The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]
[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] For the full briefing, see http://www.iraqanalysis.org/briefings/041120lancetfco.pdf *** BRIEFING: THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO THE LANCET IRAQ MORTALITY SURVEY EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On 17 November 2004, the UK Foreign Secretary produced a written ministerial statement in response to the article ‘Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey’ published in the Lancet on 29 October 2004. The ministerial statement dismissed the mortality estimates produced by the Lancet survey. This briefing argues that this dismissal is largely unjustified, and in parts disingenuous. 1) The UK Government rejects the Lancet study's figures outright, arguing that the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MOH) figure of 3,853 dead civilians received in Iraqi hospitals (between 5 April 2004 and 5 October 2004) is far more accurate. This argument is untenable because: (a) MOH officials have themselves stated that their figures are necessarily an undercount. (b) The MOH figures and the Lancet study are fundamentally attempting to measure different things. The MOH figures attempt to record deaths from violence within the period from April to September 2004. The Lancet study attempts to measure the mortality, from all causes, before and after the invasion in March 2003. While the Lancet study nonetheless found that the largest cause of death was violence, and that the majority of that violence appeared to have been caused by Coalition forces, it also found a rise in non-violent (especially infant) mortality attributable to various deteriorating public health indicators in Iraq since the invasion. (c) The Government criticises the Lancet study as failing to distinguish adequately between deaths caused by ‘terrorists’ and by ‘Coalition forces’, and between the deaths of civilians and anti-Coalition fighters. According to the Iraqi Minister of Health, the MOH figure aggregates these categories in precisely the same way. 2) The Government misrepresents the Lancet study's findings and methodology, taking a standard methodological procedure and claiming that it represents an overwhelming caveat about the study's precision. Quoting the Lancet study's '95% confidence interval' of 8,000-194,000 deaths, the Government argues both that the median figure of 98,000 extra deaths is thus imprecise, and that any figure within this interval is consistent with the data. This is misleading: given the data, the real figure is far more likely to fall around the median value of 98,000 than at the edges of this distribution. Moreover, since cluster surveys of this sort are likely to under-count rather than to over-count mortality, and that one cluster of extremely high mortality (Fallujah) was actually excluded from the study, the real figure is likely to fall towards the upper rather than the lower end of this confidence interval. 3) The Government rejects all Coalition responsibility for civilian deaths caused since May 2003. This is contrary to widespread evidence (detailed below) of military action which has failed to discriminate between civilians and combatants, and may even constitute breaches of international humanitarian law. The Government further claims that the Lancet study found that there was little wrongdoing by Coalition forces 'on the ground', while neglecting to mention the study's key finding that Coalition action off the ground, in airstrikes, was failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants: 52% of deaths attributed to coalition forces by the study’s informants were of women and children. 4) Despite arguing elsewhere that reliable statistics are essential in order to determine reconstruction policy in Iraq, the Government rejects the need to keep count of civilian casualties caused by Coalition forces. The Government also ignores the Lancet study's demonstration that, with limited resources, meaningful indicators of mortality in Iraq can be established, falsifying their claims that Coalition or Iraqi resources cannot establish such measures of the Iraqi population's well-being. *** For the full briefing, see http://www.iraqanalysis.org/briefings/041120lancetfco.pdf This forms part of an extensive new website of briefings and information resources put together by former members of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq: www.iraqanalysis.org _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk