Monday, January 21, 2008

A bogus 'study' of Iraqi deaths

from the Boston Globe via The Week Magazine

It was a study with a 'jaw-dropping' conclusion, said Jeff Jacoby, and yet the media swallowed it whole. Two years ago, British medical journal The Lancet published a study estimating that 655,000 Iraqis died in the first three years after the U.S. invasion. The Pentagon and conservative pundits questioned the study's validity, pointing out that its casualty total was 10 times larger than the Iraqi government's. The press, though, trumpeted the startling finding "because it served the interests of those eager to discredit the war as a moral catastrophe." Now we know the study was, in fact. litle more than propoganda. after carefully analyzing the data and the "motives of the "scientists," National Journal last week found that The Lancet report was riddled with grave flaws." Left-wing billionaire activist George Soros provided most of the funding for the study, which was conducted by two authors who were avowed opponents of the war. The biased researcher's data and methods, the magazine found, smell of outright fabrication. "Will the debunking be trumpeted as loudly and clearly as the original report? Don't hold your breath."

My comment:

I have to admit, I bought the story (and here) and even referenced it a couple times in my blog (1) (2) (3).

The numbers were incorrect as a measure of Iraqi deaths but, the situation puts me in mind of a phenomenon I experienced throughout a career of corporate positions spanning several decades. If the numbers in your assumptions didn't agree with what management believed the numbers to be your brilliant idea was discounted out of hand. I suppose there is some good in the procedure, but it killed some pretty valid thoughts. So, for the record, let me first express my regret that the numbers don't exactly jibe with other sources and second, express my opposition to the war on the basis of assumptions that don't rely expressly on the numbers:
  • Pre-emptive war is morally and ethically wrong. Our fight in Afghanistan has some moral and ethical foundation. We were attacked. The attack on us originated in Afghanistan. The people who perpetrated the attack on us are still at large in Afghanistan and in the Afghan border region with Pakistan. Our presence in Afghanistan is in defense of country and in retaliation for and attack on us.
  • Our presence in Iraq was prompted by cooked intelligence that reported the presence of WMDs (which proved to be non-existent) and on a presumption of ties between Saddam Husein and al Qaeda (which have also proved to be non-existent). That we are engaged in a war brought on by deliberate falsehoods (if I'd told them, they'd be called lies) compounds the moral and ethical wrong of the pre-emptive nature of the war in Iraq.
  • A military win in Iraq is impossible. Among other things, we've lost track of who the enemy is and, in fact, the vast majority of the Iraqi people have become "the enemy" simply because they don't want us there ... in their country. It can be forcefully argued that most of the people we are killing in Iraq were not our enemies until we arrived.
Though the numbers represented in the bogus "study" may be inaccurate, discrediting them does not constitute a positive argument to justify our presence in Iraq.

However, the whole affair underscores a positive lesson: One cannot combat a fabrication with another fabrication. Only the truth will do.

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