Friday, October 13, 2006


The clouds have descended, and the jaw-dropped denials are well underway. Deaths in the range of 655,000! Either it's wrong, or there's some way that such a figure can be made acceptable. A Burkeophile wonders if the pre-invasion death rate detected is compatible "with death rates in countries similar in development to Iraq". So does wardytron, before accepting defeat. Daniel Davies has already dealt with it. The blogging Burke goes on to add: "A one year period prior to the invasion was chosen for the pre-invasion period comparison baseline in the study. Why was this interval chosen? Note that this is a period with a coalition enforced no-fly zone in effect. Would a different interval have produced a different mortality rate? For example, what about one that included post-Gulf War reprisals?"

It's easy to forget that the researchers actually started their work in Iraq in the year before the invasion, on January 1, 2002, I suppose. It must be easier to forget that the US were bombing more relentlessly in the year before the invasion, and that the cumulative effect of sanctions was greater than ever before. Look at this (click to enlarge):

Aside from charting the devastating effects of sanctions on infants and under-fives, this suggests that a pre-invasion interval stretching back to 1991 (even if the researchers could have started their work earlier) would be less kind to the occupiers. The inference must be that the one-year pre-war interval was chosen to yield a conservative estimate. (That information was contained in Appendix E so, as with so often in these cases, it would be refreshing if the critics would actually read what they purport to be commenting on).

Harry is upset that the authors didn't finger the insurgents. (Cleanse your minds, you filthy beggars!). Well, I'll make a rough stab at Harry's point. (Now, stop it!) We know what 'other' means, and we can guess what 'unknown' means. Other will include resistance, criminal, sectarian and death squad activities. Unknown will include all forms of violence, and we can only attempt to make a plausible attribution in such cases. The report says: "Only when the household was certain that the death was as a consequence of coalition actions was this recorded as such." (It adds that "the absolute numbers of deaths attributed by households to coalition forces rose through 2005, then levelled off during 2005, only to start rising again in 2006", which certainly takes the shine off any 'oopsie' theory of coalition killings). Of those deaths that are actually attributable, the coalition are responsible for the bulk. So that's 31% coalition, 24% 'other' (death squad, insurgent, civil war, criminal) and the rest 'unknown'. The coalition also shares a blame in death squad activity given its declared policy and given its declared responsibility for the activities of the Special Police Commandos, the most active death squad in Iraq (exposed by the late Yasser Salihee of Knight Ridder), and it also bears direct responsibility for promoting sectarian political parties, elevating their military auxiliaries into their state, and advocating a sectarian 'federalist' polity for The New Iraq. I simply raise this because it is important in itself, but also because it is pathetic to try, as Harry does, to deflect attention away from the primary and unmitigable responsibility borne by the violent invaders onto those who support the right of Iraqis to resist those invaders. It isn't even funny any more. Elsewhere, the HP Sauce collective tries another diversionary tactic, that of raising the declared antiwar position of the Lancet's editor (who, odd to tell, was not one of the authors of the report). Gene, who remains defiantly unmodified, insists that he doesn't believe them. He simply doesn't. End of. Full stop.

Indeed, you can go through the blogs and articles and politicians' dismissals and you'll find points being made very like those mentioned above: the Lancet must be an activists' rag, there is an epidemiological conspiracy to make Bush look bad and cover up for the Iraqi resistance, the numbers simply cannot be right. Herman Göring made a similar point: "If the Führer wants it, two and two make five!"

ps: I note that the head of the Army is backtracking relentlessly, talking about 'context' and so forth, while various government and military figures try to spin the General's comments any which way they can. The Secretary of State for Defense was apparently on the blower to General Gannatt last night, and I expect he filled his ear with some hisses.