100,000 Iraqi Civilians Dead — Most From Bombing

Huge banner headline in the (left-of-center) Guardian today: 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, says study. The study to which it refers was published by the Lancet, Britain's most respected (and peer reviewed) medical journal. It used sampling, but looks serious.

Although some of the casualties are due to things like an increase in infant mortality because women are unable or too frightened to go to hospitals to deliver, the great bulk of the deaths is civilians killed by aircraft bombings or helicopter-launched munitions.

The amount of civilian casualties is sufficiently high to call into question whether the US has complied with the (rather vague) laws of humanitarian warfare.

Update (10/30): Slate has a good article noting the gigantic margin of error admitted by the authors of the report — so large as to call into question their publicizing the midpoint of a range of possibilities from 8,000 to almost 200,000.

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3 Responses to 100,000 Iraqi Civilians Dead — Most From Bombing

  1. Lancet is a highly respected journal but I think it is not peer reviewed. My understanding is that the editorial board decides on their own aiming for speed, hence the name of the journal. My information might be out of date, since it is from when my Dad blublished in Lancet (among their most cited articles by the way).

  2. Michael says:

    The Guardian–not always reliable–wrote of “speeded up peer review”. But on this one I think it’s right. Here’s what The Lancet says:

    Peer review

    Every Article, Mechanisms of Disease, Research Letter, Case Report, Hypothesis, and review papers of all types that are published have been peer reviewed. Occasional contributions (eg, an Essay) are accepted without peer review. Your report will first be read by one or more of the journal’s staff of physicians and scientists. Our acceptance rate overall is less than 10% and it is an important feature of our selection process that many papers are turned away on the basis of in-house assessment alone. That decision will be communicated quickly. More positive in-house views are followed by peer review by at least two reviewers for all research papers and for most other types of paper. You will receive notification of which editor is handling the peer review of your paper. If reports are encouraging, and the editorial consensus is also favourable, then statistical advice is sought where appropriate.

  3. JamesW says:

    Anyone prepared to challenge the scientific credibility of this professional and peer-reviewed article should check out the statistical discussion at Crooked Timber: http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002780.html
    1. From the study, the rational observer must now think that it’s overwhelmingly probable that the invasion has considerably raised the likelihood to the Iraqi civilian population of dying violently. The confidence interval does not include 0, the no-change scenario.
    2. Ths study (carried out by civilian researchers at considerable personal risk) would not have been necessary if the ocupying power or its puppet Iraqi government had taken its duties seriously in monitoring civilian casualties. It is racist only to count or be concerned with American deaths.
    3. All statistical objections can, and can only, be resolved by putting proper governmental resources on the ground into finding out what is happening. Insurgents and criminals are still citizens. If you can’t register all births and deaths, you can, as the study shows, run sophisticated sample surveys.That’s how crime is monitored in America.

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