"It's only been a few days, but already the Lancet study of excess deaths in Iraq has faded from the headlines. Even NPR seems to have decided that further analysis is not worthy of interrupting this week's pledge drive pleas. Which is a pity, because this is the sort of thing that should decide elections.
"Almost as depressing as the media's offensive diminution of the story's import was the bizarre juxtaposition of George W. Bush's reaction to the study with his support of embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Both the media and the presidential handling of the issue betray a dismal level of respect for science in America.
"On the same day that Bush dismissed as 'not very credible' the findings of a team of respected experts in statistical analysis of epidemiology that the occupation of Iraq has been responsible for at least 400,000 and possibly as many as 940,000 deaths, the commander in chief described a man who turned a blind eye to sexual predation by a fellow member of his Republican caucus as 'very credible.' . . .
"Let's face it. After much gnashing of teeth, feigned surprise and outrage, the verdict is in. The Lancet study may not be perfect, but it has withstood scrutiny from the toughest critics. My fellow science bloggers, who are more learned in the ways of reviewing such things, have just about unanimously offered their support to the basic thrust of the study's conclusion, specifically that the "coalition" occupation of Iraq since 2003 has made things worse for the average Iraqi. Much much worse."
Monday, October 16, 2006
Iraq IV: A Final Word on the Civilian Death Study
James Hrynyshyn is a freelance science journalist based in western North Carolina. He writes at ScienceBlog that:
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As I wrote in my blog, I just think that America is so over the edge with the war that the number can't have that much impact. Like, if it was discovered that only 5 million people (instead of six mil) died in the Holocaust, would that make it any less of a tragedy? Of course not. People's minds are already made up on that.
And the same with the war. They know it is so far gone, that they see the number and they say "oh, and this is supposed to change my thinking?" I mean, if only 350,000 were reported killed, would people say, oh, I guess this war isn't so bad after all? Probably not. So unless the study could actually cause an impact it's forgotten.
A wino lies in a gutter. He has pissed his pants and vomited on his frayed Oxford cloth shirt. Passersby try to ignore him -- after all, he's in the gutter almost every day -- but one flicks a lit cigarette butt onto the comatose body. It flickers for a few seconds, burns a small hole in the wino's shirt and then goes out.
Think of the wino as the war and the cigarette butt as the civilian mortality study.
You speak a large truth in saying that the study will have little impact, and I certainly have refrained from saying so.
Your arms must get tired from waving the bloody shirt so long.
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