The Lancet study asserting 650,000 war-caused deaths in Iraq from the US invasion to mid-2006 is now strongly suspected to be fiction – the correct figure is closer to 151,000 according to a study that relies on more than 1,000 clusters rather than 47 as in the Lancet study. It is also interesting to note that the Lancet study was financed by George Soros with at least one of its authors now claimed to be a Saddam apologist and with claims the study was released to influence election outcomes. The figure of 650,000 would have made the Iraq conflict one of the bloodiest in recent military history – it remains a nasty conflict but the actual death toll is apparently one quarter that reported on in Lancet.
On the local scene those promoting the value of the Lancet figures (here*, here) have either not responded or responded by discussing the new results but not admitting error. Perhaps fair enough – the issues involve complexities and already there have been denials of ulterior motives and bias.
I reported the results here and stated that the sampling methodology seemed sound – it obviously was not. In a sense the dispute is a grim insult to the dead – 151,000 is still a lot of human misery. But strong views were expressed stridently criticising those who disbelieved the Lancet figures.
Perhaps there is a lesson for us all here.
*Update: John Quiggin has now responded to the claims made here both in the comments below and on his blog site.