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Old 10-28-2004, 06:19 PM   #1
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100,000 civilians killed

LONDON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence since the U.S.-led invasion last year, American public health experts have calculated in a report that estimates there were 100,000 "excess deaths" in 18 months.

The rise in the death rate was mainly due to violence and much of it was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns and cities.

"Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," said Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.

"The use of air power in areas with lots of civilians appears to be killing a lot of women and children," Roberts told Reuters.

The rest of the story can be read on yahoo and elsewhere. It's too early to comment too much on it but if the figure is anywhere nearly accurate then something has gone badly wrong if George W Bush is elected US President next week.
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Old 10-28-2004, 06:24 PM   #2
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100,000 deaths!

Now that is an interesting figure that seems to be way to high.
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Old 10-28-2004, 06:27 PM   #3
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Well, we'll find out more over the next few days I'm sure.
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Old 10-29-2004, 04:50 AM   #4
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Apology to the moderator. What happened was I thought I had lost my original post and when I went back to paste it back in I went to the wrong thread.
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Old 10-29-2004, 08:23 AM   #5
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it does seem like a high number. last i heard it was something like 30,000 but this new figure isn't shocking i guess. regardless it's 30 or 100k too many.
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Old 10-29-2004, 08:27 AM   #6
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Since the other thread was closed instead of merged, I 'll repeat what I said there:

With no clear dividing line between insurgant/militant/terrorist and civilian, I have little confidence in what this number represents.

The terrorist plays this to their advantage.
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Old 10-29-2004, 05:08 PM   #7
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Whether the number is correct or not, it represents many, many innocent people. I grieve for their families.
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Old 10-29-2004, 07:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by najeena
Whether the number is correct or not, it represents many, many innocent people. I grieve for their families.
Lets just say it represents many people. Whether they were true civilians or non-uniformed insurgents is unknown.
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Old 10-29-2004, 10:02 PM   #9
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But even that distinction may not be so easy to make. One might think someone is an insurgent when they're not (or, granted, vice versa).

I think najeena is right, though. That's a lot of innocent people no matter what the actual breakdown is. Only God knows.
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Old 10-29-2004, 10:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


Lets just say it represents many people. Whether they were true civilians or non-uniformed insurgents is unknown.
People can say what they like.

I believe it is tens of thousands.

This type of bombing kills indiscriminately.

Thousands of innocent women and children have been wrongly killed.

Many more have been maimed.


This is a sure way to lose the hearts and minds of people that hated Saddam.
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Old 10-29-2004, 10:30 PM   #11
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Before the invasion, the most common causes of death in Iraq were heart attacks, strokes, and chronic diseases. Afterward, violent death was far ahead of all other causes.

"We were shocked at the magnitude but we're quite sure that the estimate of 100,000 is a conservative estimate," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins team.

Burnham said the team excluded data about deaths in Fallujah in making their estimate, because that city was the site of unusually intense violence.

In 15 of the 33 communities visited, residents reported violent deaths in their families since the conflict started.

They attributed many of those deaths to attacks by US-led forces, mostly airstrikes, and most of those killed were women and children. The risk of violent death was 58 times higher than before the war, the researchers reported.

The team included researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies, which has conducted similar mortality studies about North Korea and Congo.
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Old 10-30-2004, 11:46 PM   #12
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Via The Command Post comes this study published in Lancet (free reg) which purports that 100,000 Iraqi have died from violence, most of it caused by Coalition air strikes, since the invasion of Iraq. Needless to say, this study will become an article of faith in certain circles but the study is obviously bogus on its face.

First, even without reading the study, alarm bells should go off. The study purports to show civilian casualties 5 to 6 times higher than any other reputable source. Most other sources put total combined civilian and military deaths from all causes at between 15,000 to 20,000. The Lancet study is a degree of magnitude higher. Why the difference?

Moreover, just rough calculations should call the figure into doubt. 100,000 deaths over roughly a year and a half equates to 183 deaths per day. Seen anything like that on the news? With that many people dying from air strikes every day we would expect to have at least one or two incidents where several hundred or even thousands of people died. Heard of anything like that? In fact, heard of any air strikes at all where more than a couple of dozen people died total?

Where did this suspicious number come from? Bad methodology.

From the summary:

Mistake One:

"A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004"

It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical. Since all sources agree that violence in Iraq is highly geographically concentrated, this means a cluster sample has a very high chance of exaggerating the number of deaths. If one or two of your clusters just happen to fall in a contended area it will skew everything. In fact, the study inadvertently suggests that this happened when it points out later that:

"Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters..."

In fact, this suggest that violent deaths were not "widespread" as 18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths. if 54% of the clusters had no deaths then all the other deaths occurred in 46% of the clusters. If the deaths in those clusters followed a standard distribution most of the deaths would have occurred in less than 15% of the total clusters.

And bingo we see that:

"Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja"

(They also used a secondary grouping system (page 2, paragraph 3) that would cause further skewing.)

Mistake Two:

"33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002."

Self-reporting in third-world countries is notoriously unreliable. In the guts of the paper (page 3, paragraph 2) they say they tried to get death certificates for at least two deaths for each cluster but they never say how many of the deaths, if any, they actually verified. It is probable that many of the deaths, especially the oddly high number of a deaths of children by violence, never actually occurred.

So we have a sampling method that fails for diverse distributions, at least one tremendously skewed cluster and unverified reports of deaths.

Looking at the raw data they provide doesn't inspire any confidence whatsoever. Table 2 (page 4) shows the actual number of deaths reported. The study recorded 142 post-invasion deaths total with with 73 (51%) due to violence. Of those 73 deaths from violence, 52 occurred in Falluja. That means that all the other 21 deaths occurred in one of the 14 clusters were somebody died, or 1.5 deaths per cluster. Given what we know of the actual combat I am betting that most of the deaths occurred in three or four clusters and the rest had 1 death each. Given the low numbers of samples, one or two fabricated reports of deaths could seriously warp the entire study.

At the very end of the paper (page 7, paragraph 1) they concede that:

"We suspect that a random sample of 33 Iraqi locations is likely to encounter one or a couple of particularly devastated areas. Nonetheless, since 52 of 73 (71%) violent deaths and 53 of 142 (37%) deaths during the conflict occurred in one cluster, it is possible that by extraordinary chance, the survey mortality estimate has been skewed upward. "

Gee, you think? It's almost as if military violence is not randomly distributed across the population of Iraq but is instead intelligently directed at specific areas, rendering a statistical extrapolation of deaths totally useless.

In the next paragraph they admit:

"Removing half the increase in infant deaths and the Falluja data still produces a 37% increase in estimated mortality."

That puts their final numbers just above the high end of the range reported by other sources.

This "peer reviewed study" is a piece of polemical garbage. Everybody is supposed to take away the bumper sticker summary, "Coalition kills 100,000 Iraqi civilians, half of them children," without reading the details. It tries to use crude epidemiological models like those used to study disease and applies them to the conscious infliction of violence by human beings. The result is statistical static.

(Update: Commentator Clashman below points out that the studies "conservative" estimate is actually around 66,000 instead of the 30,000 I had done in my head so the study is actually at least twice of what other sources place as the upper range at around 25,000)

VIA: http://www.chicagoboyz.net/archives/002543.html
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Old 10-31-2004, 08:11 AM   #13
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What I'm saying, though, is that it hardly matters if it's 30,000 or 100,000--either way, that's a huge number of people who died unnecessarily. Even *if* you want to estimate that, I don't know, 50-75% of them were actually civilian insurgents--which is probably a really, really generous estimate--that puts it in the low ballpark of at least 10,000 civilian deaths.

Not exactly chump change.
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Old 10-31-2004, 12:03 PM   #14
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Actually, their 95% confidence range is 8,000-194,000.

link

Since the number of civilians killed must be a nonnegative quantity, and since the lower end of their confidence range is so close to zero, it's very likely that the probability density function for number of civilians killed is non-Gaussian and is instead bottom-heavy. So the best guess for the number of civilians killed is probably much less than 100,000.

The results of this study were published in a medical journal, so it's fair to expect it to be scientifically honest. Claiming that 100,000 is an accurate guess is not scientifically honest.

Leave the grandstanding and abuse of statistics to the politicians.
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Old 10-31-2004, 12:29 PM   #15
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I'm not sure that my broader point is being heard: even the very low-end estimates constitute numbers far too large. These people died tragically and unnecessarily, whether there were 8, 8,000, or 8,000,000.
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