Monday, March 26, 2007

Iraq War Death Count

There has been a long controversy over the Lancet study, "Mortality After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq", which used a cross-sectional cluster sample survey in its finding that over 600,000 Iraqis had suffered violent deaths attributable to the U.S. war in that country. The most common death, according to the study authors, was by gunfire.

Now, Stephen Soldz, at his blog,
Psyche, Science, and Society, has published a report from BBC News reporting that the British Ministry of Defense found the study's methodology to be "robust", and "tried and tested".

The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt.

Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet. But the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser said the survey’s methods were “close to best practice” and the study design was “robust”.
Another expert agreed the method was “tried and tested”....

The Lancet medical journal published its peer-reviewed survey last October. It was conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health and compared mortality rates before and
after the invasion by surveying 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 provinces in Iraq.

The researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people. In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.
Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair’s official spokesperson said the Lancet’s figure was not anywhere near accurate.

He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole. President Bush said: “I don’t consider it a credible report.”

But a memo by the MoD’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: “The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to “best practice” in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq.”

There has been a long controversy over the Lancet study, Stephen Soldz has been the most inclusive and incisive reporter on this subject on the Internet. It would be worthwhile to check his archive for the history of this controversy as it has unfolded.

Meanwhile, the U.S. stands guilty of having caused the deaths of over half a million people, thanks to the criminal machinations of the White House.

When will the war criminals be brought to justice? That this question sounds merely quixotic demonstrates how far the U.S. society has fallen in regards to moral integrity, progressive leadership, and just plain honesty.

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