Friday, October 13, 2006

Found on Clayton Cramer.

Innumeracy Among Journalists

The more I think about the Lancet article, the more obviously bogus the results are. The claim is 654,965 excess deaths caused by the war from March 2003 through July 2006. That's 40 months, or 1200 days, so an average of 546 deaths per day.

To get an average of 546 deaths per day means that there must have been either many hundreds of days with 1000 or more deaths per day (example: 200 days with 1000 deaths = 200,000 dead leaves 1000 days with an average of 450 deaths), or tens of days with at least 10,000 or more deaths per day (example: 20 days with 10,000 deaths = 200,000 dead leaves 1180 days with an average of 381 deaths).

So, where are the news accounts of tens of days with 10,000 or more deaths? Where are the news accounts of hundreds of days with 1000 deaths or more? This article claims that there are perhaps 100 Iraqis a day now being killed in sectarian violence--and this is described as escalating violence. This horrifying article talks about 65 bodies found around Baghdad--with the claim that the day was "notable in its number."

Either the news media have been ignoring hundreds of days with 1000 or more deaths--or tens of days with 10,000 or more deaths--or the Lancet article is utterly wrong.



rod said...

Dan, like most wrong-wing war apologists, you've totally missed the point. If you would like to read something by someone who actually understands statistics and the survey methods employed by this study (and dozens of similar studies, every day in every part of the world, measuring such mundane matters as influenza infection rates, birth rates, injury rates, etc.), I would suggest you look here.

One point in response to your "analysis" - the figure of 665,000 or whatever is NOT intended to describe the number of people who died violently; rather, it is intended to describe the number of people who died in excess of the number who would have died during the same period, assuming the same death rate as existed before the invasion. That is, it includes people who died from disease, malnutrition, etc., to the extent that such a number is greater than the number of people who died from the same causes during a congruent pre-invasion period. Of COURSE thousands of people died every day, just as thousands of people die every day in any country of 25-30 million inhabitants. The relevant point is that some substantial number of people are dying every day IN EXCESS of the number who died during a similar period prior to the invasion.

It is true, of course, that there is no way to know which of those individuals died as a direct result of post-invasion conditions (lack of clean water or medical care, and the like). Indeed, it is impossible to say conclusively that ANY of them died as a direct result of the invasion. As those of us in the reality-based community are fond of reminding our friends among the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, correlation does not prove causality. It is for the reader to infer - or not - whether the damage done during the invasion and occupation led directly to the sharply higher death rate.

Also, regarding your estimate that 80% of those who died violently being victims of "al Qaeda and wannabees" (by which I assume you mean non-coalition foreign fighters, since indigenous "al Qaeda in Iraq" types are, presumably, included among "the factional fighting of the religious groups," which you break out separately) - that will come as quite a shock to the overwhelming majority of military people, especially the British, who have stated categorically their belief that the overwhelming majority of violence is caused by Iraqi-on-Iraqi sectarian conflict, and that foreigners (not counting the US and its allies, of course) make up an infintessimal percentage. And, of course, it is pretty clear that the sectarian violence - aw, let's just call it "civil war," why don't we - is a direct result of the invasion and occupation.

Which is why noted cut-and-run peacenik General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff of the UK Army, argued today that "the continuing presence of British [and, presumably, US] troops 'exacerbates the security problems' in Iraq" and that the troops should leave. He even used your favorite word - "naive" - to describe those who think that continuing the occupation can ever improve the situation in Iraq.

Which, of course, leads us to ask: why does the Chief of General Staff of the UK Army hate America?

rod said...

Not to Bogart the comment thread or anything, but there is another excellent discussion of this study here, which seeks to compare death rates (including infant and childhhod mortality) in the present circumstances as compared to during the murderous Hussein regime, both while sanctions were in place and otherwise. It examines evidence from a wide variety of sources, including some that are much more to the Administration's liking, and finds that no matter how you parse the data, it ain't good.