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-seven. Tim 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.