1/13/2008

Infamous Lancet Study Funded by George Soros

Right before the 2006 general election, the Lancet came out with a study claiming that 650,000 Iraqis had died in the war and it aftermath. The study got worldwide attention, much of it unquestioning. Well, it turns out that almost half the study was "funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros." My problem isn't the funding, my problem is that the source of the funding wasn't revealed when the study came out immediately before the election. What is even worse is that this fact is not considered newsworthy by most of the media now. A Google news search on the term "Lancet Soros study 650,000" got only six news hits (The Times of London, The Spectator in the UK, The New York Post, Fox News, Wired News, and one other minor source). Trying "Soros Lancet Iraq" got only 15 news hits, but some of those were columnists and not news stories.

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3/06/2007

The Lancet estimate of 650,000 Iraqis Dying a Fraudulent Claim?

The statistics made headlines all over the world when they were published in The Lancet in October last year. More than 650,000 Iraqis – one in 40 of the population – had died as a result of the American-led invasion in 2003. The vast majority of these “excess” deaths (deaths over and above what would have been expected in the absence of the occupation) were violent. The victims, both civilians and combatants, had fallen prey to airstrikes, car bombs and gunfire.

Body counts in conflict zones are assumed to be ballpark – hospitals, record offices and mortuaries rarely operate smoothly in war – but this was ten times any other estimate. Iraq Body Count, an antiwar web-based charity that monitors news sources, put the civilian death toll for the same period at just under 50,000, broadly similar to that estimated by the United Nations Development Agency.

The implication of the Lancet study, which involved Iraqi doctors knocking on doors and asking residents about recent deaths in the household, was that Iraqis were being killed on an horrific scale. The controversy has deepened rather than evaporated. Several academics have tried to find out how the Lancet study was conducted; none regards their queries as having been addressed satisfactorily. Researchers contacted by The Times talk of unreturned e-mails or phone calls, or of being sent information that raises fresh doubts. . . . .

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3/04/2007

"Denying self-defense to GIs in Iraq"

It would be an interesting study to see what hapens to the number of troop deaths before and after the adoption of these rules. You raise the cost of defending people and it makes them more likely targets.

As part of President Bush's troop surge now under way in Iraq, he insisted that Iraqi leaders "lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces." That's an important step, but a deeply ironic one, because it overlooks other unreasonable restrictions imposed on US soldiers – by the US government.

In 2005, the Pentagon amended its Standing Rules of Engagement (ROE). The new rules make it harder for US troops to boldly counter hostile acts, and they specifically allow commanders to limit the right of soldiers to defend themselves!

The United States seeks to bring peace to Iraq by winning the "hearts and minds" of the civilian population. Unnecessary collateral damage and innocent civilian deaths undermine this effort. Presumably, the new ROE, which allow unit commanders to "limit individual self-defense by members of their unit" after notifying the secretary of Defense, were adopted with a noble purpose in mind: to lessen civilian casualties. However, limiting the right of self-defense is too drastic and it puts soldiers at risk.

Commanders take these restrictions seriously. Newsweek magazine recently quoted Marine Capt. Rob Secher, who complained that "anytime an American fires a weapon there has to be an investigation into why there was an escalation of force." . . . .

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11/26/2004

Lancet Survey on Post War Fatalities in Iraq Continues to be heavily Criticized

If the New York Times critiques you (even with caveats) from the right, you know that you are in trouble:
Three weeks ago, The Lancet, the British medical journal, released a research team's findings that 100,000 or more civilians had probably died as a result of the war in Iraq. The study, formulated and conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University and the College of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, involved a complex process of sampling households across Iraq to compare the numbers and causes of deaths before and after the invasion in March 2003.

The 100,000 estimate immediately came under attack. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain questioned the methodology of the study and compared it with an Iraq Health Ministry figure that put civilian fatalities at less than 4,000. Other critics referred to the findings of the Iraq Body Count project, which has constructed a database of war-related civilian deaths from verified news media reports or official sources like hospitals and morgues.

That database recently placed civilian deaths somewhere between 14,429 and 16,579, the range arising largely from uncertainty about whether some victims were civilians or insurgents. But because of its stringent conditions for including deaths in the database, the project has quite explicitly said, ''Our own total is certain to be an underestimate.''

It has refrained from commenting on the 100,000 figure, except for noting that such a number ''is on the scale of the death toll from Hiroshima'' and, if accurate, has ''serious implications.'' Certainly, the Johns Hopkins study is rife with assumptions necessitated by the lack of basic census and mortality data in Iraq. The sampling also required numerous adjustments because of wartime dangers -- and courage in carrying out the interviews. Accordingly, the results are presented with a good many qualifications.


I haven't spent a lot of time going through the methodology used in this survey by Lancet, but it seems obvious to me that those surveyed could have lied to create a false impression. After all, some of those interviewed do have a strong political motive and there is the concern that they could greatly exaggerate the number of deaths to those conducting the survey. There is also the question of the comparability of the before and after war fatality rates. Andrew Bolt has a very extensive and interesting critique of the Lancet paper:

But what evidence we have tells us these pre-war death rates were actually much higher. Dated