Two Lancet Studies

The thread on Majikthise rebuking criticisms of the new Lancet study is rapidly becoming a new Thread that Won’t Die. Some of the people on the thread make an annoying argument, “How can 550,000 more people have died since the previous study?”

Unfortunately, since most liberals believed in the previous Lancet study, no one is refuting it the right way: “the previous Lancet study had an outrageous 95% confidence interval.” Although the current study has a bigger interval in absolute numbers, it has a smaller one in terms of magnitude. The previous study’s interval spanned 1.4 orders of magnitude; this study’s spans 0.35. In particular, the 2004 Iraq Body Count figure was within the margin of error of the 2004 study, whereas now the IBC figure is an order of magnitude less than the lower end.

Far more frustrating is the blame game. Obviously, the primary blame for each murder falls on the murderer. If an insurgent kills a civilian, it’s the insurgent’s fault first, his unit’s second, and his group or ideology’s third. The US, under whose watch the insurgent was allowed to flourish, is only fourth, much in the same way I’d blame NYPD eventually if through incompetence or malice it allowed crime rates to return to what they were in 1990.

This is why I use two different figures. There’s the consequentialist figure of 650,000 excess deaths, which summarizes every Saddam or sanction death the invasion prevented and every coalition-caused or insurgent-caused death it created. And there’s the categorical figure of 200,000 deaths due to the coalition, which is surprisingly close to my estimate of 5,000/month, extrapolated from studies of civilians killed by the US in 2003 and early 2004.

Sheer incompetence isn’t grounds for anti-Americanism. It’s grounds for an endless barrage of jokes at the expense of a can’t-do government and, more and more, a can’t-do nation. What is grounds for anti-Americanism is the fact that the US and its allies have directly killed in 3 years and 4 months half as many people as Saddam did in 35 years.

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