Ayatollah Ali Sistani Was Right— Lancet Study Was Crap
“Be as a great mountain – he added – immovable before the attempts of some media to attack our unity, exaggerating the number of the victims and speaking of confessional war”.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
September 26, 2007
The powerful and revered Iraqi spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a statement in September blasting the foreign press for, “Exaggerating about the reports of deaths and explosions and depicting them in a way as if tribal war is underway in Iraq.” It was the first time that the Ayatollah attacked the foreign press.
Back in March of 2007 the Lancet Study suffered a major blow to its credibility when the Times Online attacked the Lancet team for not sharing the data of their highly pulicized report on Iraqi fatalities. The controversial report released in September 2006 before the election claimed that 770 Iraqis were dying every day in the violence.
Today, The National Journal dismantles this bogus study further:
Three weeks before the 2006 midterm elections gave Democrats control of Congress, a shocking study reported on the number of Iraqis who had died in the ongoing war. It bolstered criticism of President Bush and heightened the waves of dread — here and around the world — about the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Published by The Lancet, a venerable British medical journal, the study [PDF] used previously accepted methods for calculating death rates to estimate the number of “excess” Iraqi deaths after the 2003 invasion at 426,369 to 793,663; the study said the most likely figure was near the middle of that range: 654,965. Almost 92 percent of the dead, the study asserted, were killed by bullets, bombs, or U.S. air strikes. This stunning toll was more than 10 times the number of deaths estimated by the Iraqi or U.S. governments, or by any human-rights group.
In December 2005, Bush had used a figure of 30,000 civilian deaths in Iraq. Iraq’s health ministry calculated that, based on death certificates, 50,000 Iraqis had died in the war through June 2006. A cautiously compiled database of media reports by a London-based anti-war group called Iraq Body Count confirmed at least 45,000 war dead during the same time period. These were all horrific numbers — but the death count in The Lancet’s study differed by an order of magnitude.
Some critics go so far as to suggest that the field research on which the study is based may have been performed improperly — or not at all. The key person involved in collecting the data — Lafta, the researcher who assembled the survey teams, deployed them throughout Iraq, and assembled the results — has refused to answer questions about his methods.
Over the past several months, National Journal has examined the 2006 Lancet article, and another [PDF] that some of the same authors published in 2004; probed the problems of estimating wartime mortality rates; and interviewed the authors and their critics. NJ has identified potential problems with the research that fall under three broad headings: 1) possible flaws in the design and execution of the study; 2) a lack of transparency in the data, which has raised suspicions of fraud; and 3) political preferences held by the authors and the funders, which include George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
So, is Gilbert Burnham, the man behind this study, who last year expressed “great confidence” in the findings, still employed at Johns Hopkins?
It would be interesting to see if Johns Hopkins keeps authors of such seriously flawed and discredited reports on staff.
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