Bull

Absolute Bull. A "study" supposedly "shows" that 665,000 "excess" deaths occurred in Iraq since the US invasion. Thats almost 15,500 every month above the expected death rate. Bull. Throw the flag on this one, folks. That the media is even reporting this crap shows a venomous partisan slant. The Washington Post should be ashamed they even printed this hackery. This would be almost 400 (article says 500 – even higher than my back of the envelope calcs) people PER DAY. Over the normal death rate?

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

The survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are being published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet.

This is utter and complete crap. Period. No thinking person can possibly believe these numbers. When have you EVER heard of that many people dying in one day in Iraq, much less every single day since the war began. For heaven's sake, think, people.

UPDATE: Others: Right Wing Nut House, OTB, Decision '08, Astute Bloggers, Gateway Pundit,

UPDATE: Political Pit Bull has some numbers that are even more pertinent to any discussion of this subject.

UPDATE: Confederate Yankee:

To buy these conclusions, you have to swallow the impossibility that Reuters, the Associated Press, UPI, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, Robert Fisk, al Manar, al Jazeera, and every other news conglomeration in Iraq are a willful part of the largest cover-up in human history, hiding three times of the number of those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (214,000 according to wikipedia) over the course of three-plus years.

It’s patently absurd.

UPDATE: Game, set, match. The Iraqi government rejects the "study" as exagerated.

“This figure, which in reality has no basis, is exaggerated,” said Iraqi government spokesman Ali Debbagh.

“It is a figure which flies in the face of the most obvious truths,” he said, calling on research institutions to adopt precise and transparent criteria especially when the research concerns victim tolls.

Not that this will convince the TruthyTrolls™.

This entry was posted in Insanity, Left Wing, Throw The Flag, War. Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Bull

  1. Rich Gibson says:

    Gaius: I probably disagree with you :-) , but I this case I’m not sure which talking point you are speaking of. I’m honestly curious to know so I can either accept your judgement, or respond to it.

    As for levels of hatred, it appears to me that over the last 14 years in America that politically based hatred has been fairly evenly spread across ideologies.

  2. Gaius says:

    THe “it’s too embarrassing to admit” meme.

    Actually, I frankly see more hate coming from the left. I also don’t frequent the more extreme sites on either side.

    My whole point of this post is there is something seriously out of whack with this number. From a logical standpoint, this does not work. One of the things they used to teach in engineering is ballparking numbers in your head so you’d know if an answer was wacky. I have no idea if they teach that anymore.

    But hell, they need to.

  3. Pingback: appletree » Blog Archive » Wingnuts Attempt to Debunk Iraq Deaths Survey

  4. And as for me? I just like pulling hard as hell on “BushHaters” chains as hard as I can, every time I see them. They never–NEVER–want to admit that they are operating from a position that is farcical, and automatically consider ANY “news” that is potential ammo against the ChimpyMcHalliburtHitlerCo cabal as written in unimpeachable stone.

    And they inevitably call me a “conservative,” which I, and anyone who knows me, consider a bonafide hoot.

  5. Rich Gibson says:

    Regards Gaius,

    I don’t want to create ‘talking points,’ since those are sort of by definition fake, regardless of the side.

    With that said, we do know that release of civilian, and military, casualty figures during wartime has become highly politicized. We in the US have become more sensitized to casualty reports than in previous wars.

    This has the benefit of maybe causing us to more carefully consider our actions before going to war, but it also has the detrimental effect of weakening our resolve to continue to fight in any given war. I am against the Iraq war, but if we as a people are going to enter into war than we should do it with the honesty to face the inevitible and near infinite tragedies thar war always creates, and not to be swayed with the inevitible tragedies occur.

    Note: saying that war creates tragedy does not mean that the alternative to war is always good, simply that any war has very real, and very tragic costs that must be considered against any presumed benefit. And to be honest, my personal values are that the emotional and tragic costs of war are so high that we are _almost_ (but not always) better off avoiding war.

    We did not honestly face the question of the cost of this war before hand, and part of the result is that every casualty report is somehow ‘new’ and a surprise. Obviously they shouldn’t be a surprise, but there you go.

    This sense of surprise has made every casualty report, regardless of the accuracy of reporting, into a partisan issue.

    In this environment, and knowing things that we do know about Iraq, it is totally plausible to me that the Iraqi officials could be totally under reporting casualty numbers. That doesn’t mean that they are, mind you, but it is plausible to consider the possibility.

    Hell, we absolutely know that politicians, and people in power, in our own country frequently lie. I can’t assume that politicians in a war zone with minimal oversight are not going to lie. Again, are they lying in this case? It is certainly plausible.

    So moving on to ballparking numbers…
    Iraq had 26,074,906 people, in 2005, according to Wikipedia. 600,000 fatalities means one for about every 40 people. Does that seem unreasonably high to you?

    An ‘extended family’ could be 20-40 people, or more. I know our reporting is suspect, but it seems reasonable to me that on average every extended family in Iraq has suffered a fatality. I accept that many people are in more than one extended family, you are in your own extended family, as well as in that of your spouse, but there are also reports of large numbers of family members being killed at one time.

    Are these numbers right? I don’t know of course, but with respect, my ballparking is that it seems possible. Other people in the thread are working from other assumptions. You mentioned the 400,000 or so Iraqi’s who ‘should’ have died based on the 5/1000 figure, and this is 600,000 in addition.

    I have no problem, from a ballparking point of view, in imagining that a massive war, and insurgency, and terrorist playground, could lead to a 150% increase in deaths.

    The other ballparking question is where are all of these people? Is it being covered up, etc? How could we have that many deaths and not hear about it? But again, if the normal state was 5 fatalities/1000, and that is now 12.5/1000 would anyone actually hear about it? A morgue that used to have 5 bodies a day now has 12-13, is that particularly newsworthy? Again, ballparking it that seems possible.

    So, with respect Gaius, since I respect your views in this thread, I think the ballpark analysis is that it is possible. The question of course is how was their particular methodology, but since I havn’t read the study I can’t speak to that.

    As to the issue of hate, with respect, the conservatives are in power right now and ‘they’ still feel the need to write books accusing liberals of ‘Treason’ and of being ‘Godless.’
    It might be interesting to try to work out some sort of ‘hate index’ to judge political hate. It would be hard to do in any sort of objective fashion. Are political bombings and murders part of political hate? Or are they ‘simply’ crimes? Do ‘you’ get to judge me because of the Weatherman Underground? Do I get to judge ‘you’ because of Oklahoma City? Anyway, an interesting question.

  6. Gaius says:

    Let me just put it this way – the media has been Johnny on the spot to report casualties, publishing daily body counts. I think we can agree that is the case. The number reported in the study is orders of magnitude higher. Iraq Body Count has less than 1/10th of this number they are trowing around. Who is wrong? All reports – right across the board – put the violence highest in Baghdad. Official morgue records show much, much, much lower body counts. This same group said it was 100k two years ago, 665k today. Doesn’t that set off warning bells? Literally some 700 people every single day for two years above the expected death rate? Plausible? Really? They would be tripping over the bodies. If you accept the morgue counts from Baghdad (the UN does) then something like 89% of the casualties are happening outside of Baghdad in the areas that do not report anything like the violence in the capital. (very rough calc using this months figures which is unrealistic as hell).
    I’m working from 24 million population and 7.4 million in Baghdad for the rough calcs I did. But this study makes no sense even if you plug in higher total population and lower Baghdad population.

    Numbers do not add up – they just don’t pass a basic common sense test. Think about it.

  7. Don’t flatter yourself Gaius. You’re not worth hatred. Contempt, yes, but only because you’re willing to look away from evil when it’s staring you in the face. You’d rather look away, than demand, and find, the truth.

    The rest of what you’re seeing is anger. Because, you see, when I hear that six hundred thousand people have died due to a stupid war, it makes me angry. I know… some of us care about human beings, and that makes us “angry”, and occasionally mistaken for “hateful”.

    How the hell could the Iraqi government know how well the study was done, unless they’d done one in parallel and got different results? Hint: rhymes with “they couldn’t”.

    They have no information available to them to discredit the report. The question isn’t “are they BSing”, the question is “why?” and embarrassment, and the demonstration of their weakness, is a reasonable explanation. Can you find another one better? Great, come up with one, but before you try to claim they are *not* BSing, feel free to find a real, honest-to-goodness problem with the report that they know about.

    By the way, if you’d *read* the report, you’d know that of the sampling they took, 80% of the deaths were confirmed with death certificates. Even if every single death that didn’t have a certificate was fabricated, we’d be looking at over half a million expected deaths.

    Wake the hell up. 700 people a day, when there’s 25 million folks to take care of the bodies? That means if it takes ten people to take care of a body, there’s still three thousand times as many people as they need to keep the bodies out of the way. (700 x 10 = 7,000 x 1000 = 7mil, x 3 = 21.)

    Do you notice everything going on around you, when it occupies less than one 3,000th of the people around you? Especially when it’s a day-to-day occurrance?

    God… and you actually said they *numbers* don’t add up. And talked about being able to ballpark numbers, but couldn’t notice that 700 a day is less than 1/30,000th of the population, or that over 40 months, we’re talking about 4% of the population, a mere 1 in one thousand in a month.

  8. Rich Gibson says:

    Hi Gaius,

    I don’t believe the media has been nearly as effective as you believe at reporting casualties. I think the press is mostly trapped in the green zone and so miss a great deal. I also believe that many deaths are going unreported. The report in the comments above of parents burying their children in the backyard because it was unsafe to leave their homes is one example. Granted arguing from anecdote is unpersuasive, but that informs my ballpark calculations.

    ‘MathMatics’ posted some numbers above, where he calculated about 510 deaths/day. Still a lot higher than other numbers we see, but 510 is not the 700 estimate you mention.

    As for tripping over the bodies, I think we are agreed that approximately 468,000 people would have died at the expected rate (5 deaths/1000, times 26,000,000 people = 130,000 per year, times 3.57 years, 1305 days, is 468,000), or 358 per day.
    (slightly lower of course if we assume 24,000,000 as our base, or make other adjustments-but like you I don’t think that changes the thrust of the argument much).

    Assuming 510 per day additional fatalities, on top of an expected 358, just doesn’t push my ‘implausible’ button, nor does it push my ‘tripping over bodies’ button. Also, this is one of the approaches used to measure deaths in the Darfur conflict/genocide. The Sudan has 41,000,000 people, of course not all are in the Darfur region. Their conflict has continued for a similar time frame, with death estimates that are somewhat similar. A range from 50,000 or so up to 400,000.

    Anyway, I don’t mean this to be a talking point, or to convince you that 600,000 extra people have died in Iraq versus 50,000 or 100,000, it is enough to present my personal view that these numbers are within the range of plausible deaths.

    And with that said, and yes, this is arguably a bait and switch, I believe there is consensus that the Iraq Body Count numbers represent an absolute lower bound to the fatalities. In fact, they are bitterly criticized from the left for substantially understating their numbers, and their much lower figures of 44,000-48,000 are horrific to me. At a basic visceral level, the difference between the estimates of 44,000 and 600,00 people killed are immaterial to me, any of those numbers are horrible.

    Of course the difference is important if, like schroedinger’s cat, you are one of the 556,000 people who are either dead, or alive, depending on the statistical methodology used :-)

    To put it into my perspective, substantially more innocent Iraqi’s have died in this war than we lost in Vietnam (I am not attempting a moral equivalence between American Soldier and Iraqi Civilian, just a numerical comparison). If one adjusts for relative sizes of population, _at least_ ten times as many Iraqi civilians have died compared wth Americans killed in Vietnam. I was not in Vietnam (as the joke goes, I had little league instead), but I, and our whole nation, were damaged by the losses we incurred. Imagine if we had lost 600,000 service members (ie. adjusting for the US being 10 or so times as populous as Iraq)?

    I am not trying to do ‘fuzzy math’ here, rather, I’m trying to lay out the emotional impact which I feel at the news from Iraq. I read ’50 bodies found, most tortured, all shot’ and I think “wow, adjusting for population that is comparable to 500 Americans.”

    This is an interesting analysis of the IBC figures, the original Lancet study that showed 100,000, and the UNDP study:
    http://iraqmortality.org/iraq-mortality

    I don’t think that site is particularly partisan, but let me know if you think otherwise.

    Regards,
    Rich

  9. Look, put away the damn abacuses for a minute. Whoever wants to defend Lancet’s number answer me this: You’re basic assertion seems to be that these numbers are legit, even though nobody seems to be able to locate these hundred of thousands of extra bodies, and the folks publishing the study say their margin for error ranges from from 426,369 to 793,663 (according to this NY Times report), and so you seeem to believe that:
    the White House;
    the Pentagon;
    Iraq’s nascent government;
    the UN;
    everyone else keeping a body count,
    are all suppressing this damning, higher-rate death data for their own personal or political reasons–aided and abetted by a pliant MSM–and it was left to the righteous Johns Hopkins eggheads to bring this damning indictment to light… do I got the original gist of this BS numbers fight right?

    If so, explain to me how Al Jazeera (“You Tell Us Where and our Cameras are There!”), the Jihadis’ favorite outlet for displaying all manner of carnage blamed on the infidel occupation of Allah’s backyard, ALSO missed all these extra stiffs (if I’m to believe anything close to Lancet’s total exists)?

  10. Engineer says:

    They interviewed 1,840 random people and found over 500 dead (92% of those showed the death certificate). And if you think about they clearly couldn’t interview at homes that don’t exist anymore…so 1 dead for every 4 randomly selected home. That’s bad no matter how you look at it.

    If you don’t like that, consider this: We’ve dropped 240,000 cluster bombs. We’d be fools to think they didn’t kill anyone. Add in gunfire and car bombs and 600,000 dead doesn’t seem that big.

  11. Rich Gibson says:

    TC,

    There are not hundreds of thousands of extra bodies just piled up, there is in alleged increase in the death toll from about 5/1000 to about 12/1000.

    The US death rate is (according to the CIA fact book) about 8/1000.

    Lowering the total from 600,000 to 400,000 would change that to about 10/1000, increasing to 800,000 would mean about 15/1000.

    Again I must ask you, why do you hate the process of science? Counting, which you attack with your plea to ‘put away the damn abacuses,’ is not a particularly new technology. If you have an issue with the methodology of a particular study then please bring it up, but ad hominem attacks do no credit to your cause.

    Rich

  12. Omar from Iraq the Model–who’s actually there, which none of the authors of this paper actually can claim (when it came to compiling the source data they used locals and had it forwarded; in some cases that’s called “hearsay evidence”); –says it is purely politically driven drivel. Since the document’s release I have not seen a flood of statisticians coming out in defense of these findings. In the MSM articles, nobody among the people reporters usually call to explain these kinds of stories (where for the most part, the reporters are oblivious to the credibility of anything scientific they are covering) seems to say they consider the report’s conclusions to be bulletproofly constructed and inarguably conclusive. Mainly, the defenders I’m finding are people commenting on friggin’ blogs.

    Your arrival at my alleged “hatred” of the process of science comes from… what? Comments contained in one post’s thread. Where I question the idea that these guys are not grinding an axe, and juggled the numbers to their liking and then presented their “findings” as fact.I disputed this survey’s finding. I disputed the idea that “Lancet” is some white-robed oracle outfit with absolutely no dog in the political fight surrounding the testing grounds they cast their study around.

    I’m not alone in that position. But in your eyes, my disputation paints me an anti-science Luddite. You’ve taken one single piece of perceived “data” and extrapolated from that to a firm conclusion; that’s a wild leap you’re taking there. Kinda flies in the face of the scientific process, wouldn’t you say?

    And now we are here. It’s all amusing to me, because I never addressed the findings in the first comment I left in response to the original post; just said to Gaius there would probably be more media whacks in the RNC’s immediate future, and doubted they were capable of dealing with it. I’ve been playing in a politics playground since I was eight and my Father had me running errands for his Hibernian buddies and various union bosses. I got Democrat bonafides that were built into my DNA, babe.

    But my voter reg card says “Independant” because I learned way back then, and had it confirmed as I grew up, that they are ALL corrupt, no matter what side of the aisle. I look at partisan politics as sport, Sport.

    You and others here had the temerity to brand me after I commented on the conditions I see on the political playing field. I said “put away the damn abacuses” because I worked on Wall Street for over a decade and learned I could make numbers do anything I damn well wanted them to do, but they better be able to hold up to the smell test. My accountants would assure me they could always defend them, but that never stopped the CFTC from hassling me whenever we submitted stuff that was borderline funky.

    These Lancet numbers stunk like a skunk the minute they showed up. Do all the calculations you feel like, but unless you can write up an algorithm that will tell me where all the damn bodies are buried, you’re just playing math-geek in a late night dorm room bull session games. Anyone can cook numbers; been there, done that. Reasonable people require not a math proof, but physical proof, when it comes to how many people are said to be dead.

    This survey is just pulling numbers out of an anus, with some methodological malarkey applied as a defence trying to cover the stench.

  13. TC:

    Omar from Iraq the Model–who’s actually there, which none of the authors of this paper actually can claim (when it came to compiling the source data they used locals and had it forwarded; in some cases that’s called “hearsay evidence”);

    That kind of statement is why someone would call your attitude one of hatred towards science.

    They asked local people to do surveys, and forward the raw survey data to them. That’s no more “hearsay evidence” than any other method of data compilation.

    –says it is purely politically driven drivel. Since the document’s release I have not seen a flood of statisticians coming out in defense of these findings. In the MSM articles, nobody among the people reporters usually call to explain these kinds of stories (where for the most part, the reporters are oblivious to the credibility of anything scientific they are covering) seems to say they consider the report’s conclusions to be bulletproofly constructed and inarguably conclusive.

    1) people aren’t flooding out to talk about this because the media doesn’t think people care. Exempli gratia, you are willing to insist this must be wrong in some way, and aren’t willing to dig in to find the truth.

    2) No statistician is going to call another’s work “bulletproof” without going over *everything*. Every statistician who has read the articles has said the methodology is sound.

    Mainly, the defenders I’m finding are people commenting on friggin’ blogs.

    And attention in the blogsphere has never driven a story that the mainstream media ignored, right?

  14. melior says:

    Thankfully for science, the “argument from incredulity” you present is not given much credence by real peer-reviewed journals.

    You may, however, have a strong chance of being accepted as a fellow at the Discovery Institute for Intelligent Design. Apply today!

  15. Oh, and Engineer? Lancet’s number is higher than the toll after Bomber Command dropped nearly a million tons of stuff, indiscriminately, leveling entire cities, on Europe during WWII.

    So no, those cluster bombs don’t come close to a mitigating factor.

  16. Gaius says:

    But then proof by insult is also not accepted.

  17. Pingback: Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » Asymmetrical Common Sense

  18. The pullquote used for your reasoning to explain my “hatred of science” branding is patently ridiculous. “He find the methods questionable; therefore, He despises Science in its entirety.” It’s as lame as your little Latin EG. Good God, you’re probably college educated, aren’t you? And never were forced to plant your ass in a Rhetoric 101 class.

    “2) No statistician is going to call another’s work “bulletproof” without going over *everything*.”

    Which goes back to my original question which has drawn me further into this circle jerk of a comment thread than I ever expected: Who were the “peers” that did the review;accepted it as solidly constructed, and signed off on the report’s release. Supposedly, those folks DID go over *everything*. Just ’cause Lancet claimed it happened don’t mean it’s true. Let’s hear who signed off on this thing.

    Or maybe Lancet’s reviewers are akin to Jason Leopold’s “sources” in his reportage of Karl Rove’s signed and sealed “Plamegate” indictment.

    “And attention in the blogsphere has never driven a story that the mainstream media ignored, right?”

    Dude, I just checked Memeorandum. The only mention was this piece from Jane Galt. She, too, thinks the numbers are bunk.

    The blogs have already written this off and gone looking for better material than this farcical bit of partisan fluff.

  19. MathMatics Major says:

    TC, how many people (civilian and military) died in WWII???? How long was WWII? What was the pre, current ans post war mortality rate? Don’t bring up WWII to support your claim here because if you look into the 62million people(3% of the worlds population) killed world wide due to WWII then you’ll see 4% of the iraqi population killed in the last 3 years 7 months is not a crazy number.

  20. Pingback: Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » Iraqi Response To Lancet “Study”

  21. Triple M? the period I cited was 1940-1945. And mostly involved one country getting the bejeezus beat out of them, Germany.

    Now, I got a squash I grew in my yard that’s kinda more orange than green sitting here; does that make it a citrus fruit?

    ///////////
    slashies rule the world!

  22. Black Jack says:

    Gaius, given the number of defenders and their hysterical pronouncements here, an outside observer could easily conclude that Bill Clinton wrote the silly report, and that Sandy Burgler stands ready to verify the conclusions, as soon as he looks at the data in his socks.

    Next Lancet could shift focus to Lebanon. A good follow-up survey could include asking “Green Helmet Man” how many ambulances were necessary to transport all those cadavers around the war ravaged countryside so they could be photographed over and over again at different locations. You know, just to perk up the totals and compensate for any unintentional oversights.

  23. Guys? Dolls? Longhaired Hippies?

    Let’s all breath through our bellybuttons,
    deep and earnestly,
    and say, “Ohhmmm… WTF?”
    And grab a single malt and a flagon of beer.

  24. Pingback: LeatherPenguin: Nobody Reads This » I Thought I was Packing a Happy Just Busting Balls on Blue Crab Boulevard

  25. John says:

    I know that TC@LP doesn’t like math, but here’s some more just for fun:

    US Deaths (in the continental 48 states):
    2,450,149.2159 deaths per year in 9,631,420 sq km
    0.254 per sq km per year

    Iraqi Deaths:
    166,250 deaths per year in 437,072 sq km (665,000 over 4 years)
    0.380 per sq km per year

    That’s a 67 percent increase in geographic density over the United States, a first world country at peace within our borders. I don’t even see a funeral procession very often, and we handle the dead bodies just fine. In a country experiencing open war, this isn’t surprising, and it doesn’t mean that they would be “tripping over” the bodies.

  26. Pingback: My Own Thoughts » 600,000 is so wrong

  27. Drewski says:

    Have any of you got the idea that LeatherPenquin is actually a red herring and he is only stirring up anger to keep us talking and keep the study “controversial” — official GOP/NRA/oil industry tactics. Plants like these are everywhere — usually spotted by their arrogant incoherance — don’t feed them and they will die off.

  28. Gaius says:

    No, Drew, TC is just TC.

  29. Drewski?
    Sorry, I went on vacation… that what us evil bastards guys that created their own dime do.

    Anyway, short answer: “NO.” I live on Staten Island, NY. The only frickin’ place in the city where Repubs have any stones….

    And I regularly throw rocks at the little guido I refer to as my “Congressional robot,” while my Wife asks, “”You know this guy… and you rip him right to his face?”
    ME: He’s a big boy; he can take it.”
    HER: “What if he gets pissed?”
    ME: “He walkies into my world and I got better guns.”

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