"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Censoring The Unpalatable Truth

Recently the moderator on the SCC blog refused to publish my response to a True Believer in the "Hidden Homicides?" thread who described those of us, particularly in law enforcement, who held principled objections to the US war of aggression in Iraq as "cowards".

This Super-Patriot then went on to challenge us to tell returning veterans, "that they did not accomplish anything to help the Iraqis". To this I reasonably responded that the opinions of American veterans were entirely irrelevant to the issue. What should concern us is what do Iraqis think of our (unasked for) "assistance"? According to recent polls of Iraqi public opinion--not much. Frankly, most Americans aren't overjoyed either.

What prompted this challenge alert, however, was the moderator's amazing rationale for censoring my post after I alluded to the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the US invasion, destruction, and occupation of the rubble that is now Iraq. His explanation serves as an instructive example of what happens when conventional wisdom is challenged by clear evidence to the contrary within a highly regimented intellectual culture. Particularly in a culture were propaganda has become the unassailable Truth.

Challenge Alert #2

For those who have not been following this soap opera, it has long been my habit when discussing or writing about the number of Iraqi civilian dead as a result of the March 2003 US invasion of that country to reference the peer-reviewed mortality survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2004 and, most recently, in October of 2006. Both reports were published in the highly respected British scientific journal, the Lancet. Their latest estimate published on October 11, 2006 places the number of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the US invasion at 655,000 deaths in excess of what would have occurred had the US not invaded the country. The SCC moderator and other apologists for Team Bush war crimes, however, prefer the useful fictions reported by the British research group Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has consistently under reported Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the invasion by at least a factor of six. What follows is the SCC moderator's stunning reply to my post:

"We aren't publishing your comment for a couple of reasons, first of which is we said to STOP publishing the bullshit numbers from the Lancet". He then goes on to remind me that he has provided me with information regarding a website (IBC) "that is non partisan and mostly accurate".

What a startling admission on your part SCC. You are in essence stating that you are qualified to pass judgment on the work of leading epidemiologists whose work has been published in a respected peer-reviewed scientific journal (Lancet).

I am happy to report that I was quite aware of the IBC and its work well before I ever became aware of the Second City Cop blog.

Are you aware that the IBC has no epidemiologists on its staff?

Are you aware that the IBC uses primarily western media reports from the conflict zone to determine their estimations?

Are you at all aware of the background and experience level of the distinguished scientists who conducted the study published in the Lancet?

In what way are you qualified to dismiss as "bullshit" the work of the following: Dr. Les Roberts PhD, Dr. Shannon Doocy PhD, and Dr. Gilbert Burnham MD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dr. Riyadh Lafta of Al Mustansiriya University Baghdad? These were the authors of the Lancet report, and they have conducted similar studies in war zones as far flung as Kosovo, Darfur, and the Congo using the standard accepted methodology in each example--cross-sectional cluster sample surveys.

This is what John Sloboda, co-founder and director of the IBC admitted to David Edwards of Media Lens in an e-mail on 14 January 2006,

" Our work is, and always has been, to systematically record civilian deaths reported by two or more recognized media sources which conform to the basic criteria set out in our methodology. (My emphasis)
This means that deaths unreported in these media are not in our data base. We have always publicly acknowledged that our numbers must underepresent (sic) the true figure".

Need I remind you SCC that the vast majority of western media personnel are, for obvious safety reasons, restricted almost exclusively to the Green Zone and have almost no independent access to the rest of the country.

SCC, I have enough respect for the intelligence and innate curiosity of the Second City Cop blog community to trust that they can determine for themselves whether or not the following series from Media Lens qualifies as competent journalism. They provide their correspondence not only with the director of the IBC and the authors of the Lancet report, but with other leading epidemiologists in the field as they investigated the validity of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report which was published in the Lancet to such controversy.

As investigators, most of us are comfortable with the process of sifting through evidence to determine the path to the truth. I ask you to approach the material that follows as though you were investigating a crime. Are the witnesses credible? What does the evidence suggest? Think independently.

Part I and Part II cover the initial western media response to the first report published in 2004 (that 100,000 figure).

The April 10, 2006 report features the challenge of IBC's methodology by journalist John Pilger and a leading epidemiologist.

The October 18, 2006 report covers the release of the updated Lancet study (that 655,000 figure) and its methodology.

The October 31, 2006 report featured Lancet report co-author Dr. Les Robert's response to questions about his work and that of his colleagues on the study.

Last but not least, I leave it to you the reader to judge for yourself the worth of the Lancet Report and draw your own conclusions.

SCC, the rest of your statements regarding the cost of the war, Iraqi public opinion (see link above), and my "attempts to tie Saddam's atrocities to the political winds of the 80's", will be addressed in turn. Stay safe.


Anonymous said...

to S.C.C.-


(He keeps reaching new all-time lows, Coldtype- he just doesn't like a fair fight , and you're boxing his ears absolutely bloody with your repartee! I'd ask for more, but the Super-Chicken is on the run and refuses to publish you! He's hiding in that second-to-last refuge of cowards, CENSORSHIP! Pathetic, why beven waste your time (but for the LAUGHS!)

leftisthebest said...

I have fought with dear M, (SCC) for over a year about the number of civilian casulities in the invasion of Iraq. He refuses to acknowledge these numbers. It is unfortunate that a person who is so well read can be so blinded by the corrupt administration in the Oval Office.

Coldtype said...

I believe the psychological term that applies to SCC is, "cognitive dissonance".

This occurs when someone who has developed an iron-clad ideology is suddenly confronted with evidence that undermines it. For such a person, the new information becomes a mortal threat to their understanding of the world and their place in it. The subject cannot get their mind around the new information and it becomes literally unthinkable.

There is likely no amount of evidence that will convince True Believers such as the SCC moderators of Team Bush mendacity. My posts are more for those who have already developed a degree of skepticism and may be seeking alternative perspectives.

Malcolm X's little brother said...

Keep up the good work. SCC and his ilk do not want to know the truth.

Coldtype said...

Malcolm I suspect that some of this material is almost physically painful for Bush supporters and other apologists for US war crimes. I'll keep at it.

Shadi said...

Spot-On, C.T.! Apparently, S.C.C.'s not the only one suffering from "C.D."- read this piece and weep!

Here come the odious excuses

The philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands

Robert Fisk - The Indepedent (UK)
11 November 2006

"Great news from America!" the cashier at my local Beirut bookshop shouted at me yesterday morning, raising her thumbs in the air. "Things will be better after these elections?" Alas, I said. Alas, no. Things are going to get worse in the Middle East even if, in two years' time, America is blessed with a Democrat (and democratic) president. For the disastrous philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands of the whole mess and crying "Not Us!" with the same enthusiasm as the Lebanese lady in my book shop, while the "experts" on the mainstream US east coast press are preparing the ground for our Iraqi retreat - by blaming it all on those greedy, blood-lusting, anarchic, depraved, uncompromising Iraqis.

I must say that Richard Perle's version of a mea culpa did take my breath away. Here was the ex-chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board Advisory Committee - he who once told us that "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform" - now admitting that he "underestimated the depravity" in Iraq. He holds the president responsible, of course, acknowledging only that - and here, dear reader, swallow hard - "I think if I had been Delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said: 'Should we go into Iraq?' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies...'"

Maybe I find this self-righteous, odious mea culpa all the more objectionable because the same miserable man was shouting abuse down a radio line to me in Baghdad a couple of years ago, condemning me for claiming that America was losing its war in Iraq and claiming that I was "a supporter of the maintenance of the Baathist regime". This lie, I might add, was particularly malicious since I was reporting Saddam's mass rapes and mass hangings at Abu Ghraib prison (and being refused Iraqi visas) when Perle and his cohorts were silent about Saddam's wickedness and when their chum Donald Rumsfeld was cheerfully shaking the monster's hand in Baghdad in an attempt to reopen the US embassy there.

Not that Perle isn't in good company. Kenneth Adelman, the Pentagon neocon who also beat the drums for war, has been telling Vanity Fair that "the idea of using our power for moral good in the world" is dead. As for Adelman's mate David Frumm, well he's decided that George Bush just "did not absorb the ideas" behind the speeches Frumm wrote for him. But this, I'm afraid, is not the worst to come from those who encouraged us to invade Iraq and start a war which has cost the lives of perhaps 600,000 civilians.

For a new phenomenon is creeping into the pages of The New York Times and those other great organs of state in America. For those journalists who supported the war, it's not enough to bash George. No, they've got a new flag to fly: the Iraqis don't deserve us. David Brooks - he who once told us that neocons such as Perle had nothing to do with the President's decision to invade Iraq - has been ransacking his way through Elie Kedourie's 1970 essay on the British occupation of Mesopotamia in the 1920s. And what has he discovered? That "the British tried to encourage responsible leadership to no avail", quoting a British officer at the time as concluding that Iraqi Shia "have no motive for refraining from sacrificing the interests of Iraq to those which they conceive to be their own".

But the Brooks article in The New York Times was also frightening. Iraq, he now informs us, is suffering "a complete social integration", and "American blunders" were exacerbated "by the same old Iraqi demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise, even in the face of self-immolation". Iraq, Brooks has decided, is "teetering on the edge of futility" (whatever that means) and if American troops cannot restore order, "it will be time to effectively end Iraq", diffusing authority down to "the clan, the tribe or sect" which - wait for it - are "the only communities which are viable".

Nor should you believe that the Brooks article represents a lone voice. Here is Ralph Peters, a USA Today writer and retired US army officer. He had supported the invasion because, he says, he was "convinced that the Middle East was so politically, socially, morally and intellectually stagnant that we (sic) had to risk intervention - or face generations of terrorism and tumult". For all Washington's errors, Peters boasts, "we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy".

But those pesky Iraqis, it now seems, "preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption". Peters' conclusion? "Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it." As a result, "it's their tragedy, not ours. Iraq was the Arab world's last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region a future...". Incredibly, Peters finishes by believing that "if the Arab world and Iran embark on an orgy of bloodshed, the harsh truth is that we may be the beneficiaries" because Iraq will have "consumed" "terrorists" and the United States will "still be the greatest power on earth".

It's not the shamefulness of all this - do none of these men have any shame? - but the racist assumption that the hecatomb in Iraq is all the fault of the Iraqis, that their intrinsic backwardness, their viciousness, their failure to appreciate the fruits of our civilisation make them unworthy of our further attention. At no point does anyone question whether the fact that America is "the greatest power on earth" might not be part of the problem. Nor that Iraqis who endured among their worst years of dictatorship when Saddam was supported by the United States, who were sanctioned by the UN at a cost of a half a million children's lives and who were then brutally invaded by our armies, might not actually be terribly keen on all the good things we wished to offer them. Many Arabs, as I've written before, would like some of our democracy, but they would also like another kind of freedom - freedom from us.

But you get the point. We are preparing our get-out excuses. The Iraqis don't deserve us. Screw them. That's the grit we're laying down on the desert floor to help our tanks out of Iraq.


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Coldtype said...

It's Amazing how little has changed Shadi. They were saying similar things about the Vietnamese in 1973-75.

Coldtype said...