Gross Distortions, Sloppy Methodology and Tendentious Reporting

by on January 13, 2008 · 6 comments

in Media

How the New England Journal of Medicine Undercounted Iraqi Civilian Deaths


Almost five years into the destruction of Iraq, the orthodox rule of thumb for assessing statistical tabulations of the civilian death toll is becoming clear: any figure will do so long as it is substantially lower than that computed by the Johns Hopkins researchers in their 2004 and 2006 studies. Their findings, based on the most orthodox sampling methodology and published in the Lancet after extensive peer review, estimated the post-invasion death toll by 2006 at about 655,000. Predictably, this shocking assessment drew howls of ignorant abuse from self-interested parties, including George Bush (“not credible”) and Tony Blair.

Now we have a new result complied by the Iraqi Ministry of Health under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization and published in the once reputable New England Journal of Medicine, (NEJM) estimating the number of Iraqis murdered, directly or indirectly, by George Bush and his willing executioners at 151,000–far less than the most recent Johns Hopkins estimate. Due to its adherence to the rule cited above, this figure has been greeted with respectful attention in press reports, along with swipes at the Hopkins effort as having, as the New York Times had to remind readers, “come under criticism for its methodology.”

[For the rest of this article, go here to CounterPunch Jan. 12/13, 08]

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave Sparling January 13, 2008 at 9:00 pm

The Bush crime family needed something more convincing than their absurd 30,000, but not as inflaming as the 655,000. With this and a big name sponsor, the sheep will accept it and remain quiet.

The crusades go forward as does the death and maiming. Dubya just prayed at the birthplace of Jesus. Proving that there is no such thing as a just God.


avatar David G. Urban January 16, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Speaking of casualties:

On June 13th, 2007, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote President Bush their famous letter stating that the Iraqi troop surge policy was a “failure.”

The letter said, among other things:

“As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results.”

“The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation.”

“It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased.”

Then the two top Democrats gleefully noted that June was a record month, along with May, for U.S. troop casualties. Then, of course, they tried to sabotage the whole effort by trying to withhold funding for the troops.

So what’s happened in the meantime?

The troops went in as follows (year 2007):
• February 21: 2,700
• March 14: 6,000
• April 4: 9,500
• May 1: 13,200
• June 18: 16,700

The biggest amount, 16,700, went in after Pelosi’s letter, so in reality, the surge had just been completed when Pelosi and Reid were already claiming “failure.”

But once we look at the casualty numbers, we can see the surge is working. In fact, it has been a terrific success, with deaths dropping across the board by an average of 46%. Thousands of lives have been saved.

I haven’t heard too much from Pelosi and Reid lately. I guess being wrong was too hard to take.

Date U.S. Troops ISF* Civilians
7-Jan 83 91 1711
7-Feb 81 150 2864
7-Mar 81 215 2762
7-Apr 104 300 1521
7-May 126 198 1782
7-Jun 101 197 1148

Totals 576 1151 11788

After Surge
7-Jul 78 232 1458
7-Aug 84 76 1598
7-Sep 65 96 752
7-Oct 38 114 565
7-Nov 37 89 471
7-Dec 23 72 476

Totals 325 679 5320

Percent Drop 44% 41% 55%

*Iraqi Security Forces


avatar Frank Gormlie January 17, 2008 at 8:56 am

David Urban: Obviously, from your comments above, you support Bush’s war and occupation of Iraq. If this is where you are coming from, I ask you not to make any more comments here, as this blog is for “news and commentary from a distinctively progressive and grassroots perspective, and to provide a forum for those views. Others with similar views are invited to contribute and participate.” You appear not to have similar views. There are plenty of right-wing, pro-war blogs for you to express your war-mongering and pro-empire comments. If you are not ‘pro-war’ then accept my apology, as your comments certainly reflect that stance when your tone, as in ” the two top Democrats gleefully noted that June was a record month, along with May, for U.S. troop casualties.” This is a bald-faced lie, and you intentionally have distorted what Pelosi and Reid said. We criticize the top two democrats from the left – you are coming at them from the right.
We’ll give you one more opportunity to explain your position on the war & occupation.
For an update on the “success of the surge” see our post by Tom Englehart, today, Jan. 17th.


avatar David G. Urban January 17, 2008 at 10:05 am


Your progressive and grassroots enterprise has turned into an embarrassing, hysterical diatribe against any and all who dare disagree with statements like the ones I posted below, all of which I pulled the OB Rag:

“murdered, directly or indirectly, by George Bush and his willing executioners”

“The United States has abandoned law and justice and it’s our disgrace!”

“John Edwards, on the other hand, if one listens to what he actually has to say, knows good and goddamned well how fucked up this country is”

“George Bush and Dick Cheney… these two thugs should be out of office and behind bars.

“How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?”

“The liberal elite will save the world if only they can figure out how to do it without having to work with anyone that gets dirty for a living.”

“Every ten years or so, the United states needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world that we mean business.”

“We have a deceitful and lawless administration that has committed high crimes and misdemeanors”

President Reagan’s [was a] nuke-mongering…

“Thompson and Romney supported the notion of expelling (one might call it an American form of “ethnic cleansing”) 12 million “illegal aliens’

“We documented that 19 were killed by white vigilantes in Algiers simply because they were black males not allowed in the neighborhood. Every evening they gave a celebration for how many they’d killed that day. They equated killing African American men with shooting pheasants.”

Please remove ALL my posts from this blog. I do not want any connection to it whatsoever.


avatar Frank Gormlie January 17, 2008 at 10:29 am

David U. – I don’t understand. Do you disagree with these comments you pulled from our pages? You don’t agree that our once great nation “has abandoned law and justice and is our disgrace,” or that our “once-admired, great nation [has fallen] into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness,” or that that our “deceitful and lawless administration … has committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” and that “George Bush and Dick Cheney … should be out of office and behind bars,” or that even “President Reagan nuke-mongering …” ?


avatar Richard Nadeau January 17, 2008 at 5:09 pm

One reason its been a little quieter in Iraq is that we have been bombing the hell out of the country. (See below) I saw a report in the Associated Press a few days ago that cliamed we bomber one small area where we dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs in just minutes. And we are killing civilians. See the article below. Hopefully someday their karma will catch up with them.

Everyone we bomb, of course, is labelled an extremist or “Al Qaeda.” Yet, the real extremists are the architects of this policy of agressive war in the White House who are indeed , under any objective standard based upon the Nurenburg Trials, mass murderers and war criminals.

Now they want more troops for Afghanistan where they are also bombing joyously. So the horrible wars goes on and on with no end in sight and with with no outcry from the Democratic or Republican party ” leadership” or from the so called “liberal media.” What a joke. There is no leadership left in this country, certainly not in the two major parties. It is digusting. We are done for.

U.S. Boosts Its Use Of Airstrikes In Iraq
Strategy Supports Troop Increase
Josh White, Washington Post, Thursday, January 17, 2008; A01

The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power.

Top commanders said that better intelligence-gathering allows them to identify and hit extremist strongholds with bombs and missiles, and they predicted that extensive airstrikes will continue this year as the United States seeks to flush insurgents out of havens in and around Baghdad and to the north in Diyala province.

The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs on Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.

The greater reliance on air power has raised concerns from human rights groups, which say that 500-pound and 2,000-pound munitions threaten civilians, especially when dropped in residential neighborhoods where insurgents mix with the population. The military assures that the precision attacks are designed to minimize civilian casualties – particularly as Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy emphasizes moving more troops into local communities and winning over the Iraqi population – but rights groups say bombings carry an especially high risk.

“The Iraqi population remains at risk of harm during these operations,” said Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. “The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area.”

UNAMI estimates that more than 200 civilian deaths resulted from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq from the beginning of April to the end of last year, when U.S. forces began to significantly increase the strikes to coordinate with the expansion of ground troops.

In Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO bombings picked up in the middle of 2006, coalition airstrikes reached 3,572 last year, more than double the total for 2006 and more than 20 times the number in 2005. Many of the strikes have targeted the Taliban and other extremists in Helmand province, and military officials said they have been able to use air power to support small Special Forces units that engage the enemy in remote locations.

Human rights groups estimate that Afghan civilian casualties caused by airstrikes tripled to more than 300 in 2007, fueling fears that such aggressive bombardment could be catastrophic for the innocent.


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