Does the US Congress hate America?

The House of Representatives in the US Congress has passed a Bill to withdraw US forces from Iraq by September 2008.

The Bill is unlikely to pass the Senate and would anyway be vetoed by the US President, but it certainly sends a strong message that mainstream opinion in the USA clearly recognises the need to start withdrawing combat troops in Iraq.

At the very least, one can hope that this decision by the lower house in the US Congress will finally put an end to the years of smears from Australian government Ministers that anyone who wants to withdraw troops from Iraq is anti-American and a supporter of the terrorists.

It’s a bit hard to seriously call the US Congress anti-American and friends of terrorists.

Then again, it was only last month that John Howard said Al-Qaeda and “the terrorists” were hoping for electoral victories for the US Democrat party and a main Democrat contender for President, Barack Obama, so maybe not.

UPDATE (27/3): The following couple of articles address some of the views epxressed in the comments below querying whether the continuing troop presence is feeding insurgent activity:

“We Failed, says pro-war Iraqi

Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile under Saddam and a key intellectual inspiration for the US policy of ‘regime change’ in Iraq, has admitted he failed to foresee the consequences for his country of the invasion four years ago.

In an interview in yesterday’s New York Times, Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, the book that brought the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime to international attention, concedes he allowed his own ‘activism’ to sway his judgment and launched a scathing denunciation of US policy after the fall of Baghdad, and of Iraq’s new leadership. In the week of the invasion’s fourth anniversary, the voice that cried loudest for the toppling of Saddam described the day of Saddam’s execution ‘as one of the worst’ of his life.

An article by former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, providing some historical and cultural background as to why ongoing:

Wahhabi concerns over the weakening of the Muslim world by those who practiced anything other than pure Islam were certified in the minds of the faithful when, in April 2003, American soldiers captured Baghdad in what many Wahhabis viewed as a repeat of the sack of the city at the hands of the Mongols in 1258. Adding insult to injury, the role of Iraq’s Shiites in aiding and abetting the American conquest was seen as proof positive that the only salvation for the faithful could come at the hands of a pure form of the Islamic faith, that of Wahhabism. As the American liberation dragged on into the American occupation, and the level of violence between the Shiites and Sunnis grew, the call of jihad as promulgated by the Wahhabis gained increasing credence among the tribes of western Iraq.

The longer the Americans remain in Iraq, the more violence the Americans bring down on Iraq, and the more the Americans are seen as facilitating the persecution of the Sunnis by the Shiites, the more legitimate the call of the Wahhabi fanatics become. While American strategists may speak of the rise of al-Qaida in Iraq, this is misrecognition of what is really happening. Rather than foreigners arriving and spreading Wahhabism in Iraq, the virulent sect of Islamic fundamentalism is spreading on its own volition, assisted by the incompetence and brutality of an American occupation completely ignorant of the reality of the land and people it occupies. This is the true significance of Baghdad.

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  1. philip travers – the 87% and 90% figures simply demonstrate that nearly all of the households surveyed were asked whether they had death certificates to validate their claims of deaths in the household, and that in the great majority of cases they were able to produce death certificates when asked.

    A couple of other points. The Iraq Body Count will always produce an underestimate of the total death toll in the war, so surveys like the two Lancet studies can be expected to produce higher estimated death tolls. And from a statistical perspective, the Lancet studies are about as good as possible under the current circumstances in Iraq.

  2. I felt I made myself clear..If there are sixty minutes in an hour,which is a standard measure,what does a percentile reality mean as an explanation,that doesnt itself in report state what it is in terms of a standard length of time.Why do that,and claim it really means something..when simply it doesnt.If ex number of people had a appointment with GWB. to say in his are a bloody idiot George! And he looked at his watch and waited for them to leave according to their own dictates,and there was some variables of reactions to that time after statement.Whose time recording would be more accurate George looking at his watch and not saying a thing ,not indicating them to leave etc.Or the complainants who are leaving said …I spent such and such amount of time getting up him.And they all got together later and said as a percentage of time use without mentioning a standard length!

  3. Philip Travers,

    The study is making the claim that over 600,000+ males between the age of 15-44 have died compared to about 60,000+ Iraqi women since the invasion.

    This study also put deaths from invasion at a 1000 to 2000% higher than any other estimate.

    This study also says that these numbers include both “civilians” and “military.”

    This study also extrapolates from about 600+ family at an average of 7 persons per family. So from a cluster sampling of 4200 people were are told that 655,000+ Iraqis have died from invasion.

    Lastly, the method used, cluster sampling, is a technique used for its cheapness to attain. So where these clusters were obtained is very important.

    The point is simple. This number is highly dubious and raises many red flags, but it doesn’t stop certain people from using it to create a false reality and attempting to damage America and Coalition forces in the face of “so-called jihadists.”

  4. philip travers – I have indeed misread your post #50, but you appear to have misinterpreted the Washington post report that thordaddy linked to.

    Perhaps this will help. The original paper in Lancet (Burnham et al 2006) states on page 4

    Survey teams asked for death certificates in 545 (87%) reported deaths and these were present in 501 cases.

    so when the WP journalist says ‘87% of the time’, they mean the number of occurences, not the number of minutes or hours.

    BTW several of thordaddy’s quotes from Burnham et al (2006) are inaccurate. Page 1 of Burnham et al states

    data from 1849 households containing 12,801 individuals in 47 clusters was collected.

    On page 4

    the male-to-female ratio of post-invasion deaths was 3.4 for all deaths, and 9.8 for violent deaths.

    On page 5

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

    Also, the earlier Roberts et al (2004) Lancet study reported an estimate of 98,000 excess deaths in the first 17.8 months after the invasion.

    I won’t go into the statistical issues here, other than to say that sampling theory and data analysis are clearly not among thordaddy’s strong points.

  5. Thank you Feral Abacus for your attempt to explain the reality of what the statistics mean.I was in a late night dilemma where obviously a report that is journalistic about sampling populations isnt going to explain every term,well.But,I still have my doubts about the believability of extrapolates,and in that sense, humans do not automatically respond to the statistical mathematical coherency.The word that I read from your assistance re time use,still leaves me a bit flat.And were the Iraqi bureaucrats really interested in relationships of violent crime over a longer time period? Sampling is one thing a long term involvement with the matter is something entirely different..that can and does lead anywhere even now.The newspaper report mentions birth certificates,but,there is no mention that these were tested for authenticity.Take note of that,because the flimsy piece of paper as copy I may still need to use in the future.Would Saddams regime have full proof ones then? Now I know this may appear a dummy criticism that seem like I cannot except the figures,but authenticity remains a problem because of what Saddam was, can we expect his systems to be completely objective and acceptable!?The Democrats policy on spent Fuel rods would mean a lag of time occurred before those associated deaths could occur,and no one would seek revenge killing of American sympathisers? And bureaus wouldnt try to excise that out by some means?Do birth certificate holders mentioned get their certificates back!? I will remind you,of something you already know..and that is sampling,extrapolations and even the statistical accuracy are not the events of what is indicated by those very things.This is the strange reality of the human experience.I will not respond to Thordaddy,and it only a function of doubt that it appears I am agreeing with him.

  6. Feral Abacus,

    Here are exact quotes from the article I linked to:

    “It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.”

    “They visited 1,849 randomly selected households that had an average of seven members each.”

    “The new study estimates that about 500,000 more Iraqis, both civilian and military, have died since then — a finding likely to be equally controversial.”

    “Of the 629 deaths reported, 87 percent occurred after the invasion. A little more than 75 percent of the dead were men, with a greater male preponderance after the invasion. For violent post-invasion deaths, the male-to-female ratio was 10-to-1, with most victims between 15 and 44 years old.”

    “The survey cost about $50,000 and was paid for by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.”

    I will admit to a weakness in statistical analysis, but the numbers are clear and they present a much different picture than that of those that claim the American and Coalition forces have killed 655,000+ Iraqi civilians. Would you agree?

    Lastly, please do the statistical analysis and let us know how many men of the jihadist age have been killed since the invasion?

  7. thordaddy – do you mean to say that you made all those comments about the Lancet 2006 survey without even having read it?!

    It’s clear that you know next to nothing about this. Reading a single newspaper article hardly makes you an expert. And when you report

    “This study also extrapolates from about 600+ family at an average of 7 persons per family.”

    when the Washington Post article actually (and incorrectly) says

    “They visited 1,849 randomly selected households that had an average of seven members each.”

    the extent of your dishonesty is on display for all to see.

    Go play somewhere else.

    And by the way, your second link doesn’t work.

  8. delete ‘(and incorrectly}’ from my last post – editor’s error.

    philip travers – IMO its perfectly reasonable to express the sorts of doubts that you outline; its sensible to take a critical approach to controversial issues.

    First, I’d recommend doing what thordaddy failed to do – read the original report here Try reading the Introduction & the Discussion sections first, then re-read the entire paper. Don’t expect to understand all of it: it’s written for medical scientists. Nevertheless, you will end up with a better understanding of the situation in Iraq and the issues around the survey. And you will be in a better position to know when thordaddy is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

    I’ll write more on sampling tomorrow – its getting too late now.

  9. Feral Abacus,

    I tried to pull nothing over anyone’s eyes. I paraphased from a newspaper article only to lay to rest the assertion that American and Coalition forces have killed 655,000+ Iraqi civilians. I then quoted the exact words that I paraphased from and made a mistake with the number of families surveyed (1800+)
    versus the number CLAIMED killed (600+). Even someone with my lack of statistical analysis need not read a report that others are using to misrepresent reality and damage the war effort in Iraq.

    You claim that the report needs to be read in its entirety to understand what it says. Why not just tell us whether it says America and Coalition forces have killed 655,000+ Iraqi civilians and I’ll tell you it doesn’t and will you disagree?

    My point was made and deception played no part. America and Coalition forces have NOT KILLED 655,000+ Iraqi civilians.

  10. Thordaddy, it’s perfectly understandable for a drowning man to clutch at straws.

    No, US soldiers didn’t shoot, bomb, or club to death 655,000 Iraqi civilians.

    Yes, the US invasion (based on a lie) created the conditions in which around 655,000 Iraqis have died from war.

    The Bush Doctrine of 2002 (reserving the right to unilaterally attack any country in which a threat might be developing) is illegal under international law, and still in force.

    Why don’t you try to influence the US government to reclaim some humanity and stop war-mongering – instead of these futile and dishonest protestations that it’s all someone else’s fault.

  11. I Accept your anger Feral Abacus,I might take your advice,however please assume there was know intention,on my part to question your sense of these things,after all they were mine in writing.And it isnt a big issue with me that I appear onside with Thordaddy.I think in some other postings the Senator also found these self same figures open to being questioned as to relevancy.Which is not about Medical Scientists but Thordaddys.If I am not mistaken..Ill check that later.One thing I however must say, I do not trust the scientific agendas sometimes even in epidemiology,whilst transparently they seem well motivated…but that is another subject matter…and I do not know the real qualities of Iraqi doctors accept they are bound to be overworked.And I have read some epidemiology reports before todays suggestion.

  12. Bryan Law,

    I haven’t drowned, but have given insight on the insidious nature in which “science” is used to push a political agenda. Even The Feral Abacus has yet to enlighten us on exactly what this study is supposed to tell us other than in the most general and indescript terms that a lot of Iraqi civilians have been killed since the war started.

    But if 500,000 of the 600,000 excess males violent deaths that occured after the invasion were those bent on the call of jihad then why the outrage? But alas, this study doesn’t go into that kind of detail. Go figure?

    I think it is silly to continue to insist that Bush lied us to war when the truth was much more persuasive. Likewise, to claim the war “illegal” is to give legitimacy to that which is not legitimate, namely, the UN and the international community. Only the most foolish nations would put their security in the hands of the UN.

  13. philip travers – you need not fear The Wrath Of The Abacus!

    There’s a big difference between your position & thordaddy’s. You are expressing doubts because you are uncertain about some key points. Despite not having read the report, thordaddy rejects the survey outright in #46,49 & 53 because it provides compelling evidence against his/her line of propaganda.

    Sampling & statistics are used to infer information about groups without needing to gather information from every individual (which is usually too expensive or difficult to do). The cost of not censusing every individual is a loss of certainty in the results. Statisticians deal with that by measuring the uncertainty around their estimates.

    For example, Burnham et al (2006) report the estimated excess Iraqi deaths to July 2006 as a result of the COW invasion. Their best estimate was 654968, with 392979-942636 as the uncertainty. The true figure could well be higher or lower than 654698, but it is quite unlikely to be less than 395979 or greater than 942636.

    One point of detail: the survey was designed and by researchers from John Hopkins, co-ordinated by a professor at a Baghdad university, and conducted by bilingual Iraqi doctors.

    On birth (death?) certificates: essentially the survey team is damned either way. If they don’t sight death certificates, RWDBs claim the Iraqis are inventing deaths. If the team members do sight death certificates, then people claim they must be fakes. Given that the survey was conducted by Iraqi doctors familiar with Iraqi death certificates, this seems unlikely.

    As to relevance, I’d agree that quibbling over the exact number of deaths is of little consequence. We will never know exactly how many people died as a result of the invasion.

    To me, what matters is that people grasp the magnitude of the catastrophe in Iraq, and that Bush, Blair & Howard are not given license to grossly understate the calamitous consequences of their actions.

  14. “Separation of combatant from non-combatant deaths during interviews was not attempted, since such information would probably be concealed by household informants, and to ask about this could put interviewers at risk.” p. 2

    “…deaths and injuries from violent causes were concentrated in adolescent to middle age men. Although some were probably combatants, a number of factors would expose this group to more risk – eg, life style, automobile travel, and employment outside the home. The circumstances of a number of deaths from gunshot suggest assassinations or executions.” p. 6-7

    thordaddy, have you read the rest of the Burnham et al (2006) paper yet?

    Neither Wikipedia nor Marilyn are correct in saying that all of the violent deaths were civilian – clearly the figure includes combatants. Nor would anyone be correct in saying that the overwhelming majority of the 15-44 year old males who died were combatants – that would equate to an improbable 100+ Iraqi combat deaths for every COW combat death.

    Of the combatants, who knows how many were driven by religious zealotry? And is zealotry adequate justification for mass slaughter? I’m sure that some combatants were zeolots, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t outnumbered by others seeking to protect their country from invaders, the sort of people that red crab referred to at #25.

  15. The Feral Abacus,

    For somebody who is claiming that I should read the entire report concerning 655,000+ excess Iraqi civilians being killed, perhaps you should read this entire thread so you can figure out what you’re talking about.

    I made the claim that American and Coalition forces have not killed 655,000+ Iraqi civilians and that the report agrees with that claim.

    Do you agree or not?

    I also made a few statements based on an article that paraphased the report that contained some mix up in numbers, but stayed true to the gist of the report, namely…

    American and Coalition forces HAVE NOT KILLED 655,000+ Iraqi “civilians” since the start of the invasion.

    Of the 655,000+ excess Iraqi deaths, 600,000+ were violent deaths and an inexplicable super-majority of those were males.

    The estimate of excess death includes both civilian and military.

    Next, these numbers are 1000 to 2000% higher than other estimates.

    And cluster sampling is used because it is a cheap method. But we know what they say about cheapness.

    So please explain how I’ve manipulated the study as opposed to how the “scientists” have told us very little about the deaths in Iraq in anything other than the most general and indescript terms and anti-war activists like Marilyn use this report for purely propaganda purposes?

  16. thordaddy – crossposting: much of your #65 is addressed in my last post #64, where you will discover several explanations for the male high death rate.

    If you read Burnham et al’s (2006) paper, (link at #58) you will also discover

    – that the violent death rate among males of military age is not as disproportionate as you imply – they put it at 59% (95% CI 52-65) ie about 2.5 times more likely than expected.

    – that their results are broadly consistent with several other studies once differences in study duration are considered.

    Re cluster sampling. Cluster sampling is inexpensive, not ‘cheap’. Like stratified random sampling, it is one of the most efficient ways of obtaining information about a population. It is widely used, well understood and a standard statistical technique.

    You said in #56 “I will admit to a weakness in statistical analysis”. Yet on the basis of this weakness, you have persisted in attempting to undermine the veracity of the Burnham et al survey. You under-reported the sample size twice – and then have the nerve to complain about Marilyn’s more understandable mis-reading; you cast aspersions on well-established methodologies of which you are clearly ignorant; and you incorrectly claim that the findings are grossly inconsistent with other studies by comparing it with the lowest available figure – one that is acknowledged by its collators to be an under-estimate. In addition, you have ignored the study that I pointed to in #54.

    Further, you claim that that ‘the “scientists” have told us very little about the deaths in Iraq in anything other than the most general and indescript terms’. How can you say this when you haven’t read their paper?

    Your persistent failure to read the paper while continuing to comment on it is noted.

  17. Feral Abacus,

    And you will be in a better position to know when thordaddy is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

    Despite not having read the report, thordaddy rejects the survey outright in #46,49 & 53 because it provides compelling evidence against his/her line of propaganda.

    I am still waiting for you to substantiate these two accusations.

    I am also waiting for our statistician to tell us exactly what this report says. It does say something of relevance, no?

    I will state again that those that use this report to claim that America and Coalition forces have killed 655,000+ Iraqi “civilians” are the propagandists and this general and indescript report does very little to dispel that myth.

    What is clear, if we are to accept these numbers, is that a lot of “excess” Iraqi males have met a violent death with only 31% coming at the hands of the Coalition according to the report. I would even be bold enough to state that this percentage (31%) is probably inaccurate and overblown. Of course, we are left with 69% of Iraqi males meeting a violent death of unknown or other causes.

    So what does this oft-cited anti-war report actually tell us, Feral? We are waiting for your summary?

  18. The Feral Abacus,

    Your continued defense of this report and its WIDE misrepresentation amongst anti-war ideologues, to me, exposes both an arrogant and naive view of modern science, which I might add, has been heavily infused with “progressive” ideas. Of course, the scientist will disclaim any responsibility for the way mere layman misrepresent their findings just like a scummy Hollywood producer will disclaim any responsibility for the cultural filth that follows and mimics his “art.”

    To say that Marylin made an “understandable mis-reading” is to say that the smart scientists should have seen this misunderstanding in advance and yet did nothing to make sure it didn’t become a WIDESPREAD MISREPRESENTATION.

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