Balkinization  

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Inured

Marty Lederman

The following two stories get page 12 play in today's Washington Post; page 16 in the New York Times. I wonder whether they got any play at all in the nation's smaller newspapers, or on the evening news.

1. Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000 ("A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.") (NYTimes version here.)

2. 110 Bodies Found in Baghdad in 24 Hours ("Iraqi police found 50 bodies dumped across Baghdad on Tuesday, apparent victims of sectarian death squads, and a bombing at a bakery in the capital killed 10 people in the biggest single attack of the day. The discovery of the bodies, many tortured and all shot, brought to at least 110 the number found in Baghdad in the past two days, an Interior Ministry official said."). (NYTimes version here.)

Please note: This is not meant to suggest whether, when and how we should withdraw from Iraq -- surely there's a substantial risk these numbers would be even worse (and buried even farther back in our newspapers) if we did. It might even be argued that despite these horrific tragedies, the Iraq war was worth it in the long run (although I'm very skeptical that history will so judge). And I certainly do not mean to be suggesting any particular assignments of culpability for these deaths to the various actors in the war (although note that the Johns Hopkins study indicates that approximately 180,000 of the deaths may have been caused by coalition forces or airstrikes). On all of these questions, the readers of this blog will have their own views, to which there is little I can helpfully add.

It is merely to suggest that, for better or worse, our decisions and our conduct have resulted in suffering of an almost incalculable scale, but that we rarely even take note of it, let alone give it the attention it deserves. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of U.S. civilians had died in this war . . . . or is that almost literally unimaginable?

Comments:

Marty writes just what I was thinking on the train into my office this morning. I would add to this grim news from Iraq, the equally grim news from Afghanistan, where NATO commanders believe a "tipping point" has been reached and that further resources are urgently needed to avert a resurgence of the Taliban. A week ago, Newsweek made this its coverstory around the world - but not in the United States. For the domestic market, Newsweek decided on a piece on a prominent photographer that is just the sort of material that in prior years would have featured in a publication like People.
These facts are best juxtaposed against the amount of ink and the extremely prominent placement of stories involving the highly sensationalized developments surrounding the resignation of Mark Foley and the inaction of the House leadership. They point to a really quite fundamental error in judgment on the part of newspaper editors across the country. It's not surprising. But it is embarrassing as a reflection on the state of public discourse.
 

[F]or better or worse, our decisions and our conduct have resulted in suffering of an almost incalculable scale, but that we rarely even take note of it, let alone give it the attention it deserves.

Gosh, I wonder why people for whom life consists of daily "suffering of an almost incalculable scale" as a result of "our decisions and our conduct" would get angry with us, and have a desire to strike back.

Please note: This is not meant to suggest whether, when and how we should address the root causes of terrorism -- surely there's a substantial risk that it wouldn't be any better (or addressed any differently in our newspapers) if we did.
 

Scott Horton: They point to a really quite fundamental error in judgment on the part of newspaper editors across the country.

Likely that error is more widespread than simply with our editors. The ascendancy of so-called economic analysis is to blame; where the only criterion is maximizing shareholder return then it makes sense to put on the covers what editors believe will sell best. No need for conspiracy theory; simple confluence of interests explains why a media increasingly controlled by increasingly few hands puts increasingly more emphasis on safe-and-saleable "news" at the expense of what might have been considered civic duty under other than the current vogue of "economic" analysis.
 

Imagine if hundreds of thousands of U.S. civilians had died in this war . . . . or is that almost literally unimaginable?

Actually, given the proportion of 665,000 to Iraq's prewar population of roughly 28 million, to imagine comparable suffering in the U.S., you'd have to imagine that more than 7 million American civilians had died.
 

Professor Lederman:

On all of these questions, the readers of this blog will have their own views, to which there is little I can helpfully add.

As a combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War with a younger brother serving in the Iraq War, my initial reaction to this enemy propaganda masquerading at "science" cannot be printed in this polite company. However, I will restrain myself for long enough to debunk this pernicious nonsense.

Two of the claims to which you refer allege that 655,000 additional Iraqis died as a result of liberating Iraq and our troops killed 180,000 of them.

There is only one way to count bodies and that is to actually count them. Most organizations engaged in the ghoulish business of body counting, rely upon the single, double and triple hearsay counts reported in the press. Pages 10-12 of the Brookings Institute's Iraq Index publishes a collection of these estimates from a variety of groups and estimates that roughly 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the war.

http://www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/fp/
saban/iraq/index.pdf

Two excellent analyses of this raw data shows how the vast majority of those allegedly killed by our forces are most likely enemy combatants.

http://www.logictimes.com/civilian.htm

http://www.logictimes.com/haditha.htm

In stark contrast, the claims to which you cite rely on polls of Iraqis in a combat zone under threat of murder by terrorists or who are themselves part of the terrorist insurgency. I am willing to wager that the polling itself was taken by Iraqi locals who could travel in these combat zones without being attacked by the enemy, which places their loyalties at issue. Under these conditions, is it surprising that an Iraqi respondent speaking with a stranger is going to give the enemy propaganda line?

To compound this gross inflation of casualties, the authors of this junk science are arriving at an artificially low base by using the official records of the Baathist police state for the year before the war. Those records do not record the 350,000 plus Iraqis and captured Kuwaitis murdered and tossed into dozens of mass graves between the end of the Persian Gulf War and the liberation of Iraq in 2003. Nor do these records likely count the estimated 10,000 Shia would were murdered each year by denying them food and medical care and then using their deaths as a propaganda wedge to remove the UN sanctions.

I would pause to note that no one has found the mass graves holding the 655,000 these "scientists" claim were killed since the war began.

Finally professor, you should be ashamed for arguing "our decisions and our conduct have resulted in suffering of an almost incalculable scale." Blaming the US military for the Baathist and al Qaeda murders of Iraqi civilians which continued after our troops liberated Iraq is like blaming our military for the Nazi murders of their citizens in concentration camps as we entered Germany to liberate them.

The great mass murderer Josef Stalin is reputed to have quipped: "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." Because you have not been to Iraq and seen the tragedy of Baathist and al Qaeda mass murder first hand, perhaps you can be forgiven for your misapprehension of what is going on over there. Let me relate to you my personal experiences in Iraq to put a face on the utter evil we are fighting.

I served as an infantry platoon leader in the 1st Armored Division during the Persian Gulf War. After military operations ceased, we performed occupation duty in Shia southern Iraq for a number of weeks until the Ceasefire was agreed to.

The Republican Guard (RG) which escaped our pincer movement in Kuwait started going to work murdering civilians north of our positions. In fact, we could see burning towns from our positions. Some of those Shia lucky enough to survive, straggled into our positions seeking shelter and medical care.

One of these refugees was a Shia woman maybe 7 months pregnant. The RG who sacked her town thought it would be a hoot to gang rape her and then give her an impromptu abortion with an AK 47 round in the womb. Somehow she made it to our lines. I do not know if she survived.

It gets worse...

When the Ceasefire came into effect, we had to withdraw from Iraq back into Saudi. When we told the Shia town which we occupied, they literally turned white and cried that Saddam's army would come to kill them all. They begged us to take them with us and some ran after my platoon's Bradley Fighting Vehicles trying to get a ride into Saudi and away from the RG.

I still feel ashamed about abandoning those people Saddam's mercy and wonder how many of those who I met there are still alive.

This is the kind of evil we are fighting in Iraq. Do not ever again blame our troops for the depredations of these mass murderers.
 

I do not think professor Lederman meant to blame the Iraqi deaths on US troops themselves, but its clear that those who decided to invade Iraq need to bear some kind of responsibility. That this was not somehow anticipated or planned for has placed good troops in a bad situation, with no clean way out. Iraq was a no-win situation from its inception, since it was apparently believed that simply deposing a government and trying to replace it with a new one would solve the perceived problem. No rational or responsible leadership could have thought that to be a real solution.

Regardless of who has killed whom and who may be to blame, one thing is fairly obvious: deposing a government, even a bad one, throws a country and the society it is home to into chaos, most of which will be violent and result in death.
 

Bart: Do not ever again blame our troops for the depredations of these mass murderers.

Your record of service and your harrowing personal accounts do nothing to support your credibility, but rather instead support the contention that you are not able to argue soundly, only "persuasively," from emotion, to questions begged. Were things bad before we began our unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq? Yes. Are things worse for our illegal and immoral acts? Yes. Is your jingoism grounds for overlooking this truth. Not hardly.
 

bitswapper:

I do not think professor Lederman meant to blame the Iraqi deaths on US troops themselves, but its clear that those who decided to invade Iraq need to bear some kind of responsibility

This is the equivalent of arguing that the police attempting to rescue the school children held hostage at one of our Colorado schools recently are responsible for the kidnapper murdering one of the girls.

The murderer is responsible for his murder and not anyone else.

The people seeking to stop the murderer are heroes, not accomplices.
 

Robert Link:

Were things bad before we began our unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq? Yes. Are things worse for our illegal and immoral acts? Yes.

1) When our troops free around 25 million people from a mass murdering dictatorship, how can you possibly accuse our soldiers of "illegal and immoral acts?" There is no greater service a soldier can render than freeing others.

2) As for your claim that things are worse because of the liberation, no one in Iraq wants to go back to the Baathist police state except for the Baathists who lost their power.

Your record of service and your harrowing personal accounts do nothing to support your credibility, but rather instead support the contention that you are not able to argue soundly, only "persuasively," from emotion

Hardly.

I started by debunking the methodology used in the claims cited by Professor Lederman and then offered the actual facts.

However, since opponents to the war usually make arguments to emotion such as pointing to civilian casualties, I offered a real life argument to emotion in an attempt to speak to my audience.
 

"the authors of this junk science are arriving at an artificially low base by using the official records of the Baathist police state for the year before the war"

bart - perhaps you have not yet read the paper? here's the relevant bit:

"To measure mortality we did a national cross-sectional cohort study of deaths from January, 2002, through July, 2006. Household information was gathered about deaths that occurred between January 1, 2002, and the invasion of March 18, 2003, in all households and these data were compared with deaths that occurred from the time of the invasion through to the date of survey. "
 

The level of violence in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was not a constant. During his campaign against the Kurds (including the use of poison gas) and during his crushing of the Shiite rebellion following the Gulf War, violence was at a peak and certainly enough to justify humanitarian intervention. (In fact, we did intervene in favor of Kurds following the Gulf War, quite successfully).

Violence in the years 2001 and 2002 was far lower. It is fair in that sense to argue that this study is biased, in comparing violent death rates now to one of the less violent periods of Saddam Hussein's rule.

Nonetheless, the regime's murderousness was at a low ebb at the time of our invasion, and this fact has to be taken into account in evaluating our actions.
 

Well the Post story was on page one in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

As for you Bart, facts are facts: the invasion of Iraq was completely unecessary and criminal from day one.
 

Enlightened Layperson said...

Nonetheless, the regime's murderousness was at a low ebb at the time of our invasion, and this fact has to be taken into account in evaluating our actions.

Are you saying that so long as the Baathist police state was only murdering say 10,000 per year instead of say 100,000 per year, they deserved to stay in power? All the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Iranians and Kuwaitis who were murdered in the past simply do not count anymore?

For a group of people shedding enormous crocodile tears over the "rights" of unlawful enemy combatants not to be made uncomfortable during interrogations, you sure are cavalier about excusing the murder, torture and rape of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

I'm sorry, but this kind of reasoning is simply beyond my understanding.
 

Bart, with all due respect, and with all due gratitude for your service, you need to know something: The people who prepared this report do precisely this kind of thing for a living. Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, not exactly a well-known hangout for liberals, writes: "The people who did this study, however, are public health professionals at one of the best schools of public health in the country. Statistical studies of population health and mortality are one of the main things that public health researchers do. Biostatistics is not ancillary to their field, as it is to mine; it is a central part of it. These people are very serious experts."

Hilzoy goes on to say that that doesn't mean their work can't be challenged, but it DOES mean that if you are going to challenge it, you had better come correct, as the kids on the basketball courts say.

Their methodology is the kind of population sampling that epidemiologists and public-health professionals do all the time. They sought death certficates in 87% of cases, and in cases in which they asked, they were able to see death certificates 92% of the time.

Claims about how cruel the preceding regime was can be perfectly accurate and still have no bearing on the validity of the researchers' work. And whether the country is "better off" now than before Saddam is a subjective assessment, one that only Iraqis can make.
 

I don't think its necessary to engage Bart on his "analysis". I think one need merely to point out his handy conflation of administration decisionmakers and "our troops". By this rhetorical sleight of hand, Bart is able to huffily chide Marty and other posters for "blaming our troops" for murder and mayhem. But were we to critique Bart's arguments, I think we could do so on the basis of his faulty logic.

Consider this exchange between Bitswapper and Bart dePalma:

BS: I do not think professor Lederman meant to blame the Iraqi deaths on US troops themselves, but its clear that those who decided to invade Iraq need to bear some kind of responsibility.

BD: This is the equivalent of arguing that the police attempting to rescue the school children held hostage at one of our Colorado schools recently are responsible for the kidnapper murdering one of the girls.

His analogy fails on a number of levels, but primarily it fails because unlike the situation in Iraq 1) the rescue in CO did not free the gunman to begin murdering people, and 2) the rescue in CO was necessary to defuse the threat of violence and restore relative peace.

Apart from these basic flaws, I'm absolutely astounded that Bart DePalma so willingly dispenses with the notion of executive responsibility. Coloquially speaking, he seems to reject the idea that one must reap what one sows. Perhaps sectarian militias are doing most of the killing in Iraq. In my mind, the real question is, to whose actions and decisions can we trace the genesis of this violence? I, and most people, would conclude that the instigator, if you will, is the person who decided to topple Saddam Hussein without a plan to govern in the aftermath: Pres. GW Bush.

This apportionment of responsibility to the Executive is not novel, and is certainly appropriate given the powers of the President. Consider the Waco incident in the mid-90s. After 40 something days of standoff, Janet Reno decided that negotiation wasn't working and that it was necessary to invade the Branch Davidian compound. The FBI and ATF did so, and all the occupants of the compound died in a conflagration. Did we blame the ATF and FBI agents for that invasion & their deaths? No. Did we blame the Davidians? Somewhat, but not really. Did we blame the executive branch, especially Ms. Reno and Pres. Clinton? Most decidedly. Did Bart DePalma? I don't know, but given his assertion above, I can only think that he considered the AG and POTUS to be blameless.

I can't speak for the rest of world, but I find such a conception of power without responsibility to be very frightening.
 

Marty and Scott are right about this, but it's not just the media that have things out of proportion. Consider the tremendous amount of ink spilled by bloggers on this and other sites(well, actually "ink" is not quite the right word) on the issue of torture and detainee mistreatment. Yes, Bush administration policies on these matters are disgraceful, but perhaps several dozen people have been "coercively interrogated," while over half a million have been killed in a completely senseless war. Of course, the existence of a monstrous crime does not excuse lesser crimes, and the destruction produced by the overall war does not justify individual acts of brutality. Still, one has to ask why so much attention has been paid to relatively small matters when much larger evils are right before our eyes. Worse, the focus on torture coupled with silence about the overall slaughter in Iraq implicitly sends a very disturbing message: that things would be just fine if only the war were "sanitized" by, e.g., obeying the Geneva Conventions. Well, they would not be just fine, and we need to say so.
 

As a further comment, I don't understand Bart DePalma's regular invocation of the number of people killed by Saddam Hussein prior to our invasion of Iraq. I understand the humanitarian concerns this raises, but would like to know what principled reason we had for invading Iraq instead of say, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Between 1998 and 2004, 3.8 million people were killed in the DRC's civil war. Had we invaded the DRC in 2000 or 2001 we could have prevented the death of millions. If Bart DePalma's admirable concern for citizens of other countries is true, it seems he should be critiquing President Bush's lack of concern for resolving civil crises in many other countries.

Or perhaps it's not the relative number of deaths that Bart DePalma is concerned with, perhaps its the fact that a self-appointed dictator (i.e. Saddam) was doing the torturing and killing. If that's the case, then perhaps Bart DePalma should begin calling for the invasion and liberation of Turkmenistan so as to free the Turkmen from the authoritarian rule of Turkmenbashi.

Surely, by his silence on these matters, Bart DePalma doesn't mean to suggest that the millions of Congolese and thousands of Turkmens killed or murdered don't count anymore? For someone crying crocodile tears over the depradations of Saddam Hussein, he certainly doesn't seem concerned about the millions of men, women and children currently being raped, tortured and murdered around the world.
 

lex:

The people who prepared this report do precisely this kind of thing for a living

I do not doubt that these are public health professionals or their qualifications under normal circumstances.

What I am contesting is the viability of a polling methodology meant for peacetime democracies where the respondents would have no reason to lie about family deaths to an enemy war zone where the respondents are under constant threat of death from terrorists who have repeatedly used civilian deaths as a propaganda tool to weaken the Coalition war effort.

Given that the prior efforts using the methodology in Iraq, most notably the Lancet article, were discredited by the actual body counts on the ground, there is no excuse for continuing to use this methodology unless the authors are using the bogus results with the purpose of weakening the war effort. If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

See

Cramer v. United States, 325 U.S. 1 (1945)

Kawakita v. United States, 343 U.S. 717 (1952)

Chandler v. United States, 171 F.2d 921 (1st Cir. 1948).

Gillars v. United States, 182 F.2d 962 (D.C. Cir. 1950).

Best v. United States, 184 F.2d 131 (1st Cir. 1950)

United States v. Best, 76 F.Supp. 857 (D. Mass. 1948)

Burgman v. United States, 188 F.2d 338 (9th Cir. 1951)

United States v. Burgman, 87 F.Supp. 568 (D.D.C. 1949)

D’Aquino v. United States, 192 F.2d 338 (9th Cir. 1951)
 

Bart DePalma said:

If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

Ah yes, the classic trope of right-wing trolls: Treason! When all else fails, drop the t-bomb, cuz there ain't nothing so treasonous as the truth.
 

Squid Vicious said...

Consider this exchange between Bitswapper and Bart dePalma:

BS: I do not think professor Lederman meant to blame the Iraqi deaths on US troops themselves, but its clear that those who decided to invade Iraq need to bear some kind of responsibility.

BD: This is the equivalent of arguing that the police attempting to rescue the school children held hostage at one of our Colorado schools recently are responsible for the kidnapper murdering one of the girls.

His analogy fails on a number of levels, but primarily it fails because unlike the situation in Iraq 1) the rescue in CO did not free the gunman to begin murdering people...


The Baathists and al Qaeda were loose and murdering innocent civilians for decades before the liberation of Iraq.

2) the rescue in CO was necessary to defuse the threat of violence and restore relative peace.

How is this different from Iraq? This is a regime which waged two wars against its neighbors, was firing at our aircraft and which violated nearly every provision of the Ceasefire which spared Saddam to murder hundreds of thousands more after the Persian Gulf War.

Apart from these basic flaws, I'm absolutely astounded that Bart DePalma so willingly dispenses with the notion of executive responsibility.

How so? The President is responsible for what he orders.

Perhaps sectarian militias are doing most of the killing in Iraq. In my mind, the real question is, to whose actions and decisions can we trace the genesis of this violence?

Centuries of Iraqi history, most recently punctuated by the bloody slaughter of Kurds and Shia by the Baathists when they were in power and now that they are executing a planned terrorist campaign.

Consider the Waco incident in the mid-90s. After 40 something days of standoff, Janet Reno decided that negotiation wasn't working and that it was necessary to invade the Branch Davidian compound.

There is not comparison. The Dividians threatened no one and the claim that they were holding their own children hostage was a lie.
 

Wishing does not make things so, Bart. Using the word 'discredited' as a synonym for 'makes me feel icky' is not a valid argument. Argument from emotion is not a methodological critique.

Now please explain, by your own criteria, how it is that only a few hundred thousand Jews were killed in World War II.

If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

I hope that you're prepared to defend yourself against a defamation suit, because your feverish accusations are heading very rapidly in that destination. I'd suggest that you retract pretty damn quickly, because such cheap words are frankly outrageous.
 

Squid Vicious said...

As a further comment, I don't understand Bart DePalma's regular invocation of the number of people killed by Saddam Hussein prior to our invasion of Iraq. I understand the humanitarian concerns this raises, but would like to know what principled reason we had for invading Iraq instead of say, the Democratic Republic of Congo

There were already UN troops on the ground in Congo.

However, we should have intervened in Rawanda. The inaction of the United States and the EU was reprehensible. I would commend the movie Hotel Rawanda to you.

If we were not already committed in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would support an intervention to stop the genocide in Sudan.
 

Bart DePalma said:

Given that the prior efforts using the methodology in Iraq, most notably the Lancet article, were discredited by the actual body counts on the ground, there is no excuse for continuing to use this methodology unless the authors are using the bogus results with the purpose of weakening the war effort. If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis....

I was unaware that this methodology had been convincingly "discredited." Perhaps you can point us to an overwhelming body of peer-reviewed literature supporting that contention. Unless you can, and unless you can also convincingly show that the authors are "levying War against [the United States], or [are] adhering to [our] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort" by an "overt act," (Art.III s.3), you would be well advised to keep the Ann Coulter-style propaganda ("flirting with treason") under wraps.
 

pseudonymous in NC said...

Bart: If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

I hope that you're prepared to defend yourself against a defamation suit, because your feverish accusations are heading very rapidly in that destination. I'd suggest that you retract pretty damn quickly, because such cheap words are frankly outrageous.


I stand by everything I said.

What is incredibly outrageous is the unsupported accusation that our troops killed 180,000 Iraqi civilians. This claim is indistinguishable from al Qaeda propaganda.

Standing alone, this is arguably a slander.

However, if the intent of this slander against our soldiers was to weaken our national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

I am not carelessly flinging around the word "treason" as a political pejorative. I would recommend that you read the cases to which I cited in my original post making this argument. The courts in those cases held that intent to promote defeatism and harm the national war effort is the equivalent of intent to provide aid and comfort to the enemy and that broadcast of enemy propaganda for that purpose was treason.

Nor am I the only one who thinks such a charge is legally viable under the current law. Professor Tom Bell wrote an interesting law review article which I commend to you named "Treason, Technology, and Freedom of Expression."

http://www.tomwbell.com/writings/
Treason&Tech.pdf

Regardless of the legal consequences, how can you not find the unsupported slander that our troops murdered 180,000 innocent Iraqi civilians to be anything but reprehensible?
 

Bart,

Because resources are limited, humanitarian interventions are necessarily limited. If one is acting on humanitarian criteria alone (I realize there were other factors at work in Iraq, but we are talking about humanitarian ones in this case) such interventions should be prioritized by the severity of the immediate crisis. Committing ourselves to invading and overthrowing every government that kills tens of thousands a year is an impossible committment as you yourself (indirectly) acknowledge. I do not see past atrocities as justification for intervention. Intervening in an ongoing crisis can save lives of countless innocents. Intervening where innocents have been slaughtered in the past will not bring them back to life.

The other reason to use humanitarian interventions sparingly is that they can go wrong. Current conditions in Iraq may very well be better than they were at the time you were present during the Gulf War, or when Saddam was gassing Kurds. But I think there can be no doubt that they have gotten worse than they were during the low ebb of violence at the time we invaded.

And then there is Dafur.
 

Tonal Crow said...

I was unaware that this methodology had been convincingly "discredited."

The authors of these "studies" claim that this methodology allows them to predict the number of actual Iraqi civilians killed because of the war.

Predictions can be tested by performing an actual count.

All the actual counts are a small fraction of the predictions using this methodology.

655,000 deaths would require hundreds of mass graves to dispose of the bodies. Where are these mass graves? Where are 655,000 individual graves?

Given the fixation of the press and the enemy on reporting civilian deaths, how could 655,000 deaths be missed?
 

Coincidentally, as if to illustrate my point, the American citizen making propaganda films for al Qaeda has just been indicted for treason.

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/10/
11/D8KMK47G3.html
 

Bart DePalma said:

Tonal Crow said...

I was unaware that this methodology had been convincingly "discredited."

The authors of theses "studies" claim that this methodology allows them to predict the number of actual Iraqi civilians killed because of the war.

Predictions can be tested by performing an actual count.

All the actual counts are a small fraction of the predictions using this methodology.


Actual counts rely upon official reporting. Such reporting generally works well in nations that are at peace and that have functional governments. They work much less well in nations at war (particularly nations at multi-way civil war) and in nations with underfunded, inefficient, and/or corrupt governments. I would also point out that many Muslims believe Islam to require rapid burial, which would cause significant underestimation of deaths if only bodies brought to an official morgue or hospital are counted.

Now, again, where's the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed lit "discredit[ing]" these estimates?

655,000 deaths would require hundreds of mass graves to dispose of the bodies. Where are these mass graves? Where are 655,000 individual graves?

Iraq is 440,000 km^2. Assuming half of it is suitable for burials, and that the bodies would be evenly distributed, that'd be ~3 bodies/km^2. Since most of the reported killings in Iraq have occurred singly or in small groups, I wouldn't expect mass graves, but rather many individual burials in traditional graveyards. I don't have any stats on this, so I won't speculate further.

Given the fixation of the press and the enemy on reporting civilian deaths, how could 655,000 deaths be missed?

Ah yes, the press conspiracy with the enemy. I should have remembered that.
 

tonal crow:

Now, again, where's the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed lit "discredit[ing]" these estimates?

As soon as any of these experts would like to do the dirty work of actually counting bodies on the ground, you might have a "peer reviewed" article.

I doubt any of these experts making these claims have ever set foot in Iraq themselves, nevertheless even seen a dead body there.

As for the rest of your points, the burden of proof is on you to prove this slander.
 

However discomforting, this staggering death toll must raise the question of America as precipitant and cause of "mass murder" and "genocide." An unjust, illicit war will have similar consequences of a just war, but even within confines of "war," just or unjust, this death toll is beyond a civilized humanity.

Even if the majority of these deaths are inflicted as civil strife, not as a result of direct American casualties, American intervention (and horrible planning) unleased this torrent of death, continue to perpetuate it, and the U.S. must take responsibility for the evil it has caused in an unjust war from the outset.

Still, one cannot look away from the radical elements endemic to the situation, and which have obviously exacerbated the toll. But causes have effects, and would any of these staggering effects have occurred without the cause of an unjust American intervention? The only answer is that we began the mass murder, and we must demand it end. No delay. No waiting until 2008. The compounding immorality, and the damage to our national psyche, is already too high. But as wounded as our consciences should be, we have incurred a penitential debt too.

All this carnage and for what? To pacify an autocrat's pride? To win elections? To placate the base? Where is our moral outrage, particularly from the Religious Right? Is mass murder not on their list of sins?
 

Bart DePalma wrote:

tonal crow:

Now, again, where's the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed lit "discredit[ing]" these estimates?


As soon as any of these experts would like to do the dirty work of actually counting bodies on the ground, you might have a "peer reviewed" article....


In other words, you cannot support your argument that the study has been "discredited." Not only can you not point to an overwhelming body of peer-reviewed work tending to "discredit[]" it, you cannot point to even one such work. This also means, of course, that your contingent charge of "flirting with treason" has no basis.

I doubt any of these experts making these claims have ever set foot in Iraq themselves, nevertheless even seen a dead body there.

This argument, while great talk-show rhetoric, lacks all rational basis. One need not see something to make authoritative statements about it. For example, we know a great deal about electrons, but not one of us has ever seen one. For another, Darwin was spot-on with natural selection while knowing nothing whatsoever about DNA.
 

As for legitimate criticisms of this study, someone already mentioned the choice of baseline. One might reasonably argue that it should be extended to include periods in which Saddam's death squads were more active, though it's difficult to decide what should be included and what shouldn't. Another issue is that the study accepted families' attributions of direct coalition blame at face value, though it excluded coalition blame if there was "any uncertainty about the responsible party." http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/journals/lancet/s0140673606694919.pdf at p.6. Because of the situation, some families might blame the coalition for deaths due to other causes, or extend the notion of coalition blame to deaths that they felt were an indirect consequence of the invasion.

The study also did not try to break out combatants.

Lastly, the study does tend to call its objectivity into question when it says, in a paragraph about deaths in adolescent to middle-aged men, that "Coalition forces have been reported as targeting all men of military age." p.7. The footnotes supporting this assertion refer to a few specific instances of suspected coalition atrocities and to a practice, asserted to be common, of detaining all military-age men in certain areas to sort through them for insurgents. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0724/dailyUpdate.html?s=mesdu ; http://news.lp.findlaw.com/ap/o/632/09-13-2006/a03800148b448124.html . The study should have either omitted this aside or qualified it much more carefully.
 

Bart, I wonder if you think Marty Lederman is "flirting with treason" by linking to this study? His purpose in linking to the study would seem to be similar to the authors' purpose in conducting the study.
 

Dr. Gilbert Burnham, the author of the earlier debunked Lancet estimate of 100,000 Iraqi civilian dead released just before the 2004 elections and the author of the even more insane 655,000 estimate, told Fox News that he opposes the Iraq War wanted to release his latest estimate "if at all possible" just before the midterm elections." But he demurred. his concern is a "humanitarian" one.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis and the US military rejected the estimate as ridiculous.

Yet more reason to treat this politically motivated slander as garbage in, garbage out "science."
 

Bart's really got the red mist up now, blowing out every smokescreen possible to avoid addressing the study on its merits.

What is incredibly outrageous is the unsupported accusation that our troops killed 180,000 Iraqi civilians. This claim is indistinguishable from al Qaeda propaganda.

The study makes no such 'accusation'. As opposed to Bart, who has lied and misled several times as to its specific content, and to the validity of cluster surveys in general.

When all you've got is logical fallacy, appeal to emotion and basest slander, Bart, it's time to log off and get some fresh air.
 

"Bart" DePalma said:

When the Ceasefire came into effect, we had to withdraw from Iraq back into Saudi. When we told the Shia town which we occupied, they literally turned white and cried that Saddam's army would come to kill them all. They begged us to take them with us and some ran after my platoon's Bradley Fighting Vehicles trying to get a ride into Saudi and away from the RG.

Hey, don't forget to include the babies thrown from incubators!

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma does what he does best: Building "straw men":

I would pause to note that no one has found the mass graves holding the 655,000 these "scientists" claim were killed since the war began.

No one said there were "mass graves". "Bart" is simply misstating what the survey said.

Not in the least unusual for "Bart".

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Two excellent analyses of this raw data shows how the vast majority of those allegedly killed by our forces are most likely enemy combatants.

"Enemy combatant" (n): someone killed by our bullets and bombs.

That helps a bit.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Finally professor, you should be ashamed for arguing "our decisions and our conduct have resulted in suffering of an almost incalculable scale." Blaming the US military for the Baathist and al Qaeda murders of Iraqi civilians which continued after our troops liberated Iraq is like blaming our military for the Nazi murders of their citizens in concentration camps as we entered Germany to liberate them.

It's "but for" causality. No one says the U.S. killed them personally. But they're nonetheless dead.

Then there's the "China Shop" rules (not to mention the Geneva Conventions): "If you broke it, you bought it."

If the U.S. invaded and occupies a country, then the U.S. becomes responsible for maintaining order (which ought to be a sensible thing to do in any case). The Dubya maladministration has failed miserably at that (but Bremer got himself a shiny new medal for it, go figure....)

Cheers,
 

And again Bart says that both studies have been "debunked," says that the second one is "insane," and accuses their authors of "flirting with treason." Yet he cannot cite even a single peer-reviewed paper supporting his accusations, let alone the large preponderance necessary to support "debunked." Instead, he's simply asserted that official actual body counts accurately count deaths, then argued that anything different is, by definition, incorrect. Then he caps off this classic in "assume the conclusion" argument by saying that the study is "politically motivated" and implying that it's improper to release it a month before an election in which the war's the central issue.

What a laugh!
 

"Bart" DePalma:

I do not doubt that these are public health professionals or their qualifications under normal circumstances....

"... but when they criticise the war our Great Leader started to find WoMD (well, nevermind, to mop up 9/11 accomplices ... well, nevermind, to spread freedom and democracy at the point of a gun), they must be wrong, because by definition, our Great Leader is not only great, but always right!"

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma said:

What I am contesting is the viability of a polling methodology meant for peacetime democracies where the respondents would have no reason to lie about family deaths to an enemy war zone where the respondents are under constant threat of death...

... but he'll gladly cite "polls" in Iraq about how everyone there just luuuuuvs us, and wants us to stay. Let's hear it for purple fingers!

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma lifts his skirt and lets his fascist legs show:

If the purpose of these polls is to weaken the national war effort, the authors of these polls are flirting with treason as defined by the courts when trying American propagandists for the Axis.

That's our dear "Bart" in a nutshell. John Ashcroft has got nuttin' on him, nosirree....

Cheers,
 

Assume we're in a war where we're "fighting for our freedom" against an enemy who "hates us for our freedom," and that an American advocates substantial reductions in one or more of the civil liberties that constitute that freedom. In a purely theoretical sense, does that advocacy constitute "adhering to [our] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort" within the meaning of Art.III s.3?
 

Tonal Crow: In a purely theoretical sense, does that advocacy constitute "adhering to [our] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort" within the meaning of Art.III s.3?

Yes! (Speaking purely theoretically.)
 

Brian DePalma:

This is the equivalent of arguing that the police attempting to rescue the school children held hostage at one of our Colorado schools recently are responsible for the kidnapper murdering one of the girls.


The police had to rescue school children in that situation. The Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq.

There actually is a logically significant difference between the two situations, and they aren't exactly the same.

If the Bush admin can handily skip out on responsibility just by being painted in the light of those heros risking their lives to save children, then we insure that our situation will get worse and worse. Leadership actually has to be held responsible at some point in time, if we have any desire for our situation to improve.
 

1. I can understand the feelings of rage and inadequacy at having to leave behind desparate people after the first Gulf War.

2. While the rage filled account of incidents like the pregnant woman are heartbreaking, our troops have been involved in many similar incidents. E.G. pregnant woman killed at checkpoint, etc. http://www.abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2025900 Suffocating officers in sleeping bags and through beatings. Repeatedly beating and attacking the incorrect and wrong targets, including horrific deaths of civilians. Not providing protections and introducing rules of engagement that have allowed for massive civilian targeting and retaliation. Thousands of people disappeared off the streets by our forces in AFghanistan and Iraq and with no information to family as to what has happened to them, held with no understanding of what is happening, no ready translators or access to any recognized system or procedures to secure release, and with a military that has been indoctrinated with "humiliation and fear are all they understand, so inflict them" and which was sent off with 19, 20, 21 yos told that Iraq was behind 9/11 and that there were literally no rules; the country was all enemy combatants and no one was looking over their shoulder. That is not an honorable occupation.

3. "Blaming the US military for the Baathist and al Qaeda murders of Iraqi civilians which continued after our troops liberated Iraq ..." There were no al-Qaeda murders of Iraqi civilians going on to "continue". There were Hussein killings, but they were certainly nothing on the scale the Iraqis now live with when we went in. There were much worse episodes of his killings. For example, in his war with Iran, which we supported, when the Kurds joined forces with the Iranians he was ruthless. See, e.g., what we did to Fallujah. When the First Bush encouraged an uprising and left no support - he was ruthless. He did have a direct threat, albeit one he created by being such a despicable despot. We went in and bombed and killed Iraqis with no direct threat. And we are responsible for the terrorist and jihadi influx. And the Ba'athists that have been involved in uprisings - what was their option? Didn't our forces and govt that we put into place directly target them?

4. "When our troops free around 25 million people from a mass murdering dictatorship, how can you possibly accuse our soldiers of "illegal and immoral acts?" There is no greater service a soldier can render than freeing others" Abu Ghraib. Bagram. Gitmo. Illegal and immoral acts. Round ups of thousands by troops who don't speak their language or understand their culture, with no rules and a massive effort to humiliate and degrade and instill fear "shock and awe" and efforts to secure military and military bases and US implants only - with little or no effort for years to actually provide security and support the the people of Iraq. A failed understanding of Sharia and the culture and a failure to have any interest in the repeated warnings of civil and sectarian war the occupation would generate. Hospitals blasted, coroners overflowing, civilian casualties counted as insurgents and taken as routine collateral damage in searches for "maybe that's a bad guy" efforts.

5. Your highest and best definition of what someone can do for another may be freedom (which is at odds with the no-evidence, no-justice detentions taking place in any event) but for people in general under the state of chaos and instability that is Iraq, Freedom has a lesser immediacy than security. Moreover, Islam and Sharia are not as focused on your definition of freedom and that has yet to be taken into consideration in Afghanistan or Iraq, where Consitutions now embed Sharia within the nation founding documents.

6. "Those records do not record the 350,000 plus Iraqis and captured Kuwaitis murdered and tossed into dozens of mass graves between the end of the Persian Gulf War and the liberation of Iraq in 2003. Nor do these records likely count the estimated 10,000 Shia would were murdered each year by denying them food and medical care and then using their deaths as a propaganda wedge to remove the UN sanctions."

Your argument makes Lancet's point. None of the 40-50,000 counts also address the deaths from denial of food and medical care; the inability to travel for food and work etc. Also, if the soldiers were so ubiquitous that there body counts were accurate, we wouldn't be having the constant barrage of 100 bodies found today, 50 the day before yesterday, etc. Those things go on because there is no order the troops, who are NOT equipped for and did not sign on to be Iraqi Police and civil service (which is the need, but which directly counters their 'warrior creed' and broad enemy engagement and determinations to disregard Geneva Conventions and cultural conventions) and they don't know what the heck is going on (or they could counter it better). They bodies found are the ones that are placed for them to find. The fact that they have not done any kind of effort at an accurate overall death and adverse impact assessment, from the beginning, is extremely suspect. I have no idea whether 600,000 is supportable or wildly inflated, but I do know that 40-50,000 is extremely incorrect and does not include the kinds of items you, yourself, pointed out. Also - those mass graves in Iraq have been found, but just as you mention they are not there for 600,000 - they haven't been found for 350,000 either. So is it proof that the 350,000 is too high? You need consistency of application to support your statements.

IMO, the numbers are probably inflated in part because there was not enough weight given to the massive movements of refugees out of Iraq. But it would take a lot of hard study to come up with any credible numbers. Especially since the US Military and provisional gov etc. went out of their way to make sure we did not do credible tracking.

Freedom - women are much more oppressed right now in many places of Iraq than they were at the end of the Hussein regime - which is very sad. People have even more sectarian hate. Again sad. Terrorists have been introduced etc. All why?

Because we "had to" invade Iraq? Why are we in Baghdad and not Darfur? WHy did we desert Afghanistan, to the now steady reappearance of the Taliban?

America's military has been misused and abused and I feel for that. HOwever, American officers who learned from Vietnam have also been derelict in their duties in allowing the degredation and humilition and disappearing of civilians and disregard of civilian deaths to strip the military of hard won respect. And that has happened. Talk over it, bang a fist, stomp a foot, brazen it out that songs about holding up childrent to take bullets in the brain as a laugh line and buffalo wings after the rape of a child and murder of her, her parents and baby sister are things that can be drowned out of the native discourse by a bunch of booo yahs, but that kind of ostrich approach will only help you build the boiling point on your rage - it won't address the problems.
 

Mary:

Your lies reducing our soldiers to mass murderers to salve your conscience for arguing that the Baathist police state should have remained in power are absolutely reprehensible.

The accidental death of a pregnant woman running a well marked checkpoint is nothing like the intentional gang rape of the mother and then shooting murder of her unborn child.

Its time to grow up. Wars are bloody and intent means everything. The Allies accidentally killed tens of thousands of French civilians liberating France from the Nazis in WWII. This is not the moral equivalent of the Nazis intentionally butchering French civilians with the intent of terrorizing them into submission.

The second reprehensible slander you make against our soldiers is to equate a quarter million soldiers who have served in Iraq with a couple dozen soldiers convicted of criminal acts against prisoners and then lie about massive war crimes of "disappearing" thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and targeting more thousands of civilians in Iraq. Either prove your slanders or apologize to the troops.

Next, you falsely claim that the Iraqis are suffering far more killings after the liberation than before. This is both false as a statement of fact and misleading as to who is doing the killing and being killed.

At minimum, Saddam butchered an estimated 350,000 civilians in the 12 years between the Ceasefire and the liberation of Iraq. That is 30,000 a year. This does not count the estimated 10,000 Shia per year who were murdered by the regime by denying them food and medicine and them blaming it on sanctions.

In the 4.5 years since the war started, an estimated 50,000 alleged civilians have been killed. That is about 10,000 per year in absolute terms, far less than before.

However, who are these casualties and who is killing them? A disproportionate majority (68%) of the casualties are military age men, far more than would die in random violence. These young males are almost certainly enemy combatants whom we and the Iraqi military have killed in combat.

http://www.logictimes.com/civilian.htm

The remaining 32% are genuine civilians whom the Baathists, al Qaeda and various criminals which Saddam released are murdering through bombings of and shootings at mosques, markets, schools and places of work to sow terror. When these animals were in power, they sent in the Republican Guard (think SS) or the secret police (think KGB) to do the butchering. Now they use terror.

Thus, roughly 34,000 of the dead are enemy combatants and 16,000 were murdered by the same Baathist scum and their al Qaeda allies who slaughtered 350,000+ in the decade before the war. That is roughly 30,000+ civilians a year murdered by the Baathists before the war and 4,000 a year by the Baathists and their al Qaeda allies afterwards.

These 16,000 civilians were not killed by our forces as you imply. The media delights in reporting the various massacres from suicide bombers and death squads every day. There is no evidence of similar US mass murders of civilians.

Finally, your slander that the US is starving Iraqi civilians and denying them medical care like Saddam did the Shia to excuse this Baathist mass murder is particularly reprehensible. The markets in Iraq are filled with food and consumer goods for the first time in a generation. People aren't dying for a lack of food, they are being murdered by al Qaeda suicide bombers for the crime of shopping for food at the market or by the Baathists for serving in the elected government, military or police.

How you can excuse this abomination of evil is beyond my understanding. However, your accusation against our soldiers of committing similar crimes in order to excuse this enemy evil is almost beyond forgiveness.

Examine the facts and think real hard before you engage in more of these kind of slanders.
 

Mary,

Your detailed and impassioned post is appreciated by at least one of us. Pay no heed to professed attorneys who nonetheless don't know slander from libel, no matter how bullying the manner. One wonders how such folks could pass the bar; certainly one isn't inclined to take seriously anything posted by such a person.
 

Robert said, "One wonders how such folks could pass the bar"

Actually, a percentage of sociopaths are sometimes very intelligent, even capable of exercising enough self-discipline to reach long-term goals which may require abstaining from gratifying some impulsive urges.

Sometimes they are better at situational awareness than non-sociopaths in certain aspects.
 

bitswapper: Sometimes they are better at situational awareness than non-sociopaths in certain aspects.

In light of admonitions I have made on other threads it seems best that I bow out of such speculations in this venue. However, please feel free to catch me in private email; the context here notwithstanding your observations are correct and I'd be delighted to learn how you happen to be acquainted with such information. Peace.
 

Thanks for sharing this information. I really like your way of expressing the opinions and sharing the information. It is good to move as chance bring new things in life, paves the way for advancement. I have read a lot of article of this web site by which many of them were being very interesting and uplifting. This information has excellent subject along with excellent description.
visite me
visite me
visite me
visite me
visite me
visite me
 

I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Agen Bola
 

Post a Comment

Older Posts
Newer Posts
Home