Sunday, June 13, 2004

Methodology

In response to Jeffreys comments re Iraq Body Count Methodology. Jeffrey has heard people tell him that Iraq Body Counts methodology is flawed because it counts "ANYONE who dies as a civilian casualty". I have read Iraq Body Counts methodology thoroughly both in the past and again today in writing this post. I find Iraq Body Counts methodology to be sound.

Iraq Body Count does not count "ANYONE who dies as a civilian casualty" Iraq Body Count bases its figures on almost the only available source material it has; Media Reports.

Far from counting "ANYONE who dies as a civilian casualty", Iraq Body Count follows strict research procedures in compiling casualty figures from media reports.

In order for a death to be counted, Iraq Body Count specifies in its methodology that it requires;

that two independent agencies publish a report before we are willing to add it to the count.


Iraq body count states this more then once;

Our methodology requires that specific deaths attributed to US-led military actions are carried in at least two reports from our approved sources. This includes deaths resulting from the destruction of water treatment plants or any other lethal effects on the civilian population


Iraq Body Count states clearly that it counts only casualties that are consequences of current military action in Iraq;

...we record all civilians deaths attributed to our military intervention in Iraq.

The above FAQ does not apply to sanctions; although we are opposed to them, our study deals with the consequences of our current military actions in Iraq.
It has also been newly revised due to our growing awareness that we were too narrowly-focused on bombs and other conventional weapons, neglecting the deadly effects of disrupted food, water, electricity and medical supplies.


The site states that;

Casualty figures are derived from a comprehensive survey of online media reports and eyewitness accounts. Where these sources report differing figures, the range (a minimum and a maximum) are given. All results are independently reviewed and error-checked by at least two members of the Iraq Body Count project team in addition to the original compiler before publication.


Clearly, Iraq Body Count counts only casualties that are the result of military action, and even these it compiles conservatively providing both a maximum and minimum estimate. Iraq Body Count bases its figures on accounts from media reports, not, as Jeffrey seems to be implying, by trawling the obituaries column of Iraqi Newspapers indiscriminately counting every single death it finds. In fact, not one of Iraq Body Counts sources is an Iraqi publication.

As it is clear that Iraq Body Count data is sourced from media reports, it would be logical to conclude that there are casualties which do not make their way into a newspaper column or online publication. Believe it or not Jeffrey, the casualties Iraq Body Count is recording are likely to be only the more spectacular casualties, the ones that make readable news headlines. Mundane deaths, I'm afraid Jeffrey, are probably not going to be that hot for press.

This only serves to affirm that Iraq Body Count does NOT count "ANYONE who dies as a civilian casualty". In fact Iraq Body Count is quite possibly also NOT counting some legitimate war casualties, simply because some legitimate war casualties are going to occur when there is no journalist around to record them, or may be reported in a publication which does not meet Iraq Body Counts specifications to be countable.

Iraq Body Count states that;

For a source to be considered acceptable to this project it must comply with the following standards: (1) site updated at least daily; (2) all stories separately archived on the site, with a unique url (see Note 1 below); (3) source widely cited or referenced by other sources; (4) English Language site; (5) fully public (preferably free) web-access.


Iraq body Count lists its sources. Furthermore, the Iraq Body Count project includes a secure archive of all original sources;

Although it is expected that the majority of sources will remain accessible on the web site from which they were drawn, the project will create a secure archive of all original sources (in both electronic and paper form). Where judged appropriate by the project team, this data may be released to bona-fide enquirers, for verification purposes.


Iraq Body Count follows conservative research procedures in collecting data from its sources;

As a further conservative measure, when the wording used in both reports refers to "people" instead of civilians, we will include the total figure as a maximum but enter "0" into the minimum column unless details are present clearly identifying some or all of the dead as civilian - in this case the number of identifiable civilians will be entered into the minimum column instead of "0". The word "family" will be interpreted in this context as meaning 3 civilians. [Average Iraqi non-extended family size: 6. -CIA Factbook 2002.]


Iraq body count notes that;

The project relies on the professional rigour of the approved reporting agencies.


Iraq Body Count acknowledges the interest that many parties have in manipulating casualty figures for political ends;

We acknowledge that many parties to this conflict will have an interest in manipulating casualty figures for political ends. There is no such thing (and will probably never be such a thing) as an "wholly accurate" figure, which could accepted as historical truth by all parties. This is why we will always publish a minimum and a maximum for each reported incident. Some sources may wish to over-report casualties. Others may wish to under-report them. Our methodology is not biased towards "propaganda" from any particular protagonist in the conflict. We will faithfully reflect the full range of reported deaths in our sources. These sources, which are predominantly Western (including long established press agencies such as Reuters and Associated Press) are unlikely to suppress conservative estimates which can act as a corrective to inflated claims.


The Iraq Body Count team are well aware of the restrictions an independent project collecting casualty data from outside of Iraq faces, and acknowledges that many projects are needed to evaluate the full human cost of war;

Many projects are needed to evaluate the full human cost of this war. We value them all, but this one is ours. We need to ensure that our study is focused and that its intent, scope and limits are widely and clearly understood. We will certainly build up and maintain our set of links to projects doing related work so that viewers of this site can be pointed to related activity.


Unfortunately, few projects in actuality exist. Iraq Body count is one of those few. Collecting data from hospitals in Iraq would be an obviously valuable source of information, but unfortunately Iraqi Health Ministry officials ordered a halt to a count of civilian casualties from the war and told workers not to release figures already compiled. So you see, we are left with just a few projects run largely by dedicated volunteers, such as the Iraq Body Count team and Raed. Which is admittedly insufficient in terms of the value of existing alongside other projects. Thank goodness at least these few projects have had the tenacity to continue faithfully recording the little that they can.

It is in this context that Iraq Body Count heads their site with the words of General Tommy Franks, of US Central Command; "We don't do body counts".

Iraq Body Counts Rationale clearly sums up the projects aims; to compile a record of civilian casualties caused by war and make accessible, in an index, data from reports which would otherwise be lost; "scattered in different news sources and spread over time";

This project aims to record single-mindedly and on a virtually real-time basis one key and immutable index of the fruits of war: the death toll of innocents. The full extent of this has often gone unnoticed until long after a war has ended, if at all. One reason is that reports of incidents where civilians have been killed are scattered in different news sources and spread over time: one or two killed here, a few dozen there, with only major incidents (such as the attack on the Al-Amariyah bomb shelter where hundreds of women, children and elderly were incinerated alive) being guaranteed headline coverage. But the smaller numbers quickly add up: and however many civilians are killed in the onslaught on Iraq, their death toll should not go unnoticed by those who are paying — in taxes — for their slaughter. It is to these all too easily disregarded victims of violence that Iraq Body Count is dedicated, and we are resolute that they, too, shall have their memorials.


I find the Iraq Body Count project to be of the highest integrity, and challenge Jeffrey to read Iraq Body Counts overview, rationale and methodology in full for himself.

As I replied to Jeffrey previously; nobody has succeeded in debunking Iraq Body Count. Some have tried but not succeeded, primarily because those who have tried to debunk Iraq Body Count are motivated by their own extreme bias and are fueled by their own campaigns and misinformation.

20 Comments

#6/13/2004 06:26:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

You don't read closely enough. This is pulled from the IBC website:

>Each side can readily claim that indirectly-caused deaths are the "fault" of the other side or, where long-term illnesses and genetic disorders are concerned, "due to other causes." Our methodology requires that specific deaths attributed to US-led military actions are carried in at least two reports from our approved sources. This includes deaths resulting from the destruction of water treatment plants or any other lethal effects on the civilian population. The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization). We agree that deaths from any deliberate source are an equal outrage, but in this project we want to only record those deaths to which we can unambiguously hold our own leaders to account. In short, we record all civilians deaths attributed to our military intervention in Iraq.

I'm going to walk you through this VERY slowly. Let me repeat:

>This includes deaths resulting from the destruction of water treatment plants or any other lethal effects on the civilian population.

>The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization).


>In short, we record all civilians deaths attributed to our military intervention in Iraq.

Emigre, do you understand what this means? I don't know what you do for a living, but I teach writing and critical thinking for a living and this is pathetic. Someone dies of pneumonia in Baghdad and Marc Herold -- whose counting in Afghanistan has already been discounted by serious statisticians, just google that -- counts that death as due to the Coalition forces because they are "responsible" for the health system. If you can't tell that's bogus, you have no right to even run a blog.

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#6/13/2004 06:28:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

أ‰migrأ©,

I emailed Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine over six months ago. He responded immediately on his blog.

January 05, 2004

Iraq miscount
: Reader Jeffrey Schuster emails me shocked that Iraq Body Count is stacked. It counts every death, even at the hands of insurgents/rebels/terrorists/outsiders, as our fault because we should have stopped it. I'm shocked it's bogus. Shocked.
Glenn Reynolds, meanwhile, sends us to the counter-counter that adds up lives that have been saved by getting rid of Saddam.

For anyone interested, here's the paragraph that needs to be read very closely:
>In the current occupation phase this database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
www.iraqbodycount.net/bodycount.htm#db
If an Iraqi just happens to die from SARS, I imagine that the IBC will mark it down as another civilian death caused by the Coaltion forces. The reason given will be "inadequate health care," ultimately the Coalition's fault, in their eyes.
Posted by Jeffrey -- New York at January 6, 2004 12:53 AM

Recap:

An Iraqi dies of pneumonia. Whose fault? The Americans.
An Iraqi is killed by terrorists or Saddamites. Whose fault? The Americans.

Okay, Emigre, let's hear your rebuttal -- with EVIDENCE and appropriate quotations, please.

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#6/13/2004 06:29:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

Jason van Steenwyk has also written on the bogus IBC.

Enjoy and learn.

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#6/13/2004 06:31:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

If you are serious about learning, I would suggest that you go out and buy Joel Best's "Damned Lies and Statistics." I have used it in the classroom and it's very good.

BTW, I never talk about my own political views in the classroom. We take apart statistical claims by analyzing the methodology, the people behind the methodology, and the ways in which numbers are skewed.

Joel Best's book is a very good introduction for anyone who wants to become a critical reader and thinker.

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#6/13/2004 06:37:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

This is an advocacy group. Listen and learn. The first thing you do is to see if the PEOPLE behind the numbers are in any way biased. Let's take a look:

HAMIT DARDAGAN (Co-founder, principal researcher and site manager) ... Since September 11th 2001 he has been responsible for the daily peaceuk.net mailing list disseminating critical non-violent perspectives on "the war on terror". He is a founder member of the Network of Activist Scholars of Politics and International Relations (Naspir), and a local delegate to the Stop the War Coalition. He is currently Web Resources Manager for Peace News, and in January 2004 was appointed Executive Director of Oxford Research Group.

KAY WILLIAMS (Senior researcher and archivist) ... She runs a mailing list for those in the Keele and Newcastle-under-Lyme area of Staffordshire who are interested in local and national anti-war activities.

TORBEN FRANCK (Webmaster) is a musician and peace activist. He is webmaster for www.peaceuk.net, www.humanshields.org as well as Iraq Body Count. He has recorded a track (with Joe Wilson) for the recent Stop the War CD compilation, issued in December 2002. He is a delegate to the Stop the War National Conference.

Quite a group, huh? Un-biased? Neutral? Think again.

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#6/13/2004 07:05:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey, it is you who are not reading carefully. Reread my post, reread the Iraq Body Count Methodology. It answers all your questions, and incidently refers to extracts you have reposted here again.

I remember the Buzz Machine post, and I think now as I did then, that Iraq Body Counts practices are sound.

Why are you afraid to accept this? War causes casualties, whether you like it or not.

If you think you can do a better job counting war casualties, then start up your own project, I doubt you have the research background to do it. Your condescending nature marks you as a poor teacher.

BTW please try to keep your comments brief, or else email me if you must. If you want to write a thesis about it, write it on your own site.

 
#6/13/2004 07:20:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Until you upgrade your comments page, I'll have to cut and paste instead of linking. This is from Jason van Steenwyk:

>Here's the problem:

Iraq Body Count lies about its own methodology.

Here's a passage from the methodology page of IBCs own website:

Our methodology requires that specific deaths attributed to US-led military actions are carried in at least two reports from our approved sources. This includes deaths resulting from the destruction of water treatment plants or any other lethal effects on the civilian population. The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization).



Here are some examples of instances where "the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger," or are just "collateral damage,"
according to IBC:

Zarqawi's murder of 182 Shiite pilgrims in a series of bombings on 2 March 03.

The terrorist bombings of the PUK and KDP offices in Irbil, which killed 107.

The 21 April car bombings in Basra and Zubair, which killed 74.

The truck bomb at Iskandiyah police station which killed 75.

The 11 February car bomb at Muthara Airport, killing 47 Iraqi recruits.


No coalition action caused these deaths--nor were their deaths 'collateral damage' on the part of either side. Their deaths were entirely the result of a calculated campaign of terror and murder by the insurgents. Yet neither the IBC, nor the useful idiots in the press corps who believe anything they say, draw a distinction between collateral damage and outright murder.

Rather, the IBC uses the murders to inflate their counts to play politics with the dead.

Going through the IBC database, and using only minimum numbers of reported dead, I counted 2,146 civilian deaths which can be attributable entirely to the actions of the enemy.

The deaths were the result of 202 separate incidents. Which means that of the 500-odd incidents recorded by IBC, nearly 40% cannot be laid at the feet of the coalition--contrary to IBC's stated intention.

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#6/13/2004 07:22:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

You have some nerve. You post an extended blog and then ask me to write shorter ones than the original blog?

Get off it.

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#6/13/2004 07:24:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

You have yet to offer a detailed rebuttal. Do so or quit talking. It's that simple.

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#6/13/2004 08:47:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey, you have some nerve, look at the length and frequency of your recent comments, remember kiddo, this is my blog.

As i said, if you want to write a thesis about it, write it on your own blog.

War is war, Iraq Body Count counts war casualties. They have never pretended to do anything other then that. Your comments fascinate me only in that you seem afraid to accept that war causes death and suffering.

What is it with you? Can't you see that war casualties are appalling no matter who pulls the trigger?

 
#6/13/2004 09:12:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

One last time.

>Zarqawi's murder of 182 Shiite pilgrims in a series of bombings on 2 March 03.

IBC says that these deaths are due to the Coalition forces for not stopping Zarqawi. This is just plain nuts.

I don't know how old you are, but if you're just starting out in this business, you will need to read up a bit. I am being nice about this.

I'm 47 and have been doing this for years. To count a civilian death from the hands of a terrorist and then say the Coalition forces are responsible is beneath contempt. The Coalition forces are dying to protect the Iraqi civilians.

You still have not rebutted a single counter-claim.

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#6/13/2004 09:47:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey

"one last time"? don't make me laugh, you can't help yourself, you'd carry on till you kark.

since when did age constitute a valid arguement to back up your claim?

none of what you have to say has managed to discredit Iraq Body Counts methodology.

it's a war, people die from it, Iraq Body Count counts the deaths that are related to the war.

wake up and smell the coffee Jeffrey, declaring and going to war isn't about casting rose petals about.

your real problem is that a site like Iraq Body Count shows you the consequences of war, and you are uncomfortable with those consequences because it challenges you to question the rhetoric you have been nourished by.

 
#6/14/2004 07:04:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

Okay, let me ask you this.

Zarqawi kills hundreds of Iraqis.

Okay, whose fault?

I say Zarqawi and the terrorists are responsible and to include them in the civilian casualty count and say that the Coalition forces are responsible is a bogus shell game.

Whose fault?

Americans or Zarqawi?

Let's make this VERY simple again because you simply don't know how to argue -- still waiting for a single counter-claim.

You choose one.

1. Americans.
2. Zarqawi.

Choose 1. or 2.

Just type 1. or 2.

Can you do that? Just use your index finger if it isn't being used right now.

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#6/14/2004 09:10:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey

I am leaving every single one of your comments up and not deleting any of them. You are free to carry on disgracing yourself if you so desire.

 
#6/14/2004 03:35:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Type 1. or 2.

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BTW, your writing is filled with comma splices. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to pick up a basic-writing text of some kind.

>If you think you can do a better job counting war casualties, then start up your own project, I doubt you have the research background to do it.

>"one last time"? don't make me laugh, you can't help yourself, you'd carry on till you kark.

>it's a war, people die from it, Iraq Body Count counts the deaths that are related to the war.

>wake up and smell the coffee Jeffrey, declaring and going to war isn't about casting rose petals about.

All of these examples have separate clauses fused together with commas -- called comma splices. It's just bad English. Also, in written English, capital letters have an important function. You're not e.e. cummings. It's not cute. Again, it's just bad, lazy English. If you were a college freshman, your compositions would be handed back until you learned how to use a period at the end of a sentence. It is NOT a stylistic matter.

And you still have not made ANY rebuttal. I'm not even asking you to articulate a supported response anymore. Just type 1. or 2.

Amazing. First time anyone challenges you on your blog and you simply freeze up. I guess debate isn't your strong point. Well, writing itself isn't either. Exactly what do you do for a living?

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#6/15/2004 05:18:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey

You discredit yourself more with every comment you post on this thread. But, as i said before, if you want to continue making yourself look bad, i'm not stopping you.

 
#6/15/2004 07:33:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

1. or 2.

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#6/15/2004 07:56:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Jeffrey

Lets just agree to disagree on this one, you are obviously firm in your opinion, and I certainly am quite firm in mine.

Lets throw no more dirt at each other.

You keep your ideas, I'll keep mine. Then we can move on with respect for one another.

How does that sound?

Virtual handshake?

 
#6/19/2004 07:23:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Jeffrey

Emigre,

Fair enough.

*grasp* *shake*

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#6/20/2004 03:44:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

i hope that is only my hand you are grasping and shaking Jeffrey!

now, lets move on from this old thread.

 

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