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Statistics Are Those Things That Show Whatever You Want Them To

Ruth's picture

It's been a theme that we've all seen throughout the war on Iraq, that the figures of Iraqi dead are a matter of wrangling, and any figure at all disputed by our 'allies'.

Today BBC has a survey out that everyone agrees uses the proper methodology, that's right, no one disputes the way the figures were arrived at. But guess who won't accept the figures anyway? This is the report from Lancet last November.

In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.

Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate.

He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report."

'Cannot be rubbished'

One of the documents just released by the Foreign Office is an e-mail in which an official asks about the Lancet report: "Are we really sure the report is likely to be right? That is certainly what the brief implies."

The reply from another official is: "We do not accept the figures quoted in the Lancet survey as accurate. "

In the same e-mail the official later writes: "However, the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."

Asked how the government can accept the Lancet's methodology but reject its findings, the government has issued a written statement in which it said: "The methodology has been used in other conflict situations, notably the Democratic republic of Congo.

"However, the Lancet figures are much higher than statistics from other sources, which only goes to show how estimates can vary enormously according to the method of collection.

"There is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures."

Embarrassment isn't reason enough to dispute the findings, even for these war criminals. Denying the Holocaust just doesn't cut it - even in a maladministration that can tell baldfaced lies and then justify them by political expediency, as in Rummy's firing.

It would be very nice indeed if our presence wasn't responsible for the incredible slaughter. The truth, though, is that we are responsible, and the deaths are mounting up.

Simple Fact: The sooner the leave, the fewer deaths there will be.

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Jakebnto's picture
Submitted by Jakebnto on

and it is a hypothesis to say there "will" be fewer deaths.

I keep wondering what it would take, and for how long, for Iraq to become other than a failed nation state. 25 years? How many American or ally deaths would that be? 25k? How about Iraqi deaths? another 250k? How much money? $5 trillion? If we took that much time, spent that many lives and that much money (or gave away a bunch of it, depending) would we have an Iraqi ally? A functional democracy committed to the rule of law, not just in Iraq but for the whole world?

And if we leave, what do we leave behind? How many Iraqi deaths, and what kind of nation state results?

I am not sure that even 25 years of American effort and a reasonably stable Iraqi government (not nation, just the government) would be long enough to build such a nation, regardless of how many people died and how much money we spent. I think we now have generational enemies within Iraq.

And if we leave? Likely it is the end of the Maliki government, and maybe of all government for at least a while. Would it look like Somalia? Maybe. Could the Shiite Imams pull it together? If it looked like they could, would the other Sunni Arab nations allow such a thing?

Would the other Arab nations put aside their religious differences and work with the Maliki government to stabilize Iraq, knowing that an unstable Iraq threathened them more than anyone else?

I think I lean toward just leaving, but I mourn all those deaths that will result because we left.

I already mourn all those deaths because we are there. If there is a reluctance to leave on my part, maybe it is a selfish bid for no new kinds of mourning. I don't know.


Ruth's picture
Submitted by Ruth on

... but if statistics can say whatever you want them to, well, facts that ARE statistics just naturally have to do the same. Imho.

And fewer deaths should follow our leaving, since multiplying deaths follows our 'surging'. Let's prove it by leaving!