Experts From Across Political Spectrum Pound Partisan Study on Iraqi Civilian Deaths

With timing in the tradition of the Foley fiasco leak - geared for maximum impact on the coming elections - a study was published earlier this week by The Lancet, a British medical science journal, claiming that 655,000 Iraqis have died “as a consequence of the war.” The MSM predictably accorded the study great attention.

In this item yesterday, I noted that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and MNF Commander Casey rejected the study's findings, which is wholly at odds with the US government estimate of 30-50,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

Now, as a Pentagon official has made known, a range of experts - who notably come from across the foreign policy spectrum - has cast doubts on the report's methodology and conclusions. Moreover, one of the study authors has been revealed as an anti-war partisan as has the editor of the Lancet itself. The first is a former Democratic congressional candidate, the latter made recently outlandish accusations as to the motivations of the governments leading the war effort.

Expert Criticism of the Study

  • Michael O'Hanlon, The Brookings Institution: “I do not believe the new numbers. I think they're way off.” (Paul Reynolds, “Huge Gaps In Iraq Death Estimates,” BBC News Online, 10/12/06)
  • Anthony Cordesman, Center For Strategic International Studies: “[The report’s numbers] are almost certainly way too high… this is not analysis, this is politics.” (Associated Press, “More Than 600,000 Iraqis Dead Because Of War: U.S. Study,” 10/11/06)
  • Donald Berry, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center In Houston: The report has “a tone of accuracy that's just inappropriate.” (“Iraqi Dead May Total 600,000, Study Says,” New York Times, 10/11/06)
  • Iraqi Blogger: Researchers “Resorted to mathematics to … satisfy their lust for more deaths.” “When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges. This fake research is an insult to every man, woman and child who lost their lives. Behind every drop of blood is a noble story of sacrifice for a just cause that is struggling for living safe in freedom and prosperity.” (“Responding To The Lancet Lies,” Iraq The Model, 10/12/2006)
  • Robert Blendon, Harvard Program On Public Opinion And Health And Social Policy: “The number of deaths in the families interviewed – 547 in the post-invasion period versus 82 in a similar period before the invasion – was too few to extrapolate up to more than 600,000 deaths across the country.” (“Iraqi Dead May Total 600,000, Study Says,” New York Times, 10/11/06)

Partisan Background of Author and Editor

Les Robert is described in the Lancet article as having "instigated" the study "and assisted with the analysis and interpretation of the data and the writing of the manuscript." Roberts is also the author Of “The Iraq War: Do Civilian Casualties Matter?”, Audit Of The Conventional Wisdom, July 2005), in which he wrote, among other things, that the Iraq war began "under unsupportable, and probably illegal, pretenses.” Roberts sought the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s 24th CD [which coincidentally includes most of my home county of Tompkins], before yielding to Michael Arcuri. (Tom Grace, “Roberts Drops Out Of 24th District Race,” The Daily Star [Oneonta, NY], 5/18/06)

Lancet editor Richard Horton, speaking at an anti-war rally last month, said that “[the British] government… prefers to support the killing of children instead of the building of hospitals and schools…As this axis of Anglo-American imperialism extends its influence through war and conquest, gathering power and wealth as it goes, so millions of people are left to die in poverty and disease.” Hat tip Little Green Footballs.

My conclusion: the 'study' should be viewed as pre-election polemics rather than serious science.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.