TCS Daily


Thoughts From a Lancet Skeptic

By David Kane - December 7, 2007 12:00 AM

The British medical journal The Lancet published two articles about increases in mortality in Iraq caused by the US-led war and occupation. The authors estimated "excess deaths," the number of Iraqis who had died in excess of what would have happened if the pre-invasion mortality rate had not changed. The first paper (termed L1), with lead author Les Roberts, argued that 98,000 Iraqis had died because of the war and occupation through September 2004. The second (L2) updated the estimate to 655,000 through July 2006. Both articles were published shortly before the US November elections in an explicit attempt to affect the US political process.

Taken together, these two articles are the most important and controversial scientific publications of the decade, generating endless discussion among policymakers and the public. President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were questioned about the authors' claims in press conferences. However, the estimates for excess deaths provided by the Lancet authors are almost certainly too high and possibly fraudulent. I was among the first scientists to make this claim. I will not be the last.

An Accidental Critic

How did I come to participate in this dispute? I have no background in survey research and no expertise in Iraq. But I do make a habit of reading blogs written by smart people with different views from my own. Indeed, there is no better way to test your beliefs than to confront the best proponents of alternate theories. To that end, I read Tim Lambert's blog Deltoid. Lambert has defended the Lancet surveys extensively and, for the most part, his defense is correct. Indeed, the Lancet authors have benefited from the mistakes of many of their critics.

Yet just because many of the Lancet critics have been wrong does not mean that the articles themselves are correct. My first reaction to L1 was that its confidence interval for excess deaths, 8,000 to 194,000, was suspiciously close to zero. Every good statistician is skeptical of a result which just barely rejects what researchers call the "null hypothesis," in this case that mortality in Iraq was unchanged after the invasion. A small change in the model assumptions could easily make the effect go away. Since it was obvious that the Lancet authors had political motivations/ambitions (Roberts ran for Congress in 2006), I thought that they were probably guilty of cherry-picking their model, at least to some extent. They would not be the first researchers to do so.

Yet these suspicions were, for me, overwhelmed by my disgust with the behavior of the authors and their supporters. Although they provided some summary data for L1, they refused to divulge the household-level data and computer code that would help outside researchers (like me) to replicate their results. This is not the way that scientist ought to act. But, since life is short and I am only a part-time academic, I left the issue behind after exchanging some e-mails with the authors in 2005. And that's where things would have stayed for me had the authors not published L2 in 2006. At that point, I felt a moral obligation to get to the bottom of this story. And so, here I am.

Criticisms

In August, I made a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Statistical Association which argued that the results of the first Lancet survey were internally inconsistent. The technical details are opaque at best but the implication is that the authors purposely presented their data (by including outlier data from Falluja in some parts of the analysis and excluding it elsewhere) to mislead. Specifically, the 8,000 to 194,000 confidence interval is claimed to be "conservative" because it excludes the carnage in Falluja. I show that including Falluja would have widened the confidence interval enough to include zero, thereby not allowing the authors to reject the null hypothesis of no increase in mortality.

In English, my claim is that the authors specifically refused to provide the confidence interval for excess deaths using all their data because they knew that doing so would provide too much ammunition to their critics. Even today, they stubbornly decline to tell me or anyone else what the confidence intervals would be with Falluja included.

But their behavior is even worse than that. They refuse to share the underlying data and computer code with the wider scientific community.

Although some of the Lancet authors have conducted themselves professionally throughout the dispute (I would especially commend Gilbert Burnham and Shannon Doocy), Les Roberts has forced a sort of worst common denominator behavior on the team as a whole, including Elizabeth Johnson, the statistical consultant who performed the actual analysis.

That paper was discussed at Deltoid and then picked up from there by Michelle Malkin. Suddenly, I was part of the Right Wing Noise Machine, even invited as a guest on my local talk radio station. Alas, I misinterpreted the orders from my Rovian overlords and spent most of the time defending the Lancet authors from the innumerate complaints that the host was making. He choose not to keep me on the air long enough to get to the point of my actual critique.

Fortunately, other scientists are working on the topic. Colin Kahl writes that the Lancet estimates are "dubious." Fritz Scheuren, past president of the American Statistical Association, claims that the response rates from L2 are "not credible." Stephen Fienberg, one of the most respected statisticians in the country, insisted that Les Roberts' refusal to share data with Michael Spagat and his co-authors was:

"just the wrong response. I, as an editor, would not publish a study for which the data was not shared."

If scientists like Kahl, Scheuren, Fienberg, Spagat and others think that your results are flawed and your behavior suspect, then you likely have a problem.

The Future

Where is the debate going? I sometimes worry that, like so many other left/right disputes, this will never be resolved, that we will never be sure whether or not the Lancet articles were fraudulent. Will these estimates be the Chambers/Hiss debate of the 21st century? I hope not. Fortunately, other scientists are hard at work on the topic, reanalyzing the data produced in L2 and conducting new surveys. Both critics and supporters of the Lancet results should be prepared to update their estimates in the face of this new evidence. If independent scientists publish results that are similar to those of the Lancet authors, then I will recant my criticism. Will Lancet supporters do the same when the results go against their beliefs? I have my doubts.

The author is an Institute Fellow at IQSS at Harvard University. He blogs at www.ephhblog.com.
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82 Comments

trustworthy?
it is hard to trust any scientist or paper that does not share its experimental results, algorithms, assumptions and only provides the conclusions.

they always seem to pull the trust me card.

science should be about the truth. if there are errors in the experimentation or if the assumptions are not appropriate, science should review and self-correct. anything other than this is not science but belongs in the propaganda with numbers classification

My problem is whith the study itself
What is the point, except politically motivated issues.

The problem with this war, from the standpoint of the protesters, is that direct death caused by coalition forces is so low that it doesn't make anyone blink; violent death from any cause (much of which various authors claim can be put on the U.S. invasion) is also to low to cause much in the line of political fall out. This is a case of "throwing a widder net" to create a number that does cause political issues. So every "infant mortality" every death in childbirth, every heart attack, every cancer death is being classified to see how many can be put on the head of the U.S. invasion.

And the low end of the confidence level of the study would say, perhaps, 20,000; but the high-end numbers (now being claimed to be 800,000-1,100,000) are the only ones being touted.

One of the reasons the people doing these studies are not willing to be peer-reviewed is that this is purely about politics and not about the science.

The fact is, most, if not all, of these deaths were happening (if the anti-sanctions crowd was to be believed in 2003) before the invasion.

When they won't tell you how they did it, there is a trick.
Look at Michael Mann's Hockey Stick. Look at the New England Journal of Medicine's study on guns in the home. Look at Nature and Science and their refusal to publish anything contradicting either the AGW hypothesis or the need for embryonic stem-cell research.

Just like the mainstream media, these journals are publishing propaganda, and trying to sell it as truth by means of not granting access to those with alternative theories or real critiques of their articles.

It won't work, thanks the plurality of media outlets available today, but it will make life more difficult for the critics. In the meantime, it will further degrade the credibility of these journals as sources of real information.

What they were measuring
We come away with a very different picture when we compare what you believe with the truth.

"The first survey[1] published on 29 October 2004, estimated 98,000 excess Iraqi deaths (with a range of 8,000 to 194,000, using a 95% confidence interval (CI)) from the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq to that time, or about 50% higher than the death rate prior to the invasion. The authors described this as a conservative estimate, because it excluded the extreme statistical outlier data from Falluja. If the Falluja cluster were included, the mortality estimate would increase 2.5 fold (95% CI: 1.6 to 4.2).

The second survey[2][3][4] published on 11 October 2006 , estimated 654,965 excess deaths related to the war, or 2.5% of the population, through the end of June 2006. The new study applied similar methods and involved surveys between May 20 and July 10, 2006.[4] More households were surveyed, allowing for a 95% confidence interval of 392,979 to 942,636 excess Iraqi deaths. 601,027 deaths (range of 426,369 to 793,663 using a 95% confidence interval ) were due to violence. 31% of those were attributed to the Coalition, 24% to others, 46% unknown. The causes of violent deaths were gunshot (56%), car bomb (13%), other explosion/ordnance (14%), air strike (13%), accident (2%), unknown (2%)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_mortality_before_and_after_the_2003_invasion_of_Iraq

Surprisingly many of these deaths were from gunshot wounds. And unlike your own gut feeling that "direct death caused by coalition forces is so low that it doesn't make anyone blink", households reported to the survey teams that 31% of violent deaths came from Coalition activity, while only 24% came from others. Not suprisingly, there were many "don't knows".

And your contention that deaths from childbirth, cancer and heart attack-- an easily checked assertion-- was a lie.

As was your other lie, that "most, if not all, of these deaths were happening (if the anti-sanctions crowd was to be believed in 2003) before the invasion". The survey specifically compared pre-2003 deaths with current deaths to calculate the excess.

So what you need to be doing is coming up with more sophisticated lies; these are wretched and slipshod.

Let's just look at the Lancet study
Set aside all those other areas that bother you. You say the Lancet people won't tell us how they conducted the study?

That's ridiculous. They sent researchers out to every part of the country, surveying how many close family members had died violent deaths. Then they extrapolated to the entire population, using well established demographic techniques.

The same techniques are accepted for any other body of population data, and form the basis for what we know about everything we know about population dynamics. But when they produce conclusions you don't want to accept, they must be wrong.

What's wrong is saying they won't tell us how they came up with the numbers. They're very explicit about the methods employed.

Not ridiculous
The issue is that they are unwilling to show the raw data to anybody. I’ve taken a few statistics classes and know that you can skew data anyway you want by simple means. You can phrase questions in a way to get the answer you want, you can calculate data to make it say what you want. The only way to truly prove a point is to display your conclusions and provide people with the raw data so they can replicate your results.

They have been unwilling to provide their raw data so it can be studied. That is why it can not be trusted. Why would they hold the data back if it proves their point? Did they twist the data to fit their view? Did they hold some data out? Did they ask questions that provided the answers they wanted? We don’t know unless you can look at the questions and the raw data. It’s simple scientific protocol to provide raw data to allow verification of results. They have not done it and that is the problem with the study.

was figments of their collective imaginations
just like most of your posts, any facts were purely made up.

Jokers
Of course they're being dishonest. The Lancet Study employed simple cluster analysis where interviews were conducted in high-morbidity neighborhoods and results applied nationwide, thereby, grossly skewing conclusions. This is the reason for the ridiculous variance and confidence levels. These jokers would not pass a 200 level Statistics class. They only fool journalists and ignorant sympathizers in the public.

The survey has no credibility
because the authors refused to disclose the methodology. We have no way of determining if the survey sample was accurate or representative, or if the claims of the survey respondents were in any way verified. Lacking such information, none of its conclusions have any weight at all.

You give too much credibility
to the Lancet. Remember that this was the publication that lent weight to the MMR-Downs Syndrome scare in Britain several years ago before being compelled to do a groveling retraction. The direct loss of life from the Lancet's misjudgment is still being felt and will be for years to come.

exactly prospector
Only naive western liberals would think that the respondants would have an interest in bumping up the numbers. Imagine, some guy come to you house and says these westerners wonder if any of your family got killed. Of couse they they answer yes, and that many have, in the hopes of even more hand-outs from gullible westerers.

Reminds me on some years ago when reporters were claiming outreageous numbers of street deaths. So some guy goes around to the morques and hospitals and ask where they all are, where are the actuall stats of deaths, and what do you know, they couln't find them! It's kinda like the recent claim of the billions of species that we extincted.

gee, war can be dangerous
That's what this article is basically saying. I guess cream puff western liberals didn't know that before.

The methods employed
Yeah, those dumbbells over at the Lancet can't figure out how to do a decent population study. What are they covering up? Are they a part of the Vast Socialist Conspiracy?

Your lie is easily checked. I don't know why you even bother posting absurdities like this.

Methods

We designed the cross-sectional survey as a cohort study, with every cluster of households essentially matched to itself before and after the invasion of March, 2003. Assuming a crude mortality rate of 10 per 1000 people per year, 95% confidence, and 80% power to detect a 65% increase in mortality, we derived a target sample size of 4300 individuals. We assumed that every household had seven individuals, and a sample of 30 clusters of 30 households each (n=6300) was chosen to provide a safety margin. We selected 33 clusters in anticipation that 10% of selected clusters would be too insecure to visit.

We obtained January, 2003, population estimates for each of Iraq's 18 Governorates from the Ministry of Health. No attempt was made to adjust these numbers for recent displacement or immigration. We assigned 33 clusters to Governorates via systematic equal-step sampling from a randomly selected start. By this design, every cluster represents about 1/33 of the country, or 739000 people, and is exchangeable with the others for analysis. Most communities visited consisted of fewer than 739000 people. Thus, when referring to a specific cluster by name, this group of 30 households is representing 1/33 or 3% of the country, which may extend beyond the confines of that village or city.

During September, 2004, many roads were not under the control of the Government of Iraq or coalition forces. Local police checkpoints were perceived by team members as target identification screens for rebel groups. To lessen risks to investigators, we sought to minimise travel distances and the number of Governorates to visit, while still sampling from all regions of the country. We did this by clumping pairs of Governorates. Pairs were adjacent Governorates that the Iraqi study team members believed to have had similar levels of violence and economic status during the preceding 3 years. The paired Governorates were: Basrah and Missan, Dhi Qar and Qadisiyah, Najaf and Karbala, Salah ad Din and Tamin, Arbil and Sulaymaniya, and Dehuk and Ninawa.

All clusters were assigned to Governorates without regard to any security considerations. Then, for the six sets of paired Governorates, a second phase of cluster assignment took place. The populations of the two Governorates were added together, and a random number between 0 and the combined population was drawn. If the number chosen was between 0 and the population of the first Governorate, all clusters previously assigned to both clusters went to the first. Likewise, if the random number was higher than the first Governorate population estimate, the clusters for both were assigned to the second. Because the probability that clusters would be assigned to any given Governorate was proportional to the population size in both phases of the assignment, the sample remained a random national sample. This clumping of clusters was likely to increase the sum of the variance between mortality estimates of clusters and thus reduce the precision of the national mortality estimate. We deemed this acceptable since it reduced travel by a third. Table 1 presents cluster groupings and figure 1 shows the location of Governorates.

etc.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673604174412/fulltext#section14

The section on method goes on and on in great detail.
This is just the introduction.

Go to it
Digest the survey methodology and get back to me.

Yeah, those dumbbells over at the Lancet can't figure out how to do a decent population study. What are they covering up? Are they a part of the Vast Socialist Conspiracy?

Your lie is easily checked. I don't know why you even bother posting absurdities like this.

Methods

We designed the cross-sectional survey as a cohort study, with every cluster of households essentially matched to itself before and after the invasion of March, 2003. Assuming a crude mortality rate of 10 per 1000 people per year, 95% confidence, and 80% power to detect a 65% increase in mortality, we derived a target sample size of 4300 individuals. We assumed that every household had seven individuals, and a sample of 30 clusters of 30 households each (n=6300) was chosen to provide a safety margin. We selected 33 clusters in anticipation that 10% of selected clusters would be too insecure to visit.

We obtained January, 2003, population estimates for each of Iraq's 18 Governorates from the Ministry of Health. No attempt was made to adjust these numbers for recent displacement or immigration. We assigned 33 clusters to Governorates via systematic equal-step sampling from a randomly selected start. By this design, every cluster represents about 1/33 of the country, or 739000 people, and is exchangeable with the others for analysis. Most communities visited consisted of fewer than 739000 people. Thus, when referring to a specific cluster by name, this group of 30 households is representing 1/33 or 3% of the country, which may extend beyond the confines of that village or city.

During September, 2004, many roads were not under the control of the Government of Iraq or coalition forces. Local police checkpoints were perceived by team members as target identification screens for rebel groups. To lessen risks to investigators, we sought to minimise travel distances and the number of Governorates to visit, while still sampling from all regions of the country. We did this by clumping pairs of Governorates. Pairs were adjacent Governorates that the Iraqi study team members believed to have had similar levels of violence and economic status during the preceding 3 years. The paired Governorates were: Basrah and Missan, Dhi Qar and Qadisiyah, Najaf and Karbala, Salah ad Din and Tamin, Arbil and Sulaymaniya, and Dehuk and Ninawa.

All clusters were assigned to Governorates without regard to any security considerations. Then, for the six sets of paired Governorates, a second phase of cluster assignment took place. The populations of the two Governorates were added together, and a random number between 0 and the combined population was drawn. If the number chosen was between 0 and the population of the first Governorate, all clusters previously assigned to both clusters went to the first. Likewise, if the random number was higher than the first Governorate population estimate, the clusters for both were assigned to the second. Because the probability that clusters would be assigned to any given Governorate was proportional to the population size in both phases of the assignment, the sample remained a random national sample. This clumping of clusters was likely to increase the sum of the variance between mortality estimates of clusters and thus reduce the precision of the national mortality estimate. We deemed this acceptable since it reduced travel by a third. Table 1 presents cluster groupings and figure 1 shows the location of Governorates.

etc.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673604174412/fulltext#section14

The section on method goes on and on in great detail. I am absolutely certain that if you contact the Lancet and ask them where you can find the data they will be of service.

A closing thought. Are you at all familiar with The Lancet and its history? The thought that one of the world's premier medical journals would skew data to promote some scurrilous political agenda is beyond belief.

Shoddy argument
I'd have expected a better argument from you than this. Tracing the etiology of a medical condition like autism (the Wakefield study was of autism plus inflammatory bowel syndrome, or Crohn's, not Downs Syndrome) is notoriously tricky, and a great many preliminary studies are transformed or overturned by subsequent work.

The Iraq Mortality Survey, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward stuff. Nothing any different than any other population study, of which literally thousands have been done. We accept every other death rate derived this way without question. Because we are not predisposed to want very much to see the results mistaken.

There's also this: the authors have conducted four studies so far-- and done so in an environment that's highly contentious. If there had been problems surfacing in the original study that were worth exploring, I believe a journal of the gravity and reputation of The Lancet would have been right on it. What you're trying to do is to equate them to the Journal of Flying Saucer sightings, when they're more comparable to JAMA in terms of their credibility.

This is low stuff, equating the two. Here's the link to the various studies:

http://iraqmortality.org/mortality-studies-links

If you're interested you can also look up the reputation CIVIC Worldwide has in the field of sampling. Don't just say the reason we know it is bunk is that The Lancet once published an article that subsequently was found to point toward a bad conclusion.

Kudos for Dietmar!
...and to add more:

I have a real beef with the cream puff western liberals in Congress who voted to authorize this particular war but refuse to accept their responsibility for what has occurred as a result of their actions.
They seemed to think that they could vote on this in bad faith, like European politicians ratified Kyoto in bad faith. Thing is, when people actually die on TV, its a bit more difficult to wiggle out of, as so many of them are finding.

War is unpredictable. That is where the biggest risk lies in trying to figure out if it is justified or not. No war has ever gone as planned (both in the positive as well as negative sense) and the history books show this so much that even a seven year old can figure that one out.

Just that many of our congresscritters couldn't, even though they were elected to precisely consider such things as the Constitution makes very clear.

For the record, I supported the war and still do. But I wasn't called upon to exercise any constitutional duty (other than to vote for Bush in '04) about it, unlike these political weasels I just referenced. Had I been in Congress, you better believe I would have asked a helluva lot more questions prior to casting my vote on it -- whether I supported the basic justification for it or not.

They can figure out how to do a decent study, they just don't want to.
Just as in AGW, accurate science doesn't get them the answer that they are looking for. So they don't do accurate science. And to hide the fact that they are cheating, they refuse to open the books.

This is just stupid
You can't accept the study results, so you have to believe there's something wrong with the study itself. So you allege they are cheating and won't open the books.

The books are wide open. I found chapter and verse, and stuck your nose in it. Now what?

You've got nothing. If you want to look through the actual, full published report and pick something out that you think is shaky, fine. We can all take a look at it. Otherwise don't make yourself out to be the fool you are. Have the good sense to know when to shut up.

You can cut and paste
but nowhere did you refute my argument. In the material you pasted, there was no verification, no test, that the survey results were accurate.

It's tricky, is it?
But the Lancet went ahead and lent credence to Wakefield's rubbish anyway. So much for their editorial QC.

Straightforward stuff, the mortality survey? What do you do when you can't or won't count gravesites? You guess, based on a supposed epidemiological method, and that's all the survey is, a guess.

The real truth is...
The Lancet reports are a GUESS. Bases on an EXTRAPOLATION.

If I were to trust anyone, let's go with Iraq Body Count. They actually COUNT THE BODIES, and provide the proof, that being morgue reports and news reports. As of 10 Dec 2007: 78,141 – 85,128. May Allah rest their souls.

What is really beyond belief is your "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It's gone beyond hatred of Bush, and on to America itself. You believe we are evil, and can do no Right. A smear and a lie against America is taken as total truth, blindly so. At least 10 scientists and hundreds of bloggers have said the Lancet is lying, and demanded proof of their findings. The Lancet refuses to provide it. The "world's premier medical journal" got into the political arena, and came up lacking, refusing to defend itself.

Impossible standards
First off, I only pasted in a few paragraphs so all the lame brains who would never bother reading the material I cited could at least read a few words of it. Naturally I'm sure you have by now read the entire study. And are familiar with its contents.

The authors performed a standard study using the standard techniques of projrction from a sample. And they did to my mind an admirable job, considering they were asking a lot of nosy questions in a war zone. But naturally, you're still not satisfied.

So what kind of verification would you suggest, to ensure that the survey results were accurate? You might want to read what they did first, before offering an opinion as to how they could have done it better.

They explain in adequate detail why their results differ from those in IraqBodyCount. Simply put, the two studies measure different sets. Also, they themselves point to the need for followup studies, for verification.

Here it is again:

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673604174412/fulltext

May I suggest you would not be having this problem if you had not been emotionally invested in impugning the accuracy of the survey? Well yes, I can. You would never have questioned this in a hundred years, had it shown little or no increase in excess civilian death rates from violence.

A disappointing reply
It becomes obvious you're not arguing in good faith. Counting grave sites is absolutely the most slipshod way to establish death rates imaginable. First, you miss nearly all of them. Next, the ones you find have to be excavated. Then you would have to find every established burial in the country and exhume the corpses there also to establish cause of death. It's a stupid comment.

Besides, in a study using the canvassing method you can't use anything like grave site totals. It's apples and cucumbers. When the US census canvasses for information they use the same methods as do the authors of the Lancet study. They are the established methods. If the US Census were trying to determine death rates by cause, they would ask the same questions and extrapolate from a sample the same way.

After seeing you try stuff like this it will be hard for me to award credibility to anything you say. Which is too bad-- there are subjects in which you sounded intelligent.

Defaming the source
I haven't even gotten around to analyzing the logic in your thinking that Lancet once published a study in a totally different are that was subsequently found to be wrong-- ergo there is no truthful statement in any paper Lancet has ever published.

But two can play at that silly game. It sounds like fun. Let's see...

Mr Bush, Mr Cheney and every last person on the White House team has been giving us a drumbeat for the last four years that Iran is running a clandestine nuclear weapons program. And in fact was preparing us for the inevitable war that followed this foregone conclusion.

Meanwhile Ahmedinejad, the totally discredited lying madman, was saying they had no such program.

Now it turns out that for the PAST FOUR YEARS it was Ahmedinejad who was telling the truth, and the Bush Squad who were the liars. Bringing to mind, I might add, a similar instance in regard to Iraq and some "definitely proven" WMDs there.

So who, then, are we to believe from this point forward on any subject whatsoever?

Much safer under Saddam
Actually the numbers tell us another, deeper story than that. Saddam was responsible for about 400,000 deaths from violence inside Iraq-- over a 25 year period. While since the United States occupied the country, over a million people have died violent deaths in not quite five years (56 months).

Here's how it works out on a monthly basis:

Saddam: 1300-1400 violent deaths per month.

The United States: 18-20,000 violent deaths per month.

Note that many of these have been from sectarian violence and the civil war; the study only establishes excess violent deaths from all causes. Nonetheless, under Saddam there was no sectarian violence and no civil war. There were only his crimes.

Iraq was a much safer place when he was in charge. There's no way around that conclusion.

Bush Vindicated
You consistently twist facts and insert your words into others' mouths. Are you a journalist or merely assume journalisms' ethics? You place your faith with Ahmedinejad and thus, you have made your bed. You side with the enemy. If anything, the recent NIE revelation, if factual, is a vindication of the Bush Doctrine. Other than you, the only liars exposed here are the CIA career bureaucrats who are making a fine career of contradicting themselves, leaking classified information to the enemy, and functionally undermining the POTUS.

Lies
Over a million people have not died in Iraq since 2003. The only evidence for this is a statistical model.... no bodies. Iraq Body Count has the real numbers. Even the Iraqis find the Lancet Study to be incredulous.

Your conclusion is a glimpse into your traitorous, treacherous, evil mind.

Virtually, possible
but only within the constructs of a statistical model (aka known as "game"). By your numbers Mr. Bean, there are, on average, at least 600 violent deaths per day in Iraq. This number is not supportable by empirical data. The model fails, implicitly.

The Coalition Forces and Iraqi Authority have found the bones of the victims of Saddam. Where are the bones of the 600 per day?

Your conclusion is that of a vile form of wishful thinking.

Stating facts clearly
The journalistic ideal is to be objective. That means neither twisting the facts in favor of the faction you support or against the faction you would like to demonize.

I agree with that ideal. Therefore Bush doesn't get a break and neither does Ahmedinejad. The fact is that our information gathering arm of the USG has found to the best of their estimation that Iran closed its nuclear weapons program back in 2003. And hasn't resumed it since.

That's a fact. You can't mess with it, unless you can find better facts that contradict it.

Here's an allegation you can check for me: the one you've made, where "CIA career bureaucrats" have been found "leaking classified information to the enemy".

Let's see whether you can convert that allegation into a fact.

Measuring like against like
"Over a million people have not died in Iraq since 2003. The only evidence for this is a statistical model.... no bodies."

You're certainly entitled to your convictions. But I think they would be made stronger if they were supported.

I was comparing like against like. And the numbers for Saddam's murders are derived anecdotally, from witness statements, in much the same fashion as were the numbers deived from the Lancet survey. So they are directly comparable.

You will recall that when we occupied Iraq we devoted quite a bit of time to finding and documenting Saddam's graveyards. Which we knew would be there.

So we dug and dug, just as we dug looking for those pesky WMDs we knew he had. And we really didn't find very much.

Several thousand bodies found in all the sites we documented. And of those we couldn't much tell if they were victims in the Iran-Iraq War, or just who they were. They were just old bodies in a grave.

It's really hard to calculate totals by the number of bodies in unmarked graves. You don't even find one percent. So that is why the method was NOT USED.

But you like the IraqBodyCount numbers. I do too. They're very well derived, for what they are. And they measure a very diferent group than that measured by either the Lancet study or any estimate of Saddam's victims.

Do you think we could do an IBC-style count of Saddam's victims at this point? I don't. So there's no way we can find comparables by that measure.

Counting bones
"The Coalition Forces and Iraqi Authority have found the bones of the victims of Saddam. Where are the bones of the 600 per day?"

The CPA never found more than a tiny handful of the graves they expected to find from Saddam's era. I don't recall that they even found as many as 10,000 actual skeletal remains buried in mass graves. But if you think there were more, I would applaud your finding the documentation and citing it. Maybe I might learn something from you.

As I mentioned above, to killbuzz, unmarked mass graves are very difficult to find. Therefore they're not a good basis on which to assess accurate numbers.

My "conclusion" owes nothing to wishful thinking. I wish none of the deaths had ever happened. But they did. And we only have so many means at our disposal to assess reasonable estimates... whether of Saddam's victims or of the victims since 2003. We can't accurately count the bones, so we have to proceed to the next level, of canvassing families and asking them to identify next-of-kin who have met violent ends.

You. Are. DELUSIONAL.
He KILLED over 1.2 million people. So far, they have found around 600K in mass graves, more reported regularly.

He controlled nothing. IF you went against him, he killed you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_graves_in_Iraq Old news, reports up to 400K, good links.



this study is wretched and slipshod
the fact is, you don't know what they measured. And their confidence level and esitmate range is rediculous. They claim 95% bu5t they won't allow proper review; gee, I wonder why?

Get real roy, this thing flies in the face of other independent data collected on the subject. the fact that you believe it shows nothing but your gullibility.

Post this all you want, it doesn't answer the question
And, like the people who did the study, you don't really want an answer. The fact is there are number on this all over the web and none of the credible ones (checking morgues and hospitals as well as official reports and funerals) come within an order of magnitude of this study.

Keep spouting if you want, you are beginning to sound like eric.

I read the study, what they claim is pretty good; as far as it goes. But it is what they don't show that the reviewers want: what is the raw data and what is it based on? Were these "clusters" all in violence prone areas? What percentage were in "quiet zones"? What percentage of the population is represented in each area as well as the study? What were the questions asked? What was the presumption given to the polled families for the study?

No matter how good and intelligent the Lancet people are, if they refuse to be properly reviewed the checked their conclusions and numbers are worthless. this is the case always and your belief in this study and this group just makes you a gullible, useful idiot.

Roy, you are better than this.

Actually…
I will agree on grave counts; but I have heard no reports of mass graves being filled by either U.S. forces or Iraqis during this time. Thus, hidden and mass grave issues don't exist.

Much of the updated numbers on Saddam have been done by going through the records after the fall of Baghdad. Iraq kept some pretty good records on this; though not absolutely complete. Still they give numbers close in the range of the pre-war estimates on Saddam's Iraq.

IBC uses information from hospitals, morgues, official sources, etc; I would say that IBC more closely resembles that type of information on present data on Saddam than Lancet does.

Hayden seems to know where the leaks com from
Disgruntled career CIA bureaucrats leak to friendly journalist who prints leaks and sells to any body for $1.50.


http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN13189087

BTW
The NIE is an assessment of evidence, data, and intelligence reporting with varying levels of confidence -- hardly a fact.

Lead me to the water
What they measured was the difference between pre-2003 violent deaths and post-invasion violent deaths, by the method of canvassing households. It's standard survey stuff. Then using standard methods they assigned an error margin that described an area of 95% accuracy. That's hardly any description of a "wretched and slipshod" study. Are we together so far?

I hope so, since that's what's in the study itself. Now I'd like to know where you got the idea that they "won;t allow proper review". I'd like to look into that are more closely.

The study measures exactly what it measures. It fails to measure anything it does not intend to measure. Your "other independent data" that it supposedly flies in the face of measure other parameters. Not surprisingly, they then come up with different results.

IBC, for instance, does not attempt to measure solicited testimony about deaths from all sorts of violence. It tabulates all occupation, insurgency and sectarian related deaths recorded from a finite number of official sources and news reports. No family burials, for example, are included.

What I'm finding to be VERY sloppy so far are the criticisms. But I'll read your sources carefully.

Into the whirlwind
I see you're using a reliable media source to obtain your news from, Reuters. Very good.

Let me ask you-- how do you know that what they're telling you is the truth?

I would be very interested in your response to that one.

As for the nature of the story, you're telling me that it's not a problem that we snatch people from around the world, fly them to unknown locations and torture them... but that it IS a problem that someone tells the American people what's being done under our flag?

That, to me, is a great problem in itself; that there are people like you living in America. Your attitude would be much more appropriate to a country like Egypt, or Iran, where there is no more than a pretense of human rights under the law.

Not every suspect we torture turns out to be a perp. I would mention in this respect Khalid al-Masri from Germany and Maher Arar from Canada. These were cases of mistaken identity, and were lucky enough to have gotten regurgitated from the gulag. Lord knows how many innocent people like them have never gotten out to tell their stories.

Cooking the intel
You mean like the way we knew for a fact that Saddam was buying yellowcake from Niger, despite the way every intelligence agency told the White House before the SOTU speech that it was unverified and rested on shaky sources?

Maybe. But in that case, the shoddy intel served the purpose of talking us into an unjustified war. Whereas the story about Iran closing down its nuclear weapons program only serves to remove a justification for war. So it's very unlikely on its face that anyone would have cooked this story up, or released it too hastily.

Establishing actual facts
I see. Words like this are proof positive for you that millions of bodies HAVE been discovered, counted and verified:

"Over one million Iraqis *are believed* to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands *are thought* to be in mass graves."

These are the facts. Saddam killed not just many, but ALL his political enemies. These amounted to some several thousands of people.

The figure your source gives for the Anfal campaign against the Kurds is an accurate one, 182,000 people.

And the only other major destruction of rebellious populations was the campaign in southern Iraq, against the Shia. Their number for that was "in the tens of thousands".

We're coming back to a total of verified deaths of 300 to 400,000. I took the higher figure, just to be safe. Wild ass guesses don't count. The mass graves we were looking for never showed up. Look more closely at this:

"Facts on the Fact Sheet appear to have been those gathered by US Senate committee investigations.
The remains 113 Kurdish women and children (2/3 of were in teens) have been uncovered near Samawah.
Discovery of mass grave sites in Iraq has been done through the analysis of satellite imagery. This has 18 suspected sites, two of which are excavated having 28 and 10 adult males.
3,115 corpses uncovered in Mahaweel is one of the largest found (11/2003).
2,000 corpses found in Hillah.
Tony Blair has stated 'We've already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves.' (11/03) The actual number of corpses found is closer to 5,000."

Get that? Tony Blair tells the world the remains of 400,000 bodies have been found. A US Senate committee investigates and finds that instead, the number turns out to be closer to 5,000.

Now, finally, let's go back to the number I used, above. "No more than ten thousand". Remember that? So I was high, not low.

Methods of counting
A couple of random thoughts. First, remember when we captured Baghdad and allowed the mob to ransack all the government buildings? There were only two that we carefully guarded from damage: the oil ministry and the interior ministry, where all the state security apparatus kept their records.

So in fact we should have very accurate tallies for the number of people Saddam's government had killed. And there have been no great revelations. I will stand behind the 400,000 that is generally accepted as being the grand total of domestic deaths. This, of course, does not count battlefield deaths on the Iranian front.

The other thing is that IBC admits their numbers are low. They use the highest of proofs of death, and so give us the absolute low number.

It is the custom in the Arab nations to bury the dead immediately, within 24 hours whenever possible. In a country torn by civil war, strife and a chaos brought on by the fact that nothing is working and a trip downtown is full of grave danger, people don't bring their dead to the morgue and stack them on top of the pile. They just bury them at home, and move on.

THOSE are the people the Lancet study made inquiries of.

False allegation
Please quote that part of the SOTU where Bush claims that "we knew for a fact that Saddam was buying yellowcake from Niger". He never said this. He said that Iraq was trying to buy -- not the same as buying. This was verified by Joe Wilson when put under oath. He lied and you are lying.

You're acting like a yellow journalist
and putting words into my mouth. I never said anything about rendition. That, to me, is a great problem in itself; that there are people like you living in America. Your attitude would be much more appropriate to country like the old CCCP, Republic of China, or Cuba, where there is no more than a pretense of honesty and it is routine to lie and impune to further your political self-worth.

Let's try to stick with the subject
You point this out as an example of the kind of thing that shouldn't be leaked to the public:

"One of the most controversial media leaks occurred in November 2005, when the Washington Post reported that the CIA was operating a secret overseas prison system for terrorism suspects including senior al Qaeda members captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

That implies that you believe such renditions should be accomplished in secret. Where do I get that? You don't seem to be concerned in the slightest that we're snatching people and flying them to undisclosed locations (the "secret overseas prison system"). You're only upset that someone blew the whistle, so the American people found out about it.

That tells me that you approve of the rendition program, and disapprove of anyone lifting the lid of secrecy. So yes, I put those words in your mouth.

If I spoke in error, now is your opportunity to correct the record. Exactly what was it you meant by that comment?

The famous sixteen words
You're scraping the bottom of the barrel with this kind of argument. You know very well that during the lead-up to war Mr Bush, Colin Powell, Cheney and Condi Rice were all leading the public to believe there was no doubt whatsoever about Saddam's WMD program. Do you recall Condi Rice's comment that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a nuclear cloud"?

She didn't come out and say we have absolute proof of Saddam's bombs. But she let everyone gain the impression that we did. So did Colin Powell, to his lasting shame. I merely paraphrased this 15 month program to impregnate the American mind with total BS.

Here's the full text of Powell's highly misleading statement to the UN Security Council, just before we started shooting:

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/02/05/sprj.irq.powell.transcript/index.html

Read the article you are commenting on
Search the web, look for reviews of this? Huh, can't find much? Wonder why?

I buy all that, except the final statement
Roy, NO WAY is IBC only getting 10% or less. this is one big reason the Lancet study is obviously junk; and IBC isn't the only one; most responsible reporting claims 50,000 to 250,000 as the general range; IBC claims are at around 75,000-85,000. Lancet is claiming an enormous range, but the bottom end is near the top end for any other group; and the high end 1.1 million is 1,500% of IBC and 1,000% of the mid range of most information available.

the people who did the Lancet screwed the pooch on this one and they know it; that is why they won't release their questionaire and raw data for review.

I meant precisely what I said
that certain CIA career bureaucrats are leaking information to the press to undermine POTUS. I supported this statement with reportage from Gen. Hayden himself who made it his mission to plug the leaks. That's it, budzo. It's you who went off the track and projected your hellfire on me. As a sanctimonious jerk, you excell.

My opinion is that we (the U.S.) should not have continued Clinton's rendition program and that we should turn our captives over the their countries of origin and urge immediate trial and capital punishment in the style that is consistent with their laws. Otherwise, kill them on the battlefield.

Caught you red-handed once again
You're changing the subject because you cannot support your statement in the least. I'll cut and paste your charge "You mean like the way we knew for a fact that Saddam was buying yellowcake from Niger". Okay, can you quote the famous sixteen words you refer to and contrast these statements in an honest fashion?

The administration believed in the intel that they had. They didn't have any doubt and neither did most of Congress, CIA, NSA, MI5, the UN, etc. Most have admitted that they were wrong, although some still believe that WMD components were moved to Syria or Russia while Congress and the UN fiddled for a few months.

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