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« Iraq commentaries | Main | Stuff »

March 22, 2008

Comments

Matthew

I hope you're right - one can hardly imagine how bad it would be if it had got worse. The same opinion poll company as you quote believes that 1,033,000 Iraqis were killed since March 2003 (and only up to August 2007 - it will be higher now). Angelina Jolie says that another 2,500,000 have fled to Jordan or Syria. That's 3,533,000, or about 12.5% of Iraq's pre-war population.

Bob-B

It is breathtaking that Milne quotes Roosevelt. Since he apparently believes that anyone who attacks Americans is a good guy, he would probably have been cheering on the Japanese if he had been in business in 1941, or at least calling on the Americans not to overreact and arguing that Roosevelt was the real threat to peace.

James

Matthew, mortality surveys are too difficult for opinion pollsters to do.

Anthony

I think Oliver is attempting to cause Comment is Free readers' brains to explode.

Citizen Sane

Milne is the epitome of the blinkered, hair-shirted left. Thank you for tackling the specious arguments of this unrelenting equivocator.

Oh, and he looks like a cross between a Cornish pixie and a sadistic dentist. Which is probably not relevant to this conversation. Nevertheless, it is the truth. Unlike most of the piffle Milne is paid to propagate.

Jason

"Angelina Jolie says"

Surely this is satire...

please tell me this is satire...

Citizen Sane

"Surely this is satire...

please tell me this is satire..."

An unlikely source, for sure. But let's face it, if she's visited Iraq in an official capacity for the UNHCR then she's considerably more qualified to talk on the subject than Seamus Milne.

sackcloth and ashes

I don't take moral lectures from Seumas Milne - the 'Straight Left' veteran of the CPGB who backed the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, the rape of that country, the slaughter of 1 million Afghans, and the dispossession of 5 million more.

dsquared

Can't help noticing that 47% of Americans in the last CBS News poll thought that the surge had "no impact" or "made things worse" (versus 42% "better"), and 52% believed that the US action in Iraq is "not morally justified", so mindless anti-Americanism is clearly rife among Americans too. Perhaps they read the Guardian.

I'd note as well that if you're using national polling data in Iraq to support conclusions like this:

"Most (55%) felt that "at the moment things in Iraq are generally going in the right direction". More (68%) were either "very optimistic" or "fairly optimistic" about Iraq's future. Still more (80%) considered security in their locality was either "very peaceful and stable" or "fairly peaceful and stable". "

you need to make a mental correction for the fact that roughly 10% of the population base they're using lives in the autonomous Kurdish region (which was never invaded in any meaningful sense), roughly 10% have voted with their feet and are currently refugees abroad, a thick 5% are internally displaced persons who are much less likely to be covered by surveys and as much as 3-4% are dead.

Mr Correction

roughly 10% have voted with their feet and are currently refugees abroad, a thick 5% are internally displaced persons who are much less likely to be covered by surveys and as much as 3-4% are dead."

I don't think the propaganda figure of 3-4% dead will cut much ice here, given that the the most recent survey (by the New England Journal of Medicine, based on a much larger sample than the partisan Lancet effort) came up with a figure of below 1%.

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMsa0707782

As far as excluding the views of the dead from the survey is concerned, each dead person would have had many surviving relatives, whose views on security in their neighbourhood would doubtless have been affected by losing someone close to them.

dsquared

[given that the the most recent survey (by the New England Journal of Medicine, based on a much larger sample than the partisan Lancet effort) came up with a figure of below 1%]

ask around and you might find out who you're patronising here mate. In fact you have got it wrong. The figure you're quoting here refers to those who have died by violence; the self-same NEJM survey found a further c400,000 Iraqis most likely to have died (in excess of the pre-invasion death rate) from other causes. And that in a survey which was carried out by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and which did not visit the most violent provinces.

Mr Correction

A statistical adjustment was made to allow for the higher death rate in the clusters not visited. I quote from the NEJM paper:

"Of the 1086 originally selected clusters, 115 (10.6%) were not visited because of problems with security... Since past mortality is likely to be higher in these clusters than in those that were visited during the IFHS, we imputed mortality figures for the missing clusters in Anbar and Baghdad with the use of information from the Iraq Body Count on the distribution of deaths among provinces to estimate the ratio of rates of death in these areas to those in other provinces with high death rates."

As regards the increase in non-violent deaths, this was based on comparing total deaths reported by households before and after the invasion. The paper acknowledged that pre-invasion deaths were more likely to be under-reported than more recent deaths:

"The pre-invasion rates of adult mortality from any cause per 1000 person-years were 2.0 for men and 0.8 for women in the IFHS, with a relatively small proportion of deaths attributed to violent causes. In a regional comparison for 2002, a study by the WHO estimated that in Syria and Jordan, the rates of death for adults were 4.2 for men and 2.8 for women. In Iran, the rates were 4.7 and 2.9, respectively. If we assume that the rate of death in Iraq would have been at similar levels without the invasion, underreporting of adult deaths in the IFHS would be as much as 55% for men and 70% for women for reported deaths occurring in 2001 and 2002. The underreporting of deaths was expected to be lower for more recent years."

The paper went on to make the following non-committal conclusion about the apparent increase in non-violent deaths:

"Overall mortality from nonviolent causes was about 60% higher in the post-invasion period than in the pre-invasion period. Although recall bias may contribute to the increase, since deaths before 2003 were less likely to be reported than more recent deaths, this finding warrants further analysis."

Matthew

"Matthew, mortality surveys are too difficult for opinion pollsters to do."

I imagine you'd be surprised how many of these surveys are based on sampling, James. It's amazing how many different ways of counting the dead are apparently illegitimate - I remember Stephen Pollard (in Times article 'how not to count bodies') telling us that the lowest public estimate, the Iraq Body Count, was 'almost certainly wrong' (I think he was right) and was an over-estimate. There I think he was wrong. I think Oliver was not persuaded of its merits, either.

dsquared

Well, the Johns Hopkins/Lancet study also made various statistical corrections to deal with problems that they encountered, so I think it's quite odd of you to not only describe one study as "partisan" and discount it entirely and then not only take the other one exactly at face value, but randomly chuck out a 60% increase in the measured death rate as not being a important result.

A cross-check of the 150,000 death figure via the "Northern Ireland numeraire" would be that 150,000 deaths by violence over 3.25 years in a country of population 27m is 1.7/1000/year. Which would be roughly twice the death rate in July 1972, the worst single month of the troubles. Opinions might differ about whether it's credible to say that Iraq has only been twice as bad as Northern Ireland was in July 1972, but I think it's pretty obvious it's worse than that.

Mr Correction

The Lancet studies were partisan because virtually everyone connected them were outspoken opponents of U.S. actions in Iraq, including the editor of the Lancet. Even the Iraq Body Count group, who were also anti-war, found the figures in them incredible. There were also statistical and methodological queries that were not satisfactorily answered.

http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/index.htm

dirigible

"ask around and you might find out who you're patronising here mate."

And this would help your case???

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