NEJM Study on Violent Deaths in Iraq Resparks Debate

A new study in the NEJM on violence related mortality in Iraq between 2002 and 2006 has produced number  lower than the one produced by Lancet studies.  In the Washington Post:

A new survey estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Roughly 9 out of 10 of those deaths were a consequence of U.S. military operations, insurgent attacks and sectarian warfare.

The survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, also found a 60 percent increase in nonviolent deaths — from such causes as childhood infections and kidney failure — during the period. The results, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of the month, are the latest of several widely divergent and controversial estimates of mortality attributed to the Iraq war.

The three-year toll of violent deaths calculated in the survey is one-quarter the size of that found in a smaller survey by Iraqi and Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Lancet in 2006.

Tyler Cowen asks “I am curious to see who will offer mea culpa and who will not.  “The two estimates aren’t as different as they look” is one way of spinning it; “I was wrong” is another.” Kieran Healy and Daniel Davies respond. Davies:

Anyone trying to pretend that people who defended the Lancet studies against ill-informed criticism in some way “wanted” the death count to be higher and are “disappointed” by the IFHS survey

This is not so much a “no apology” as a heartfelt “Kiss My Arse”, with a side order of “Try Saying That To My Face, Sunshine”. This is and always was a pure, simple and disgusting insult. Anyone who ever did this, went straight on my shit-list and has been on a permanent 100% discount factor for their views on Iraq ever since. I’ve even lodged standing instructions with the Grice United Fund to make sure they don’t accidentally respect your opinions on my behalf.  Which brings us on to the subject of …

In general, I just don’t agree with Tyler’s implicit view that there’s something illegitimate about making your case forcefully and not giving the kid gloves treatment to people who try to push weak, uninformed or fraudulent arguments against it (I’m glad to note that, revealed preference reveals, Alex Tabbarrok agrees with me on this one).