Monday, October 16, 2006


It really is a horrible pill to swallow, but it seems as though the numbers -655,000 civilians dead since the war began- published in the Lancet survey are accurate. EPIC has come to this conclusion after having reviewed the methodology employed by the survey with several statisticians and epidemiologists. Those who are skeptical of the survey or simply want to learn more about its methodology might want to read this excellent summary.

One group which has criticized the Lancet report is (IBC). I suppose before I go on I should mention that IBC compiles their figures using a “passive-surveillance system” meaning it simply scans newspaper articles and press statements for deaths and then adds them up. They seem to acknowledge in their faq that their numbers can only represent a sample of the deaths in Iraq as sadly not every death is reported; however, in the media their figures are represented as being the maximum number of civilian deaths.

Anyway, today the IBC, which estimates the body count at a far more conservative 50,000 released a press statement refuting the results of the Lancet survey. They go point by point, examining the implications of each finding published in the Lancet report and then explaining that given the implications, the findings cannot be accurate.

There are several things I want to draw attention to: First off, the IBC writes that the Lancet report implies that:

"Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued [which further implies] incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began.”

IBC does not take into account that these days you can simply report the death (usually with some confirmation) to a local police station and they will issue a death certificate. There is no need to go through the government and its ministries to receive it, so it should hardly be surprising that they do not have a record of said certificates. Odd that IBC would ignore this.

The IBC also claims that the Lancet Survey can't be right as that would mean that 1/10 of all victims of violence do not go to the hospital. Well perhaps doesn't account for the entire gap, but it has been well documented that Shiite death squads often prey on hospitals killing every Sunni in sight. In fact several Iraqis were quoted as saying they would prefer to chance death on the streets then go to a hospital where they believe it a certainty. So it is not entirely unreasonable to claim that a significant portion of Iraqis refuse hospital care when they fall sick or are wounded.

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