More on Dead Iraqis

Glenn Greenwald writes about the study I linked to before that says that since 3/2003, there have been 650,000 more deaths in Iraq than there would have been if death rates had remained the same as they were in the last year of Saddam’s regime. Predictably, shrill pro-American bloggers are incensed.

Gateway Pundit responds to the study with the classic argument by incredulity, which should be familiar to everyone who knows something about internet creationists.

This latest Lancet Study released today claims that 555,000 Iraqis have died in the last two years since their last controversial study! That comes to around 770 violent Iraqi deaths each day on average!!!
So, does this mean all of those headlines of 18 or 30 deaths were off by 700 or so?

John Hopkins ought to be ashamed!

Anyone familiar with the Iraq Body Count website knows that their estimate of Iraqi deaths – currently 43,850- 48,693 – may not be perfect since it includes bank robbers and heart attack victims but it is one estimate of the deaths from the Iraqi War that is widely used.

Back in 2003 a very controversial study came out claiming 100,000 Iraqis had died in the Iraqi War. This far exceeded the other reports at that time.

Actually, the original Lancet study was worthless due to an outrageously large confidence interval. In fact, that was the arguments conservatives used the first time around to discredit it: it was obvious the number of excess deaths was between 8,000 and 194,000. But just as that number could be lower than 100,000, so could it be higher.

And anyone familiar with Iraq Body Count will know that it only tabulates civilians whose deaths were reported in two different sources. Since Iraq doesn’t have a functioning government that can ensure universal reporting of murder, this figure is worthless. It’s like studying the number of rapes and assaults by looking at police statistics instead of crime surveys.

I’d rather not quote the rest of the post; I’ll just paraphrase it and tell you the Gateway Pundit comes dangerously close to bragging about how many Arabs the US has killed.

Rick Moran makes the same arguments, only a little more intelligently. The things he says that I haven’t refuted yet are,

Someone is wildly off base here. Could it be the group that says that the US military has killed 180,000 Iraqis as a direct result of military actions?

Gunshot wounds caused 56 percent of violent deaths, with car bombs and other explosions causing 14 percent, according to the survey results. Of the violent deaths that occurred after the invasion, 31 percent were caused by coalition forces or airstrikes, the respondents said.

The fact that those three percentages totalled up equal 101% isn’t as ridiculous as 31% of deaths were caused by coalition forces or airstrikes. And here we get to the number one critique of this study and why it so totally useless:

Again, the study makes absolutely no effort to differentiate between innocent civilians and Iraqis trying to kill our troops. Nor does it differentiate between civilian deaths and the deaths in the Iraqi police and armed forces.

No, the study makes no effort to differentiate between civilians and non-civilians. But with death rates this high, non-civilians are barely more than a rounding error. The Iraq insurgency doesn’t even come close to 650,000 people, or else it would have overwhelmed the US long ago. Since deaths of insurgents are usually reported, looking at the official figures, which are still firmly within the 5 figures, will quickly dispel the myth that the US is mostly killing terrorists.

Two more points. First, Rick attacks the fact that the percentages add up to 101%; in fact, they’re not mutually exclusive, since most people killed by the coalition forces were shot or blown up. Second, Rick also attacks this study’s confidence interval, which, while big, is still respectable. The lower end is far higher than the reported estimates, which makes it non-trivial. Even the figure I use, 210,000 civilians killed by the coalition, is remarkably close to 31% of 650,000.

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