Arkin on the Lancet Megadeath Study

Here’s a thoughtful look at the Lancet study by William Arkin: 600,000 Iraqis Killed By War, Credible?

Arkin’s conclusion is that no, the Lancet numbers are not credible. Rather than the 600,000 Iraqi civilian deaths the study estimates, the real number is probably closer to 200,000.

That’s all: 200,000 additional deaths due to someone’s willingness to treat innocent third parties as his enemies in a global ideological struggle.

So, let’s see: Osama bin Laden did that in the U.S., treating Manhattan bankers and secretaries as legitimate targets, and killed about 3,000 people out of a total US population of 300,000,000. That’s about 0.001% of the population. Bush did that in Iraq, treating its innocent civilians as acceptable collateral damage in his effort to make war on “terror”, and (so far) has killed 200,000 (or so) people out of a total Iraq population of about 30,000,000. That’s about 0.67% of the population.

So, from the perspective of the targeted group, the damage inflicted by George Bush on the innocent civilians of Iraq has been roughly 670 times worse than the damage inflicted by Osama bin Laden on the US. (Or, if you want to look at absolute numbers, you could say that Bush has killed roughly 67 times as many innocent civilians in Iraq as bin Laden did on 9/11.)

Math is fun. Unless you happen to be dead as a result of your enemy’s ideologically driven willingness to kill the innocent. Which it turns out is about 670 times more likely if your enemy is George Bush than if your enemy is Osama bin Laden.

Cover from The Independent courtesy of Bag News Notes, which has some additional interesting discussion of these matters in The Toll.

Update: For those interested in digging a little deeper, some of the better commentary on the Lancet study is available from the following sources:

There’s also a lot of whining about the study from war/Bush supporters whose comments are long on heat and short on reason, which was to be expected, I realize. But I don’t think that stuff is particularly worth linking to.

Finally, should you be so inclined, there’s the actual study, available as a PDF.

Later update: Still yet more followup worth reading, this time by Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information, as linked to by Kevin Drum: Legitimate questions on the Lancet survey and Illegitimate arguments about the Lancet study.

One Response to “Arkin on the Lancet Megadeath Study”

  1. Ted Says:

    First off, by these numbers, you must commend the forces from both sides for their precision. The death rate among the elderly was exactly the same in the three years after the invasion as it was before. There hasn’t been any disruption in basic services that would affect the weaker part of the population, no major disease outbreaks, and they haven’t been significantly touched by any of the air strikes or random bombings. Unfortunately, the death rate among children did go up by 50%. Much less than the rest of the population, but much more than the elderly. Normally children are affected much the same as the elderly in a crisis. The main difference is that they are more curious/careless near unexploded munitions, are more likely to crowd near strangers (coalition soldiers) and make better human shields (and fighters for the teens) than the elderly.

    Of course, that’s only if these numbers are believable. This study claims that the violent death rate before the invasion was about .1%! I guess Saddam had ‘non-violent’ ways of killing people. Actually, by this study the only violent deaths in Iraq before the invasion were from coalition air strike or other explosion. The murder rate was zero! A Middle Eastern Arab nation without a single ‘honor’ killing! The state didn’t execute anyone for any crimes at all! The Swiss look like Charles Manson disciples when compared to the pre-invasion Iraq. It’s refreshing to see a blog that prints exactly what it has in the title. I hope you will lend your title to the Washington Post and CNN so those entities can start being similarly forthright.

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