Sunday, October 24, 2010
Glenn Reynolds notes that the early revelations from the "Wikileaks" exposure of classified Iraq war documents do not actually reflect well on the political left. In particular, the documents reveal that The Lancet's two infamous studies on casualties in Iraq, curiously released in October 2004 and October 2006, respectively, grossly overstated the death toll from that war. This should not surprise us, insofar as the second such study (which claimed 600,000 war-related deaths in Iraq through the summer of 2006, or almost six times the 109,000 deaths through 2009 revealed by Wikileaks) was funded and promoted by George Soros, a fact that was ignored in virtually all of the press coverage back when it mattered. Thus Wikileaks has torpedoed a "fact" to which the "reality-based community" ascribed totemic significance. Sadly, even now the respectable mainstream media neglects to make the point. Probably because George Soros was behind the original propaganda which the media dutifully transcribed. If that were widely understood it might not reflect well on the profession of journalism.
Now, you might say that whether there were 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq or 600,000, it hardly matters insofar as both numbers are huge. Well, maybe not.
And that’s leaving aside the argument about who actually killed the Iraqis, and whether more would have died under Saddam. Note also that this death toll is less than the number of people murdered in South Africa over the same period, and that even allowing for population differences, Iraq’s death toll is now lower.
The first really objective history of the Iraq war will have to wait until somebody who did not live through the propaganda around that war is old enough to write it. When that book is written, its main conclusion will turn on the path of Iraq and the greater Middle East in the years following the war, a story that has not yet unfolded. The discussion of the human costs of the war will be particularly interesting, however, because it will judge the competing claims of those who oppose the war -- that American and Coalition soldiers fought a dirty war that inflicted an unacceptably large number of civilian casualties -- and those who support it -- that civilian casualties were almost unbelievably low given the ferocity and duration of the counterinsurgency and in any case lower than the deaths attributable to Ba'athist rule over a similar number of years.
Man, don't dream that history can ever be disentangled from contemporary agitprop. I follow an American Civil War blogger whose entire line of argument is that the historiographical record of the ACW is a see-saw battle between the Northern Democratic, Republican, and rival Confederate newspaper-clans' editorial lines. Most new waves of "revisionism" are just the re-branded recycling of an out-of-favor contemporary editorial trend & its use to discredit the previous wave's set of editorial arguments. This for a war which is in the process of celebrating its sesquicentennial.
The only reason we don't see this sort of thing with other historical wars is that too few people care enough to bring the arguments into general public view.
I definitely share Reynolds' suspicions about Wikileaks. Like many, I was outraged when I saw their first release. By the revelation that our gunships have to tool around for almost 10 minutes waiting for approval from an attorney before they can kill the enemy. I note that momentum towards loosening ROEs subsequently increased. Now they're releasing docs that undercut if not demolish the left's narrative about the war. Interesting.
Keep in mind the opportunity cost. There's plenty you can do to make the world a better place if you're willing to commit 100,000 people for several years and toss around a trillion dollars. Even if the impact of the war comes out positive, Bill Gates' tens of billions may accomplish a lot more than the US government's trillion.
Yeah, right. We'll have to wait for *generations* to figure out if a war that killed 100,000 civilians was a major humanitarian victory!
Is that kind of like how we'll have to wait generations to figure out if spending $2trillion to hunt for non-existent WMD and pass control of a large Arab state from a contained Saddamn to Iran was a brilliant strategic victory?
PS: Even extremely repressive regimes, at least in the >50 million state size range, don't kill more than hundreds or low thousands of people per year, year in and year out, under their normal conditions. When they do do it, it's called "civil war" or "massive repression campaigns" with beginnings and ends.
Saddamn killed on the level of the Iraq war we imposed in the early 1990's, when he was crushing revolts caused, again, what a coincidence, by the prior Gulf War. If you think Saddamn killed 100,000 people in a typical 5-year period, you're... a typical self-deluding hack. But there's no reason to wait decades for BS cheerleading books to tell you that you are right about your every fairy tale. You can buy those right now.
... pass control of a large Arab state from a contained Saddamn [sic] to Iran was a brilliant strategic victory?"
Actually, yes. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states align with us against a threatening Iranian state. (Saddam was neither contained nor any longer aligned with us.)
"massive repression campaigns" with beginnings and ends.
And when, exactly, did Saddam's repression campaigns end again?
If you think Saddamn killed 100,000 people in a typical 5-year period...
Obviously, you think he didn't. So that makes him a 'good' tyrant in your book. (And makes Bush the 'real' killer.)
Care to expostulate again?
The first really objective history of the Iraq war will have to wait until somebody who did not live through the propaganda around that war is old enough to write it.
TH, this is a theme you've posited before. I'm curious to know if you think "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" is an 'objective' account. Even supposing otherwise, isn't it still a valuable resource--more so because the author was immersed in the events that colored his views? Is there any guarantee that a book written years after the fact will be any more valuable simply because its writer is putatively more objective? I'm not sure it would or even should be, but am likewise not sure it necessarily shouldn't be either.
I don't see where Wikileaks has discredited the Lancet study. Wikileaks only reports direct casualties. The Lancet study takes in all "excess deaths." That includes all deaths that are a result of the invasion, including from the lack of infrastructure (deaths from heat, cholera and others).
Just looking at the Wikileaks study, I can't see where the deaths of 65,000 innocent citizens should be cause for celebration.
Crap - I just went and actually read it and you know what? Your spin is just more neocon crapola. The wikileaks count is only of the deaths recorded by coalition troops. Of course it comes out less than the Lancet study. I should have known something was up when you linked to Reynolds.
Timothy- Wikileaks & The Lancet may be measuring fatalities differently, but the first still discredits the second. The Lancet stated that the overwhelming majority of excess deaths was caused by coalition airpower & artillery. However, the Wikileaks figures show most of civilian casualties were caused by sectarian fighting and insurgent activity.
The Lancet also claimed the casualties were widespread, all over Iraq. The Wikileaks information suggests it was localized in and around Baghdad, and a few other specific areas. The Guardian is even breaking it down by GPS locations on their webpage.
I suppose it’s possible that not all casualties from the war got in to the war logs, but it’s hard to believe that the war logs could ignore entirely where a lot of the fighting was happening, which is what a supporter of the The Lancet study would have to believe. The war logs would have recorded artillery and air strike information in a detailed fashion, because it was done in support of (and in close proximity to) U.S. & allied troops. You’d think hundreds of thousands of casualties under these circumstances would get in to the war logs- especially seeing as the people compiling them never expected them to get published…..
@ Anon 04:03, I quote:
"PS: Even extremely repressive regimes, at least in the >50 million state size range, don't kill more than hundreds or low thousands of people per year, year in and year out, under their normal conditions"
This has to be the most asinine statement I have read on this blog site...and that is saying something. I would love to see whereupon you are basing this fantasy.
* The Khmer Rouge killed well over 2 million Cambodians. Mass graves alone found 1.7 million bodies. Remember "The Killing Fields", Anon?
* Stalin has been credited in numerous sources as being responsible for over 20 million deaths. Remember "The Gulag Archipelago", Anon?
* Mao is credited with an average of 29 million deaths after his cultural cleansing in China. Some estimates place it close to 79 million.
* Conservative estimates place Adolph Hitler in "runner up" status as being responsible for only 20 million deaths.
Excuse me, Anon...but are you "on something"?
Nice try, but here are the facts:
- the 2004 study states that 31% of violent deaths are from coalition firepower. That is not anywhere near "overwhelming majority of excess deaths."
- you say that the Lancet article stated that casualties were widespread, all over Iraq. As you know, the Lancet article was based on a statistical survey that extrapolated to the entire country. Given what was going on in Iraq at the time, it did not have the data that would allow it to show the pockets of violence. In fact, to be conservative, it eliminated the devastation from Fallujah altogether.
- your final paragram again seems to confuse what the two studies do. The Lancet study looks at all excess deaths, not just the ones from violence. So deaths from epidemic, bombed hospitals, lack of water, excess heat - these are all included in the Lancet figures and would not have been noticed in the Wikileaks study. Thus, the difference between the two.
SR, my point is that TR's links are themselves, flat-out lying. Use some skepticism and you'll see that for yourself.
Guys…. The above has an opening statement from the original 2004 survey, where it says, and I quote- ‘Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.’. This is re-stated later within the main text.
And the Guardian stated about that time ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/oct/29/iraq.sarahboseley ) ;
‘About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.’
Now to be fair, the later 2006 survey did suggest that gunfire and car bombings had then become the leading cause of violent death, but the earlier one categorically stated it was air strikes. Apologies if I didn’t break it down more clearly. I believe Timothy’s ‘31%’ figure actually comes from the later study. I can’t see it in the 2004 one. It’s important to read the 2004 study near the end where it breaks down the number of casualties examined. To quote it- ‘The
remaining 58 killings (all attributed to US forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets, or other forms of aerial weaponry.’ This in reference to 61 coalition caused fatalities, which was extrapolated into the wider survey from the survey interview sample.
If the 31% figure comes from the 2006 one, seeing as the later study characterizes violent excess deaths as being over 600,000, you can be your own judge as to whether or not the resulting air strike fatality rate- perhaps about 200,000 people supposedly killed by air strikes- would some how not show up in war logs that the reporting soldiers did not know would ever be published, and which were classified as secret. Please bear in mind that most of this firepower is used near US troops who get to see the results.
The 2006 study, in describing an increase in violent casualties from gunfire/car bombings etc, is describing violent deaths that wouldn’t go entirely unnoticed in the war logs either. Yes, some might have been missed- but you’re suggesting about half a million were.
Furthermore- Timothy suggests that non-violent mortality must have increased, and that these figures would not have made it in to the war logs. No and yes. For starters, the 2004 Lancet report stated ‘It is surprising that beyond the elevation in infant mortality and the rate of violent death, mortality in Iraq seems otherwise to be similar to the period preceding the invasion. This similarity could be a reflection of the skill and function of the Iraqi health system or the capacity of the population to adapt to conditions of insecurity.’
And yes, presumably an increase in non-violent mortality wouldn’t have made it in to the war logs. The problem is, it didn’t get in to the Lancet survey either!
You are referring to the initial survey, done in 2003 and reported in 2004. I am referring to the survey done in 2004 and reported in 2006. Of course the 2006 survey would be more definitive, and you're not going to try to argue that only the initial survey is the one discredited...are you?
And it's weird that you seem to be aware of the 31% figure. Not surprising, since it's so easy to find. Go here: http://web.mit.edu/CIS/pdf/Human_Cost_of_War.pdf and here: http://brusselstribunal.org/pdf/lancet111006.pdf, and you'll find two followup surveys that say violent deaths attributable to coalition forces is 31%. That's what the survey concludes.
As to the discrepancy between their number and Wikileaks, again, you should have read the report. Based on past actions, surveillance such as the wikileaks study typically records no more than 20% of the actual deaths (see page 6).
Tim, I’m aware of the 31% figure because YOU raised it. And the second survey wasn’t done in 2004 and ‘reported’ in 2006, it was done AND published in 2006. You stated earlier ‘the 2004 study states that 31% of violent deaths are from coalition firepower. That is not anywhere near "overwhelming majority of excess deaths."…’ That isn’t from the original 2004 survey, it’s actually from the 2006 one. I can’t see how you got ‘31%’ from the 2004 study.
I can only apologize if I’ve taken what the 2004 survey actually stated in black and white and repeated it.
As for the suggestion that only 20% of casualties got in to the Wikileaks information- the original 2006 survey (where you are quoting that bit from) laments the inaccuracy of ‘passive surveillance’ from ‘population based methods’, which offers us no clues as to how accurate the U.S. war logs are or are not. The war logs are unedited information pretty much straight from the scene. They not only could underestimate civilian casualties, they might over estimate them also, as different patrolling units find the same thing. I have seen a very similar trend in police statistics, where initial reports often over-state the volume of offences occurring.
Furthermore, the paragraph you are quoting from also states that in Bosnia, ‘passive surveillance’ went against expectations and produced an accurate measure, so it does not universally fail (I wonder if the literacy and education of the soldiers involved has been a factor here? Food for thought? Is it possible that US soldiers document things a bit better than, say, child soldiers in the Congo?).
The 2006 Lancet study notes on the same page “Data from passive surveillance are rarely complete, even in stable circumstances, and are even less complete during conflict, when access is restricted and fatal events could be intentionally hidden.” The thing about the wikileaks information is that;
1). Access was NOT restricted at all to the people doing the reporting, and
2). Because they didn’t think it would get published, fatal events weren’t intentionally hidden.
I’m sure there are discrepancies between the two sources. I don’t doubt the war logs may have missed some important stuff. But the war logs cover right up until 2009 (Lancet 2 was 2003-2006) and you seem to be saying that the logs missed a lot more than 80% of what happened….
It is stunning to see so many vapid Comments about the liberation of over 25 million human beings in the heart of the Middle East.
It is as if some have no concept of how many died in the US Civil War, which was needed to liberate the Slaves.
It is simply amazing, as one sees vividly the overt Partisan bigotry, even the mindless anti-US mantras planted long ago via leftist devotees, etc.
Tigerhawk offers a great post...
One would think the knowledge the Democratic Party Pushers were providing more OVERT LIES in regards to Iraq, would create some contemplation, instead of this sophomoric "DENIAL" yet again.
Some seem so lost, they are openly 'protesting far too much', like a child with their hands over their ears, shouting "i can't hear you".
The dangerous leak even reveals the discovery of chemical components for weapons?
The World is a better place, without a Monster who was burying his own people alive, pulling the tongues from Iraqi Children, starving millions in the heart of the ME, even rewarded PLO suicide bombers with 20Grand a killing, etc.
Seeing this commentary above, reminds one the reality that the author Tigerhawk's suggestion a fair review will occur in the future is not realistic. The future holds the same unethical nonsense we see today, and perhaps after all the unethcial propaganda it will nearly be impossible for a reasonable judgment.
The reality is, Amnesty International, the UN, the majority of the elected Democratic Party, etc., all wanted Saddam's removal. In fact, Obama's own Secretary of State and Vice President, voted for the use of force in Iraq to remove this horrid Dictatorship.
The games of so many dishonest Partisans, who seem willing to say and do anything to aid the Democratic Party, to slander their supposed opposition, like the liar named Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, is a sign of great trouble for all.
Even the liberation of millions, is no longer a positive, if the effort is not being provided by the acceptable Democratic Partisan Machine. The folly was evident even when Mr. Reagan was waging the Cold War against the oppressive Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, it seems just fine, even ignored, as Mr. Obama wages war in a number of areas around the Globe.
It is one big Partisan joke...
I'm curious to know if you think "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" is an 'objective' account.
It was written too close to the end of hostilities while there was still much to be revealed about the actions of both sides. Objective within the informational constraints of its era perhaps; probably not objective in any absolute sense.
Even today there are significant details of WWII being revealed on a regular basis, and the occasional new info on WWI surfaces as well.
100 years of distance is not too much if you're looking for objective.
It [Rise and Fall of the Third Reich] was written too close to the end of hostilities while there was still much to be revealed about the actions of both sides. Objective within the informational constraints of its era perhaps; probably not objective in any absolute sense.Even today there are significant details of WWII being revealed on a regular basis, and the occasional new info on WWI surfaces as well. 100 years of distance is not too much if you're looking for objective.
Which recalls Chou En Lai’s reply to the question about the impact of the 1789 French Revolution: “It is too soon to say.”[As he died in 1976, he made this remark before the fall of the Iron Curtain. The French Revolution had an influence on subsequent proponents of revolution, such as Marxists, so Chou En Lai's remark was not off base, not at all.]
If you are aware of the 31% figure, then why the heck are you disputing that this is the Lancet's figure? You're not making any sense here.
As to your stuff about Bosnia, etc., this is all true enough, but please take a second to digest it. It means that Lancet is taking an honest approach to try to get a good-faith estimate of the actual casualties. By the same token, the Wikileaks estimate gives all kinds of examples of misreporting of casualties on the troops' part. Somehow, you are overlooking that as well.
Bottom line, the Lancet takes Wikileaks figures as a base and includes information that the Wikileaks analysis did not include. You think that means Wikileaks is the sum total of all casualties, and you're simply wrong.
I’m not disputing that the ‘31%’ isn’t The Lancet’s figure. In fact, I pointed out in my last post that it’s from the 2006 survey. You implied it was from the 2004 one- you actually wrote ‘I am referring to the survey done in 2004 and reported in 2006’. As I said, this figure is actually from a 2006 Lancet survey published the same year.
You stated ‘Lancet is taking an honest approach to try to get a good-faith estimate of the actual casualties’. Then you state that the soldier’s information published in Wikileaks isn’t accurate (and I suppose everything in The Lancet is? The wikileaks logs are so accurate they offer GPS co-ordinates of fatalities. As I said, they could miss some, but so many?).
I understand perfectly well that the war logs will miss most non-violent deaths. But the 2004 survey didn’t suggest a major increase in non-violent mortality (outside of some child-mortality figures). The 2006 one did- but claimed by then 50,000 of the ‘excess deaths’ were non-violent, and 600,000 were.
What we have here, boiled down, is Lancet claiming 600,000 violent deaths in 2003-2006. Wikileaks suggests 100,000 in 2003-2009. Bearing in mind that some of the biggest fighting and casualties was in 2007, and the difference is huge. However the difference between Wikileaks recorded violent deaths and that of other sources- such as the Iraq Body Count group- is not so big (the Iraq Family Health Survey Study Group suggested 151,000 in a similar time frame- more than Wikileaks/IBC but still a hell of a long way from The Lancet).
There is a straight forward way to get to the bottom of this. Go through the wikileaks casualty details, complete with their locations, and try to find some of those casualties in raw data, including the original data-entry forms and sampling details etc, from both The Lancet surveys.
Should be interesting. However it can’t currently be done, because the authors of The Lancet surveys have steadfastly refused to make this information available to independent researchers. See also;
" In fact, Obama's own Secretary of State and Vice President, voted for the use of force in Iraq to remove this horrid Dictatorship."
And her husband President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act well before that devil Bush became president.
I tried. I really did. But like LiLo, I was overwhelmingly COMPELLED to break out of Rehab from my Bush-Cheney bashing compulsions. I can't help myself.
Who cares about Lancet? I don't even care about WikiLeaks.
But Invading Iraq was a strategic blunder of epic proportions, as I've been saying here for over two years.
It made Bush a weak domestic President. It enabled too many Republicans to be pigs at the trough for far too long. It gave us a Pelosi-controlled House in 2006, and gave us Obama as President in 2008. Had we not invaded Iraq these things wouldn't have happened. Reread that last sentence slowly -- the usual suspects here should then go stand in the corner, face to the blackboard.
I have no formal training in foreign policy nor in the military. I've pointed this out here before in the hopes that the better credentialed might educate me. But they haven't. Far from it.
I haven't heard anyone here ever give a cogent and rational explanation of the strategic benefit to the USA of our Invading Iraq. Hoped for Nation Building doesn't cut it. Nor do post hoc rationalizations. Don't misunderstand me -- I don't want failure in Iraq. But I put the over/under on Iraq "doing a Yugoslavia" at ten years. We've emboldened Iran, with Putin's backing. Ahmadijaded is militating on Israel's border in Lebanon. I could go on. There's not enough lipstick in the world to dress up this pig.
On this topic, think of me as a proxy for the typical American voter. I could win this debate at a VFW hall in Texas. But go ahead flame me, once again.
I'm pressed to write on this because the Republicans should get a seat at the table after Nov 2. How they use it is another thing. I fear Republican backsliding ... and bullshit revisionism ... like "we only killed 100,000 civilians." Do you know how silly many of you sound?
If we're not careful we won't have the financial wherewithal to do what we really need to do on the world front. That's waht focuses me.
"The early revelations from the 'Wikileaks' exposure of classified Iraq war documents do not actually reflect well on the political left."
The response to these revelations itself does not reflect well on the political left. See for example user comments on the Wired article linked to by Reynolds; I cannot tell apart the true "leftists" from what must be satire.
"I haven't heard anyone here ever give a cogent and rational explanation of the strategic benefit to the USA of our Invading Iraq."
Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a significant strategic benefit to the United States. He was a malevolent dictator implacably opposed to our interests, controlled huge oil reserves and had two sons ready to succeed him who by all acounts were as bad if not worse than him. And oh, by the way, it was also a great benefit to Iraq to be rid of this bloodthirsty tyrant.
Now whether getting rid of him was worth the cost, to us or to the Iraqis, is another matter.
"Now whether getting rid of [Saddam] was worth the cost, to us or to the Iraqis, is another matter"
Would we ever have invaded Iraq but for 9/11? ... but Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. Go figure.
To Gary Rosen: Why are we not invading North Korea right now, given your line of reasoning? Enlighten me, Axis of Evil and all.
"W" isn't a bad guy, just a not-so-good President. He could have been great, but he listened to Cheney et al. He'll carry that to his grave.
With the Yankees out, I'm rooting for the Texas Rangers ... I hope that "W" gets a good moment. He's earned it.
Now let's see if I got this right: if Americans concentrate on their own country while somebody somewhere keeps killing people they are selfish bastards who only care about themselves; if they go and interfere somewhere else it's of course only because of oil and other resources, or possible for strategic reasons, and that makes them selfish bastards; if the country happened to be a repressive dictatorship killing its own citizens the Americans definitely killed more than the old regime would have, so they are the bad guys because they interfered (and it was for selfish reasons anyway, so that always makes it bad); and if they leave right afterward they are selfish bastards who don't care to clean the mess they made, if they don't they are the bad guys because occupy a foreign country.
Heh. Looks like you guys just can't win, not matter what you do.