Slobodan Milosevic continue his genocidal reign? Just wondering.

If you approve of this action how do you justify it? Who chooses which foreign land to invade and occupy and why? I'm not trying to be sarcastic just asking an important question.

You seem to see a nefarious corporate hand in all past and present US military actions. I tend to see well meaning causes followed by the law of unintended consequences (blow back). I think we both agree that such situations are better avoided all together.

"So the Ottoman Empire was a pluralistic utopia huh?"
No and I never said it was. I did say and will continue to maintain that it was more tolerant and democratic than it's successor states in the Arab world.

"Bart beat me to the punch with that little Armenian issue."

Well yes but "Bart" has the sort-of excuse of being a religious nut who is incapable of recognising that the Armenian genocide was just the worst of a series of atrocities carried out by several different nationalities in the region at that time.

Ever heard of the Greek ethnic cleansing of Salonika?

didn't think so.

"Oh and how did the Ottoman Turks get that empire?"

Much the same way that the British, French, Russians et al got theirs.

Kinda like the way the US secured actual possession of the Indian land they "acquired" via the Louisiana Purchase.

But whereas you and "Bart" will doubtless scream blue murder if it's suggested that the religious rationalisations for their activities by the British etc say anything about Christianity you'll happy blame the activities of the Turkish imperialists on Islam.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

"You are so eager to bash western civilization, in any configuration, that you completely ignored the fact that I said we should allow the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny."

Or in less coded words - "Ah them rag-heads just want to kill each other. Let's let them."

Suggesting that democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights are universal not western values isn't "bashing western civilisation" - unless of course you believe that that values are unique to western (i.e. white) civilisation.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

"But, if you don't see radical Islam as a threat to the world community you are seriously delusional."

No, thinking that a force of around 100,000 disorganised militia hiding in caves pose "a threat to the world community"
is delusional.

I see to that you managed to dodge my request for examples of those endless wars and atrocities the Iraqis have been committing on each over the last thousand years.

Just because your bigotry and Islamophobia is based on atheism and American exceptionalism rather than Christianity doesn't make it any less objectionable.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Before the Iraq War there was a naive, unrealistic, solipsistic, Panglossian view that the US would be "greeted as liberators."

Ten minutes of hard thought and even the most perfunctory knowledge of the history of the region would have revealed that that belief was nonsense.

Unfortunately that belief has been replaced by the equally unrealistic notion that a US withdrawal will make everything all right again.

That delusional ideologues like Lance believe this is unsurprising. (Actually Lance is honest enough to admit he thinks the killing will continue and may well escalate - he just doesn't care. It's their "destiny".)

what's more unfortunate is that people like Jeff Harvey but this same line of nonsense. (Jeff thinks the killing will stop. This makes him less malign than Lance but less realistic.)

I take it everyone hear is familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's obedience experiments.

Take any group of people, divide them along ethnic, religious or political lines and you can manipulate them into killing each other. It happened in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia; it happened in ulster; in Rwanda; in el Salvador and Nicaragua; in Bosnia and Lebanon. Hell it happened in Civil War Era America.

This is not a Muslim or Iraqi trait - it's a human trait.

Believing that an immediate US withdrawal won't lead to increased violence is as delusional as believing that that violence probably won't spread beyond Iraq's borders.

Invading Iraq was a crime and a mistake.

Handing power to extremist Iranian-backed Shia religious fanatics was a crime and a mistake.

Alienating the Sunnis through a discriminatory "deBa'athification" policy was a crime and a mistake.

Failing to maintain public order after the invasion by withholding sufficient troops was a crime and a mistake.

Allowing Government death squads to operate unrestrained for the better part of two years was a crime and a mistake.

Premature desertion of the Iraqis would be a crime and a mistake.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Terrorists are those who deliberately and preferentially target civilians. Period.

I'll agree with the "deliberately", but not with the "preferentially". I think most people normally seen as terrorists (9/11 attackers etc.) would prefer to hit military targets, but opt for civilians simply because it is easier.

So let's see.

Pre-war, Lance supported the invasion. People who disagreed with him were, doubtless, anti-American freedom-haters.

After the war, Lance initially supported the occupation. People who disagreed with him were, doubtless, anti-American freedom-haters.

Now Lance has decided the occupation is bad and should end. People who disagree with him are...Well you get the pattern.

If the withdrawal goes badly awry and, for example, Iraqi Shia militants provoke a major uprising in the Shia-majority eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia and the US decides to send troops to protect its oil supply, people who disagree with Lance's support for this action will be...

I guess the underlying reasoning such as it is is that Lance loves America and loves freedom and therefore people who disagree with him hate America and hate freedom.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ian, you are wrong when you say this: Jeff thinks the killing will stop. This makes him less malign than Lance but less realistic.

Your posts are thoughtful and I agree with most of them. But what I am saying is that you appear to have fallen into the trap of thinking that the occupation is the solution and not the problem to the inter-tribal rivalries in Iraq. If you read the links I put up the other day, it becomes clear that a large majority of the Iraqi people see the occupation as the problem and that much of the ethnic strife comes from that. Its an undeniable truth that much of the Iraqi anger is aimed at the occupiers. This has not changed.

I also believe that violence will continue after the occupation ends, but then again, the US and UK forces are not in Iraq as peacekeepers. Its amazing how canny the corporate media have been at spinning this myth after all of the other sordid pretexts were proven to be lies. The US considers Iraq a major 'prize' and its intends to stay there indefintely, no matter what the security situation on the ground is. You should read Pepe Escobar's take on this.

What has also been cunning by the defenders of the aggression and subsequent occupation is that they've somehow managed to twist the abhorent statistics of the death of Iraq civilians into a 'They're so depraved that they've been killing themselves' mantra. The US role has been trivialized. In other words, the death toll inflicted by US/UK cluster bombs, depleted uranium and 'shock and awe' is being treated as small, when as Lancet II argued it probably accounted for 200,000-250,000 of the 655,000 deaths in Iraq by November of 2006. This is mass slaughter by anyone's calculation, and as I said yesterday those at the receiving end of the club don't forget as easily as we do in our warm living rooms.

Finally, I will repeat this until I am blue in the face, but the IRAQ PEOPLE WANT THE OCCUPATION TO END. BY AN OVERWHELMING MARGIN. They know what risks and costs this entails, but if that is their wish, and it is, then that should be the bottom line. The views of the aggressors and occupiers should not matter. Moreover, considering the huge profits that have been made because of the invasion by many corporations based in the war party nations, it seems to me that the other alterior motives to continued occupatiuon have not been properly aired. This is also discussed in the links I attached two days ago.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Ian Gould posts, in his usual charming manner:

[[Well yes but "Bart" has the sort-of excuse of being a religious nut who is incapable of recognising that the Armenian genocide was just the worst of a series of atrocities carried out by several different nationalities in the region at that time.]]

Right. They did it too! Good logic there, Ian. The excuse of a six-year-old.

Barton, I think his point is that the Ottoman Empire was no worse than any other great power of the time.

Of course there's just a hint of a flame war going on in this thread, so it's difficult to stick to the substance.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 01 Feb 2008 #permalink

I know what his point was. I think his point was wrong. False. Incorrect. No other great power at the time eliminated 2 million people in an effort to wipe out an ethnic group.

"...the US role has been trivialized. In other words, the death toll inflicted by ... depleted uranium ... is being treated as small"

How is this inappropriate?
You are talking about deaths estimated from survey results. Do all the projections you want, kook, those DU deaths are still coming up zero.

dhogaza said:

From all I've seen and heard, the naivete that led to the belief that Iraqis would welcome an american-led effort to build a western-friendly "democracy" was real. Don't underestimate the inability of most Americans including high-ranking ones in the government, to understand the world outside our borders.

I'll buy the first part about the naivte of most Americans (and the resulting belief that the actions of their government are magnanimous and admirable when it comes to dealing with other countries) but I have my doubts on the second part: "including high-ranking ones in the government".

Here's how I would word the second part:

Don't misunderestimate (warning: joke) the ability of high ranking American leaders to both understand the world outside our borders and to support actions and regimes that are most certainly not "democratic" -- indeed that are downright brutal: Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, Noriega in Panama, Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein (in the 80's), etc.

How many really believe neocon Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of President Bush's Iraq policy, does not understand the world outside the US? Raise your mouse finger. The guy has a bachelors from Cornell (physics), a PhD from U Chicago (political Science) and was Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins U. He understands the world all right.

How about Henry Kissinger, former Harvard prof (Political science) and Secretary of Sate during Nixon's carpet bombing campaign in Cambodia -- a campaign that killed hundreds of thousands and set up the conditions that allowed the Khmer Rouge regime to ascend to power during the Vietnam war? Was Kissinger simply naive at the time?

I have no doubt that the average American (my countryman) is ignorant and naive about the world around him -- the very attributes that make him/her susceptible to manipulation by our leaders.

But when it comes to those leaders, I simply don't buy the naivte argument. Our leaders may not want or choose to believe what they are told by the CIA and others in the know within our government, but that is quite different from being ignorant or naive.

JB,

You are totally correct. These people knew exactly what they were doing. What is truly frightening is that these people were on the political fringe before George W. Bush brought them in from the cold. One read of Paul Wolfowitz's 'Defense Planning Guidance' (1992) should send shivers down anyone's spine. It is a blueprint for US economic and military expansion and domination. Perusing through later pieces by the same people (e.g. 'A Clean Break: New Strategies for Securing the Realm; Project for a New American Century etc.) and a pretty clear picture emerges. And it ain't pretty.

As for Heto's blissfully ignorant and 'kooky' comment (to return the compliment), I wasn't referring to the DU. I was referring to the munition itself. The Lancet study of 2006 estimated (I think it was) that 37% of those killed in Iraq were killed by US airstrikes and artillery. This equates to about 200-250 thousand dead. Hardly a trivial total.

However, before you write off the deleterious effects of DU on human health, you ought to read transcripts from Doug Rokke. Rokke was a health physicist responsible for cleaning up depleted uranium after the Gulf War and his comments don't blend with the 'its harmless' story.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-8PlJVhogs

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 01 Feb 2008 #permalink

Whoa! The press release says they used "112 unique sampling points" Doesn't that very strongly imply that it's a cluster survey? But the margin of error that they claim is only appropriate if each interview is an individual random sample.

Ian Gould,

The straw men you have attacked bear so little resemblance to my actual views that I see no reason to comment on your assault other than to point out the incivility of its tone and content.

Perhaps most reprehensible is your claim that I am a "bigot" and an "Islamophobe". My Ethiopian wife and her Muslim family members would find these insults rather amusing.

You are totally correct. These people knew exactly what they were doing.

I don't buy it. This country has an incredible history of naivete regarding the world outside our borders, at the very highest levels.

I really do think they're that stupid. Being stupid doesn't mean they're not evil, too (I actually think they are), but being evil doesn't require you to know WTF you're doing, either.

"I know what his point was. I think his point was wrong. False. Incorrect. No other great power at the time eliminated 2 million people in an effort to wipe out an ethnic group."

The Germans wiped out about 2/3 of the Herero, I think. There were fewer than 100,000 of them, so the absolute number is smaller.

The British didn't intend to commit genocide when they presided over the deaths of many millions of Indians in famines--the people in charge just thought it was more important to stick to their economic policies than to prevent people from dying.

The French caused the deaths of a large fraction of the Algerian population when they conquered it in the 19th century (I can't find my copy of Alistair Horne's book "A Savage War of Peace", where he gives the figure in passing.)

Leopold II was just a private individual, but he caused the death of maybe 10 million Congolese.

The US committed acts bordering on genocide against some Native American tribes, though the numbers are much smaller.

So anyway, I don't see a big moral distinction here. Maybe you meant great powers at the precise moment at which the Armenian genocide occurred, and the crimes I mentioned were 10-70 years earlier. As for the crimes themselves, arguing that one is worse than another seems to me much like the useless arguments people get into regarding whether Hitler was worse than Stalin.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 01 Feb 2008 #permalink

dhogaza

This country has an incredible history of naivete regarding the world outside our borders, at the very highest levels.
I really do think they're that stupid.

One can be naive without being stupid -- and one can be "incompetent" without being naive.

In the case of Iraq, I don't believe Wolfowitz was either naive OR stupid. Whether he was incompetent is debatable.

At any rate, democracy was almost certainly not his goal in invading Iraq. That goal was to oust Saddam, whom he perceived as a "threat to stability in the Middle east" -- code for "threat to oil flow (and to Israel)".

And whether he was naive about the probable repercussions of his actions (ie, a very large number of Iraqi deaths) is largely irrelevant, at any rate.

What led to the death of countless Iraqis was not due so much to naivte on the part of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and others, as it was to their utter indifference, summed up beautifully by Rumsfeld when he said about the looting in Baghdad: "Stuff happens".

If these people had really given a damn what happened to the Iraqi people, they would have had a detailed plan for security and reconstruction in place BEFORE they ever invaded. They did not, and they did not.

Will Mclean (#85) makes a very good point regarding the margin of error calculation. With 112 "unique sampling points", the margin of error should be significantly larger than the 1.7% they use. That figure, 1.7% ~= 1.96 * sqrt(0.2 * 0.8 / 2,163), is only appropriate when the data is the proportion in a sample of 2,163 independent observations.

Yes, I agree that the confidence interval that they give is too small, and should be 50% or so wider. (Lancet 1 had a design effect of 2, so you'd expect something similar here.)

I'll email ORB.

Dhogaza,

I have to agree with JB on this. You really ought to read Wolfowitz's 1992 piece. 'Defense Palnning Guidance'. It lays out wht he argued should be US foreign policy objectives for the coming decades. In short, it was a blueprint for US economic, political amd military expansion, and made it clear that, follwoing the end of the cold war, the US was in an 'enviable' position in which it was the pre-eminent world power, with no rivals. It goes on to state quite unequivocally that no emerging nation should be allowed to challenge US hegemony.

At the time, even Bush I distanced himself from what were considered to be lunatic ravings from the political fringe. But, as I said yesterday, Bush II embraced ther likes of Perle, Wolfowitiz, Rumsfeld, Ledeen, Feith etc. etc. and brought them back into political mainstream. Once they got their hands on the reins of power, they could start to try and realize their vision, using the current 'perpetual war' as a theme.

As far as democracy promotion goes, like other members of the politicsal elite, they loathe it. JB was right to say that it wasn't an aim of the Iraq invasion; I go much further and say that it wasn't even seriously considered. Rumsfeld's lecture on 'old vs. new Europe' and Wolfowitz berating Turkey for refusing to allow US bombers to fly into Iraq from their airbases should be enough evidence of that. In both instances, public opinion in the countries under the wrath of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz was heavily against the invasion; from about 75% of Germany to 80% in France and over 90% in Turkey. Public opinion was also heavily weighted against the invasion in the countries comprising the 'coalition of the willing' (really meaning the bribed, bullied and coerced) - in Spain it was about 85% against and the same in Italy, whereas in the Uk it was about 70% opposed. So much for 'faith in democracy'. There are many other examples.

Thomas Carothers, a senior offical in the Reagan administarion whose portfolio was 'democracy promotion' has explained quite candidly how the US supports democracy if and only if it is in line with US political and economic interests. If it isn't, he says that it is downplayed or ignored. His comments also need to be scrutinized in order to gain some insight into the thinking of the planners in Washington.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 02 Feb 2008 #permalink

It lays out wht he argued should be US foreign policy objectives for the coming decades. In short, it was a blueprint for US economic, political amd military expansion, and made it clear that, follwoing the end of the cold war, the US was in an 'enviable' position in which it was the pre-eminent world power, with no rivals.

Oh, I'm well aware of this.

But ask yourself ... how does turning Iraq into a money-sucking, troop-sucking, killing ground help forward that goal?

Not at all.

Clearly they naively and (I would suggest) stupidly imagined that they'd be able to erect a puppet "pro-American" government "just democratic enough" to fool the american electorate into thinking we'd "liberated" Iraq. Of course their goal was to establish Iraq as an American military base, among other things.

I'm sure they truly thought that it would be easy to put in place a government that Iraqis would accept, because they thought that Iraqis would be so happy to see Saddam go that they'd embrace whatever future we pushed on them.

And at that point they undoubtably thought that Iran would shit its pants, even if we didn't invade, and so acquiesce to whatever demands we would make.

And onwards and upwards, making the middle east safe and secure for Israel US interests.

dhogaza writes:

[[And onwards and upwards, making the middle east safe and secure for Israel US interests.]]

Dhogaza buys into the idea that Israel runs US foreign policy. I'll hold off on commenting until I see whether he mentions "the Jewish lobby."

Nice catch by Will McLean. But Tim is mistaken when he writes:

Yes, I agree that the confidence interval that they give is too small, and should be 50% or so wider. (Lancet 1 had a design effect of 2, so you'd expect something similar here.)

Since ORB is measuring post-invasion deaths only, the relevant metric from L1 is the post-invasion estimate. In that case, the design effect was 29.

Now, with 112 versus 33 sample points, you wouldn't just multiply the ORB estimate by 29, of course. I'll let Sortition give the appropriate multiplier.

And, as along as you are e-mailing the ORB guys, could you ask them about their response rates and whether they will make the raw data public? It would be interesting to see how their estimates for violence at the governorate level match with L1, L2 and IFHS.

David, a change in the confidence interval will have ZERO effect on the general result of the study.

so why not simply reply to the confirmation of the lancet results?

David Kane is playing his usual game here. Here's the relevant bit from L1:

>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).

Apparently David thinks that ORB had a cluster like Falluja. even though they didn't survey Anbar.

I am not playing a "game." Here is the relevant section of L1.

The crude mortality rate during the period of war and occupation was 12·3 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 1·4-23·2; design effect=29·3)

Sure looks like a design effect of 29 to me! Why should the Falluja cluster be excluded when reporting the design effect of L1?

Moreover, it is an empirical question whether or not ORB had a cluster "like Falluja." Did they or didn't they? The fact that they didn't survey Anbar is largely irrelevant to that issue since, as IFHS tells us, there are a lot of violent places in Iraq outside of Anbar. You don't think that there are some equally high mortality neighborhoods in other governorates.

By the way wrt to sod in #96, Will McLean provides a useful overview of the issues with ORB. Perhaps Tim could start a new thread so that people could discuss his comments? I sort of like the ORB folks, but Will's questions deserve answers. I had vaguely related comments on ORB here.

Dhogaza buys into the idea that Israel runs US foreign policy.

To point out that certain architects of the neo-conservative plans for US policy in the Middle East are 1) Jewish 2) strong supporters of Israel 3) consulted for Israel in the last decade is not to say "Israel runs US foreign policy".

To point out that "strengthening democracy in the Middle East" had, as one of its goals, increasing security for Israel is not to say "Israel runs US foreign policy".

But, then again, BPL's the guy who thinks that pointing out that Martin Luther was an anti-semite makes me an "anti-christian bigot".

And that pointing out that his claim that Nazi Germany banned the crucifix and bible from Catholic Churches is simply wrong, factually wrong, makes me an "anti-christian bigot".

C'mon, Barton, call me an anti-semite. Go for it.

Typical response when you're called on your shit.

dhogaza:

You must be one of those god-damned, Hell-bound, Darwin-worshiping "Evil biologists" like Richard Dawkins, who is both an anti-Christian bigot and an anti-Semite, at least according to Barton Paul Levenson.

When they first surveyed Dhi Qar, they got 1-2 deaths in 75 households (the number of dead and cause of death tables disagree)

When they returned to do the rural interview, they got a dozen deaths in 38 households or two clusters. Not as bad as Lancet I in Falluja, but pretty lumpy.

I'm not going to look, but how much of the calculated death toll in ORB comes from outliers like the one Will seems to have spotted? (I say "seems" because I haven't checked, not that I doubt Will is right.) Is there a need to toss out clusters like that, and would it make a significant difference? I'm just asking--I have no idea what the answer is.

I suppose we can also have a rehash of the weird debate about whether finding areas that are exceptionally violent actually suggests a drop in post-2003 mortality, but I for one am willing to skip it.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 03 Feb 2008 #permalink

Actually, a dozen deaths in 38 households would not be a significant outlier. According to ORB statistics, the expected number of deaths in 38 households is about 9.5.

This raises another issue. Burnham et al calculated apparently calculated their design effect and margin of error based on total mortality. But violent death shows much more variability between and within clusters than total death, so the design effect should be much higher for that estimate, increasing its uncertainty over that stated in Burnham et al.

This paper seems to thinks so:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jewell/lancet061.pdf

With 18% of the households experiencing at least one violent death, and the average number of deaths within those households being 1.26, the cluster effect cannot be very high. Even if we try to stick all the high mortality households into as few clusters as possible, the std. dev. would still be about equal to the total number of deaths divided by the sqrt of the number of clusters, or about 100,000.

Sure looks like a design effect of 29 to me! Why should the Falluja cluster be excluded when reporting the design effect of L1?

we call this fixation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixation_%28psychology%29

Moreover, it is an empirical question whether or not ORB had a cluster "like Falluja." Did they or didn't they? The fact that they didn't survey Anbar is largely irrelevant to that issue since, as IFHS tells us, there are a lot of violent places in Iraq outside of Anbar. You don't think that there are some equally high mortality neighborhoods in other governorates.

there are such high mortality clusters. just remember the Yazidi bombings in small villages.

but the real question is the probability, that a FRESH high mortality cluster is chosen during a survey.

and i m convinced that this probability decreased MASSIVELY after the Fallujah campaign.

By the way wrt to sod in #96, Will McLean provides a useful overview of the issues with ORB.

Will is mainly throwing mud.
the ORB poll was a newspaper poll.
the methodology used is fine for such a poll, few people would expect highest scientific standards from it.
McLean basically argues: "they got an error in the religion, the study result is likely false". that is nonsense.

This paper seems to thinks so:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jewell/lancet061.pdf

i don t have much time and my R experiences are limited. can anyone use another value for W below 50? (page 9)

or are they using the David Kane approach to use the Fallujah cluster to make wild claims?

Will, from that paper you reference in 108, I would like to have seen a reference to back up this claim:

Since we are confronted with a small sample size for a very spread out
probability distribution there is no reason that a standard model for the distribution
of the count X is appropriate, quite on the contrary

given that the negative binomial model is meant to handle this kind of thing. Maybe this is explained in the Bernestein paper from which they derive their formula.

Also in estimating W they have used the maximum of clusters from 2 surveys, 2004 and 2006, but their formula from Bernstein's inequality seems to have no method to handle the possibility they were sampled from different sized clusters, with different periods of exposure. Maybe the formula is better applied over some kind of rate measurement? What seems like a spread-out distribution in raw numbers maybe is not so spread out when the offset is taken into account. Given their estimated upper and lower bounds are linearly related to W, the value of W is important. Merging values from 2 studies which covered different time periods to estimate this W seems a somewhat risky way to get W.

(Plus of course the Fallujah cluster should be excluded, so it shouldn't be used to determine W).

JB writes:

[[You must be one of those god-damned, Hell-bound, Darwin-worshiping "Evil biologists" like Richard Dawkins, who is both an anti-Christian bigot and an anti-Semite, at least according to Barton Paul Levenson.]]

You haven't actually read what Richard Dawkins has written, have you?

The anti-Christian sentiments are repeated too many times for any objective reader to doubt. The anti-semitism is evident in his proposed "science boycott" of Israel and the fact that he wants to ban kosher slaughtering in Europe (though, interestingly, not the almost identical halal slaughtering). Sorry, your poster boy for atheism is a disgusting bigot. Deal with it.

The anti-semitism is evident in his proposed "science boycott" of Israel and the fact that he wants to ban kosher slaughtering in Europe

1. One can oppose Israel's political activities without being anti-semitic. My jewish ex-wife has had problems with Israel's political policies her entire adult life. Does she make that an anti-semite in BPL's view? Is she a "self-hating Jew"? And the ornithology professor from U Tel Aviv I taught to trap and band hawks for a project he was starting in Elat, an outspoken critic of Israel's policies (and a Colonel in the Army reserve). A "self-hating" Jew? Perhaps the fact that my ex-wife was Sephartic and the ornithology professor from India had something to do with their perception that the european jews that dominate Israeli politics are a bit racist.

2. Many people oppose halal and kosher slaughtering on humane grounds. I'm not one of them, but this does not make one anti-semitic.

Barton, where is your evidence that Dawkins opposes kosher but not halal slaughter? It's not on your website, which incidentally does not mention a proposed "science boycott" of Israel, only that he used to support a boycott but has since distanced himself from it.

SG -- Everything Dawkins has said for the press is available on the web if you look like it. If you google "Dawkins" and "shochets" you should run across it. Lots of criticism of kosher slaughtering. No mention of halal slaughtering, even though there are many times more Muslims in Europe than Jews. Or maybe because there are many times more Muslims in Europe than Jews.

I'm not sure what you mean, Barton. Your suggested search turns up one result and asks if I meant "sockets". Changing shochet to schochet gets me results, but none of them linked. Changing it to kashrut (the word for Jewish food rules) gets a single quote "kashrut are divine ordinances without reason" from his work on memes.

If, however, I type "halal slaughter richard dawkins" in google I get a link to his website, and a debate about whether halal slaughter should come with more information, whether it is equivalent to kosher meat, and so on.

More information please!

Or maybe because there are many times more Muslims in Europe than Jews.

I love the innuendo, that Dawkins is a "anti-semitic" "Islam-lover".

Dawkins, the same man who says that without religion there would be no suicide bombers, no 9/11 ...

The only thing I can find of Dawkins on the kosher/halal issue is a passing mention in TGD of the suffering of "adult cows or sheep in a slaughterhouse, especially a ritual slaughterhouse where, for religious reasons, they must be fully conscious when their throats are ceremonially cut." That doesn't particularly single out kosher practices while avoiding halal.

As for a "science boycott" of Israel, Dawkins never supported that. In fact, he co-authored an article in Nature ("Is a scientific boycott ever justified?", 23 January 2003) which strongly criticizes the idea of boycotting scientists based on citizenship.

Dawkins did sign onto a petition arguing that "national and European cultural and research institutions" should no longer award grants and contracts to Israeli institutions, as they would to institutions in European states, "until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians." Barton may be confusing that petition with a number of others, circulated at about the same time, which suggested actually boycotting or severing contacts with Israeli researchers.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 04 Feb 2008 #permalink

Poor Barton's anti-Biologist (ie, anti-evolution) bent is showing.

When it comes to biologists, it's not really about anti-Christian bigotry or anti-Semitism at all. It's about "EVILUTION".

That doesn't particularly single out kosher practices while avoiding halal.

In fact, very much the opposite, since the description fits both halal and kosher slaughtering.

JB posts, amusingly:

[[Poor Barton's anti-Biologist (ie, anti-evolution) bent is showing.

When it comes to biologists, it's not really about anti-Christian bigotry or anti-Semitism at all. It's about "EVILUTION".]]

Except that I'm not either a creationist or an IDer. Most Christians aren't. Your prejudices are showing again.

Anton posts, weirdly:

[[As for a "science boycott" of Israel, Dawkins never supported that. In fact, he co-authored an article in Nature ("Is a scientific boycott ever justified?", 23 January 2003) which strongly criticizes the idea of boycotting scientists based on citizenship.

Dawkins did sign onto a petition arguing that "national and European cultural and research institutions" should no longer award grants and contracts to Israeli institutions, as they would to institutions in European states, "until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians." ]]

And how does the latter differ from "a science boycott of Israel?" Do you read these things before you post them? This is like Martin splitting hairs about accusing Michael Mann of dishonesty versus implying it.

Barton, you were wrong on both counts. Why not just admit it?

Barton,

And how does the latter differ from "a science boycott of Israel?"

Is this a trick question?

Many European (and some Israeli) academics suggested severing all cultural and research links between the two groups. European researchers would not seek employment at Israeli institutions; Israeli-employed researchers would not be invited to work concurrently at European ones. European academics would not attend Israel-hosted conferences, and Israeli-employed academics would not be invited to European ones. European academics would not agree to referee Israeli papers submitted for publication. That is an academic boycott, and that is what Dawkins et al. strongly opposed.

It would not be a boycott for the EU to simply cease paying for Israeli research projects, any more than the EU is boycotting Vietnamese scientists by not regularly awarding them grants. Israeli institutions receive such grants largely because Israel is treated as a European state; revoking that status would not amount to a boycott.

It's a pretty big distinction.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 04 Feb 2008 #permalink

Also--and hopefully this won't be surprising--even the supporters of a boycott generally specify that it would apply only to people employed by Israeli institutions, whatever their ethnicity. Israeli citizens working abroad would be exempt; Palestinian Muslims and Christians working for Israeli universities would be included.

I agree with Dawkins that such a boycott would be a very bad idea, and would be antithetical to the spirit of science. But it's hardly antisemitic, unless you think allegiance to the Israeli government is somehow encoded into Jewish DNA.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 04 Feb 2008 #permalink

Anton Mates writes:

[[I agree with Dawkins that such a boycott would be a very bad idea, and would be antithetical to the spirit of science. But it's hardly antisemitic, unless you think allegiance to the Israeli government is somehow encoded into Jewish DNA.]]

If it's not antisemitic, how come it singled out Israel and not all the other countries with much worse human rights records, including ones bordering on Israel? Did they propose a science boycott of Syria because of what the Syrian government did to Hama (20,000 dead, I believe)? Did they propose a science boycott of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein had wiped out hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi'ites? Did they propose a science boycott of Serbia when Serbia was setting up "rape camps?" No. All the European human rights indignation seems to be pointed at Israel. Forgive me if I see antisemitism in that, I guess I'm just oversensitive.

BPL, putting aside the simple fact that "they" has now been shown conclusively not to include the man you said it did, do you have any proof that "they" didn't demand similar action in those other cases? There was a war and subsequent blockade of Iraq, for example. A lot of academics demanded "liberal interventionism" in serbia, culminating in its being bombed and forced to give up Kosovo. So maybe you need to confirm those claims before you bluster about racism.

And you might like to address Anton's specific point that the boycott proposed by some of "them" would also have affected christian, non-Jewish and muslim Israelis. You are starting to wriggle a lot to try and avoid the growing list of mistaken claims you have made...

Sod, one last point, then I am outta here!

Barton said, 'If it's not antisemitic, how come it singled out Israel and not all the other countries with much worse human rights records, including ones bordering on Israel?'.

First of all, Barton, how on Earth would you be able to compare the human rights situation between, say Syria and the Gaza strip? Conditions in Gaza are a living hell, with 70% of the people unemployed or living in utter poverty and desperation. Israel has effectively turned it into the world's largest outdoor prison. To flippantly suggest that it's 'worse' in neighboring countries is an abomination.

Second, why have you exempted Saudi Arabia and Egypt for their abominable human rights records that at least are as bad, if not worse, than Syria's? Could it be because both are US client states? I have to hand it to you Barton, you sure wear your heart on your sleeve. Its the same old story: highlight crimes committed by 'them' and downplay at all costs those committed by 'us' or our 'clients'.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

Jeff Harvey writes:

[[ Conditions in Gaza are a living hell, with 70% of the people unemployed or living in utter poverty and desperation. ]]

Conditions in Gaza are bad because Gaza is blockaded. Gaza is blockaded because the government in Gaza is firing rockets into Israel and killing Israeli civilians. Solution to the bad conditions in Gaza: Stop firing the rockets into Israel.

Or don't the deaths of Israelis count?

Barton Levenson said

"Your prejudices are showing again.'

I may have been wrong to assume that you do not accept evolution (Do you?) but questions like "Why Are So Many Biologists Evil" and "What is it with biologists?" juxtaposed with talk of anti-Christian bigotry and anti-Semitism on your website really make me wonder.

You highlighted a mere handful of biologists on your site whom you imply are anti-Semitic and/or anti-Christian and then make unsupported broad generalizations like "there seem to be fewer nice biologists than nasty ones". Talk about prejudice.

Why not select a handful of physicists (eg, William Schockley, advocate of eugenics) and do the same?

Why did you choose biologists? If not their overarching belief in evolution (which clearly sets them apart from many folks), what is it about this group that you so dislike?

Perhaps it is simply that many of them are atheists? (as are many physicists, incidentally)

Atheists are not all anti-Christian, anti-Semitic bigots.

Incidentally, why is it that instead of arguing people's points, you label people anti-Christian and anti-Semitic?

"Conditions in Gaza are bad because Gaza is blockaded. Gaza is blockaded because the government in Gaza is firing rockets into Israel and killing Israeli civilians. Solution to the bad conditions in Gaza: Stop firing the rockets into Israel.

Or don't the deaths of Israelis count?"

By that logic obviously the lives of Palestinians don't count at all. They've been doing the bulk of the dying all along and it's apparently okay to punish millions of them for the violent actions of some--imagine the outcry if Israelis were subjected to the same treatment for their violence and their apartheid-like policies in the West Bank. (Comparing it to apartheid is fairly common among both Israelis and South Africans--Jimmy Carter is a latecomer in this respect.) I suspect many of those "antisemitic" Europeans would be much more upset by a blockade of Israel than they are by a blockade of Gaza.

There is, of course, antisemitism at work in some of the criticism of Israel. But I think there's at least as much anti-Arab bigotry at work among some of the defenders of Israel's actions.

Anyway, Barton, your definition of "antisemitism" seems to include anyone who is very critical of Israel's actions and would include a fair number of Jewish authors, some of them Israeli. You accuse people of holding Israel to a higher standard, but you don't actually know what their positions are on other issues, and you're also rather free with claims that other countries are worse. For instance, the estimates for the number of dead in Hama in 1982 span a large range, but whatever the true number, it's likely to be in the same ballpark as the number of civilians killed by Israel in Lebanon that year.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

BTW, is there an open thread this debate could go to? A few people were talking about Iraqi mortality here.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

This is the most recent open thread, I think, so I'll put my response there.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

Donald,

Excellent post. It says everything that needs to be said.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 05 Feb 2008 #permalink

One difference between Israel and South Africa, of course, was that the ANC did not send suicide bombers into white areas to blow up buses, cafes, marketplaces, grocery stores, restaurants, and airports.

Pro-Palestinian types like Donald above are always willing to overlook Palestinian atrocities. Again, the lives of Israelis don't seem to count.

Oh, and the main reason for poverty in the West Bank is that Fatah took the billions in aid money pouring in from Europe and elsewhere and used it to add to the estates of Fatah officers, rather than to build infrastructure or create jobs. Since Israel is no longer in the West Bank, it's no longer appropriate to blame Israel for poverty there. Especially since the Israelis DID build infrastructure there.

The Palestinians are faced with a choice in leadership between Hamas, which is made up of crazy killers, and Fatah, which is unbelievably corrupt and venal. Gaza chose Hamas, the West Bank chose Fatah. Mahmoud Abbas, God bless him, is at least trying to negotiate with Israel to set up a complete Palestinian state; for this, Hamas and people like Donald call him a traitor. Of course, that's better than what happened to the Fatah guy who proposed a two-state solution in 1983 and was assassinated for doing so.

I thought this years Human Rights Watch report might be of interest r.e. Israel/Palestine. It's well worth reading (starting page 484), documenting the crimes commited by both sides. Interestingly, this is the first year since 1967 in which more Palestinians died as a result of internal conflict, than Israeli activity.

http://hrw.org/wr2k8/pdfs/wr2k8_web.pdf

My attempt to move this failed. I'll post here, but I think if we want to keep this up it should go to the open thread where Anton placed his response.

Barton wrote--

"One difference between Israel and South Africa, of course, was that the ANC did not send suicide bombers into white areas to blow up buses, cafes, marketplaces, grocery stores, restaurants, and airports.

Pro-Palestinian types like Donald above are always willing to overlook Palestinian atrocities. Again, the lives of Israelis don't seem to count."

Um, Barton, ever hear of necklacing? I don't know how many terrorist acts the ANC conducted against South African whites, but the Inkatha movement and the ANC had a near civil war going on in the townships, with horrific atrocities on both sides. The ANC saw Inkatha as collaborators with the white regime, which turned out to be true. Divide and conquer is an old strategy with occupiers and imperialists. And atrocities are pretty common on both sides in such conflicts.

So if I wanted to play your silly game, I could say that the lives of black South Africans don't seem to matter to you--it only matters whether the ANC targeted whites. But I don't want to play on that level. I'll assume you're just trying to win an argument and in your eagerness to score a point either didn't know or forgot just how brutal ANC supporters could be. This forgetfulness is convenient for your argument that there's no analogy between South African apartheid and Israel/Palestine, but actually, there are many similarities, as Desmond Tutu and some Israelis (including the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem) recognize.

As for my alleged unwillingness to acknowledge Palestinian atrocities, this is just another imaginary point you're scoring. I've always condemned terror tactics no matter who carries them out and no matter what the cause. Necklacing was evil. So is suicide bombing. So is Israeli bombing and shelling of civilians and their whole settlement scheme.

Finally, Barton, it's quite true that some of the poverty in the occupied territories is due to Fatah corruption, but your attempt to exonerate the Israelis from any blame is absurd. You want to pretend that people like me (I condemn both sides when they commit atrocities) are one-sided, but you can't bring yourself to admit Israel has done anything wrong.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

I am well aware of necklacing; it was the main reason I wanted Nelson Mandela to disassociate himself from Winnie. Again, the ANC did not target whites with suicide bombings. If they had, there might have been a lot more sympathy for white South Africans. The comparison between Israel's occupation and apartheid remains incorrect, slanted, and defamatory.

I think Israel has done a lot of things wrong. I think the settlements were a huge mistake. I think they should abandon all of them, pull out of the West Bank unilaterally, and just build a wall along the old Israel-Jordan border. But I think you'll find, if they do that, that many Palestinians -- Hamas, for instance -- won't be at all satisfied. They don't just want a Palestinian state, they want the destruction of the Israeli state -- excuse me, the "Zionist entity." I really can't blame the Israelis for resisting that.

" that many Palestinians -- Hamas, for instance -- won't be at all satisfied. They don't just want a Palestinian state, they want the destruction of the Israeli state -- excuse me, the "Zionist entity"

Some would be satisfied with a solution along the lines of the Geneva Accords, and some wouldn't. They were ethnically cleansed in 1948, so their reluctance to give up on their right of return is entirely understandable. I think they should give it up on pragmatic grounds, but I don't blame them for not seeing the justice of their own expulsion.

As for apartheid analogies, there are two classes of people in the West Bank and two sets of rules governing them. One group can live either on the West Bank or in Israel proper and the other can't. That's the essential similarity. There are also differences and what happens in these debates is that those who object to the comparison stress those.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

Donald Johnson posts:

[[As for apartheid analogies, there are two classes of people in the West Bank and two sets of rules governing them. One group can live either on the West Bank or in Israel proper and the other can't. That's the essential similarity. ]]

Gee, I wonder why the Israelis wouldn't want large numbers of Palestinians to come into Israel? Must be racism.

"Gee, I wonder why the Israelis wouldn't want large numbers of Palestinians to come into Israel? Must be racism."

I pointed out that the Israelis give themselves the right to live either in the West Bank or Israel itself and the Palestinians are forced to live only in the West Bank (though many are from Israel itself and were forced out by the Israelis). So yes, the Israeli policy is racist.

As for why Israelis don't want large numbers of Palestinians to live in Israel, there are several reasons, which of course don't apply to each individual Israeli. They have a fear of civil war (that's a very sensible fear, IMO, though it's as likely to be started by Israeli fanatics as Palestinian ones.) Second, Israel is a Jewish state because of ethnic cleansing, and when it comes right down to it, Israelis may be willing to admit this, but they like the results and have no intention of reversing them. White Americans have a phrase for this--"You don't expect us to give it all back to the Indians?" Third, there's plain old racism. Countries don't enact racist policies like those of the settlements unless they contain a fair number of racists.

Not that the Palestinians are angels. If they'd all gone the Gandhi route I'd be on their side, but since both sides have plenty of murderous self-righteous fanatics I think a two state solution is the realistic way to go.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 06 Feb 2008 #permalink

Donald Johnson writes:

[[ Israel is a Jewish state because of ethnic cleansing]]

Strange, then, that the Israeli population is 20% Arab. I wonder how that happened? They must have slipped by the ethnic cleansers somehow.

Barton, if you want to slip back to that level of argument, fine. Israeli historians like Meron Benveniste (sp?), Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and Shlomo Ben Ami (who was part of Barak's government) all agree that there was ethnic cleansing in 1948. No, it wasn't complete. Benny Morris actually regrets that it wasn't complete. Have fun denying that it happened.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

If you mean some Israelis ousted some Arabs, then yes, it happened, and it's old news. It does not mean that was Israeli policy, or that Arabs didn't leave voluntarily. Golda Meir, in her autobiography, relates literally getting up on soapboxes to beg local Arabs to stay in the new state. Some listened and stayed; others left anyway, which is why Israel is one-fifth Arab today. Unless you think maybe she was lying to conceal some kind of genocidal Israeli policy?

You may recall that Palestine was partitioned in 1947 into Israel and Trans-Jordan, and there was a lot of migration by people who didn't want to live under one or the other government. The modern myth, which you apparently believe, is that the Israelis forced all the Palestinian Arabs to leave. Didn't happen.

You don't seem familiar with the issue, Barton, or rather, you seem familiar with it the way it's been spun for decades. The fact is that a great many Palestinians were forced out in a process that included a fair number of massacres. And even the ones who fled on their own expected to be able to come back to their homes when the fighting was over, which is in fact a basic human right. They weren't allowed to. The talk about Israelis begging the Palestinians to stay--yes, that happened in some cases, but it wasn't the rule.

Here's an interview with Benny Morris--

http://www.logosjournal.com/morris.htm

As you can see, he's not exactly pro-Palestinian. He's actually quite cold-blooded.

Here's another interview with Shlomo Ben Ami, who was for a period of time the foreign minister under Barak. Scroll down a short bit and you can see for yourself his summary of what happened in 1948.

http://www.democracynow.org/2006/2/14/fmr_israeli_foreign_minister_shlo…

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

Something's wrong with that link--it went to the wrong part of the interview (for reading about Shlomo Ben Ami's view of 1948, that is). If you click back to the previous part of the interview you'll see what I was talking about.

I'd try linking it again, but I might just end up repeating my mistake.

As for genocide (forgot to respond to that), ethnic cleansing is a step down from genocide. Forcing people out of their homes (along with massacres) is a very serious crime, but it's not quite genocide. And a great many countries are guilty of ethnic cleansing at one point or another. My point is not that Israel is uniquely evil--probably most countries have major war crimes in their pasts. In the case of Israel, though, the nastier portions of its history have been whitewashed in the US for many years and so this leads to a distorted view of the I/P conflict, because we all hear about the Palestinian atrocities and the Palestinian desire to return to Israel (which would end the Jewish state) and we don't hear the Palestinian side of the story.

Of course in some countries (Arab ones especially) the distortion goes the other way. But two wrongs don't make a right.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

Yes, some Jews chased the Arabs out of town. And some Arabs left because they thought they were at risk. And some were right. And some were wrong. And some left because they thought they would return after the army had ethnically cleansed the nasty Jews. And some stayed despite the pressure of the Jews. And some stayed because their Jewish neighbors convinced them to stay. And some stayed because their Jewish neighbors protected them from other Jewish neighbors who wanted them out. There were millions of people there, fer crissake, that's a lot of stories in the naked city. In Haifa, for instance, not only did the Jewish community beg the Arabic community to stay, they even opened the bakeries on Passover so that the Arab community would not go hungry. If you don't know, that's HUGE. Jews aren't even supposed to own leavened products on Passover, even inadvertent crumbs in a crack in the kitchen. Not allowed to profit from it in any way, such as feeding it to neighbors. But then you don't hear about that much strife in Haifa, even today; it's the proverbial "gritty port city" and folks there are busy working.

Anyway, on the other hand, it's indisputable that every single Jew in the "West Bank" communities such as Nablus and Hebron and the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews have lived continuously since Biblical times, was forced to leave. No exceptions, no being sheltered by the neighbors. Kind of what is planned for the West Bank when the Palestinians get their state.

I mention this not in the interests of further "Your fault", "No your fault" 'dialogue', but in order to squelch it. There really has been over the half century more than enough crap from either side that the concept of collective guilt vs the innocent injured party, is just another way to extend the killing and suffering for another generation. Assuming collective guilt had any validity in the first place, which is the ridiculous assumption that leads to this shit in the first place.

In conclusion,I give you http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/02/05/terrorism/permali…

Does the quality of blog comments deteriorate?

The following was seen on the web and is not necessarily a comment on this comments section; I did find it amusing however.

====

Forget about MR and its superb commentators, I am talking about the typical above-average blogs. I often have the impression that the best comments come in the first fifteen or so, after which quality declines precipitously and often exponentially. Why might that be?

1. The truly smart people only like to make smart points on "fresh" posts. For instance more people read the comments on fresh posts (but why?), so the benefit of a quality comment is lower as the post becomes older.

2. As time passes, the chance that a warring twosome find each other, and take over the thread, increases.

3. There is a tendency to attack or respond to the stupidest or most controversial thing said, and the longer the comments thread runs for, the stupider this will get.

4. As the number of comments multiplies, so does the number of independent discussion threads and the optimal number of threads is exceeded.

5. (Addended) As one (early) commentator notes below, the simple fact of diminishing marginal utility.

Might some of these mechanisms also help explain why a) history of thought is "ghettoized" as a field, and b) there is such a high premium to working in hot, new fields? The general point is that there are increasing returns to scale for high quality discussions; furthermore those quality discussions are quite fragile and require cultivation and subsidization through norms. Freshness matters, so stale topics will indeed encounter discrimination.

Comments are open, who wants to go first?

========

But then, there is a certain universal law here as anyone married for ages will immediately see.

:-)

-- bucky1

Anyway, on the other hand, it's indisputable that every single Jew in the "West Bank" communities such as Nablus and Hebron and the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews have lived continuously since Biblical times, was forced to leave. No exceptions, no being sheltered by the neighbors. Kind of what is planned for the West Bank when the Palestinians get their state.

Actually, at least in Hebron, it was the British that made the decision to move every Jew out; and in the earlier anti-Jewish rioting and massacres that led to that decision, quite a few Jewish families [i]were[/i] sheltered by Arab neighbors.

Lots of stories in every city, as you say.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

Z, you act like there's someone here who doesn't realize that the Arabs have committed their share of atrocities in the conflict. As for what happened in Haifa, I almost mentioned that myself, though I didn't know all the details you provided. But you left out some details yourself. What I've read is that the Jewish civilians in Haifa wanted the Arabs to stay, but the Haganah military units forced them to leave. Anton pointed out that Arabs sheltered Jews from other Arabs in the Hebron pogrom in the 20's, which I read about in Tom Segev's book.

Most of what I know about the conflict comes from reading Israelis, and as it happens, the ones I've read don't sentimentalize either side in the conflict. I don't know where you live, but in the US anyone who pays a small amount of attention to the conflict knows about the Arab atrocities and will have heard the story of how the Jewish residents of Haifa begged the Arabs not to leave. You are much less likely to hear the more discreditable stuff about what the Israelis did unless you look for it.

As for collective guilt/innocence, of course it's nonsense, but if you take that logic to its natural conclusion, you'd favor a one state solution. Why is it supposed to be shocking that Palestinians want to be able to return to their homes and why shouldn't Jews be able to live on the West Bank? If you don't think that's practical, (and I gather it isn't), then we have a situation where the Palestinians have gotten the short end of the stick.

Your final comment about the degeneration of the thread was, of course, merely insulting. What we have here is a typical case of thread drift that occurs when people aren't discussing the original topic. I hope you were including your own pompous contribution if you think the thread has gone downhill.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

I was expecting to learn a little more about the new ORB poll.

How did this become a discussion about Israel v. Palestinians?

Good point, dalazal, and as one of the participants in the thread drift, sorry about that. But there wasn't that much ORB discussion here after a certain point.

Barton--Just in case someone does want to discuss Iraq mortality rates, I'm going to abandon our argument/discussion here.

By Donald Johnson (not verified) on 08 Feb 2008 #permalink

I gather Tim Lambert has asked ORB if they can explain why their claimed margin of error is consistent with a simple random sample but not a cluster sample. And they have not yet responded.

While we're waiting, I would like to repeat a question about Lancet II. Looking at their reported margin of error, it seems to me that the design effect for violent deaths is very similar to the design effect for total deaths. However, the distribution of violent deaths is much lumpier, so I would expect a greater design effect.

Is it plausible to assume that they simply calculated a single design effect based on the variance in gross mortality, and used it for violent mortality as well?

If so, would that underestimate the margin of error for violent deaths?

How about we use some solid, documented facts and now just extrapolation?

Counter is between 81k and 86,5 K atm.

Also, do read this:

http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/beyond/reality-checks/

In the ineterst of fair use, I'll let you read the above link yourself, but I will post the conclusion:

"In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy. "

And, yes, Iraq is a tragic quagmire, but you don't need to use hyperbole to try to enforce your point. You are in fact doing the opposite.