Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Body Count

Responding to the Lancet claims. Reality checks: some responses to the latest Lancet estimates Introduction Implication one:
On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms. (...) It is unlikely that incidents of this scale would be so consistently missed by the various media in Iraq. Although IBC technically requires only two sources for every corroborated death in its database, we actually collect, archive and analyse every unique report we can find about each incident before it is added to our database. For larger incidents the number of reports can run into the dozens, including news published in English in the original and others, mostly the Iraqi press, published in translation. In IBC's news archive for August 2006 the average-size attack leaving 5 civilians killed has a median number of 6 reports on it.
Implication two:
Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment. (...) If 600,000 people have died violent deaths, then the 3:1 ratio implies that 1,800,000 Iraqis have by now been wounded. This would correspond to 1 in every 15 Iraqis. Of course, death/injury ratios vary according to the weapons being used. Bombs and air strikes leave more wounded than does gunfire, but even the latter may cause widespread injury when it is indiscriminate, as it often is in gun-battles or in "defensive" fire by US troops who come under attack. By far the lowest proportion of injured are produced in the execution of captives, whether by guns or other means. (...) Accepting the Lancet estimate would entail concluding that at least 740,000 wounded Iraqis (90% of the total) were not treated or, if treated, not recorded in any way, throughout a 2-year period beginning in mid-2004. It may be that many injured anti-occupation combatants have avoided hospitals to prevent identification or arrest, but they are hardly likely to account for more than a small fraction of this discrepancy. It would further imply that approaching 90% of Lancet's deaths are also of combatants.
Implication three:
Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq. Of the 287 violent post-invasion deaths recorded by the Lancet authors where the age and sex was known, 235 (82%) were adult males between 15 and 59 years old. Extrapolating to the population as a whole would mean that around 470,000 men in this age group have been killed violently, i.e. one in 15 (7%) of adult males aged 15 to 59.
Implication four:
Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued. (...) If the Lancet estimate is correct then it follows that either (a) 500,000 documented violent deaths, for which certificates were issued, have somehow managed to completely disappear without a trace to Iraqi officials or the international media or (b) there is a vast, elaborate, and very successful, cover up of this massive number of bodies and their associated paper trail being carried out in Iraq.
Implication five:
The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "shock and awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja. (...) Yet, according to Lancet estimates, the number of Iraqis killed by the Coalition rose to 70,000 in year two (May 2004 – May 2005), and rose yet again in the third year (June 2005 – June 2006) to 86,000, nearly three times more than in year 1. When looking at US air strikes, the picture becomes even more puzzling. This data is comprised of 40 deaths: * 1 killed in January 2002-March 2003 (estimate: 2,000 killed); * 6 killed in March 2003-April 2004 (estimate: 12,000 killed); * 13 killed in May 2004-May 2005 (estimate: 26,000 killed); * 20 killed in June 2005-June 2006 (estimate: 40,000 killed).
Concluding remarks
Could five such shocking implications be true? If they were true, they would need to be the result of a combination of the following factors: * 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; * bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis; * the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas; * an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.
"We report, you decide!" H/T: Stop the ACLU