More on the Lancet’s “October Surprise”

In  our posting of October 12th, the Daily Digest challenged the 10-11-06 Lancet article titled “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey.”  The Johns Hopkins authors, led by Gilbert Burnham, purported to prove that the U.S.-led coalition had caused 650,000 deaths in Iraq – a number ten-to-twenty times greater than other researchers had averred.

Our critique focused on two issues:

  • That Iraq’s press, among the freest in the world, had documented less than one-tenth as many deaths; and
  • That the researchers extrapolated their number of deaths from a Saddam-era baseline that was transparently low.

Since then, many other Lancet critics have weighted in.  Below is a cross sampling of what they had to say:

Omar Fadil, in “Iraq, the Model”
(The Fadil brothers, Omar and Mohammed, run a well-known Baghdad-based blog.  Omar responded the same day we did, but with more emotion.)

When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their (the Lancet author’s – ed.) lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges.

To me their motives are clear.  They want to prove that our struggle for freedom was the wrong thing to do. And they shamelessly use lies to do this…When they did not find the deaths they wanted to see on the ground, they faked it on paper! They disgust me…
This fake research is an insult to every man, woman and child who actually lost their lives.
Behind every drop of blood is a noble story of sacrifice for a just cause that is struggling for living safely in freedom and prosperity. 

Let those fools know that nothing will stop us from walking this road and nothing will stop our friends and allies from helping us reach safe shores. Their fake statistics will not frighten us…Our sacrifices make us proud because our blood is paving the way for future generations to live the better life we couldn’t live.

David Frum
(Frum, a former presidential speechwriter, blogs regularly at

To do this kind of work properly, you have to interview a statistically representative sample. This the research team almost certainly failed to do.

Michael O’Hanlan of Brookings, editor of the Iraq Index and a sharp critic of the Bush administration’s war effort in Iraq, has on this count dismissed the Johns Hopkins teams work as worthless.

The 600,000 number flunks the common sense test. As Tim Blair points out in his excellent blog, 600,000 is more dead than all the Germans killed by allied bombing during World War II. It is ten times the number killed at Hiroshima. As he could have also pointed out, it is more casualties than Iraq suffered in eight years of war with Iran.

We will take our remaining excerpts from the “comments” forum at Pajamas Media:

Cheng-Jih Chen:

There’s a sort of historical innumeracy at work here. 650,000 violent deaths is about 150,000 more than the number of soldiers who died (violently and by disease) during the American Civil War, a conflict which involved a population about 50% larger than Iraq’s, which lasted a year than the current conflict has been going on, and was fought over continental distances. There is nothing in Iraq that looks like Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, etc.  This figure is absurd.


I question why anyone would take seriously a study where the margin of error is +/- 200,000. Back when I was majoring in economics any of my professors would have laughed me out of the classroom if I came up with something like that. “Give or take a few hundred thousand” didn’t cut it with them.

Soldier’s Dad

I’ll shoot a hole in the Lancet Study.

  • The mortality rate in the EU is 10.10/1000.
  • The Mortality rate in the US is 8.5/1000.
  • The mortality rate in Hungary is 13/1000
  • The world average mortality rate is 8.5/1000 per year.

The Lancet study uses a “baseline” mortality rate for Iraq of 5.5. That’s half the mortality rate of Europe.

The EU has been at peace for 60 years. They have the worlds best healthcare.
But their baseline mortality rates are more than double Saddams Iraq?

It is really easy to come up with a huge “excess deaths” number if one believes that no one ever died of anything in Iraq prior to 2003.

I guess Iraq was an idyllic socialist paradise during Saddam’s reign, unequaled since the Garden of Eden.  Just ask Saddam…and not those pesky Kurds or Shiites that were mass murdered. But then, so was the Soviet Union except for those 10′s of millions that just magically “disappeared”.

There is no lie so great that the hardcore leftist communists wouldn’t tell it.


Keep in mind, the Lancet-reported violence is almost entirely in three provinces. This isn’t 600K out of 25M, it’s 600K out of maybe 10M.

We would expect to find wounded at about five times fatality rate. That would mean about 3M wounded, or nearly 1 in 3 Iraqis in those areas– man, women and child. Does sound reasonable to anyone?

This study is so bad, it actually further discredits its flawed predecessor.

Dan Kaufman

They used a methodology known as “cluster sampling,” which can be valid if using real data and not anecdotal reporting. Most of the original Lancet clusters reported no deaths at all, with the journal admitting, “two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Fallujah.”



Fallujah at the time just happened to be a major concentration of pro-Saddam sentiment, the home base for the homicide bombers and terrorist “resistance” before the U.S. Army and Marines cleared out that nest of thugs.

Iraq-War Vet 04-05

THIS administration merely enforced the UN resolutions. Had Saddam complied with the resolutions, there would be no deaths due to this war. Since the end of Saddam’s regime, the coalition has provided security so Iraqis can govern themselves freely and democratically. The blame for this bloodshed belongs on the terrorists and so-called insurgents and religious fanatics who don’t get that there is a legitimate government in place and it is unlawful to kill people as a means to show their displeasure with that. Any blood the legitimate government and its coalition allies must shed to defend itself and the Iraqi people is the fault of the attackers. These deaths are inflated, but whatever their numbers, they are not the result of any democratically elected administration’s alleged “dishonesty” or “incompetence.” They are the result of criminal blood-thirsty acts by evil people who would put all but their cronies in chains, if they held power. To miss or seek to dismiss this obvious fact is infuriating. This is why Omar is so angry with this pseudo-scientific report. And he is right to be angry.

* * * * *
The Lancet study is, simply, a politically motivated hoax.  But that didn’t stop the major broadcast media from treating it seriously.

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