About those Lancet studies on civilian deaths in Iraq
their estimates of civilian casualties are seriously in dispute
By Charles Bird Posted in War — Comments (4) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Neil Munro and Carl Cannon of National Journal wrote an exhaustive analysis of the two Lancet studies that estimated civilian deaths in Iraq, and the number of concerns they raised is overwhelming. The main summary:
NJ has identified potential problems with the research that fall under three broad headings: 1) possible flaws in the design and execution of the study; 2) a lack of transparency in the data, which has raised suspicions of fraud; and 3) political preferences held by the authors and the funders, which include George Soros's Open Society Institute.
The researchers have refused access to the original data, thus stonewalling proper peer review. One of the authors in the 2004 report took his name off the 2006 study because of his concerns about the lack of supervision. Munro and Cannon also detail a long laundry list of concerns about the methodology. Even critics of our Iraq venture had trouble stomaching their estimates.
More below the fold...
Officials at Iraq Body Count strongly opposed the Iraq war yet issued a detailed critique of the Lancet II study. Researchers wading into a field that is this fraught with danger have a responsibility not to be reckless with statistics, the group said. The numbers claimed by the Lancet study would, under the normal ratios of warfare, result in more than a million Iraqis wounded seriously enough to require medical treatment, according to this critique. Yet official sources in Iraq have not reported any such phenomenon. An Iraq Body Count analysis showed that the Lancet II numbers would have meant that 1,000 Iraqis were dying every day during the first half of 2006, "with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms." The February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque is widely credited with plunging Iraq into civil war, yet the Lancet II report posits the equivalent of five to 10 bombings of this magnitude in Iraq every day for three years.
"In the light of such extreme and improbable implications," the Iraq Body Count report stated, "a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data."
There are serious concerns about the objectivity of the Iraqi surveyors, both in terms of bias and political pressure on their work, and the authors of the study and the editor of Lancet are self-described advocates against our efforts in Iraq. The hardline Left will continue to believe that the Lancet results are true, but for the rest of us, the studies should viewed as unreliable until a true peer-reviewed examination shows otherwise.