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October 12, 2006

Innumerate cowards recoil from the facts: 655,000 dead Iraqis

The right wing noise machine is clanking and shuddering. They're outraged about this study, published in the Lancet. The study estimated that 665,000 more Iraqis have died after the US invasion than would have been expected based on pre-invasion death rates. (I discuss the study in more detail here)

Here are today's talking points. Or should we say talking flails? There aren't many actual points here:

1. 655,000 is an awfully big number. That would mean that this war killed a whole lot of people.  (Jane Galt)

2. If 770 extra people were dying in Iraq every day, why don't we hear about them on the news?  (Gateway Pundit)

3. The study was published before the election. (Instapundit) (Political Pitbull)

4. The peer-reviewed paper must be bogus because the editor of the Lancet goes to anti-war rallies. (Anti-Idiotarian Rotweiler)

5. The pre-invasion death rates are too low. Surely, Saddam was filling mass graves two months before the invasion. (Chuck Simmins)

6. Those peacenik scientists just wish there were more dead Iraqis. ("When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges," Omar Fadil.)

7. I just know the study's wrong, but I can't figure out how. Math people? (AllahPundit)*

8. Sure the study's methodology is standard for public health resesarch. But don't forget that public health is a leftwing plot. (Medpundit)

9. These "statisticians" say that you can take a small sample from a large population and learn a lot about the whole population. As if.  I'll believe those 665,000 Iraqis are dead when they tell me so. (Tim Blair)

Cowards, all of them. They own this war, but they won't face up to the fact that their little adventure helped kill over half a million people.

More debunking from Tim Lambert, Appletreeblog, and Liberal Avenger. Stone Court scrutinizes Jane Galt.

*Correction: I incorrectly associated Michelle Malkin with AllahPundit's innumeracy. I apologize.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Innumerate cowards recoil from the facts: 655,000 dead Iraqis:

» Civilian Deaths, World War II and Iraq War from Stone Court
I don't have a great handle on the debate over the merits of the study estimating that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has caused over 655,000 Iraqi deaths, but Lindsay Beyerstein's deconstruction of the objections suggests there may not be much there. It ... [Read More]

» Civilian Deaths, World War II and Iraq War from Stone Court
I don't have a great handle on the debate over the merits of the study estimating that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has caused over 655,000 Iraqi deaths, but Lindsay Beyerstein's deconstruction of the objections suggests there may not be much there. It ... [Read More]

» Lancet: Invasion caused 655,000 more Iraqi deaths from Internal Monologue
Possibly over half a million dead people because of Bush's criminal, insane, immoral, counter-productive misguided delusional boondoggle. Even if this excess death estimate is off by a factor of 3, it's still a number soul-numbingly large. I wish I h... [Read More]

» Statistics Illustrated from A Level Gaze
Many Americans, sadly, don't have much of a grasp of statistics, and, not wanting to believe their government has the blood of 655,000 men, women, and children on its hands, will fall for the argument that it's impossible to conclude such a thing fro... [Read More]

» Things You Should Know About This Morning: 10/13 from MetaDC
-What music do Washingtonians listen to? -The grown-ups will save us. -Right-wing reaction to the Lancet study is universally idiotic. -The British are ready to give up on Iraq. I can't say I blame them. -Fake diplomas for government employees.... [Read More]

» Methodology Of The Lancet Study from MilBlogs
Some cheerleaders for the recent study claiming over 600K "excess deaths" in Iraq since March 2003 have been complaining that people who recognize the study's conclusions are complete crap aren't providing a critique of the study's methodology. Well, i... [Read More]

» Honored from America's North Shore Journal
Lindsay Beyerstein has declared me an and I am honored. Even if she did badly misquote me. If Islam means submission, I will not submit. ... [Read More]

» Debunking The Lancet Estimate from The Political Pit Bull
Yesterday, liberal blogger Lindsay Beyerstein labeled me and other righty bloggers who contested the Lancet study--which claimed 655,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq--as cowards because we "won't face up to the fact that [our] little adventure hel... [Read More]

Comments

I think you are being unfair to Jane. Her point isn't, this war killed a lot of people if this is true; it is, this war killed (in proportion) wildly more people than WWII or the Civil War if this is true.

snicker. nice list, grrl.

Incomprehensible!

[/Condi Rice]

Lindsay,

Because I dispute the number people that have been killed in Iraq according to this study, one which is disputed by the U.S. government, the Iraqi government, the daily MSM reports of deaths in Iraq, and, frankly, common sense, I'm a coward? That makes a lot of sense. I don't dispute that many innocent people have been killed as a result of the war in Iraq. But the number is certainly not 655,000. Give some facts a try before you start throwing around insults.

I also summarized the methodology and defended the results -- though not in a snarky, ironically detached way. Click the homepage for a wonky explanation.

Like everyone else here, I haven't the foggiest idea what the right number is.

But since we're seeking comment from the dreaded "right wingers" lets go across the pond to a nice moderate site from Ireland/Britain, ie
A Tangled Web

This is a great post.

I'm saying that the right wing bloggers I linked to are cowards for ignoring the evidence before them because it makes their cherished Iraq war look bad. They're grasping at straws instead of facing facts.

If you have better reasons to doubt the conclusions of this study, then you're not being cowardly for taking your investigation wherever it leads you.

But the number is certainly not 655,000. Give some facts a try before you start throwing around insults.

Can't count, don't understand irony ... Yep, them's our wingers! Generations of home-schooled creationism never did [twitch] them any [twitch] harm.

Not none.
.

I think you are being unfair to Jane. Her point isn't, this war killed a lot of people if this is true; it is, this war killed (in proportion) wildly more people than WWII or the Civil War if this is true.

What on earth does this mean?

The American Civil War killed approximately the same ration of people. The United States in the 1860s held about four million more folks than modern Iraq and it killed about 630,000 people.

World War II killed infinitely more people.

650,000 was derived at through a time tested method, over three years in a country where groups are slaughtering each other whole sale, the hell we've unleashed and taken part in could very well have caused this level of carnage.

Well, John Derbyshire reckoned a while back that each American life is worth "hundreds, but not thousands" of Iraqi lives, which means that even if no more GIs died after today, we could still kill lots more Iraqis before he'd weep any crocodile tears.

It's a pretty sad commentary on the rest of these stooges that Derbyshire sounds rational compared to them.

And this argument's incredible on every level:

to satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges,"

That's about as good as it gets. I could spend weeks mulling that one over.

I'm just waiting for the inevitable:

"How come the study didn't mention all the people who DIDN'T get killed?"

Following up on Attaturk -- unfair to Jane Galt? Not really.

WWII killed something like 10% of the populations of Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, and the Baltics, between combatants and civilians (including Holocaust victims). The percentages of military casualties were mostly high, reflecting mobilization for a major war, of course. The Lancet study's point estimate of excess mortality in Iraq is something less than 2.5% of the population.

That's the surface problem with the WWII analogies -- it would be more appropriate to say that if we unleashed the full destructive potential of even our conventional arsenal, we could do a lot "better" than that.

As for the Iraq situation, we have an invasion by a force equipped with extremely destructive conventional weapons, which had been recognized before the fact as likely to produce thousands or tens of thousands of civilian deaths. That's been followed by 3-1/2 years of insurgency, now by any reasonable account a brutal civil war (and, in the U.S. Civil War, just how much rounding up and execution of civilians was there?) -- and other brutal civil wars and genocides of recent memory have produced mass casualties of similar if not greater magnitudes, as the Lancet study authors have noted.

So she's just offering a variation on the incredulity argument noted by Kieran Healy at CT, which really isn't much of an argument.

But the number is certainly not 655,000. Give some facts a try before you start throwing around insults.

When you say "certainly," and ask people to "give some facts a try," I think we're entitled to ask you to practice what you preach. Where's your survey, and what methodology did you use?

I dispute the number people that have been killed in Iraq according to this study, one which is disputed by the U.S. government, the Iraqi government, the daily MSM reports of deaths in Iraq, and, frankly, common sense

Have the US government, the Iraqi government, the MSM, or the "common sense" armchair epidemiologists conducted a household survey of casualties?

Did the US government, Iraqi government, the MSM and "common sense" armchair epidemiologists not report deliberately falsified casualty numbers?

Do you have any substantial criticism of the study, or would you prefer to continue to discuss credibility of sources?

I don't dispute that many innocent people have been killed as a result of the war in Iraq.

Well, whoop-de-frickin'-do! Glad to hear it, mate!

But the number is certainly not 655,000.

Because the govt officials "disputing" that estimate have NO motivation to downplay the killing. Hell, their gut feelings are MUCH more convincing than is a peer-reviewed paper from the world's top institution of public health published in the world's top medical journal.

Give some facts a try

Good lord. Self-parody at its finest.

Well. I actually read the report. Having worked as an actuary for the last 20 years, I have some expertise in statistics and survey protocols. While no study is perfect, this one is quite good. The most telling part of there results, in my opinion, is that of the 655K excess deaths calculated, 610K were directly attributable to coalition force activities.

Lindsay: Well, again, you linked to me and called me a coward because you say I ignored the evidence in front of me. The estimate in this study is way off base. That doesn't mean I ignore the fact that many innocent people have lost their lives in this war. And that doesn't make me a "coward." With all due respect, what are you talking about?

"...and other brutal civil wars and genocides of recent memory have produced mass casualties of similar if not greater magnitudes, as the Lancet study authors have noted."

Tom Bozzo |

Like Central America in the '80S or the Sudan right now?

I just know the study's wrong, but I can't figure out how. Math people? (Michelle Malkin)

Shorter Michelle: Math is hard!

These statisticians say that you can take a small sample from a large population and learn a lot about the population. As if. I'll believe those 665,000 Iraqis are dead when they tell me so. (Tim Blair)

Um, Tim dear, that's what statisticians do. And if Iraqis are dead, how can they tell him so?

Priceless post, Majikthise.


You're misquoting me, though not some of the bloggers that linked my post.

I find it unbelievable that the study would maintain that "virtually all deaths in Iraq were from non-violent causes." That implies that the murder rate in Iraq for those fifteen months was zero or nearly so. I find that statement not credible.

In addition, in my post, I point out arithmatical errors in one of their tables that could suggest at the very least a laxness in proofreading.

I take no position in my post on the validity of the study itself. I present a series of errors and a statement of dubious validity.

"Because I dispute the number people that have been killed in Iraq according to this study, one which is disputed by the U.S. government, the Iraqi government, the daily MSM reports of deaths in Iraq, and, frankly, common sense, I'm a coward?"

You are making an appeal to an authority which makes a claim of absolute ignorance on the matter. Both the US and Iraq claim no knowledge whatsoever about the number of killed in Iraq due to the war. When they both claim absolute ignorance of what the number is, how can they say what it isn't. If they wish to deny this number, let them make a case for one of their own, and see if it stands up to scrutiny.

As for the MSM reports, they are inherently a minimum possible value. Experience from other conflicts of this nature suggests that only 10-20% of combat deaths get reported during the fighting. Such reports have indicated just under 50,000 combat deaths. This is consistent with the lower end of the 95% confidence interval (~300K-900K) for combat deaths in Iraq.

Ah, if only the innumerate cowards weren't also innumerable.

Excellent post.

Quote: "Lindsay: Well, again, you linked to me and called me a coward because you say I ignored the evidence in front of me. The estimate in this study is way off base. That doesn't mean I ignore the fact that many innocent people have lost their lives in this war. And that doesn't make me a "coward." With all due respect, what are you talking about?"

Irony is beyond the understanding of these morons!

The estimate in this study is way off base.

Greg, you keep saying this, but I don't think you can make the claim without showing something that counters it in any way. I'd say it's cowardly because, as a war supporter, the best you can do right now is dismiss something just because it challenges your perceptions. This catastrophic war may have only killed 400,000 (per the Lancelet -- the first or second-best peer reviewed medical journal in the entire world versus, your "gut") or it may have killed more.

They've showed their work. Where's yours? Where's your new supposition that this is lunacy is still somehow good for the Iraqis? War supporters have been blind to reality, but I really think this marks the first time that they just dismiss it entirely.

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