Friday, October 13, 2006

Lancet Estimates range from 400000

Echidne is my go-to Goddess for analytical rigor. I wanted to see what she had to say about the Lancet study which was so airily dismissed by Bushco.

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: On the Lancet Study of Iraqi War-Related Deaths

I'm still reading the study and its critiques. If I have anything useful to say on the statistical aspects of the study it will most likely be tomorrow. It is sad to note that opinions about the validity of the study split almost exactly along political lines.

But what is unbearably sadder is the violent death and dying in Iraq, whatever the actual numbers of victims might be.

The comments are meaty and filled with insight

From what I can tell so far - and this is a developing story - the Lancet study is being deliberately conservative in it's estimates. Estimates, by the way, done with rigorous methodology of the same kind as a Pentagon Battle-Damage estimate. Or in other words, these numbers are being held low, not inflated as you would expect if this were a propaganda exercise.

Majikthise : More on the Lancet study of Iraqi deaths: "The Lancet study is quite simply the best evidence we have about the death toll attributable to the invasion. The Iraqi investigators interviewed almost thirteen thousand people all over Iraq, except two regions that were too dangerous visit.

Sure, there's a wide margin of error. The takehome message of this study is that vastly more people have died in Iraq than the government or the media have told us. The study has a wide margin of error. Between 400,000 and 800,000. "

There's not a lot I could find that strikes me both to be valid critique and written in words I could understand - although I'm sure it's about to come. Lancet was criticised in 2004 for a similar study that suggested a number of 100,000, apparently with some rigor; at least, enough to affect their methodology, and there is a spritely debate as to the validity of the current study there as well.

Interestingly enough, the casualty figures for the first gulf war are in dispute, and the person who dared try to come to some reasonable estimate - against the will of the Defense Department - was forced out of government for trying. Again, estimates are just that, but this figure is within a fermi of 100,000, the largest proportion being attributed to "indirect health effects" post-war.

Update: Just found these two links. A Debunking of Right-Wing "debunkings"
and Flypaper for Innumerates.

Reading all this has led me to understand a problem with much right-wing critique - the belief that disbelief in a result IS a "debunking." But then, we are dealing with folks who also harbor a larger than average belief that teaching evolution is a communist plot to brainwash our children into becoming morally-relative secular humanists who will use critical reasoning to attack the throne of God.

That last bit was an editorial moment.

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