Friday, 11 January 2008

Iraq death count "wildly exaggerated"


The Wall Street Journal has now opened up its website to non-subscribers (or "lost its wall" in Tim Blair's words) just in time for me to link to their story on how the Iraqi death toll of 655,000 so gleefully reported around the globe in 2006 was 'sexed up.'

We know that number was wildly exaggerated. The news is that now we know why.

It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. And sadly, that may be the only place you'll find them. While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report -- within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles -- something tells us this debunking won't get the same play.

The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups...

The Lancet study could hardly be more unreliable. Yet it was trumpeted by the political left because it fit a narrative that they wanted to believe. And it wasn't challenged by much of the press because it told them what they wanted to hear. The truth was irrelevant.

As Investor's Business Daily reported at the time:

The study used a methodology known as "cluster sampling," which can be valid if using real data and not anecdotal reporting. Most of the original Lancet clusters reported no deaths at all, with the journal admitting, "two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Fallujah." Fallujah? Hello?

Fallujah at the time just happened to be a major concentration of pro-Saddam and anti-American sentiment, the home base for the homicide bombers and terrorist "resistance" before the U.S. Army and Marines cleared out that nest of thugs.

And the number of clusters used?  Just forty-sevenTim Blair points to a new count - suggesting a much lower toll - which draws from more than 1,000 clusters.  Don't expect that one to get wide coverage either.

It's not just that much of the press and the blogosphere won't want to admit the 'sexed up' death toll they so gleefully reported a year ago was wrong, it's not just that they hate to retract, it's also that they don't want to have to admit -- even to themselves -- that the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by General David Petraeus is working, that by any decent standard Petraeus is the Man of 2007, and that the Iraqis are generally better off now than they were under a bloody, murdering dictator.   To most of the world's press, the truth remains irrelevant to their 'narrative.'

In a world awash with non-objective journalism, thank goodness for the Wall Street Journal.


  1. The wild exaggerations follow on from the times trade sanctions were in place and the left wing were claiming 500,000 children had died due to the sanctions.

    Some leftie journalist won a major award for that story, and when the numbers were debunked, for some reason she was not tarred and feathered and he award stripped from her. We take back Gold medals off athletes when found using illegal drugs, but let journalists off the hook for lying.

    Bad form really.

  2. I see your wild exaggeration of half a mill and raise you 1,165,204

  3. I agree that it's anyone's guess how many people have died in Iraq.

    Nevertheless, what I want to know is whether you support the war or not?

    I don't really see it as a left-right issue over admitting the fact that a shitload of people have died because of the US invasion, whatever the exact number is.

  4. Speaking of which, remember the story about babies being thrown out of incubators?

  5. Remember Gulf War 1?

    In the aftermath it was suggested that 100-200,000 died as a result. Subsequent tallies reduced this to beyween 20-35,000, mainly Iraqi military after an enormous pounding of their positions prior to the main attack and subsequent "Highway of Death".

    So, in a much more "friendly" invasion such as GW2 we could expect to reduce suggested casualties by 3-4 fold.. so even the 600,000 figure comes down to a more conceivable 200,000.

    But no-one has put up a plausible denial of the much more rigorous Iraqbodycount with its less than 100,000 beyond beyond "Oh, they couldn't possibly have got all/most of them".
    Hello? In a country with a million cell phones and 100s of real keen Iraqi media stringers out to supply desperately wanted bad shit to a Western media?

    As for the Lancet figures.. you know you have a problem when your figures for Anbar province indicate that every male over the age of 15 is dead.. and no-one noticed.


  6. a shitload of people have died because of the US invasion

    Yes - but the US forces did not kill them, other Muslims did.

    The Lancet destroyed a reputation built up over more than a century with one ill-considered publication. NEJM is now the premier medical publication.

  7. Losers Average Losers11 Jan 2008, 20:54:00

    Yes - but the US forces did not kill them, other Muslims did.

    This is a great example of the brains-o-shit over simplifications that I have come to expect from the regulars here, could you conceive, even for a second in that vacuum you call a head that this statement might not be completely rigorous.

  8. And of course, Saddam had promised not to kill any more of his own people. Which still outnumbered the deaths relating directly to the US-invasion.

    Meanwhile, as lefties discuss the benefits of a non-interventionist approach to life, 4 million people in the DRC died.

    1 million in Rwanda.

    And now we are looking at Kenya smoldering like a small fire on the edge of summer.

    But wait, let me guess. The lefties will now condemn the USA for NOT intervening in these countries.

    Well, I'm happy to condemn the U.N for intervening, and making things worse. Oh, that reminds me. Sierra Leone. Another U.N stuff up.

  9. 600k is a big number and so demands suspicion. It's more than the Allied dead in all theatres from WW2.

  10. "a shitload of people have died because of the US invasion"
    And a shitload of people haven't died in Saddam's prisons and torture rooms and under his chemical bombs since he was hanged.
    Mind you, I'm sure Iraqis miss the fun of the hunt for relatives among the skeletons in the mass graves.
    Damn Americans!


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