By Meteor Blades
The Johns Hopkins Iraq mortality study published in the Lancet has, as was expected three seconds after it was announced, stirred the rightwing to argue against there being a bloodbath in Iraq, or at least, if there is one, it’s far smaller than the researchers claim, and besides, Saddam was worse. Fortunately, there are some good discussions examining the naysayers’ claims, as well as Lancet’s.
At Deltoid, Tim Lambert, who did an exquisite job of debunking objections when the previous Iraq mortality study was published in Lancet two years ago, is on the job again, dicing several bits of nonsense:
Yes, the media hasn't reported that many deaths in Iraq. But they don't have reporters every or even most places, so it's certain that most deaths go unreported in the media.Jay Redding offers
If the death toll were really that high, there would be massive refugee outflows from Iraq. We're seeing some of that, but nowhere near as much as those figures would suggest. Furthermore, the same group predicted 100,000 dead in the first year of the war (releasing their figures near the 2004 elections, again for political gain) -- now they want to argue that an addition 550,000 have died in the subsequent two years? That argument doesn't even pass the smell test.
Well, there has been massive refugee outflow And they do argue that the death rate has gone way up since the first study. But this increase seems well supported by all other indicators of violence in Iraq.
Even Kenneth Pollack, for whom the term ”warmonger” can in no way be considered hyberbole, concedes in the latest The Atlantic that the conflict he lobbied for has created an immense and growing refugee problem. Some 700,000 Iraqis have fled to Jordan, as many as 40,000 to Lebanon, 450,000 to Syria, 54,000 to Iran, perhaps 13,000 to Kuwait and unknown numbers to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The very rough total: 1.25 million, 5% of the population. Like having 15 million Americans begging for food and shelter in Canada, Mexico and Jamaica.
Within Iraq, the International Commission for Migration puts the number of internally displaced Iraqis at 190,000 since February, with new displacements now running 9000 a week, all due to the violence.
Daniel Davies at Crooked Timber weighs in with an in-house warning not to regurgitate rightwing talking points about the mortality study, to wit:
2. When someone dies, you get a death certificate from the hospital, morgue or coroner, in your hand. This bit of the death infrastructure is still working in Iraq. Then the person who issued the death certificate is meant to send a copy to the central government records office where they collate them, tabulate them and collect the overall mortality statistics. This bit of the death infrastructure is not still working in Iraq. (It was never great before the war, broke down entirely during the year after the invasion when there was no government to send them to and has never really recovered; statistics agencies are often bottom of the queue after essential infrastructure, law and order and electricity). Therefore, there is no inconsistency between the fact that 92% of people with a dead relative could produce the certificate when asked, and the fact that Iraq has no remotely reliable mortality statistics and quite likely undercounts the rate of violent death by a factor of ten.
And the inimitable Billmon tackles the subject of head-on with one of his seamless essays, Catching Up With Saddam:
Or, if you prefer to use more "conservative" estimates for both:
• Saddam: 31,250 deaths a year (750,000 divided by 24)
• Cheney Administration: 87,500 deaths a year (350,000 divided by four)
But that makes the comparison look even worse.
We also shouldn't forget that Hussein has a line drawn under his column in the record books. Shrub and company do not. The civil war they have helped unleash in Iraq could last for a long, long time.
It may not seem fair to blame the Cheneyites collectively and personally for all those deaths -- after all, the insurgents, and the Shi'a death squads and Al Qaeda in Iraq and even the Kurdish peshmerga have killed more, and usually killed more heinously, than the U.S. military. But those parties wouldn't have had the opportunity to do their worst if Shrub hadn't already done his. That's the problem with wars of choice: Leaders who start them have to take responsibility for the consequences: good, bad or indifferent.
Of course, taking responsibility, holding themselves accountable for the consequences, is what BushCheneyRumsfeld have no bloody intention of doing. Ever.