Monday, October 25, 2010

Wikileaks reveals heartwarming truth about Iraq casualties

You'd imagine it was some sort of lone rightwing libertarian crank blogger who'd claim that the recent Wikileaks publishing of documents concerning casualties in Iraq was proof that the number of deaths was wildly exaggerated by leftwing propagandists. Well, you'd be right. Australia's craziest rightwing conspiracy theorist, Andrew Bolt, believes that the Wikileaks documents prove scientists in the Lancet lied about the number of possible deaths in Iraq, inflating the figures by "at least 600 per cent" in an "infamous" paper. And those stupid scientists thought they could get away with it! Ha! Not with the keen scientific and investigatory skills of Andrew "I see no global warming" Bolt. And the ABC and the Fairfax press, being part of the global scientific conspiracy, danced right along with the fake figures.

Bolt's Brigade of the Desperately Deranged come up with the usual comments, referring to "Seppos" and "Frogs", claiming the Lancet also supports the false belief in human-caused global warming, and that this reveals "just how completely dysfunctional islamic society is". Of course, being invaded and subject to an insurgency would have nothing to do with it. It's Islam. Sorry, islam.

Even though the leftwing consistently lie about everything, Bolt fails to explain why his own employer has also apparently fallen for the same lie. Perhaps they're really secretly owned by the ABC as well?

And the infamously rightwing Australian.

What Bolt apparently fails to realise is, like other scaremongers, he is confusing two totally different data sets. The Lancet paper looked at excess mortality as a result of the war. Of these,

Deaths attributable to the coalition accounted for 31% (95% CI 26–37) of post-invasion violent deaths.

The Wikileaks documents are US Army reports of Significant Actions, and are thus a subset of total excess deaths. The original Lancet paper (which Bolt has presumably read, but either not understood, or simply ignored the parts he didn't like) was already aware of this discrepancy:

Our estimate of excess deaths is far higher than those reported in Iraq through passive surveillance measures. This discrepancy is not unexpected. Data from passive surveillance are rarely complete, even in stable circumstances, and are even less complete during conflict, when access is restricted and fatal events could be intentionally hidden. Aside from Bosnia, we can flnd no conflict situation where passive surveillance recorded more than 20% of the deaths measured by population-based methods. In several outbreaks, disease and death recorded by facility-based methods under estimated events by a factor of ten or more when compared with population-based estimates.

Luckily, one Australian paper still remains fiercely independent and can be relied on to tell the truth, and reveal the important stories that the other papers deliberately ignore (and, EoR has to ask himself, what are the real reasons they do that?). Yes, the NT News leads with a story of a man who stepped on a small crocodile and got a little bit of a fright. And a comedian who is hoping to see one of the innumerable NT UFOs, and who is promising to "cover the shapeshifting reptilian agenda to enslave humanity". Bolt probably imagines it's a factual lecture by a fiercely independent scientist putting his entire career at risk by daring to disagree with the status quo.

International readers might not be familiar with the term, but Australia has a term of praise for such people, reserved only for the few who achieve beyond the bounds of the average person: dickhead.

And remember, June 3rd is now officially National Andrew Bolt is a Dickhead Day across Australia.

Burnham, G., Lafta, R., Doocy, S., & Roberts, L. (2006). Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey. Lancet 368: 1421–28. DOI:10.1016/S01406736(06)69491-9.

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