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With the election in the bag and the Democrats measuring the drapes in the House and likely the Senate, probably the most important question, which means of course the question that no one in the mainstream is thinking about, is how these election results will be perceived in the war zone.

The enemies of the West have been counting on ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ to deliver the United States to defeat. I cannot help but think that this election will give them great comfort and lead them to believe that Vietnam Syndrome has indeed taken hold. While I believe that there is less support amongst the populace for rapid ‘redeployment’ (this year’s code word for retreat) from Iraq than many believe, in the ‘perception is reality’ hall of mirrors that is domestic and international politics, the relentless pounding of this meme by the new Democratic leadership and their allies in the press will likely make it self-fulfilling.

If Bush gives the new Democratic leadership their way, then I think that the jihadis will be proven right, and they will ultimately succeed in outlasting the United States in Iraq. If they get their way, the US will withdraw under fire, the nascent Iraqi state will collapse into civil war, and we will see the spectre of helicopters evacuating the last few Americans from the Green Zone. The world-wide high-def broadcast of American defeat will do much to entrench our jihadi enemies and dishearten what is left of the West.

Very few Americans are anti-war. Most Americans are anti-losing the war. The Bush administration made the serious mistake of not fighting to win in Iraq, which in turn means the war dragged out past the (roughly) six year span that Americans will tolerate being at war. With the mainstream media still controlling the terms of discourse, and using that control to relive their glory days of bringing about American defeat in Vietnam, Americans got the sense that we were losing in Iraq. Americans hate a loser, and so they turned on the party in power.

The election will hearten our enemies in Iraq, and we can expect redoubled conflict in that country as they seek to entrench their gains in the American mindspace. The Democratic Congress will seize on this development to push for what they have promised, which happens to be exactly what our enemies want; namely, precipitous American withdrawal. If they get what they want, then the jihadis will have won this campaign, and I think we can look forward to a reinvigorated Islamo-fascist movement worldwide, with all the bloodshed and suffering that entails.

Not to worry, though. The minimum wage will be increased, redistribution of wealth will be accelerated, and many words will be hurled at the real threat, global warming. And isn’t that what really matters?

62 comments to Prognosis

  • Naman

    Don’t worry. The Dems will be too busy holding investigations and impeachment hearings to debate a pull-out from Iraq.

  • Pa Annoyed

    I understood the Dems had been given several chances to pull out from Iraq, and had voted to stay every time.

    They want to stay in Iraq, because it gives them a stick to beat Bush with over how ‘badly’ it is going. Why would they hand over their best weapon? They can’t lose: if it gets worse it’s still Bush’s fault, if it gets better they’ll take the credit for their (purely cosmetic) “change of direction”. No, they’ll stay and finish it, but play it as “tidying up Bush’s mess” for all they’re worth.

    But that’s not to say the Jihadis won’t see this as a victory. They think longer-term than just this current conflict, and if they can ensconce Iraq in the same mindspace Vietnam currently occupies – a synonym for a disasterously failed intervention not to be repeated – they gain an advantage in future rounds. Or do you suppose that winning in Iraq will be the end of this war?

  • The enemies of the West have been counting on “Vietnam Syndrome” to deliver the United States to defeat.

    The US is already defeated. Beating Saddam was easy. Beating the insurgents is nearly impossible without genocide.

    If they get their way, the US will withdraw under fire, the nascent Iraqi state will collapse into civil war

    It’s way too late to avoid civil war. 650,000 are already dead, a figure roughly comparable to the American War Between the States. What, exactly, are you waiting for to call this a civil war?

    Very few Americans are anti-war.

    Google “poll iraq war mistake”. More than half of the population is convinced that Iraq was a mistake. If that were not a solid majority, there is a much smaller group hoping to “stay the course” and “win”. The Bush Administration, while hammering on the Democrats for having no plan, has no plan itself, and never did. That’s apparent to all but the painfully stupid at this point.

    Of course, all of this presumes that the Democrats really are looking to make a quick withdrawal. Whatever they actually do, it’s certainly not what they’ve been running on. They’ve been running on mismanagement of the war, which is like complaining about bottlenecks in the distribution of poison gas to concentration camps. Despite half of the country saying the war is a mistake, the leaders of the Democratic Party have called for more troops, not less. That means more money, more deaths, more massacres. Democrats such as Sen. Clinton have been on Bush’s right about Iran and Iraq.

    I hope the rank-and-file Democrats put their party’s feet to the fire about ending the war, but the impetus is going to have to come from the people, not the politicians. “When the people lead, the leaders follow.”

    – Josh

    P.S. cut ‘n’ rummy lol

  • The problem now is that the Dems will interpret this election as a vote FOR their programs of big neo-socialism, (healthcare, education, pension) and big-mommyism, (drug war, race quotas, dirty-mouth-bans(you can’t say THAT!)), rather than as a protest against the Repubs.

    Yes, they know it was a protest AGAINST, but they will play it as a vote FOR.

    This is why I was telling people who wanted to vote against the Repubs. to vote for any third party they could stand, or vote for a write-in NOTA or just short vote as I did, but not to vote for a Dem. I doubt anyone understood it or did so though.

    I voted for the one Libertarian on my local ballot, and the three local public questions here in NJ, and left the rest blank.

    I’ll be damned if I’ll let the Dems think I actually LIKE them.

  • michael farris

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Bush really did want to secularize and democratize the Middle East.

    He chose the absolute wrong way of trying to achieve that possible. He came up with an answer he liked Bush got the US into that mess and clearly has no clue how to get us out “massive military action” first and then looked for a problem to apply it to rather than trying to figure out what the problems were in the first place (terrorism is usually a symptom of deeper problems, not the worst problem in and of itself).

    And/Or he could imagined what the end result he wanted was and tried some reverse engineering (I think NASA used to do something like that when it was still effective). Encouraging democracy and secularism in countries already along that road so that other countries have some models to look at and emulate. (Currently there’s no model for secular civil society in the middle east).

    The problem is that an army is a very blunt weapon, good at some things (invading, deposing governments, killing large groups of people within a certain area) and not not much else. No army has ever been good at doing the sorts of things that needed doing in Iraq after the success of the initial invasion (largely ‘people work’). The result is the current mess we have now.

    Damned if I know what to do now. Leaving would create a power vacuum that would be filled by another Saddam (or the old Saddam if he isn’t killed first) or some kind of conservative theocratic regime or some horrible combination of the two.
    On the other hand, staying isn’t doing any good either. At best, we’re becoming figurehead occupiers, unliked by locals (at best), accomplishing no real good and a magnet for stirring up and strengthening the very forces the invasion was supposedly targeted against.

  • Jacob

    “…650,000 are already dead”

    Josh, I had the impression you were a reasonable guy. Now that you cite some crazy, discredited, propagandist figures – I’m no longer sure.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    I hate Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, but I hate George W. Bush and his gang of incompetent thugs far more. I have been ridiculously happy all day, and when I heard Rumsfeld had been ousted I was nearly beside myself with joy. Sure, I’ll oppose everything Pelosi proposes, but at least it won’t involve torturing prisoners or running more wars with an incompetence rarely imagined possible.

    There is a difference between the low grade socialist incompetence of the Democrats and the pure liquid evil of the current administration. Maybe you can listen to interviews with innocent men who have been horribly tortured, or ignore whole families wiped out in the name of ferreting out weapons that never existed, but I cannot. I am not a Stalinist, and I denounce the ethic that says “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” that Stalinists and apparently some soi dissant conservatives seem to be willing to accept.

    Saddam Hussein was a brutal murderer, and I am glad he is going to the gallows, but what of George W. Bush? Some will deny the numbers, but I have read the study in The Lancet so many of you pretend doesn’t exist (have you read it?) and I understand statistical methodology (do you?) and I’m thoroughly convinced that 600,000 Iraqis have died plus or minus 200k with a confidence of 95%. Of course, some of you may think that’s just fine — “unfortunate but needed in the war effort” — except that Al Qaeda’s base was Afghanistan, not Iraq, and the whole war was based on a series of callow lies.

    Some of you may think an administration that tortures is just fine, but it makes me want to vomit. Some of you may deny that it tortures, but at this point you have to be willfully blind to deny the evidence.

    Of course, to top all that off, the administration expanded spending on “social programs” far beyond any of the Democrats wildest dreams. The Republicans have enacted more socialist legislation in the last few years than the Democrats have in decades, and the budget deficit is now at record highs. Maybe you think that’s just fine too, but if so, in what way are you a libertarian and not just a socialist?

    The number of people who have died from all of Al Qaeda’s machinations over all its years of existence is a tiny percentage of the number who die on US highways every year, and yet we’ve seen fit to kill more of our own than Al Qaeda did, and kill orders of magnitude more in a country that didn’t even support Al Qaeda. The amount of money taken from taxpayers and pissed in the wind is now in the thousands of dollars for every man, woman and child in the nation.

    I cannot understand any libertarian who supports the Bush administration. Even many committed Republican party hacks no longer support the administration. They are not fiscally conservative. They are not respectful of individual rights. They are not respectful of the laws of war. They are not even competent..

    This administration isn’t about protecting us from evil — it is an evil we need protection from.

    As for our enemies taking comfort from the election, do you think another two years of republican control would have fooled them into thinking we hadn’t turned Iraq into a flaming hellhole already? They know they’ve won. Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest have dug the hole so deep we won’t see sunlight in our lifetimes.

    In closing, let me repeat that rhetoric is not enough — it has to be backed up by competence. This administration is so criminally incompetent that even if its intentions were pure the lot of them would deserve to be put in jail for the rest of their natural lives.

  • michael farris

    re-edited to make sense:

    He chose the absolute wrong way of trying to achieve that possible. He came up with an answer he liked, namely “massive military action” first and then looked for a problem to apply it to rather than trying to figure out what the problems were in the first place (terrorism is usually a symptom of deeper problems, not the worst problem in and of itself).

  • Perry E. Metzger

    One more word on the 600k plus dead:

    I will repeat. I have read the Lancet study. I understand statistical methodology. The study is sound. The only way it could be wrong would be if the interviews were fabricated from whole cloth, and there are far too many people who were involved in conducting them for that to be plausible.

    You can go off denying it is true the same way the nutcases deny that evolution is true. You can say over and over “but it can’t possibly be so I’ll pretend it isn’t”.
    That doesn’t make you correct.

    Go off and READ THE STUDY YOURSELF. If you don’t understand statistical methodology, then learn it instead of believing someone else. Then come back and tell me what you think is wrong with the thing. You’ll have an awfully hard time finding what’s wrong though.

    For those that would like to have a listen to an extensive interview with the guy that did the study, might I suggest downloading this?:


    It is a bit long — longer than the blog entries you’ve seen from ignorami claiming that the methodology has something wrong with it. It might actually take you a little time to listen to the thing.

  • Jacob

    “Damned if I know what to do now.”

    Here is a recipe, from a war supporter:
    Get out. Let them fight it out among themselves.
    Maybe leave some troops in Kurdistan, where they are welcome, to protect a peaceful, de facto independent Kurdistan.
    Make it clear that any future ruler of Iraq gets deposed and/or killed the moment he engages in terrorism or foreign military adventures.

    To convey the message loud and clear – get rid of baby Asad in Syria.

    The big problem is not what to do about Iraq, but what to do about Iran….

  • Kit

    RCD, I think you’re unduly pessimistic. Though as you infer, the current administration may have permanently sabotaged public confidence. Perhaps the fate of Iraq is now inevitable, and relatively immune to policy changes.

    Go with the narrative that Rummy’s had years to fix Iraq and hasn’t delivered the goods. The perception that his incompetence was inevitably going to lose the war in Iraq was good anti-war PR.

    Now that he’s gone, and Iraq becomes disassociated with him, the enemy might worry that a superior replacement has a chance of defeating them. Pro-war opinion might increase back home, on the grounds that the sooner we win, the sooner we leave.

    Ultimately though, is Iraq that important? Losing would be a bit embarrassing and right the war off as a waste of blood and money, but if the security forces can deal with domestic terrorism and the West maintains a culture corrosive to fundamentalism, I doubt the world will end.

    Also, going with what Wild Pegasus said, I think Dems want to look “tough”, just as Reps want to look “compassionate.” Irgo, broadly pro-war business as usual.

  • pommygranate

    This was a decisive vote of no confidence in Bush. He has made the War on Terror the central plank of his administration since 9/11. After 5yrs, lets review progress –

    Afghanistan – started well but job left half-done. Now on the back foot
    Iraq – civil war and a propaganda dream for the jihadists
    Iran – going nuclear
    N Korea – gone nuclear
    Egypt, S Arabia – starting the process of going nuclear.
    Palestine – jihadist govt voted in
    Sudan – humanitarian disaster taking place because of a refusal by anyone to intervene to avoid creating another “recruiting ground for extremists”
    Somalia – gone Islamist
    Lebanon – popular support for the previously loathed Hezbollah at an all time high
    Support for ‘War on Terror’ from Western electorate – non-existent

    Not exactly ‘achieving your goals’ is it

  • Jacob

    Perry E. Metzger,
    I haven’t read the Lancet report, only comentary about it.
    The figure of 650,000 doesn’t make sense at all, it’s a huge number. You need to have a sense of what numbers mean….

    As far as I have read in commentaries – they have interviewed some Iraqi people about the number of dead people they know, or are related to, and have extrapolated from that to the whole population. (Again, I’m not sure this description is correct).

    Now interviewing people, especially fantasy prone Arabs – is no way at getting to the truth. Interviews don’t produce credible data. People don’t tell the truth.
    If it’s true that the survey was based on interviews – than it is totally worthless. It is just a piece of propaganda, and looks like one to me.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    At some point in life, you have to accept that you’ve failed at something — that something you want is impossible.

    You can’t perform CPR on a rotting corpse. You can pretend all you want if you like, but it won’t work.

    Reality isn’t optional. Reality can be papered over with pretty words, but it cannot be avoided. The fool pretends if he closes his eyes and hopes an unfortunate reality might go away. The sane man accepts what cannot be changed.

    We can pretend all we like that we haven’t lost in Iraq. We can use all sorts of face saving moves. We can use all sorts of pretty language. We can pretend that if we only use the correct strategy or add enough troops or move the troops around enough it will all fix itself.

    Short of killing every man, woman and child in Iraq, we cannot bring the country peace.

    The Bush crowd has screwed things up so badly that there is no longer any fixing it. There is no magic scheme we can use that will allow us to bring the corpse back from the dead.

    To some people, admitting defeat would only “give comfort to our enemies”, but our enemies aren’t idiots. They know we’ve lost. This isn’t some state secret we can keep from them. At best, we can hide it from ourselves, with willful blindness.

  • James

    Robert, you invoke global warming as the canard of fearmongers, but you are positively wetting yourself at the thought of terrorists and their incipient “victory”. The USA needs to grow a pair and drop fear as a policy.

    Americans are at heart a (classical) liberal bunch, so it’s not surprising that they’ve finally figured out their own government is a bigger threat to their lives and liberties than a handful of angry foreigners.

  • Perry E. Metzger


    The 600k number makes complete sense if you’ve been following real news and not what they show on Fox. It also makes complete sense in the context of similar wars elsewhere in the past. It is still a tiny fraction of the civilian toll in Vietnam, though with a little more time perhaps we can “fix” even that.

    There is also the small matter that the study was done with nearly ideal methodology. If one finds one’s scientific measurements don’t comport with one’s expectations, the educated man first checks the measurements, and if the measurements look accurate, he questions his expectations instead of pretending that they “have” to be correct. Measurement is measurement.

    You say “I haven’t read the Lancet report, only comentary[sic] about it.” You also say the figure “doesn’t make sense at all”.

    Perhaps by “doesn’t make sense” you mean you don’t like the numbers or find them surprising. Neither is an adequate basis for questioning them. Reality doesn’t care how surprising you may find it to be.

    The only way to question the findings is to read the report and point out what is wrong, and you’ve already admitted to having no firsthand knowledge of the contents. Parroting blog entries you have read does not constitute a replacement for actual knowledge.

    Saying you have not read the study, or saying you do not understand statistical methodology and thus could not read it, is the equivalent of saying that you have no valid basis on which to question the study.

    I will repeat: unless the study is the product of wholesale fraud, which under the circumstances seems highly unlikely, then we are left with nothing but the possibility of bad methodology, and the methodology is fine, and the possibility of bad mathematics, and the mathematics seems fine. If you have information to the contrary, state it. If you do not have information to the contrary, then you have no basis for claiming the study is incorrect.

  • Brad

    The supposed low grade socialism of the Dems/Libs (and sadly Repubs more and more) is actually part and parcel of the mountain of accrual debt the US faces, which in turn requires the US to make sure the dollar is sound and oil flows. The dialectic in place that is our Statist policies, amalgamated from the left and right, have created the situation we now exist in. To sever the Warfare State from the Welfare State is to miss the root of the evil.

    When economically infeasible promises are made, someone has to have force inflicted upon them. It’s no surprise when Mother endeavors to provide that gulags are set up and the horizon is scanned for Lebensraum. I guess if our Socialstic endeavors are low grade, then I guess the Stalin-esque/Hitlerian fumblings in Iraq are relatively low grade as well. We’ll see what happens when the vouchers come due en masse. The jackboots will have to find necks to step on somewhere.

  • John K

    Perry, I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but the Lancet study fails the kick test as far as I am concerned. The methodology and mathematics might be fine, but garbage in still gives you garbage out. I just don’t buy the figure that as many Iraqis have died as Americans in the Civil War, or British troops in the Great War, or German civilians in the strategic bombing campaign. I know you do, but to me it just rings false. These death figures approach the losses the Iraqi army suffered after 8 years of war with Iran. I don’t buy it.

    If the Republicans lost because of Iraq, it implies that the world’s only superpower cannot fight a war if it has to accept 2000 soldiers KIA. That basically means it cannot fight any sort of war apart from a Klintonesque air war Kosovo. And that means that the superpower in reality has about as much real military power as Belgium.

  • J

    The figure of 650,000 doesn’t make sense at all, it’s a huge number

    That’s the least convincing argument I’ve ever seen for anything, ever. How can a number not make sense? Someone once told me the mass of the sun. The number is much huger than 650,000, and it strikes me as pretty counter intuitive. The sun doesn’t look that big from where I’m standing. I don’t however conclude that those crazy astronomers must have got their methodology all wrong and are talking crap.

    The first step in rational thinking is to believe reason over feeling. We feel “some silly foreign counter insurgency operation – can’t be more than 10-20k killed, common sense”. But, because feelings are unreliable, some people decided to try to actually find out. And they use a widely adopted and well known methodology. And the number came back really big. That’s not “a flawed study driven by an agenda”. That’s “scientific progress, step one of many.”

    I would like nothing more than to repeat the experiment to see if the results are similar. That would be very valuable. But in the meantime, we can do little but accept the figure, or come up with a different one that is as well or better supported by observation.

    The ‘powers that be’ have consipicuously and deliberatley avoided keeping any records of casualties other than their own. I don’t comment on the wisdom of that policy, but they can hardly then complain when others try to make up for the lack of solid evidence by using other techniques.

    Finally, I have read NOWHERE a solid refutation of the Lancet study. Someone please point me to such a thing. Until someone publishes one, I’ll continue to take it as the best figure we have.

  • Chris Durnell

    It is not the level of casualties that has made America reject the Republicans, it is the sense that the Bush administration does not know how to win and so the troops will be there forever.

    It ignored criticism from respected officials about both WMD and the occupation. It botched the critical few weeks and months of the occupation. It was slow to listen to problems in the field and failed to react accordingly. It has consistently announced false dawns; we’ve turned so many corners we’re back where we left.

    If Bush was a lower grade officer, the brass would have sacked and replaced him, but he’s on a 4 year term so the people can’t. This is simply the next best thing.

    Most Americans realize that there is a cost to pulling out and don’t want to do so suddenly, but they are expecting better military leadership. If the Republicans don’t deliver it, they’ll look for someone else to do so.

  • J


    “If it’s true that the survey was based on interviews – than it is totally worthless. It is just a piece of propaganda, and looks like one to me.”

    The interviewers asked about deaths in families. 92% of the reported deaths were supported by death certificates confirming the cause of death, shown to the interviewers.

    Since the families did not (I think) have advanced warning of the interview, it is unlikely they forged the death certificates in the hope of misleading the infidel Westerners.

    I don’t understand why people are surprised that the wholescale invasion of a nation, followed by three years of near anarchy should result in a significant overall increase in mortality. Look at the figures for comparable events, they are not dissimilar.

  • Jacob

    “The interviewers asked about deaths in families. 92% of the reported deaths were supported by death certificates confirming the cause of death, shown to the interviewers.”

    A survey based on interviews is wothless.

    There are many questions to be asked. How many people were interviewed, why only 92% death certificates, who checked the autenticity of the certificates, did they check for doubles (same dead reported by more than one inteviewed person) etc. etc.

    Use a simple rule of thumb calculation: 3 years of war is roughly 1000 days, i.e. 650 deaths per day, for every day since 2003. NONESENSE !!! Total bullshit. It didn’t happen.

    I guess – a tenth of that number is more likely.

  • Jacob

    Here(Link) is a refutation of the Lancet report by an anti-war body.

  • Alan

    And I foolishly thought libertarians were rational people. This comment thread proves otherwise (at least for many of those who have commented).

    1. George Bush, the US Army, etc. have not been the ones causing the problems in Iraq. *if* there are 650K dead (and mr “i know statistics” says so it must be true) or any number less, you have to lay the blame at the feet of the people who did the killing. The US gave these people a chance and they and others have worked to ruin that chance. Could the US have done better to stop them, probably. Do we now know who is for western civilization and who is against – damn straight!

    2. J. – you have not read the report – flat out.

    3. The US is *not* the only actor in the world. Nations can act independently of the US (unless you follow the Marxist victimist ideology)
    4. Pommygranate says on the one hand that the US has failed on the war on terror and then says that the “world” is against it (NB- has always been against it). How can you be both against bad things happening and against trying to stop those bad things happening (don’t say you just want it done right – think of the co-ordinated action required to have stopped all in your list of results in the war on terror).

    Sad, just sad.

  • Jon

    I keep reading about al-Qaeda tells us to vote Republican.

    No, we decide whom we want to run our governments, INCLUDING TO FIGHT OUR WARS.

    If al’qaeda thinks differently, they’ll soon come to regret their error.

  • Perry E. Metzger


    That link to Iraq Body Count doesn’t provide a refutation of the Lancet study. It can’t point at anything concretely wrong with the methodology, just “We don’t see how the number could be right”.

    As I’ve said, I’ve read the study personally. It uses completely reasonable random sample methodology. The sample size was very large, the techniques used were quite well understood. It is also, by the way, consistent with an earlier study that used the same methodology.

    You claim “a study based on interviews is worthless”, but of course that’s silly — they’re not asking people their opinion about how many people have died, they were asking randomly selected households for death certificates for family members who had died. How else would you manage to get this data — sending out psychics to tell how many people had died per square mile? Picking a number out of a fishbowl? Reading the entrails of dead chickens?

    Now, I realize that the idea of reading the original paper is foreign to many people — why actually read a document when reading ignorant commentary on it is ever so appealing — but how about you go off and read the paper. By the way, it made it past peer review, which doesn’t precisely prove anything (fraudulent papers make it past peer review sometimes) but it does show that it at least passed the smell test among fellow statistical demography types.

    If you don’t understand statistics well enough to read the paper, well, I’m sorry about that, but it does lead one to question how you can have such a strong personal opinion when you don’t understand what it is that you’re having an opinion about.

  • R C Dean

    The interviewers asked about deaths in families. 92% of the reported deaths were supported by death certificates confirming the cause of death, shown to the interviewers.

    If that’s the case, then the study also proved that the official death count reflected in death certificates is (only) 8% low.

    But the official death count is far, far below the numbers in the Lancet study.

    You can’t have it both ways.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    It isn’t clear what you mean by that. Perhaps you believe that the Iraqi government has an accurate central count of issued death certificates and that this study contradicts that information. So far as I’m aware that is not the case — there is no such information officially tracked or published by the Iraqi government.

    In any case, as with all the other innuendo I’ve seen here, there still is no one who has found anything concretely wrong with the study as performed.

  • pommygranate


    One of the principle reasons the US has failed in its War on Terror is because it has turned the world against it.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    650,000 isn’t just a number.

    For three years anti-Bush types have been sneering, “Where are the WMD?”

    Where are the 650,000 dead bodies?

    Of course, the same people who are claiming there have been 650,000 people killed in Iraq in the past 3+ years seem to be the same ones who kept claiming that 50,000 children a year were being killed by the sanctions….

  • Pre-war, according to the Lancet study, 3/4 of Iraqi dead were male. During/post OIF approx. 3/4 of Iraqi dead were male. The reported sex imbalance of death prior to the war and the claim that war (where men traditionally shoot at other men) did not affect the gender balance of the dead pretty much discredits the study.

    In the real world, roughly half of all deaths are women and half are men every year. If you get a period where the skew is as off as in the study, you would expect there to be a huge sex imbalance that would have shown up in the statistics.

    No, the Lancet study is not credible.

  • Sheriff

    The study asserts that the news media have missed on average, over 500 deaths (all of which would have had something to do with the war) per day in Iraq for three years.

    That dog don’t hunt.

  • guy herbert

    a vote FOR their programs of big neo-socialism, (healthcare, education, pension) and big-mommyism, (drug war, race quotas, dirty-mouth-bans(you can’t say THAT!)),

    Which is different from the continuance, and in some cases massive expansion, of the same programmes under Bush II how?

  • Pa Annoyed

    Aha! At last! Someone who understands the Lancet report methodology! Perhaps you can answer a few questions for me.

    My main question is to do with the relative sizes of the between-cluster and within-cluster variances. The greater the difference between them, the more inaccurate the results, and you have to compensate for that in your error margins. Now, one of the appendices associated with the Lancet report stated they had calculated a design factor of 1.6, which means the variances are about the same, and you can proceed safely. They calculated this result not from independent studies, but from the survey results themselves.

    My question is, what it the confidence interval on their estimate of the design effect?

    Because they appear to be estimating the between-cluster variance on the basis of a sample size of 47, with a grossly skewed non-Gaussian distribution. This is probably not quite as bad as taking 47 points from a Cauchy distribution, calculating the sample variance, and calling that the variance of the distribution (exercise for student: how big an error would that give?) but it is a question the study does not address.

    Comparable cluster sampling studies where independent estimates of variances are not available tend to use much larger numbers of clusters. When the UNDP did the same job in 2004, they used 2,200 clusters of 10 each for a total sample of 21,688, and got between 18K and 30K deaths. The Congo survey they cite used 750 clusters, Harvard’s School of Public Health did one with 271 clusters, a study in Kosovo did use only 50 clusters, but for a population 20 times smaller.

    There are a bunch of other questions to do with demographic adjustments, but I don’t have time now. To keep things focused, I’ll come onto those when you can tell me how they can believe that the violence level is essentially the same in every cluster, and virtually all the difference between them is sampling statistics. The expected sample error is certainly large enough to mask the differences, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

    Fundamentally, you must use extreme caution trying to use a set of data to determine whether the sample size was sufficient – if it’s too small to accurately get your result, it will also be too small to accurately assess its sufficiency.

  • R C Dean

    Perhaps you believe that the Iraqi government has an accurate central count of issued death certificates and that this study contradicts that information. So far as I’m aware that is not the case — there is no such information officially tracked or published by the Iraqi government.

    C’mon, Perry, if there was an avalanche of death certificates coming from the mostly urban areas where the fighting has been occurring, to the tune of hundreds of extras every single day, do you think no one would have noticed? Do you really think that no one in Baghdad keeps track of death certificates?

    And have you not noticed that a comparison of the reported deaths (via the Iraqi Body Count) and Lancet is off by an order of magnitude? Are you suggesting that for every ten deaths that get a death certificate, only one is reported.

    Simply not credible. When a politically motivated study with very questionable data gathering methodology produces results that are an order of magnitude out of sync with comparables, I know who to be skeptical of.

    You might try googling “confirmation bias.” Its always good to know thyself.

    But in any event, I notice you are not contradicting my basic thesis – that the election results will encourage our enemies, and that the actual accomplishment of the stated goals of Democratic leadership would be, in the long run, Not a Good Thing.

  • R C Dean

    One more thing, Perry – the NYT(Link) reported in July that the worst month ever in Iraq (to date) had, on average, 110 deaths per day. This is several hundred deaths per day less than Lancet requires. The source? The Iraqi government.

  • lucklucky

    “I will repeat. I have read the Lancet study. I understand statistical methodology. The study is sound.”

    If you believe that you believe anything…

  • Speaking as someone else who does understand statistics and has read the Lancet paper I can only say that even though the methodology is OKish the number of clusters is way too small and the counterfactuals in the Iraq Body Count response render its conclusions discredited even if the methodology is fine (remember that there’s always a chance of seeing atypical data when you’re sampling).
    The one point missing from the IBC rebuttal is the mind-bogglingly low background death rate calculated by the study (corresponding to a life expectancy of about 180)! As soon as you see that you know there’s something freakishly wrong with the sample.
    This, by the way, is where the bad faith or incompetence of the authors becomes apparent. They discuss the “accuracy” of that figure, but pass no comment about how ridiculously low it is.

  • Jacob

    One more thing, Perry,

    Usually the rate of wounded people to dead in bomb attempts and such is somewhere from 3 wounded for each dead to 10:1. Where are the 2 to 10 million wounded and crippled Iraqis ?

    Before you use your statistics expertise – use your head.

    Anyway, as someone said, it wasn’t Bush that killed those Iraqis, whatever their number – it is Iraqis that kill Iraqis, they have been doing this forever, and will be doing it forever, Bush, or no Bush.
    The problem starts when they are killing other people as well, like the 1 million dead in the 8 year war Iraq-Iran war that Saddam started in 1980.

  • Duncan S

    According to this article(Link) / study
    910,000 Americans die annually from heart disease. That would mean *roughly* over three years, upwards of 3 million dead. Where are the bodies?!?… there must be a conspiracy!? That number is way to high.

  • John K

    Duncan, please phone home, your village would like its idiot back.

  • Duncan S

    John K.
    The point being, saying “where are the bodies?” is a poor argument. That 216k bodies a year aren’t laying the streets of Bagdahd or something is a dumb argument.

    People quietly bury, cremate, whatever, these many corpses all the time due to regular everyday death…

    …you loser.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    One poster commented on the fact that the sample size in the Lancet study was smaller than would be desirable. That’s true — that’s also the reason the 95% confidence interval is plus or minus 200k dead rather than plus or minus say 10 or 20k dead.

    As for the specific questions “Pa Annoyed” asks, pose them again to me in private email and I’ll try to get to them — I didn’t have a chance to actually read them (I’m low on time today). If you think you have a legitimate issue with the methodology, by the way, you should send a letter to the editors of the Lancet, they’ll almost certainly publish it.

  • John K

    The point being, saying “where are the bodies?” is a poor argument

    And it’s not one I’m using. I just can’t accept that Iraq has suffered as many dead in 3 years of civil conflict largely confined to the Baghdad area, as it did in 8 years of all out war with Iran. I find it hard to accept that more Iraqis have died in 3 years of civil conflict than Britain lost in 6 years of total war with Germany and Japan. However, since you mention it, the 650,000 graves should not be too hard to find, after all the mass graves of the Saddam era were found were they not?

  • Duncan S

    “after all the mass graves of the Saddam era were found were they not?”

    Because they were mass graves. Not hard when there are a ton of bodies dumped into a hole.

    But I would assume most families tended to their own dead in most cases for what were are currently discussing.

  • Midwesterner


    re your heart disease example.

    My head is all stopped up today and my brain is foggy so if P.E.M. or Pa A or canker say I’ve got it all wrong, I defer.

    ~1,000,000 deaths per years from heart disease.
    ~75 year life expectancy
    ~300,000,000 population
    ~25% deaths are from heart disease

    anecdotal from my family = ~40%.

    You want me to show you the grave sites?

    Phone home.

  • Duncan S


    I’m not sure what you’re saying…

    The point I was making is that it’s perfectly plausible (whether or not it’s true) that 650k people could be killed over 3 years, and the remains would be easily “processed” (burried in cemetarys, cremated, whatever they do in Iraq) as opposed to laying around un-buried, or dumped en-mass into holes or something… Im saying 650k dead is not some crazy number given a decent sized population.

    I wasn’t acutally making a point about heart disease, it’s just a common cause of death that had high enough numbers to make my point…

  • Midwesterner


    My experience with people who know math, is when the start arguing, sit back and reach for the popcorn.

    My point is that your denunciation of the ‘where are the bodies’ example is false. Among my family and aquantances, we can find all of the bodies and death certificates. On further thought, the single generation sample of my family is actually 3 for 6 CHF. 50%

    Feynman said (badly paraphrased) that his new students were frequently precisely wrong to the umpteenth decimal place because they didn’t know what the approximately correct answer was. His point was that the result has to pass the common sense test.

    This debate appears to be that the data flunks the common sense test and therefore warrants a much closer inspection of the methodology.

    I certainly have no useful opinions on the specifics of the methodology so I’ll reach for the popcorn and hope Pa A and P.E.M. keep the debate out here where we can all watch.

  • Duncan S

    Ok Mid..

    Someone had made the statement:

    “650,000 isn’t just a number.

    For three years anti-Bush types have been sneering, “Where are the WMD?”

    Where are the 650,000 dead bodies?”

    Which sounds like they are implying that if that number were accurate, there should be an obvious pile of dead bodies somewhere (so to speak)… and I’m pointing out that the number of dead over 3 years really isn’t so many dead that there would have to obvious traces of them somewhere.


    I hereby un-make the point.


  • Pa Annoyed

    I don’t think I’ll bother sending a letter to the Lancet. I’ve seen the video of the Lancet’s editor giving ranting moonbat speeches to anti-war rallies. I think they knew perfectly well what they were doing, and it was timed for political effect. From a political point of view they are utterly transparent, but unpicking exactly how they pulled the trick technically is quite interesting too. It’s like a conjuror’s trick – you know perfectly well that he didn’t really saw the young lady in half, and you don’t have to be a conjuror to be able to say so with confidence, but other conjurors will be quite interested in the specific techniques used.

    Speaking of which, I thought that that after saying you understood the methodology and that nobody could find anything wrong with it (just an ordinary deck of cards, sir, look all five aces are still there…), that you would be interested in the specific example of the survey’s confidence interval apparently relying on the determination of the between-cluster variance from only 47 sample points.

    But it’s political aim is achieved, it is a subject of massive political controversy and mud-slinging, and no professional is going to put their name and career on the line wading into that mud-bath (where ‘mud’ is the polite term for it) fighting a battle that was already lost the moment the BBC published it. Nobody pro-war believes it is true anyway, nobody anti-war cares; we all have better uses for our time. The technicalities are now just a historical curiosity.

  • Jacob

    “The point I was making is that it’s perfectly plausible (whether or not it’s true) that 650k people could be killed over 3 years ”

    It’s plausible that 650k get killed, but not without being reported or even noticed in a country which is in the glare of the media, and everybody and his siter blogging (I mean soldiers, Iraqi people). It could’nt go unnoticed and unreported.
    Even in WW1 or WW2 – the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians were perfectly known by everybody, all the time, and there weren’t such elaborate means of communication available then.

  • Duncan S

    Allegedly 92% of them were reported right?

    But again.. the point has been “un-made”

    Carry on.


  • Midwesterner


    My head is so thick, my ears are ringing and swishing. Please make some allowances if this doesn’t make sense.

    I can see your point about that number of dead bodies being able to disappear into normal processes. But in the US case, we can verify virtually all off them.

    Something that confuses me is that if they (Lancet) is basing its estimates on a sample that is, as J at 10:59PM on the 8th said, 92% backed up by death certificates, it seems to me that for the study to be reliable, further examinations should yield 92% of the projected deaths as being on file with certificates. If further investigation does not reflect this, then the projected areas are probably too disimilar from the study samples to mean anything.

    I have no idea if that is a reasonable concern, but it seems to me that if Lancet makes the claim that the samples accurately reflect the unknown data, but they hold their projections to a different standard of proof than their samples, the whole thing goes splat. But I don’t know, so I’ll listen to the debate with interest.

    Pa A, if the sample is a conjurer’s trick, then learning how they did it will make all of us a little less gulible. If you are so inclined to explain, I’ll read it with interest. (If I can understand it, that is.)

  • Midwesterner

    R C Dean,

    I didn’t support going into this war. I tried to give it my best support after it was started.

    I don’t think my present opinion is so much an unwillingness to lose, but rather a ‘we broke it, we fix it’ sense of responsibility.

    My impression of many others is that they share this opinion. We are (still) a big strong nation. We don’t need to worry about ‘saving face’. That’s for vulnerable and insecure nations. We just need to assure that the outcome is long term good for the US and the rest of the reasonably free parts of the world.

    This is why I think we need to finish what we started.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    As the person who first posted the “Where are the bodies” comment, I suppose I should comment a bit more. (I haven’t done so earlier since I’m not online as much as the rest of you, apparently.)

    I will admit that part of my rationale for the question was to turn the tables on the antiwar types. I find myself not so much pro-war, as anti-anti-war. I get the impression that a lot of the antiwar types either have nothing to offer but the sneering, “See! See!!” attitude, or, like the Clare Shorts who supported going after Milošević, were downright hypocrites.

    On a more serious note, I think the “Where are the bodies” question is appropriate. I heard an interview many years back about the accuracy of crime statistics and whether the government fudged them, and the interviewee pointed out that a murder isn’t just a statistic — there’s a dead body, too.

    When I first heard the Lancet 650K estimate, I did a bit of number crunching in my head, and came to the conclusion that with Iraq having about 1/11 the US population, 650K over three years would be equivalent to about 2.4 million excess deaths in the US per annum — or roughly doubling the rate of death. (Iraq, having a much younger average population than the US or other western countries, would likely have a lower normal death rate, so the excess deaths the Lance claims would effectively be more than double the regular death rate.)

    Sure, the people being killed in Iraq that sites like Iraq Body Count document aren’t all in one place — but if the death rate suddenly were to double, it would be noticed that all the cemeteries were filling up twice as quickly as normal — especially in a place where you’ve got a journalistic corps that wants to see disaster to report on.

    As others have pointed out, if not the bodies, where are the centrally-kept death certificates? After all, the Lancet claims 92% of the death certificates for their sample were shown to them.

  • Midwesterner

    where are the centrally-kept death certificates?

    Specifically where the projected deaths are recorded doesn’t matter, but rather that the records meet the same criteria as those for the sample cluster’s data.

  • Paul Marks

    On W.M.D.s, some chemical weapons were found – but only Fox reported it (some months ago – but a search engine will still bring up the story).

    On atomic weapons the documents that prove that Saddam had not given up (in spite of the attack in 1981 and the 1991 Gulf War) were published some time ago.

    However, spin hit the story. “How dare the evil Republicans publish secret documents that show how to build an atomic bomb” (even Fox reported the story that way).

    Of course the “how to build a atomic bomb” stuff can be found at many sites on the internet. The real importance of the story (that Saddam was trying to build atomic bombs) never got to the voters.

    The Republicans (along with their many other faults) are crap at public relations.

    Take the example of Kansas where an abortionist (via various “non profit” front organizations) managed to defeat Kline (who was going after him for late term abortions and covering up various things) by sending out (at vast expense) at lot of disinformation.

    All the Republicans had to do is send out stuff to each voter a counter pack of information with the message “the pack you have recieved from the other side was paid for by a man who makes his millions doing abortions at an industrial scale operation” and they might have won.

    But no “we do not have the money”.

    Ditto with Mr Hayworth in Arizona – destroyed by a Soros front group (which paid for adverts claiming that his opponent was the anti illegal immigrant man – and claiming other bullshit).

    There are plenty of wealthy Republicans – if they will not pay for (Soros style) non profit front organizations to attack their foes, well I have little sympathy with their loss.

    Anyway I repeat what I said in one of my own articles. Where Republicans had a proven record as anti big government people (rather than a record of talking about “social issues” – the other side can say anything about these issues also) they WON.

    Look at the race to be Governor of Nevada – minimum wage law level increase on the ballot (to bring out the Democrat vote) the candiadate smeared as a rapist in the media – and he still won.

    He won because Mr Gibbins (spelling) has a long record of being an anti big government man (he did not just think of it at the start of the campaign).

    By the way as a life long libertarian (and one who did not think that the judgement to go back into Iraq was correct – although some libertarians did support it) I rather resent the implied claim that all libertarians are antiWestern nuts.

    Sure one can find lots of people attacking “the American Empire” (which is bullshit as President Bush would obey any democratic government that told him “take your troops out”), but some of these are various forms of conservative (such as Pat B.).

    I certainly would never make the mistake of believing stories in “the Lancet” (past of the leftist medical establisment here – who teach things like “poverty is a medical issue” and then preach lots of statist “solutions” for this povety).

    Nor would I blame the actions of the enemies of the West (such as the car bombers and head hackers) on the West.

    That is like blaming Pol Pot and the rest of the Communists on the United States – oh of course the left has done that as well “if you had not opposed the communist takeover they would not have got a taste for violence……”

    Ditto with Mao (the greatest mass murderer of human history).

    And (if we follow the Murry Rothbard line) every enemy of the United States there has ever been (inculding Nazi Germany).

    Murry Rothbard was a great economist – but he was part of the “America is always wrong” crowd.

    Not all libertarians are like this.

  • Orson Olson

    At the usually reliable STATS.org at George Mason University, the Iraq stude is deemed credible. But the stats for the rate of death under Saddam are LOWER than contemporary rates in the EU! – about half. Given the obvious poverty Saddam’s toppling revealed and the widespread lack of basic medical care, including hoarding of anti-biotics for Baath Party memebers, such judgements cannot be credible.

    According to the (once again) discredited journal, The Lancet, 650,000 dead in Iraq post-Saddam roughly equates to the US’ bloodiest war, The Civil War.

    AT THE SAME TIME, Iraqi’s are the second most optimistic people on earth, right after Canada (survey from last winter)! Nothing above comports with other legitimate studies findings.

    Is it possible that statistical cluster sampling methods work well in Western countries – but not Arabic ones? This makes sense to me, because the normative government in the Arab world is either a theocracy or a police-state. The fact that Iraq has suddenly become a nascent democracy does not make its age-old culture of innuendo, rumor treated as fact, and exaggeration to please outsiders disappear.

    Just like the last politically timed Lancet study in 2004, its results do not comport with any other well-founded independent measures. Thus, it is foolhardy to accept the reults unless and until further corroborated. Based on the lack of corroboration from last such “study,” I won’t hold my breath.

  • Sandy P


    One of the principle reasons the US has failed in its War on Terror is because it has turned the world against it. —

    Outside of WWI and WWII, where we lost 500K of our treasure, when was America ever liked?

    Read Revel’s Anti-Americanism.

  • Panther

    I actually see the terrorist more emboldened than ever before too strike at the US and their allies. I’m afraid it’s now just a question of time, once again!

    tick, tock… tick, tock…


  • The Wobbly Guy

    Somehow, I’m not too worried. The dems may be in power, but the stakes on the table are higher than ever before. In past, they could afford to fold, and they did, rather consistently.

    Now, they might not be allowed the luxury, because it could very well be their own necks and careers on the line, the constant media cover-up insufficient to run interference.

    Another attack on US soil, especially a serious one, after their new ‘enlightened’ policies, could be spun to deflect blame on the previous administration(Repub), but unlikely. It’s far more likely that they have no choice but to wreck bitter vengeance. Make no mistake, the leftists are the most vindictive and vicious of politicians when their own survival is at stake, and they will likely wage the war of the betrayed. And I’m pretty sure the Repubs won’t be standing in their way.

    It goes back to the mommy and daddy analogy of the Dems and Repubs. Mommy is a woman, and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

  • Reid

    The Lancet estimate of excess deaths is not credible. But, if you are bound and determined to say it is, you are probably one of the people who believed the UN’s estimate that 500,000 Iraqi children had died from the sanctions. Can you believe both estimates simultaneously? Apparently, some people have no problem dealing with such contradictions.

    But, if the sanctions were evil, and the invasion was evil, the only alternative was to leave Mr. Hussein in power without any restraints whatsoever. Is this what Perry et al. are advocating was the correct approach?