"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Friday, October 13, 2006

The numbers do add up

Quite good, informed stuff on the Guardian comment is free site on the methodology and implications of the 655,000 dead study in the Lancet. Whatever the margin of error of the 'point estimate' figure quoted, the study definitely shows that things have gotten a hell of a lot worse since the war. The sample is much bigger than those Mori polls of political support in Britain, and politicians are quite happy to gross those up to represent an entire country - so why dismiss the figures for Iraq?

9 comments:

Colin said...

And a reassuringly sensible take on the study in the Washington Post.

john said...

Not so sure about this being "reassuring" :-(

It's all a bit depressingly reminiscent of the Balkans isn't it? Removal of tyrannical authority creating a vacuum that is promptly filled by religious slaughter...

Tom said...

This should be a story that is dominating every news show in UK/UK, but of course it's now slipped off the agenda completely. Don't know why I'm surprised, but it's still shocking that American opinion has turned against the war not because of half a million dead Iraqis but 2700 dead GIs.

It is horribly like the Balkans. I guess the only (depressing) lesson is that tyrants exist for a reason and regimes, however ghastly, have to change at something like their own pace.

Colin said...

But the news agenda moves on, Tom. I mean, Madonna's trying to adopt a baby, ferchrissakes!

Colin said...

Incidentally, I meant reassuring in the sense that they didn't just deny it or fail to report it, but acknowledge that it might be telling us something important.

Tom said...

Gavyn Davis's nice little statistics themed column in The Guardian follows up on this. His conclusion is that the study is probably broadly right and, whatever flaws it may have, it is likely to be significantly more accurate than the official figures.

Colin said...

Yes, I saw that. The story still seems to have died a death, but the Iraq agenda does seem to be shifting, with talk of pulling out both here and in the US, and the armed services openly criticising the govt. I used to think that, having made the mess, we should stick around until things are stable, but no longer think that's how it works.

Colin said...

Some guy wrote to the Grauniad to say that in the 1st world war there were 652,000 British dead, and that in the second world war there were 460,000 British military and civilian dead - thus casting doubt on the Iraq figures. Although the Iraq figures aren't just those directly caused by fighting, but indirectly too, e.g. because hospitals were f**ked.

Tom said...

Comparing Iraq with British casualties in wars is meaningless. Anyone who's studied European history will tell you that the damage is wreaked not so much on the countries who participate in wars, but rather the countries where the wars are fought. If comparisons with the second world war are to be made, then you should compare Iraq with the Soviet Union, Poland or other central/eastern European countries where armies invaded, fought and occupied. In these countries, of course, tens of millions years - making the Iraqi figures all too credible.