Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lancet lies

Back in 2006 in time to influence the congressional election the Lancet published a report estimating that the casualties in Iraq had exceeded 650,000. At the time I reckoned this to be a load of hogwash. Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article about the report. It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers.

The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups. It now appears that the Lancet study was funded by billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute. Mr. Soros is a famous critic of the Iraq campaign and well-known partisan, having spent tens of millions trying to defeat Mr. Bush in 2004. Soros made much of his money by speculating against the pound sterling, forcing it out of the European monetary system.

Two co-authors of the report, Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins University, told the reporters that they opposed the war from the outset and sent their report to the Lancet on the condition that it be published before the election.

Lancet Editor Richard Horton agreed to rush the study into print, with an expedited peer review process, without seeing the surveyors' original data. I have met Richard Horton and took an instant dislike to him. He spoke at a meeting of the European Association of Science Editors that I attended. At first I thought it was just his youth that made him a conceited show-off, but as he has grown older I see that this is his nature. I cancelled my Lancet subscription shortly afterwards. Here's a quote from him, "The axis of Anglo-American imperialism extends its influence through war and conflict, gathering power and wealth as it goes, so millions of people are left to die in poverty and disease." You might remember Horton as the man who published the scandalous lies about the MMR vaccine.

The key person involved in collecting the Lancet data was Iraqi researcher, Riyadh Lafta, who has failed to follow the customary scientific practice of making his data available for inspection by other researchers. Mr. Lafta had been an official in Saddam's ministry of health when the dictator was attempting to end international sanctions against Iraq. He wrote articles asserting that many Iraqis were dying from cancer and other diseases caused by spent U.S. uranium shells from the Gulf War. These too were politically derived lies.


Anonymous said...

Prof Hamblin
It would have been a more balanced article if you had mentioned that even the "truth" published in the NEJM showed a excess of 151,000 violent deaths in three years, and almost THREE times as many i.e 450 000 excess non violent deaths due to infection and other causes in the same time period.
You could have also mentioned that this study was carried out by IRAQI ministry of health personel (same people who used to use drills instead of medical instruments) and that 64% of the areas they failed to visit and collect data from were in ANBAR, and 26% of unvisited sites were in BAGHDAD.
Whichever way you choose to look at it the important people in all of these studies are the DEAD IRAQIS and not the politicians or those seeking some personal glory through our misery.
Shame on all of you who argue about the agenda of individuals who publish and ignore the catastrophe that is being detailed.

Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable. If any of these liars are still employed, it is an outrage.

If these folks were conservatives, we'd hear nothing else in the media for months.

But since the media is as left-wing as these bozos, nothing is said.

I fear for the nations of the West.

Terry Hamblin said...

I do accept that the number of deaths and the amount of ill health in Iraq since 2003 has been immense, and the NEJM estimate of around 150k dead is in the right ballpark. However, the mortality and morbidity are multifactorial and their first cause was the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The Iran/Iraq war (1980-88) which he started was responsible for in excess of a million deaths of soldiers and countless numbers of civilians. When that war ended he was left with a $14 billion debt to Kuwait, one of the factors that prompted his invasion of that country in 1991.

The coalition assembled by George Bush I to repel Saddam was worldwide and included both Russia and Syria. Iraqi deaths in the first Gulf war have been estimated by left-wing journalists to be as high as 200,000, but more authoritative sources put them at between 20,000 and 35,000.

In my view it was unfortunate that a means was not found to take Saddam out of the equation at the end of the first Gulf War, but instead an armistice was signed which was supposed to restrain him. It would have been possible to arrest him as a war criminal and hand him over for trial at The Hague and this course of action would have had widespread political support.

Between Gulf War I and Gulf War II Saddam used the media in a masterful way. The UN sanctions that had been imposed following the invasion of Kuwait had not been lifted because Saddam had not acquiesced to the 1991 peace demands that he ceased to act in an aggressive manner. Deprived of his ability to sell oil to rebuild his army and weaponry he engineered the oil for food program to support the starving population, and then diverted that money into palaces and military spending. At the same time he continued to oppress the Shia and the Kurds in a brutal and violent way.

It is now clear that the Bush and Blair governments manipulated the evidence in order to justify the second Gulf War, and that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, nor the means of delivering them in 15 minutes. However, that was never a factor in why I supported the invasion. Saddam deserved to be deposed because of his brutality and violence against Iraqis. Remember the international situation at the time. We had witnessed the Rwandan massacre that went on without interference from the outside world. We had stood by while Muslims were murdered in Bosnia by the Serbs, and eventually been forced to act, just as we were in Kosovo. In Sierra Leone we had sent a force that had defeated the war criminal Charles Taylor. Intervention had become the order of the day. After 9/11 the invasion of Afghanistan had widespread support. To my mind Saddam was the next tyrant on the list.

In retrospect, the post invasion peace was appallingly managed, and Rumsfeld must bear the responsibility for that. The success of the "surge" has demonstrated that too few troops were retained to bring order. Most casualties inflicted on the Iraqis since then are the result of the insurgents attacking those who sympathized with the invasion and this was allowed to escalate into a civil war. Likewise, the failure to restore basic services, the flight of essential health care personnel an the very many refugees are a consequence of the laissez faire attitude of the administrators put in by the American government. I surmise that this is the result of a mind set that decrees that the market will solve all problems. Undoubtedly it will in the long run, but a lot of people die in the process.

Anonymous said...

Your response to the ridiculous first post was tame and measured; I'd not be so nice.

In your response, though, I think you mistake how easy it would have been to arrest and try Saddam. Wasn't it very difficult to find him to bomb him back to Allah? Didn't he stay in a different house every night? Didn't he have scores of impersonators running around the country?

The biggest crime in the first Gulf war was Bush the Elder's call for the countrymen to rise up against Saddam. When they did, Bush 1 did nothing to restrain Saddam. He let Saddam's helicopter gunships free rein. That was and is inexcusable, and my formerly favorable opinion of Mr. Bush dropped considerably.

You are also buying into the left-wing nonsense that the second war was 'manipulated'. Every intelligence report concluded that if Saddam didn't then have weapons of mass destruction, he was trying to build them. That's the fault of intelligence, not those like Bush 2 and Blair who relied on them. He refused to allow UN weapons inspectors in all of the areas they wanted to inspect, and he ignored every last UN resolution on the subject. Don't you remember that whole protracted event?

Do you remember the reports that Saddam's scientists where afraid (and rightly so) to tell him there were no weapons and little to no progress had been made to get them? That meant that everyone lived in and believed in a fantasy world.

Don't you remember the left-wing criticism of the invasion because we were exposing our troops to Saddam's chemical and biological weapons?

I believe Bush and Blair acted in good faith on bad intelligence, a system I have to point out was gutted by Carter and his fellow left-wing Democrats.