More on Counting Civilian Casualties

The online debate continues about a recent report in a British medical journal estimating 655,000 civilian deaths since the U.S. led invasion in March 2003. After my column on the study last week, lead author Gilbert Burnham defended its methodology in a discussion with readers.

Three British academics argue in (by subscription) that the study suffers from "main street bias."

"By only surveying houses that are located on cross streets next to main roads or on the main road itself," wrote co-author and Oxford University physics professor Sean Gourley in a press release. "The study inflates casualty estimates since conflict events such as car bombs, drive-by shootings artillery strikes on insurgent positions, and marketplace explosions gravitate toward the same neighborhood types that the researchers surveyed."

But Rebecca Goldin, writing for Statistical Assessment Service ( at George Mason University, rejected such criticism, saying the JHU study used statistical weighting methods that took into account the location of interviewees.

"The methods used by this study are the only scientific methods we have for discovering death rates in war torn countries without the infrastructure to report all deaths through central means," she wrote. "Instead of dismissing over half a million dead people as a political ploy as did Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, we ought to embrace science as opening our eyes to a tragedy whose death scale has been vastly underestimated until now."

I first wrote about media coverage of civilian casualties in September 2004, quoting the Gulf News' observation that "an eerie silence" surrounded the subject. Two years and thousands of civilian deaths later, the silence has been replaced by serious debate.

By Jefferson Morley |  October 25, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Mideast
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After years of "an eerie silence" on essentials concerning Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, etc., hasn't the time come to leave counting to the accountants, and to rather delve deep into 1. WHY, the persistent "eerie silence", for so long? 2. THE HUMAN COST of that "eerie silence" (in all those countries during that many years)? 3. The cost of that "eerie silence" to US integrity, values, and institutions? Drop the obsession with "heroes". The need is quite simply to hear the facts and the truth, in the media, from normal, decent, courageous people, on what matters most in life, and cannot be counted. In other words, how soulless has this monstrously narcissistic society become? Make it qualitative! Just try.

Posted by: Robert Rose | October 25, 2006 09:28 AM

"The methods used by this study are the only scientific methods we have"

What kind of asinine answer is that? Is this some kind of paraphrase of Rumsfeld: to go into the study with the scientific methods you have, not the scientific methods you might wish to have?

If you don't have scientific methods good enough to do a reputable study - and clearly they do not - then don't do the study.

It's like Rebecca Goldin never learned the acronym GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. The "study" is GIGO.

Posted by: Jack | October 25, 2006 09:29 AM


"What kind of ... answer is that?"

It is an answer excerpted from a much longer article that goes into great detail regarding the kind of answer it is, and why it is. It's actually pretty good, when you take time to read it.

Posted by: Pablo | October 25, 2006 09:37 AM

the only reason to discredit the study on the number of deaths is to negate, not ameliorate.

the obfuscative powers that be, Complicit Congress, Corrupt Executive Branch and dirty_handed Military Industrial Complex and related Lobbyists....

want what they want, to get paid and control.

THAT has nothing to do with how many people died.

If one person died and the only reason that we're over there is to control a scarce resource,

then that death is murder, if there's an alternative to business being handled that way.

IF I WERE PRESIDENT, things would be different.

I would issue some National Security based mandates.

1. telecommuting would become mandatory where practicable.

2. programs for using transportation more efficiently would be recommended and where feasible enacted.

3. I would put in place to unmarginalize our marginalized populations to have them contribute to society, by fixing the brokeness of their lives.

4. I would require classes of response to the problem of having a non_renewable base of fuel as a significant segment of our energy/transportation system.

and so on.

This is National FRICKING Security DA's not some wish list.

The only people that think that it is a wish list are the same people that tried to sell you homophobia as a _family_value_

and those people should be destroyed.

thanks so much.


Posted by: look small fry | October 25, 2006 12:09 PM

everyone wants to lay this occupation at bushes feet, however,

the existence of PNAC, as a document of intent, that lays out what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was written in 1997...during and because of the "Clinton Yeares"

Shows intent.

The reason for writing/existence of the document is that the Military Industrial Complex Guys and the we use the Government to make money people were pissed off about Clinton tenure,

and their plan being _plannus_interruptus_, for the more sexually minded of you, it's a unveiled reference to the raping of LIBERTY and installation of a

POWER OVER/FEDERALIZATION of the constitution to make sure, by a groupof people with a hardon for _you_

that they didn't get interrupted again.....

to the point that electoral fraud/Katherine Harris, New Hampshire Phone Jamming, ET FRICKING AL

lying, theivery, chicanery, BS propaganda campaigns, homophobia/hate_as_a_family_value

(they completely ignored what the citizenship/you wanted based upon wanting to put a PNAC government in place)

the long and the short of it is, _they_ is more than bush

it is a COMPLICIT CONGRESS, a corrupt EXECUTIVE BRANCH and a distorted and influential MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, that Eisen fricking Hower warned about. Get your head out of your fricking rear end!

It's not that hard to see _or_ understand.

please beat some sense into these publick representatives of greed inaction....

let them feel your size twelves entering into their rectal spaces.....



Posted by: hows about some history? | October 25, 2006 12:13 PM

all you need to understand is that there's an obvious pattern......

that if you're not developmentally impaired from being willing to examine will lead you to the glaringly obvious conclusion that the whole

"war on terrorism," is purest bull s***

foisted on the citizenry in lieu of actually having an effective government,

in order to keep selling you what you don't need.

them in charge.

Posted by: look | October 25, 2006 12:20 PM

A question to all naysayers of the Lancet study. Would you dispute the 6 million number of Jews killed in the Holocaust? Would you have a career left if you tried to "deny the Holocaust"? Why is it acceptable to deny that 650,000 out of 27 million Iraqis died because of a racist, illegal war? It is a shame that members of the American Jewish community, who were at the forefront of advocating for this war, is now denying the disastrous effects of this adventure.

Posted by: Jiminy | October 25, 2006 04:52 PM

Nice to see the usual blather on military-industrial complex/Haliburton/Gitmo/TX Guard/PlameGate at this site. The topic, however, is whether the JHU study that estimates 650,000 Iraqi deaths from March 2003 to present is reliable. Here's a quick test - what's 650,000 divided by 180 weeks (Mar 2003 - Oct 2006)? Answer: 3,600 Iraqi deaths, on average per week. Sound reasonable to you?, NPR and MSNBC might want you to believe so, but I'd say not. You can have dueling statisticians all day long, but whatever the "professional" opinion, 3,600 deaths per day on average doesn't pass the sniff test. Now move have a new fire to throw gasoline on...GWB has changed his verb tense in "Stay the Course"!!! Keith Olberman at MSNBC has all the facts...go for it. Dolts.

Posted by: Get a Clue | October 25, 2006 08:12 PM

trying to ask you to think about what they want you to.

that they are trying to negate the emotional impact of people dying for oil on the public by talking about people as a number not as lives destroyed, lost and having faces.

Like the woman who was raped and her family murdered so that she didn't have anyone stand up for her, or demand satisfaction.

the usual blather by tools of the machine, asking you to empty your pockets so that they can decieve you with total impunity.

get a clue, is a shill for the Military Industrial Complex, and not a very good one at that.

obfuscation doesn't require an IQ over 115, about four more points than in his WhiteHouse resume....he couldn't lick my shoes....but he can smell his stuff sticking to them....

I stepped in some dawg due earlier today.


Posted by: nice to see the usual blather from those | October 25, 2006 11:51 PM

all you need to understand is that there's an obvious pattern......

that if you're not developmentally impaired from being willing to examine will lead you to the glaringly obvious conclusion that the whole

"war on terrorism," is purest bull s***

foisted on the citizenry in lieu of actually having an effective government,

in order to keep selling you what you exactly what you _don't_ need.

them in charge, of your bank account.

Posted by: it's so obvious but not extravagant. | October 25, 2006 11:53 PM

get a clue?

your writing is abysmal, and tritely predictable...ohs o banal.

Posted by: ps. | October 25, 2006 11:58 PM

PS, I'll take your comments as a sign that you'll pass on debating the point. Fair enough...expected it. Cheers.

Posted by: Get a Clue | October 26, 2006 07:01 PM

the one on the tip of your head?

why debate a fact? how stupid are you?

You want to chat, I'll be wearing your skin home.

You're not capable of standing up to examination. Care to dance pissant?


Posted by: what point? | October 26, 2006 11:10 PM

and act as_if you have a choice.

Posted by: you predict your own insipidness | October 26, 2006 11:12 PM

Why the "eerie silence"?

"Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?

We know that the Israelis used American "bunker-buster" bombs on Hizbollah's Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week. And we now know - after it first categorically denied using such munitions - that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed.

But scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel's weapons inventory - and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures". Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry - used by the Ministry of Defence - which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.


Israel has a poor reputation for telling the truth about its use of weapons in Lebanon. In 1982, it denied using phosphorous munitions on civilian areas - until journalists discovered dying and dead civilians whose wounds caught fire when exposed to air.

I saw two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames. Israel officially denied using phosphorous again in Lebanon during the summer - except for "marking" targets - even after civilians were photographed in Lebanese hospitals with burn wounds consistent with phosphorous munitions.


American and British forces used hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) shells in Iraq in 1991 - their hardened penetrator warheads manufactured from the waste products of the nuclear industry - and five years later, a plague of cancers emerged across the south of Iraq.


Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?"

Robert Fisk: "Mystery of Israel's secret uranium bomb, Alarm over radioactive legacy left by attack on Lebanon", The Independent (online edition, 28 October 2006).

Why the "eerie silence"?

Posted by: Robert Rose | October 28, 2006 09:55 AM

A young Iraqi Woman was gang-raped and murdered by five American soldiers in Iraq. The soldiers also killed her father, mother, and young sister in her family home south of Baghdad.

Read More ...

Posted by: Muhammad Azeem Akhter | October 28, 2006 04:27 PM

It is appropriate that during this Halloween season, The senator that aipac built (Nancy Pelosi) and her little Igor (screaming Howard Dean) both came out against Jimmy Carters new book, which compares Israel's treatment of the Palestinians for the last 40 years to the South African Apartheid System.

I can see them now; Pelosi, bolt necked, with the fresh scars of multiple plastic surgerys held together by huge stitches which criss cross her greeen tinged skin, followed by the Humped backed Dean, who parrots everything she says, followed by a little screams of anguish and ecstasy mixed together, as they do the bidding of the ones ensure their financial survival.

They also deny mr Carters very astute and critically important assertion that Israels Settler movement has been the cataylst that inspired 9/11 and the majority of middle eastern terrorist recruitment and funding (this view is actually shared by Bill Clinton, Walt and Mearsheimer, and a whole host of extremely credible people from the right and Left).

It seems that the major difference between Carter and the current Democratic elite is that he is no longer running for office and has the luxury of being able to tell the truth.

Please do not be shocked when Pelosi and Dean announce the draft in order to fight the very same wars the "Neocons" would ask us to fight in order to keep the Israeli settler movement safe. As they do, they will assure us all once again that, despite the fact that the people and governments of almost every single other country in the world disagree with them, Israel is not an apartheid state whose practices should be reviled, but rather, a special friend of the US for whom we should continue absorb massive terrorist attacks for and whom we should continue paying hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives to defend.

Please compare and contrast Ms. Pelosi's and Mr deans Cowardice with Lincoln Chafees Bravery.
Chafee Single handedly sunk the bolton nomination. in doing so, he sent a letter to Condoleeza Rice saying that he could never vote for Mr' Bolton until the administration does something substantial to acheive the Goals of the road map and the removal of settlements in the west bank. He did this before his primary election and still won!!!

In closing, I would say that I hope there is a major change in the house and senate and ultimately the Presidential election, but I hope that those elected will see to it that weak willed, cowardly and self interested people such as Pelosi and Dean are shown the door along with all of the Neocons whom (despite all of the hot air they spout to the contrary) they walk in lock step with.


Posted by: J | November 1, 2006 06:47 PM

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