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Old 04-29-2005, 07:35 PM   #1
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Why an Estimate was Ignored

This forum should die.

But here is a new report on civilian deaths.

Dead Iraqis Why an Estimate was Ignored
By Lila Guterman

Last fall, a major public-health study appeared in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, only to be missed or dismissed by the American press. To the extent it was covered at all, the reports were short and usually buried far from the front pages of major newspapers. The results of the study could have played an important role in future policy decisions, but the press’s near total silence allowed the issue to pass without debate.

The study, though scientifically robust, had several elements working against it. One was its subject matter: Researchers had done a door-to-door survey of nearly 8,000 people in thirty-three locations in Iraq to estimate how many people had died as a consequence of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. Americans, and their media, were reluctant to accept the study’s conclusions — that the number was likely around 100,000; that violence had become the primary cause of death since the invasion; that more than half of those killed were women and children.

Adding to the scent of propaganda was the fact that The Lancet had rushed the study into print at the lead author’s request. Some reporters may have guessed that the rushed publication — with the U.S. presidential election looming — meant that the study itself was essentially political. But medical journals often fast-track papers that have immediate importance to doctors or to public-health policy. When I was working on a follow-up article about the study for The Chronicle of Higher Education in January, I made three phone calls to other major medical journals and quickly discovered that the manuscript’s turnaround time, about four weeks, was not outside the norm for fast-tracked papers and did not necessarily mean that editing and peer review had been compromised.

But there’s more to the matter than ideology. The way the researchers presented their results made it difficult for statistics-shy journalists to grasp their significance. The scientists, from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, reported a so-called 95 percent confidence interval. They said that they were 95 percent sure the number of deaths lay between 8,000 and 194,000.

Eight thousand and 194,000? What’s a reporter to make of such a broad range? The lower end of that range overlaps well with previous, nonscientific estimates, but the middle and upper range seem outrageous. True, had the researchers surveyed more houses in more neighborhoods, the interval would have been narrower. But each day spent traveling within Iraq for the study presented grave dangers to the American and Iraqi researchers.

Reporters’ unease about the wide range may have been a primary reason many didn’t cover the study. One columnist, Fred Kaplan of Slate, called the estimate “meaningless” and labeled the range “a dart board.”

But he was wrong. I called about ten biostatisticians and mortality experts. Not one of them took issue with the study’s methods or its conclusions. If anything, the scientists told me, the authors had been cautious in their estimates. With a quick call to a statistician, reporters would have found that the probability forms a bell curve — the likelihood is very small that the number of deaths fell at either extreme of the range. It was very likely to fall near the middle.

The Washington Post’s Rob Stein quoted a military analyst at Human Rights Watch as saying, “These numbers seem to be inflated.” If even Human Rights Watch doesn’t believe the estimate, why should you? (The analyst told me that he hadn’t read The Lancet paper at the time, and that he told Stein so, although the Post didn’t mention that. The analyst now has no reservations about the study’s conclusions.) A reporter asserted in The New York Times that “the finding is certain to generate intense controversy,” even though she quoted no one critical of the study.

British newspapers, by and large, did better — most journalists there seemed unfazed by the wide range of the possible death toll and some newspapers put the story on page 1. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that the British government felt forced to acknowledge it. Parliament held hearings and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, wrote a lengthy response to the paper. But the Bush administration has kept mum on the topic, sticking to General Tommy Franks’s oft-quoted, “We don’t do body counts.”

Had the U.S. and UN responded as they did to the lead author’s similar studies in the Congo a few years ago, tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid might have gone to Iraq, and military decisions could have been altered. But without a nudge from journalists, the government has managed to ignore the paper. Even though it tries not to harm civilians, the military makes no attempt to quantify its “collateral damage.”

In the meantime, five months have passed since the paper came out. If the death rate has stayed the same, roughly 25,000 more Iraqis have died
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Old 05-01-2005, 01:18 PM   #2
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Re: Why an Estimate was Ignored

Quote:
Originally posted by Scarletwine
This forum should die.

But here is a new report on civilian deaths.

Dead Iraqis Why an Estimate was Ignored
By Lila Guterman

Last fall, a major public-health study appeared in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, only to be missed or dismissed by the American press. To the extent it was covered at all, the reports were short and usually buried far from the front pages of major newspapers. The results of the study could have played an important role in future policy decisions, but the press’s near total silence allowed the issue to pass without debate.

The study, though scientifically robust, had several elements working against it. One was its subject matter: Researchers had done a door-to-door survey of nearly 8,000 people in thirty-three locations in Iraq to estimate how many people had died as a consequence of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. Americans, and their media, were reluctant to accept the study’s conclusions — that the number was likely around 100,000; that violence had become the primary cause of death since the invasion; that more than half of those killed were women and children.

Adding to the scent of propaganda was the fact that The Lancet had rushed the study into print at the lead author’s request. Some reporters may have guessed that the rushed publication — with the U.S. presidential election looming — meant that the study itself was essentially political. But medical journals often fast-track papers that have immediate importance to doctors or to public-health policy. When I was working on a follow-up article about the study for The Chronicle of Higher Education in January, I made three phone calls to other major medical journals and quickly discovered that the manuscript’s turnaround time, about four weeks, was not outside the norm for fast-tracked papers and did not necessarily mean that editing and peer review had been compromised.

But there’s more to the matter than ideology. The way the researchers presented their results made it difficult for statistics-shy journalists to grasp their significance. The scientists, from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, reported a so-called 95 percent confidence interval. They said that they were 95 percent sure the number of deaths lay between 8,000 and 194,000.

Eight thousand and 194,000? What’s a reporter to make of such a broad range? The lower end of that range overlaps well with previous, nonscientific estimates, but the middle and upper range seem outrageous. True, had the researchers surveyed more houses in more neighborhoods, the interval would have been narrower. But each day spent traveling within Iraq for the study presented grave dangers to the American and Iraqi researchers.

Reporters’ unease about the wide range may have been a primary reason many didn’t cover the study. One columnist, Fred Kaplan of Slate, called the estimate “meaningless” and labeled the range “a dart board.”

But he was wrong. I called about ten biostatisticians and mortality experts. Not one of them took issue with the study’s methods or its conclusions. If anything, the scientists told me, the authors had been cautious in their estimates. With a quick call to a statistician, reporters would have found that the probability forms a bell curve — the likelihood is very small that the number of deaths fell at either extreme of the range. It was very likely to fall near the middle.

The Washington Post’s Rob Stein quoted a military analyst at Human Rights Watch as saying, “These numbers seem to be inflated.” If even Human Rights Watch doesn’t believe the estimate, why should you? (The analyst told me that he hadn’t read The Lancet paper at the time, and that he told Stein so, although the Post didn’t mention that. The analyst now has no reservations about the study’s conclusions.) A reporter asserted in The New York Times that “the finding is certain to generate intense controversy,” even though she quoted no one critical of the study.

British newspapers, by and large, did better — most journalists there seemed unfazed by the wide range of the possible death toll and some newspapers put the story on page 1. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that the British government felt forced to acknowledge it. Parliament held hearings and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, wrote a lengthy response to the paper. But the Bush administration has kept mum on the topic, sticking to General Tommy Franks’s oft-quoted, “We don’t do body counts.”

Had the U.S. and UN responded as they did to the lead author’s similar studies in the Congo a few years ago, tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid might have gone to Iraq, and military decisions could have been altered. But without a nudge from journalists, the government has managed to ignore the paper. Even though it tries not to harm civilians, the military makes no attempt to quantify its “collateral damage.”

In the meantime, five months have passed since the paper came out. If the death rate has stayed the same, roughly 25,000 more Iraqis have died
We know that 1,575 US troops have died in Iraq because of multiple pieces of evidence to include the persons body, name and other ID, specific cause of death, events that led up to that etc.

Its not based on a survey of US troops, but is based on irrefutable physical evidence.

To me it is absurd that someone would use a random survey to determine deaths do to US military action. Its the type of BS that led to the figure of 7,000 people being murdered at Jenin on the WEST BANK by the Israely Defense Force. Forensic teams later went in and examined the whole villiage and only found 49 civilians that had been killed. They identified all of them and study how they died. They discovered that not a single person had been murdered by the IDF. All 49 civilians had died as a result of accidents.


The United States military DOES NOT target civilians and does more than any other military on the planet to limit civilian losses that unfortunately happen as a result of necessary military action in urban area's.

On the other hand, Saddam and the terrorist who currently oppose the coalition in Iraq do target civilians and in fact try to inflict as much civilian losses as possible.
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Old 05-01-2005, 02:25 PM   #3
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Actually Sting you are wrong about Jenin, the UN and reporters only later (after Israel had been accused of murdering hundreds indiscrimiately) determined that 52 Palestinians had been killed, that includes both civilian and terrorists, only 22 were civilians. In addition 23 Israeli troops were killed in the fighting ~ this was a situation where the terrorists fought behind their civilians, these tactics work best against a moral foe who will do everything possible to limit civilian casualties.
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Old 05-01-2005, 02:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
Actually Sting you are wrong about Jenin, the UN and reporters only later (after Israel had been accused of murdering hundreds indiscrimiately) determined that 52 Palestinians had been killed, that includes both civilian and terrorists, only 22 were civilians. In addition 23 Israeli troops were killed in the fighting ~ this was a situation where the terrorists fought behind their civilians, these tactics work best against a moral foe who will do everything possible to limit civilian casualties.
Where was I wrong? I just stated that Israel had been accused of murdering thousands of civilians in Jenin and then special teams went in to examine the evidence and found that only a few dozen civilians had been killed and all as a result of accidents. I remember the exact number being around 50 and that it was seperate from the number of terrorist killed.
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Old 05-01-2005, 04:43 PM   #5
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I think that the numbers are off, but the entire groundless accusations argument is dead accurate.
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Old 05-01-2005, 08:06 PM   #6
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Ok, here's the deal.

The Iraq war was illegal.

End of debate.
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Old 06-01-2005, 12:43 PM   #7
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Ok, here's the deal.

The Iraq war was illegal.

End of debate.
That's why there are so many resolutions condemning it, and non supporting it?
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Old 06-01-2005, 01:39 PM   #8
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Originally posted by Dreadsox


That's why there are so many resolutions condemning it, and non supporting it?
Since when are UN resolutions carved in stone, for example there have been various UN resolutions against Israel which Israel has blithely ignored.

It seems that there is selectivity in terms of which UN resolutions are deemed appropriate to implement, and which are not.
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Old 06-01-2005, 04:45 PM   #9
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Originally posted by financeguy


Since when are UN resolutions carved in stone, for example there have been various UN resolutions against Israel which Israel has blithely ignored.

It seems that there is selectivity in terms of which UN resolutions are deemed appropriate to implement, and which are not.
UN resolutions passed against Israel were passed under Chapter VI rules of the United Nations which do not allow the use of military force in order to implement the resolutions.

UN resolutions passed against Saddam were passed under Chapter VII rules of the United Nations which do allow the use of military force in order to implement the resolutions.
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Old 06-01-2005, 07:19 PM   #10
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Shit man...STing do not use facts...its against the rules.
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Old 06-01-2005, 07:47 PM   #11
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Originally posted by Dreadsox
Shit man...STing do not use facts...its against the rules.
No, using facts certainly ain't against the rules.

I admit I was not previously aware of the distinction between the different types of UN resolutions involved. I bow to superior wisdom on that point.

However the UK Attorney General expressed doubts as to whether the existing UN resolutions were a sufficient legal basis for going to war. This was revealed in a memo leaked to the media a while back.

In addition, it has been known for a long time that the UK military top brass specifically requested clarification from Mr Blair as they were extremely concerned that what they were being instructed to do might not be legal.
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Old 06-01-2005, 09:57 PM   #12
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Resolutions, resolutions...

STING etc, I think you'll find that the easy way in which people dismiss your insistence on resolutions is because they have the distinct feeling that the US Government, in all seriousness (and quite possibly in these terms) never really gave a fuck about them.

What people saw was a US Government that started whipping it's population into a fear frenzy over Iraq, what, nearly a full year before the war came about? Ridiculous claims and half truths, scenarios that were fanciful, connections that didn't exist. It seemed blatantly obvious maybe 9 months before the UN really even came into play, that the US was going to invade Iraq and all they wanted was a few international partners for legitimacy, and the US public to back it. You got the distinct feeling that the LAST thing the US wanted was for Saddam to verifiably disarm - this would completely ruin it all for them.

Fast forward a few months and it was widely reported that the only reason the US even bothered with running it through the UN was at the insistence of Colin Powell and allies, who unlike the US (whose public was now suitably gagging for war right on time) had populations that - free of the post 9/11 shackles of patriotic duty to just say yes to everything Bush says, or else - were polling in the 85%-95% AGAINST the war. The Allies needed the UN's credibility. In the end the US didn't have the patience for it, as, surprise, not everyone automaticaly fell in line.

War happens.

The point is, we all had the distinct feeling that the UN and their resolutions were an afterthought to the US Admin, played up to simply to satisfy those who still believed in the institution and needed something more concrete then anything the US had given as logic for war. But that in the end, even if the UN had passed a resolution specificaly saying that the US could not use force, they were doing it anyway. Simply a case of bad communication from the US Admin? Maybe. But do you deep down really think they give a fuck about the UN and it's resolutions?

What that means is, you can use the resolutions now to justify the actions, but most of us remember that at the time they certainly didn't count for much other than a last point of refuge for a supporter of force in a debate. That, I believe, is why no matter how many times you repeat them in here, most people will still ignore them.
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Old 06-02-2005, 04:07 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by financeguy

I admit I was not previously aware of the distinction between the different types of UN resolutions involved. I bow to superior wisdom on that point.

However the UK Attorney General expressed doubts as to whether the existing UN resolutions were a sufficient legal basis for going to war.
Yes, there are distinctions. However, don´t bow too early

First, the text of the resolutions did not expressively allow the use of military force. Second, the UN Charta´s principles and rules are above those of single resolutions. The UN Charta states very clearly when mil. force is allowed and when not. One of the deciding factors is the vote of the permanent Security Council. Just if all members of the Sec Council agree, mil. force may be used. They didn´t agree. That´s why the action of the coalition broke international law.

You can find the text of the Charta and discussions about that topic in endless posts I have made over a year ago; if you use the search function, you might find them; I can´t dig´em out since I am not premium.
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Old 06-02-2005, 04:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Earnie Shavers

What that means is, you can use the resolutions now to justify the actions
No, you can´t. The wishy-washy "by any means possible" does not explicitly include the right to mil. action which is defined very clearly according to the UN Charta.
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Old 06-02-2005, 04:20 AM   #15
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A prayer to the min. 8,000, but likely 100,000 or 194,000 civilian victims seems appropriate.
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