Grey Thoughts
Lancet Tries to Influence US election - Again
The British medical journal, Lancet, has once again, timed a release of a report on iraq casualties in order to influence the US elections in November.

Last time, it was the ridiculous claim of 98,000 excess deaths, plus or minus 90,000 (great error margin eh?). This time, it was the claim that since the war began, there have been around 650,000 more deaths than if no one had invaded Iraq. Of course, in their actual investigating they identified a mere 547 deaths and then extrapolated this to 650,000. Doesn't it just fill you with confidence?

Other people have been doing a great job to show just how pathetically useless this study really is (and just how much a political effort it is).

Magic Statistics has a fairly long report on the problems with the study, including the fact that it only took urban locations as viable for surveying, even though 26% of the population live in rural areas, as well as other methodological issues and concludes
There are many other problems with the Lancet study that could be discussed. What I’ve presented here, however, is more than sufficient to demonstrate that the survey behind the estimate of “excess” deaths was statistically unsound because biased by non-random selection of interview respondents. Moreover, the article’s description of survey field operations is, in the absence of further supporting documentation, highly problematic.

In my judgment, the estimate of 655,000 deaths lacks solid foundation and therefore should not be relied upon.

Another great bit of work was done by the boys at the Iraq Body Count (an anti-war group). A lot of detail is available, but their summary highlights the issues nicely
The Iraqi mortality estimates published in the Lancet in October 2006 imply, among other things, that:

1. On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms;
2. Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment;
3. Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq;
4. Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;
5. The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "Shock and Awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.

If these assertions are true, they further imply:

* incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began;
* bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis;
* the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas;
* an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.

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.

A commentator at Committee's of correspondence points out an interesting fact as well.

But in the comments section, one commenter brings up some very revealing statistics. Their claim can be verified in the Lancet site itself.

Soldier's Dad : states this,

I'll shoot a hole in the Lancet Study.

The mortality rate in the EU is 10.10/1000.

The Mortality rate in the US is 8.5/1000.

The mortality rate in Hungary is 13/1000

The world average mortality rate is 8.5/1000 per year.

The Lancet study uses a "baseline" mortality rate of 5.5. Half the mortality rate of Europe.
To be fair to Lancet, the mortality rate is the accepted value by the CIA, so they aren't just making it up. The issue remains though that under a dictatorship this mortality rate is unknowable with any certainty. Even if their methods were valid, they would need to have done the same thing before the war to appropriately fix this baseline rate. They didn't, and couldn't, and so this study is essentially mixing apples with oranges and should be disgarded for the crap that it is.
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