Re: Question About The Lancet Study


You've said it before in your links, that the methodology and precision, while involving interesting questions, are beside the point if the numbers are anything like close, but Tim Burke has a good short statement of this point of view this morning.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:00 AM
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True. I've just seen a fair amount of discussion of the specific point I was asking about (that the rate of death certificate availablity among respondants doesn't jibe with the Ministry of Health's figures on total death certificate issuance) and I haven't seen anyone bring up whether the MoH figures are plausible on their face.

As you (and Burke) say, it's not all that morally important, but it is interesting.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:04 AM
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Eh. I think Burke is wrong when he says, "If that’s the objective, 50,000 or 300,000 or 600,000 all strike me as deeply worrisome numbers, just as once you cross the threshold of “many millions”, the moral gravity of the Atlantic slave trade is forever established." The difference between 50,000 and 300,000 is important, just as the difference between 6 (the number of people who died in the 1993 attack at the WTC) and 2749 (the number of people who died in the 9/11 attack at the WTC) is important. People reasonably draw different policy conclusions from the different numbers in each case.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:30 AM
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I don't see why any pre-war MOH numbers should be trusted at all. They had a vested interest in keeping the numbers down for deaths the government caused directly or indirectly and maximizing the numbers they could attribute to the sanctions imposed. It's not hard to imagine them under-counting Kurdish and "Marsh Arab" deaths and over-counting Sunni kids, for example.

When the boss has a tendency to go with the off-with-their-heads solution to getting info he doesn't like getting solid numbers is impossible.

Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:39 AM
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3- incidentally, did you notice that last week the number of US fatalities in Iraq passed 2749? (US + international fatalities also passed total 9/11 deaths.)

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:44 AM
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It's not hard to imagine them under-counting Kurdish and "Marsh Arab" deaths and over-counting Sunni kids, for example.

Right, though query where and under what methodological regime the Reds objecting to the current Lancet study are getting their numbers for the number of people murdered or tortured under Hussein. They had an interest in boosting those numbers. (Same with numbers for Syria, etc.) If you're not an expert--by which I mean someone who has more or less devoted your career to the study of these subjects--you're normally going to have to go with the people and culture you trust. I don't know how any sane person can trust the Reds on...well, anything...anymore; per Davies, is there anything that they haven't fucked up?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 9:59 AM
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6: Which is why I trust ("trust" is really the wrong word. It should be "provisionally accept" when talking about any study findings) the Lancet study.

I can easily believe any particular scientist can cook data, there are plenty of examples. I can't believe a whole team, with very much to lose if discovered, would expect to get away with it.

Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 10:20 AM
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I had wondered about this same question, so I did some googling, and I don't think the Iraqi Health Ministry has issued any statements about the total number of deaths. In fact, the more googling I did, the more I because convinced that the official numbers have nothing to do with reality.

One of the points made in the Lancet survey is that the pre-war death rate in Iraq was about 140000 people per year. (I get this number from 5.5 deaths/1000 and a population of 25 million.) So even under the best of circumstances, there would have been over 500000 deaths in Iraq the past three years. So if the warbloggers are right, and there have only been 50000 civilian deaths due to the war, that's about 10% of the total number of deaths. On the other hand, if the Roberts result is right, the number of deaths due to the war is about equal to the number of deaths due to all other causes. This seems very plausible to me.

Posted by: A. Random Physicist | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 10:22 AM
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Tim, there's a "way too much" threshold past which you can't get any wronger. One type of Holocaust denialist lowballs the numbers, as if 500,000 murders were less heinous than 6,000,000, and it seems to me that their viciousness was compounded with extraordinary silliness.

"Oh! Only 500,000 Jews! No biggy!"

In other words, the scale is binary, with a moderate fuzzy area. Past the threshold, if you're not a cemetery architect or coffinmaker, it doesn't really make a lot of difference.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-18-06 10:57 AM
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Re original post:-
From various places in the blogosphere, especially posts and comments by dsquared, it looks like death certificates can be issued by doctors, hospitals or morgues. These are not necessarily then recorded by the government. I know that in country where I live, the attending doctor (if there is one) issues a "medical certificate of death". This then gets lodged with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages who officially records the death in the register and can issue an official copy of that entry in the register i.e. a Death Certificate. It sounds as if in most of Iraq the analogue of step 1 takes place but not so much step 2.
Re 8:-
I understand that (a) the 600,000+- figure is excess deaths, i.e. on top of whatever would be expected normally (b) it includes all deaths, not just civilian deaths, so war deaths of insurgents, police etc. are in there but so is granny who couldn't get to a doctor and might have survived in less chaotic times. So there are at least twice as many deaths from all causes including direct war casualties. (Which may be what you were saying anyway.) The 2004 survey seemed to indicate a high proportion of non-violent excess deaths but this one is the other way around.

Posted by: emr | Link to this comment | 10-19-06 3:26 AM
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Forgot to change name.

Posted by: Emir | Link to this comment | 10-19-06 3:27 AM
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