The Lancet Study on Iraq

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Empress Verite

The Lancet Study on Iraq

Post by Empress Verite » Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:01 pm

Sak Pase all?

You can check out the actual articles on the Lancet.com website too.
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New study says US war has killed 655,000 Iraqis
By the editorial board
12 October 2006

According to a study published Wednesday in the British medical journal the Lancet, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq are responsible for the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.

The survey of Iraqi casualties was conducted by a team of Iraqi physicians under the direction of epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.

The estimate of the researchers is more than 12 times the figure of 44,000 to 49,000 civilian deaths given by the British group Iraq Body Count, and nearly 22 times the figure of 30,000, “more or less,” mentioned by President Bush in a December 2005 press conference.

The number of estimated deaths of Iraqis since the invasion corresponds to 2.5 percent of the population of Iraq. A matching percentage of the US population of 300 million would be 7.5 million—nearly the entire population of New York City.

The number of 655,000 represents the “excess” deaths caused by the American invasion and occupation. This is the difference between the number of people killed since March 2003 and the number of deaths that would be expected on the basis of pre-war death rates.

Of the total number of war-related deaths, an estimated 600,000 died as a result of violence, including gun shots, car bombs and other explosive devices, and air strikes. An estimated 31 percent of these, or 186,000, are attributed by the study directly to coalition forces—that is, these Iraqis were killed by the American military or its allies. According to the study, gunshot wounds caused 56 percent of violent deaths—an extraordinarily high figure that points again to the direct role of the US military.

An additional 24 percent of war-related deaths are attributed to other sources, including sectarian killings and suicide bombings, while 45 percent are classified as unknown.

These figures give a partial picture of the consequences of a war crime of vast dimensions. US imperialism has laid waste to an entire country and killed a significant proportion of the population in order to seize control of Iraq's vast oil resources and establish a hegemonic position in the Middle East. The Lancet report stands as an indictment not only of the Bush administration, but of the entire US political establishment.

Death on such a scale was an entirely foreseeable result of the invasion of Iraq. The US attack has produced a social catastrophe of historical proportions.

The nightmare of death and destruction unleashed by the US gives the lie to all of the claims, beyond the phony allegations of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi support for Al Qaeda, advanced to justify the war—that it was launched to liberate the Iraqi people, that it is a war for democracy and freedom, etc.

The report states that the US intervention has killed more than twice as many Iraqis in the space of three-and-a-half years than were killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein in the course of its 24-year reign, based on the estimate by Human Rights Watch of 250,000 to 290,000 killings under the deposed Baathist government.

The occupying forces are responsible not only for those they killed directly, but for all of the violence that has been unleashed by the invasion. The US policy of supporting different ethnic groups and pitting them against each other has led to the sharp increase in sectarian killings over the past year. The ultimate cause of all the deaths, as well as the uncounted injuries, lies in the decision to launch the war itself.

The 55,000 additional deaths from non-violent sources are attributed by the study to heart attacks, cancer, infant mortality and other illnesses. This increase is directly related to the destruction of Iraq's social infrastructure, including electricity, sanitation, clean water and medical care.

The immediate response of the Bush administration to the Lancet report was a predictable mixture of contempt and indifference. In a press conference on Wednesday, Bush called the figure of 655,000 “not credible” and said the methodology used in the study had been “discredited.” He did not bother to explain the basis on which he dismissed the report.

For its part, the Pentagon responded by saying that it “regrets the loss of any innocent life in Iraq or anywhere else.” The pro-forma character of this statement betrays the complete indifference of the US military. The Pentagon went on to claim, “It would be difficult for the US to precisely determine the number of civilian deaths in Iraq as a result of insurgent activity.”

This statement, as with virtually all official US statements on Iraqi casualties, attributes the toll on Iraqi lives entirely to the resistance, not to US violence. This is yet another in the mountain of lies employed to justify the war.

Since the invasion, the US government has refused to release figures on the deaths it has caused. The US-backed Iraqi government has systematically underestimated the death toll, and has stepped up its policy of concealment in tandem with the increasing carnage from US military attacks, mass killings by death squads, and suicide bombings. Beginning in September, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki barred the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry from releasing their own reports on deaths.

The Lancet study is the most credible estimate of deaths available, and is based on an entirely sound methodology. The figure of 655,000 is much higher than numbers reported by other surveys, including Iraq Body Count, because these other estimates rely on passive surveys of deaths reported in the press. This method is known to vastly underestimate actual deaths, since most killings go unreported. Iraq Body Count also includes only civilian casualties, while the Lancet report includes all deaths.

In an article on Wednesday, the Washington Post cited several researchers who backed the survey's findings, including Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, who said the survey methods were “tried and true” and that the results were “the best estimate of mortality we have” from Iraq. Sarah Leah Whitson, from Human Rights Watch, said that there was “no reason” to question the report's findings.

The Post noted, “Both this and the earlier [Johns Hopkins] study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called ‘cluster sampling,' is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.”

To arrive at their estimate, the researchers selected a random population sample across different regions of Iraq and then calculated the number of deaths since the invasion of March 2003 in that sample. In total, 1,849 households were visited, and a member of the household was asked to report on deaths in the family from the period beginning 14 months before the invasion of Iraq through to the present.

To verify the reported deaths, the interviewers requested death certificates 87 percent of the time. Of those asked, 92 percent were able to give certificates.

After calculating the number of post-invasion deaths among the households sampled, the resulting figure was used to estimate the number of deaths for the population as a whole. Based on pre-invasion death rates, the researchers calculated the expected deaths during the same period. The difference between these two figures yielded the “excess” deaths produced by the invasion and occupation. The 655,000 number is a middle figure. The researchers reported that they were 95 percent confident that the actual number of deaths was between 393,000 and 943,000.

Even if one assumes that the low-end of their estimate is correct, the death toll is staggering, with the US military directly responsible for more than 110,000 violent deaths.

Claims that the Johns Hopkins research methods are unsound were also used in an attempt to discredit an earlier report that estimated 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq from March 2003 to September 2004. The new study gives independent confirmation of that figure, yielding on the basis of an independent sample an estimate of 112,000 during that same period.

In answering a question on the Lancet report during his press conference on Wednesday, Bush's comments reeked of stupidity, indifference and imperial arrogance. Acknowledging that “a lot of innocent people have died,” Bush said he applauded the Iraqi people “for their courage in the face of violence.”

“This is a society which so wants to be free that... there's a level of violence they are willing to tolerate,” Bush said. The truth is the exact opposite. The violence is a product of colonial subjugation of a population that overwhelmingly opposes the presence of foreign troops in Iraq. Recent polls have found that at least 60 percent of the population supports attacks on US military forces.

At the same time, Bush indicated that the level of killing will increase in the coming period. He declared that it is “time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods”—a reference to US demands for a violent crackdown on Iraqi resistance, particularly on anti-American Shiite militias. Last weekend, US forces carried out a major action in Diwaniyah, a city south of Baghdad, against militias associated with Shiite fundamentalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Also on Wednesday, the US Army said that it planned to keep troop numbers at current levels through 2010. Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker said the move was intended to insure that “I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot.”

Washington has used the alleged killing of smaller numbers of people by other governments as a pretext for military attack. The Clinton administration and the media made vastly exaggerated and entirely unsubstantiated claims of Serbian killings of Albanian Kosavars in early 1999 to justify the US plan to launch an air war against the former Yugoslovia. At that time, figures in the area of 100,000-200,000 were tossed out and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic was roundly accused of genocide.

However, following the air war, the Tribunal on War Crimes in Kosovo issued an estimate of Albanian deaths from Serb attacks plus the US-led NATO bombing campaign at between 2,000 and 3,000. This figure is obviously dwarfed by the death toll resulting from the US rape of Iraq. But there are no charges from any section of the US political establishment, from either of its two parties, or from the media of genocide in Iraq.

While Milosevic, at the behest of Washington, was put on trial at the Hague for war crimes, the very suggestion that Bush and the top policy makers—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz—who conspired to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq should suffer a similar fate would be denounced on all sides as nothing short of treason.

The scale of death and destruction in Iraq has been systematically concealed from the American people, with the complicity of the mass media and the Democratic Party.

There has been very little reporting on the recently launched military operations in Iraq, in both Shiite and Sunni areas. US troops have been conducting neighborhood sweeps, seizing and arresting an untold number of people. How many thousands of people have been killed during the latest round of military aggression? Without any independent reports of what is going on, it is impossible to know.

The silence of the media and both parties reflects the American ruling elite's contempt for human life in general, and the lives of Iraqis in particular.

The attitude of the Bush administration and the Democrats stands in sharp contrast to the sentiment of broad sections of the US population, who are increasingly disgusted, horrified and shamed by the brutality unleashed by the US invasion in the name of the American people.

The only party in the November elections that represents this growing opposition is the Socialist Equality Party. In its election program (see “For a socialist alternative in the 2006 US elections”), the SEP calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq—the elementary precondition for putting an end to the brutal and ongoing slaughter.

The SEP demands that those responsible for the war be tried as war criminals. The election program also calls for the US government to compensate the Iraqi people for the destruction and suffering it has caused, as well as the families of American soldiers killed in the war and the men and women who have been wounded, both mentally and physically.

The war in Iraq has been waged in the interests of the American ruling elite, not the American people. The SEP calls for a break with the two parties of big business and the building of a new socialist party of the working class. The only viable basis for a struggle against imperialist war is the development of a mass socialist movement against the two-party capitalist system.

We call on all those who oppose the occupation of Iraq to vote for the SEP candidates where they are standing. Study our program, donate to our election fund, and contact the SEP to participate in our campaigns. Join the SEP and help fight for a socialist alternative to war and social reaction.

Why is the American press silent ...

Post by » Sun Oct 15, 2006 9:41 pm

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Why is the American press silent on the report of 655,000 Iraqi deaths?
By Joe Kay and Barry Grey
13 October 2006


The US media is virtually silent on a new scientific study that estimates the Iraqi death toll from the US war at 655,000. The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was posted Wednesday on the web site of the British medical journal, the Lancet.

The study is the only systematic estimate of the number of Iraqi civilians and military personnel to have died as a result of the US invasion and occupation to be brought to the attention of the American and international public.

Unlike previous estimates, which were based on reviews of media reports or tallies made by the US-backed Iraqi government, the Johns Hopkins study was carried out by Iraqi physicians who interviewed—often at great personal risk—nearly 2,000 families spread across the country, utilizing standard and widely used statistical methods to arrive at an objective estimate of the death toll from the war and occupation. The vast majority of the reported deaths were substantiated by death certificates.

The study concluded with a 95 percent degree of certainty that the number of “excess deaths” in Iraq since the invasion—the number of people who have died in excess of the number that would be expected on the basis of pre-invasion mortality rates—is between 393,000 and 943,000. The figure of 655,000 is given as the most likely number. This represents an astonishing 2.5 percent of the entire Iraqi population.

The researchers further estimated that about 600,000 of the deaths were due to violence in some form, including gunshots, air strikes and bombings. They concluded that US and allied military forces directly caused at least 31 percent—or 186,000—of the violent deaths.

Some 336,000 people, or 56 percent of those killed in violent actions since the invasion, died from gunshot wounds. The study also found that the number of violent deaths in Iraq has steadily increased every year since the invasion. In the period from June 2005 to June 2006, the researchers found a nearly four-fold increase in the mortality rate relative to pre-invasion levels.

There can be no legitimate doubts about the credibility of the study. Lancet is one of the oldest and most prestigious peer-reviewed medical publications in the world. The Johns Hopkins public health school is the largest in the world, and regularly ranks as the top public health school in the United States. The journal article was reviewed and approved for publication by four independent scientific experts in the area.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the report, even if one assumes its low-end estimate of 393,000 Iraqi deaths to be correct. It demonstrates that the American intervention in Iraq has produced a social and humanitarian catastrophe of historical dimensions, with vast political implications not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world and, above all, in the United States itself.

By any objective standard, the report merits front-page coverage in every major newspaper in the country and extensive discussion and reporting on television news broadcasts. Yet the response of the US press has been to virtually ignore the report and limit its coverage to news accounts on inside pages which report, uncritically, unsubstantiated statements by government and military officials dismissing the report as “not credible.”

In burying the story, the New York Times and Washington Post have played a particularly significant role. The original articles published by these newspapers on Wednesday were relegated to the inside pages: in the Times on page 8, in the Post on page 12.

The Post decided to bury the story in its back pages despite the fact that the article it published vouched for the scientific validity the Johns Hopkins study, noting that it, and an earlier report on Iraqi deaths published by the same team, “are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods.” The “cluster sampling” technique used by the scientists, the newspaper wrote, “is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.”

Minimal coverage in the press continued on Thursday, despite the fact that the issue was raised by a reporter at a White House press conference on Wednesday. President Bush contemptuously dismissed the report, stating that it was not credible. He was not challenged and the question was not followed up by any of the other reporters at the news conference.

Bush's remarks were followed by statements from various supporters and architects of the war similarly dismissing the Johns Hopkins study's casualty figures. General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, admitted that he had not bothered to read the report, but nevertheless concluded that it did not have “much credibility at all.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the figure of 655,000 killed is “not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate.” Iraqi government officials likewise declared that the figure was “exaggerated.”

On Thursday, neither the Times nor the Post published an editorial on the Johns Hopkins report, or even a follow-up article on the report and the response of the Bush administration.

There was not one challenge in the establishment media to the official attempts to disparage the report. Instead, the minimal coverage on Thursday was largely devoted to reporting the statements by Bush, Casey, Blair and the Iraqi stooge regime. The Los Angeles Times, for example, published a story on its inside pages, “Iraq Disputes Claim of 600,000 War Dead,” reporting the statements by the Iraqi government. The newspaper added its voice to the chorus by remarking that it had conducted its own survey and reached a figure of 50,000 killed.

The attempts to discredit the report are not backed up by any factual or methodological arguments. The administration and its supporters assume, correctly, that they can simply make unsubstantiated claims and the media will not challenge them.

Lee Roberts, a co-author of the study, noted in an interview with the radio program Democracy Now! on Thursday that the cluster survey approach the researchers used “is the standard way of measuring mortality in very poor countries where the government isn't very functional or in times of war.” He pointed out that both the United Nations and the US government have used the method in determining mortality, including after the Kosovo and Afghan wars. “Most ironically,” he said, “the US government has been spending millions of dollars per year... to train NGOs and UN workers to do cluster surveys to measure mortality in times of wars and disasters.”

With its silence, the media is once again taking its cue from the government. It does not challenge Bush's ignorant and cold-blooded dismissal of the Johns Hopkins report, just as it did not challenge Bush's offhand remark at a December, 2005 press conference that 30,000 Iraqis, “more or less,” had been killed since the March, 2003 US invasion—an absurdly low estimate.

The corporate-owned-and-controlled media have buried this story because they do not want the American people to know the truth of what is happening in Iraq.

They want to conceal this truth—as they have done consistently since the war began—because they are complicit in a massive war crime in Iraq, and continue to support the bloodletting by the US military.

The Johns Hopkins report, by revealing the colossal dimensions of the death and destruction wreaked by the United States in Iraq, shatters the edifice of lies that has been erected in an attempt to deceive the people and justify the war—from the phony claims of weapons of mass destruction and Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, to the current claims of a war for “freedom and democracy” and the overarching deception of the “war on terrorism.”

The report inevitably highlights the culpability of the media itself, which has combined an acceptance of unprecedented censorship by the military with self-censorship and deliberate misinformation in order to whitewash an imperialist war for oil and geo-strategic domination of the Middle East.

The scale of mass killing revealed in the Johns Hopkins study published by the Lancet stands as an indictment of the entire American ruling elite, both of its political parties—Democratic no less than Republican—and all of its official institutions, among which the media has played a particularly sordid role.

What the corporate, political and media establishment fear are the explosive social and political implications of growing popular revulsion over the crimes of US imperialism in Iraq and around the world, combined with mounting anger over relentless attacks on working people's social conditions and democratic rights. The entire political system is being exposed and discredited before the eyes of the people. Such a process inevitably brings with it revolutionary consequences.

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