Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On 21st Century 'Preventive Warfare', Civilian Deaths, Statistics, And Sadness

More on Counting Civilian Casualties

"The online debate continues about a recent report in a British medical journal estimating 655,000 civilian deaths since the U.S. led invasion in March 2003. After my column on the study last week, lead author Gilbert Burnham defended its methodology in a discussion with readers.

Three British academics argue in (by subscription) that the study suffers from "main street bias."

"By only surveying houses that are located on cross streets next to main roads or on the main road itself," wrote co-author and Oxford University physics professor Sean Gourley in a press release. "The study inflates casualty estimates since conflict events such as car bombs, drive-by shootings artillery strikes on insurgent positions, and marketplace explosions gravitate toward the same neighborhood types that the researchers surveyed."

But Rebecca Goldin, writing for Statistical Assessment Service ( at George Mason University, rejected such criticism, saying the JHU study used statistical weighting methods that took into account the location of interviewees.

"The methods used by this study are the only scientific methods we have for discovering death rates in war torn countries without the infrastructure to report all deaths through central means," she wrote. "Instead of dismissing over half a million dead people as a political ploy as did Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, we ought to embrace science as opening our eyes to a tragedy whose death scale has been vastly underestimated until now.""

Jefferson Morley "World Opinion Roundup: A Daily Survey of What the International Online Media Are Saying" October 25, 2006

The United States military is said to be looking into civilian deaths in Haditha, Iraq.

Photo credit: (c) Lucian Read/World Picture Network via New York Times May 25, 2006. All rights reserved. With thanks.


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