Lying About The Dead 10


An extraordinary story appeared once this morning on BBC News 24, and then was buried.

The BBC World Service has obtained a document. It is an official appraisal by British government scientists across government departments, commissioned by 10 Downing Street, of the study published by the Lancet that estimated 655,000 dead in Iraq. The appraisal says that the methodology is correct and that the study “follows best practice”.

Astonishingly, the official DFID verdict was that 655,000 dead is “If anything, an underestimate”.

Yet the Government poured scorn on the Lancet study, despite having commissioned a report from their own scientists that said it was good. Who can doubt that if the government scientists had rubbished the study, the number ten spin machine would have publicised that like crazy?

Doubtless the Official Secrets Act will be wheeled out to try and sit on the government scientists’ report, which the BBC already seems to have reburied, showing its typical craven attitude towards the Blair government.

Personally, I did not know how much credence to give the study published in the Lancet, not being technically equipped to evaluate it. We can now be confident that the death toll in Iraq was over 600,000 a year ago, and probably over 700,000 now.

There is much talk of Blair’s legacy. In fact he has two major legacies. 700,000 rotting corpses, and the culture of lies that sought to suppress the truth about it.


10 thoughts on “Lying About The Dead

  • jhartley

    The story is still on the front page of the news.bbc.co.uk website, for what its worth.

  • Craig

    It's worth a bit, but it has still disappeared from the TV news bulletins, which obviously reach a lot more people.

  • Richard II

    Here's the link so that later visitors can find the page:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6495753.st

    Interestingly, the article spends more time giving us the opinions of officials rather than the findings of the government's scientists.

    But if you then read the following, written last year and linked to the previous article, we're back to the same discrediting of the Lancet Study:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6045

    Would be nice to see Craig post some articles about the economic war in Iraq (which seems to get little mention anywhere), because corporate globalization affects all of our lives.

    Given the choice, I rather America drop a bomb on my head than force me live in a slum till the day I die. In such circumstances, I'd consider the dead the lucky ones.

  • Strategist

    "It has still disappeared from the TV news bulletins…"

    Yes Blair's legacy is the Iraq dead and the culture of lies within government. But I'm interested in the culture of news media that says this story isn't real news, and suppresses it. What's going on here is more insidious than Blair controls the BBC – he doesn't. The BBC staff control themselves. Some editor in the newsroom kills this story. He doesn't get an edict from the senior management or from the secret police or from No.10 that tells him to do it, he does it himself of his own volition. Why the fuck does he do that? I really wish I knew!

    I think this story genuinely has the chance to be massive, to be seminal in changing mainstream Middle England's opinion about the government's conduct of the war on Iraq.

    Let's see how the mainstream print media perform on this story tomorrow. I wish I could be optimistic that they will acquit themselves better.

  • Richard II

    Strategist writes:

    "I think this story genuinely has the chance to be massive, to be seminal in changing mainstream Middle England's opinion about the government's conduct of the war on Iraq."

    My opinion, for what it's worth, is unless the Iraq conflict is linked to something that affects all of us, you're not going to get much traction.

    The anti-war crowd can easily be written off as a bunch of do-gooders who hate war and who hate to see people die – and that's about their total level of sophistication.

    Hence, why I would like to see far more discussion on the corporate takeover of Iraq, and corporate globalization, but I'm not going to see it, for obvious reasons.

    I think the reason the protests didn't stop the invasion and subsequent occupation is because protests are normally the electorate firing a shot across the bows of government, a warning that civil unrest and civil disobedience will get worse if something isn't changed.

    However, protests will only be listened to if, by ignoring them, the electorate will suffer further, have more of a grievance, and thus be forced to take other action.

    The Iraq "war", however, didn't harm the electorate – it harmed Iraqis! And so the electorate was unlikely to get increasingly militant or active, given that human nature is to respond mainly to a threat to oneself, not to a threat aimed at others.

    In fact, the government probably assumed, rightly, that people would tire of the conflict after a while, and be split, so the protests would die down.

    It also doesn't help that the conflict is taking place "halfway across the world". It takes a lot of imagination to envisage what is going on 3,000 miles away, let alone to care.

    Maybe had the "mainstream" media accurately portrayed the occupation, there would have been a sea change in opinion by now, but whether that change would have translated into action – which, in this case, necessitates making sacrifices on behalf of others – is quite another matter.

  • Strategist

    Richard II wrote: "Protests will only be listened to if, by ignoring them, the electorate will suffer further, have more of a grievance, and thus be forced to take other action. The Iraq "war", however, didn't harm the electorate – it harmed Iraqis! And so the electorate was unlikely to get increasingly militant or active, given that human nature is to respond mainly to a threat to oneself, not to a threat aimed at others."

    Agreed there. The thing that made America rebel over Vietnam 40 years ago was not how many Vietnamese & Cambodians America was killing, but how many Americans were coming home in body bags. I get the impression that the Democrats majored on this aspect in their successful mid-term election campaign. Of course there are something like 130,000 US troops out there compared to our 7,000 (??) so that's a lot more voters with family & friends out there. Which leads to the sad thought that the sooner & the faster more American soldiers get killed, the quicker this debacle will be ended and the more people overall will survive.

    The British by contrast seem very cold about the death of our troops. It seems to cause no outrage in Middle England at all – the myth of a noble death for Queen & country is bought completely. Thinking about the Reg Keys's moving campaign against Blair in Sedgefield, I have such contempt for those ordinary citizens of Sedgefield who think themselves decent people who received Reg Keys's message, but chose to blank it and vote Blair back in.

  • writeon

    The point about the research into the number of excess casualties in Iraq post invasion, is that it's accuracy in absolute terms, but that they attempted as far as was humanly possible to produce, relatively speaking, the best and most accurate numbers possible. The metodology they used was/is tried and tested and non-controversial. The problem with the Lancet raport isn't the methodology, it's the result. The result is simply unacceptable, not so much "not credible" as – incredible and devastating. It undermines much of the rationale for the invasion, because of the concept of proportionality. One can hardly, if one is sane, argue that one is going to "save" the Iraqi people if one then creates a situation where basically one slaughters them in vast ammounts.

    What kind of people have we become when we almost blithely kill so many so we can save them? What does this say about our culture? Are we really still civilized or have we become ignorant barbarians?

    When one adds up the tally; the first gulf war, the seige/sancitons, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation; together, calculating the deaths from both war and desease, the number of "excess" deaths in Iraq is enormous. I've calculated that it's somewhere between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000! Is that genocice or what?

    Sure Saddam's war with Iran cost Iraq dearly. Sure over the years he eliminated those who opposed him. But even he didn't kill anywhere near these figures, and anyway he was a brutal warlord, we're supposed to be better than him aren't we, so what's our excuse for slaughtering over 10% of Iraq's population?

    Actually I've heard an argument that purports to explain why Blair isn't a war criminal. It's because he never intended to kill so many Iraqi's. The deaths were unfortunate, but unintended, a kind of "mistake" or "accident", which we've appologised for!

    But Adolf Hitler could make the same kind of defence. He never personally killed anyone during the second world war. It's very difficult, if not impossible to find his signature on any document dealing with the holocaust. None of this means he wasn't responsible for starting the killing! If Blair was an insane pyromanic and he set a house full of people on fire and several where killed, he would be laughed at if in his defence he said he only torched the house because he liked the sight of flames and he never meant to kill anyone, it was all a tragic accident!

  • Randal

    This was another enlightening FoI disclosure. How long before that embarrassing (for our rulers) loophole is closed up again?

    The most eye-opening point, for me, was the following (from the BBC report):

    "Speaking six days after Sir Roy praised the study's methods, British foreign office minister Lord Triesman said: "The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern…." "

    Seems to me that there is a direct conflict between Lord Triesman's assertion that the method was "a matter of deep concern" and the actual position revealed by this disclosure. A competent Opposition (that was not as deeply compromised on the issue of the Iraq war as the Conservatives) would surely make something of this point.

    What is not clear from the news reports is in what forum Lord Triesman made this comment. I assume it was in some public statement and not in the Lords….

    As for the accuracy of the Lancet report, it was, I think, unimpeachable at the time it was published. As is always the case with scientific discussion (though the process has been massively hyped on this occasion by the desperation of pro-war partisans to rubbish an embarrassing piece of information) issues have been raised subsequently. In particular there is a question as to whether the survey methods used acted to bias the results ("main street bias"). I won't go into the details, but at the moment the question of whether and to what degree the survey's conclusions were affected by this issue is unknown, and a matter of expert (and inexpert) controversy. Inevitably, many war supporters ignore the speculative elements of the criticism and baldly assert that the "study has been discredited by main street bias". Anybody who puts the position forward in those (insupportable) terms, you can immediately write off as a liar. At the moment, the Lancet estimate still represents by far and away the best estimate we have of the excess deaths consequent upon the attack on Iraq.

  • Randal

    "Yes Blair's legacy is the Iraq dead and the culture of lies within government. But I'm interested in the culture of news media that says this story isn't real news, and suppresses it. What's going on here is more insidious than Blair controls the BBC – he doesn't. The BBC staff control themselves. Some editor in the newsroom kills this story. He doesn't get an edict from the senior management or from the secret police or from No.10 that tells him to do it, he does it himself of his own volition. Why the fuck does he do that? I really wish I knew! "

    I share that particular focus of interest with you, Strategist. Though, sadly, I also share Richard II's cynicism about how much actual effect the story will have on British popular opinion. I suspect minds are pretty much made up on the Iraq issue generally. Those of us who opposed the Iraq war will take this as just another redundant confirmation of the Blair government's cynical disregard for veracity, and those who support the war will continue to hold their fingers in their ears and chant "La la la.. I can't hear you…" Those in the middle who have not moved to the antiwar camp already are the ones who are evidently pretty uncaring about the deaths of foreigners anyway.

    I do see a strong bias against the Iranian regime in the BBC's reporting. I am interested in this mainly because it is likely to have a strong impact on the next military aggression in which we will probably be implicated by our government (even if only through passive support of the Washington regime).

  • Randal

    Hansard for 19th October 2006:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199697

    "Lord Triesman: My Lords, that is not the view that I have put at all. I said that there are different methods which have arrived at very different figures and that those methods also are legitimate. The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern and merits considerable study rather than the denunciation of one method compared with another."

    The context changes the weight of Triesman's quoted words somewhat. He would doubtless claim he was speaking more generally, rather than directly commenting on the Lancet study methods.

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