Monday, August 25, 2008

Propaganda Wars Continue

I saw this gem on Yelp:

More than 600,000 civilians dead in Iraq alone as a result of the war.

That's about the entire population of Fiji.

And that figure it from 2 years ago. According to Wikipedia, the latest tally is close to 1.2 million civilians.
Well thank goodness he checked his facts with Wikipedia first. Now let's check Wikipedia's facts. What are the casualties like in Iraq? How many people died during the overthrow and capture of Saddam and the subsequent battles against insurgents, foreign fighters and terrorists intent on turning Iraq into the new headquarters for strict Sharia law? Let's see what Wikipedia had:

Survey Iraqi deaths March 2003 to...
Iraqi Health Ministry survey 151,000 violent deaths out of 400,000 excess deaths due to the war. June 2006
Lancet survey 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths. June 2006
Opinion Research Business survey 1,033,000 violent deaths as a result of the conflict. August 2007
Wow, 1 million deaths. That's roughly 1 out of every 30 people living in Iraq.

Why are the figures so different? How did they arrive at these figures? I'll go to the source websites for this, not trusting Wikipedia. (Note: I could not substantiate the "400,000 excess deaths" figure claimed to be in the first survey. I searched for "400,000", "excess" and I browsed the report as well as a New England Journal of Medicine report on the report and couldn't find that claim anywhere.)

Opinion Research Business (who??) --

•Results are based on face-to-face interviews amongst a nationally representative sample of 1,720 adults aged 18+ throughout Iraq (1,499 agreed to answer the question on household deaths)
I tried to find out more information, but the link on the ORB website for more information didn't work. I'd like to know more about this "nationally representative sample". But basically they polled 1499 people and extrapolated 1,000,000 deaths.

These three misattributed clusters were therefore
excluded, leaving a final sample of 1849 households in
47 randomly selected clusters.
So they polled 1849 households.

Iraqi Health Ministry survey:

Why were female doctors and statisticians chosen as interviewers?

Female doctors were not the only interviewers. Other groups such as female dentists, pharmacists, nurses and technical college graduates were also involved as interviewers. As, in many surveys in Iraq, female interviewers are most suitable and best able to communicate effectively with women. Moreover, in Iraqi culture, women respondents have more trust in female interviewers, as sensitive issues were discussed in the women’s questionnaires. The census enumerator were selected for this work for their accuracy and reliability in recording the household information and in identifying the cluster samples and the household locations.


How do you explain the high response rate for IFHS 2006/7 in spite of the very bad security situations in Iraq?

The household response rate of 98.2% and the women response rate of 98.3% match with the MICS-III 2006 response rate of 98.6%. Also, IFHS teams were required to try three times with each household if they were not successful in finishing the interview the first and the second time. This high response rate was accomplished with the help of community leaders who facilitated the process of interviewing the families.


So the polling agency with the most transparent views into their polling methods and which had the widest sampling by far, resulted in smaller numbers.

Yet somehow, it's the 1 million count from the unknown organization with the broken links that people quote from Wikipedia.

Note also that these numbers are not indicating "civilians killed in combat with NATO troops" but rather, all violent deaths, including terrorist carbomb attacks against civilians.

What about deaths under Saddam? Did we bring these people war and death when they would have been safer under Saddam? He seemed like an okay guy, right? Here's a snippet of information from a news article covering his trial:

Saddam and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, a Baath Party leader who allegedly organized Anfal, are charged with genocide widely considered the toughest charge to prove since it requires showing their intention was to exterminate part of an ethnic group.

Saddam and al-Majid also face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, as do their co-defendants, most of whom are former military figures.

The Anfal trial is likely to take months as well. The campaign was on a far greater scale than the Dujail crackdown, with death toll estimates ranging from 50,000 to 180,000. Prosecutors plan to call up to 75 witnesses and to present extensive documents from the former regime, as well as evidence from mass graves.
Exact figures on death tolls under Saddam will be hard to figure out.

We have to find all the mass graves first.

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