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Sat

22

Sep

2007

The Oracle Iraq Body Count
Saturday, 22 September 2007 12:16
by Gabriele Zamparini

The Toronto Star informed us:
"The death toll could be twice our number, but it could not possibly be 10 times higher," he [John Sloboda, professor of psychology at Keele University, and a co-founder of IBC] told me, referring to the other studies.
Question: How can a professor of psychology who collects Iraqi deaths through media reports possibly know what the death toll could be? We are in prophecy territory here. Don’t take me wrong; I love mythology and I find the oracles some of the most fascinating and suggestive figures in that kind of literature. But I prefer science, especially when in Iraq we are responsible for a GENOCIDE!

The British media watchdog Medialens wrote in its latest alert:
IBC only collects records of violent civilian deaths reported by two different (mainly Western) media sources operating in Iraq. Epidemiologists report that this type of study typically captures around 5 per cent of deaths during high levels of violence, such as exists in Iraq. By contrast, the Lancet studies provide figures for all deaths - violent and non-violent, civilian and military, reported and unreported.
A few days ago I wrote about the brilliant endorsement of Iraq Body Count coming from The Weekly Standard, the voice of the Neo-Con in Washington and whose Editor, William Kristol, is also Chairman of the Project for the New American Century.

Today, from the pages of the Washington Post, another great endorsement of Iraq Body Count comes from The Fact Checker’s Michael Dobbs. Iraq Body Count this time is used against MoveOn.org, not a radical organization exactly. [UPDATE: Senate Votes to Condemn MoveOn for Ad Attacking General Petraeus]

From the same Washington Post, take a look at a superb exercise in misleading that’s become a classic. A fancy “widget” reads:
Iraqi Civilian (estimates [sic]) 72,596 minimum count – 79,187 maximum count [last update September 18, 2007]

Finally, an update from Opinion Research Business (ORB), the polling company that published last week the study suggesting a total of 1,220,580 deaths as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age).

The ORB website informs us:
September 2007 - Iraq Casualties Poll Update

ORB to conduct additional interviews in rural Iraq.

We have received a lot of interest in the recent 'casualties' poll that we carried out in conjunction with our local partners in Iraq - IIACSS. Our survey was carried out throughout Iraq and looked at the incidence of civilian deaths since 2003 - together with Iraqi's views on the displacement of people.

As with many other activities in Iraq polling has its own restraints and it is simply too dangerous for interviewers to operate in some areas. Meanwhile local authorities prevent interviewers from working in certain towns and districts. This means that we cannot gather opinion from the more volatile areas but, at the same time we have, so far, also limited coverage in rural districts. Both of these factors mean that any estimate of deaths will remain just that - an estimate.

While, for obvious reasons, we cannot boost our representation of people living in Iraq's most violent areas we have decided - following feedback from readers of our poll - to conduct a more extensive survey of rural areas to see how this may impact on our estimate. We are in the process of conducting additional interviews in rural areas of Iraq. Once this data has been verified and merged with our current data set we will post it here on the ORB website. We aim to be in a position to release this data within ten days i.e. first week of October.
Since the media have almost completely ignored last week ORB poll, one wonders the meaning of the first line in the press release above:

“We have received a lot of interest in the recent 'casualties' poll…”
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