Profiles in Idiocy

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Obama Administration

Righties are pointing to two items that turned up in the recent WikiLeaks military field report dump and claiming “we wuz right.” Of course, they aren’t, but there’s no point trying to explain that to them.

But just because I can’t stand to let lies go unanswered, I’ll explain anyway.

The field notes released recently estimate 109,032 Iraqi deaths over a six-year period, including about 66,000 civilian deaths. The civilian deaths detailed in the reports were mostly from roadside bombs or sectarian violence. This caused some Aussie to note:

I’m not sure it’s what WikiLeaks intended, but its latest leaks reveal that the infamous Lancet paper which claimed the US-led liberation of Iraq cost the lives of 655,000 Iraqis in fact exaggerated the death toll by at least 600 per cent.

Of course, the Lancet study and the field notes are apples and oranges. The Lancet study was not trying to measure the number of people killed by wartime violence. It was a study of the changes in mortality rates FROM ALL CAUSES before and after the U.S. coalition invasion. ALL CAUSES included deaths from sickness, from falling off ladders while changing light bulbs, from heart attacks, from getting drunk and drowning in a bathtub, whatever.

The Lancet people took large samples and determined that the mortality rate in Iraq, expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year, had gone up from 5.5 before the invasion to 13.3 after the invasion. This was their principal finding. Again, this is ALL DEATHS, not just deaths that happened during some military action.

The point of this was not to determine how many people were being killed directly by guns and bombs, but as one way to measure quality of life before and after the invasion. And this is important, because the real impact of war is not just the direct impact of guns and bombs. It is the impact of scarcity of clean water, or baby formula, or antibiotics. It’s also the impact of the abundance of stress.

A person who died in his home of a treatable illness because the local hospital was bombed and the doctors ran away is just as much a casualty of war as the hospital personnel who died in the bombing. But the military field report would not have counted such a death; the Lancet study did.

Now, it’s possible the Lancet study was inaccurate. I’m not in a position to judge. I’m just trying to set the record straight on what the Lancet study actually, well, studied. It didn’t say what most people say it said.

Again, it was the change in the mortality rate that was significant, not an absolute number of deaths. However, some people got out their calculators and came up with a number of Iraqi deaths in the range of 650,000, a number which, for reasons explained in an old post, should not have been the focus of attention.

And that number got in the headlines, and the Right reacted with scorn and derision and declared the Lancet study bogus, because they couldn’t believe that 650,000 Iraqis had been killed by guns and bombs. And they hadn’t, and the Lancet study never said such a thing, but because righties don’t read, or think, they never bothered to understand what the Lancet study actually said. And they still don’t understand what it said.

Fred Kaplan gets it wrong also, strongly implying that the Lancet study claimed 650,000 deaths mostly from U.S. air and artillery strikes. Naughty, Fred Kaplan.

Righties are also claiming the field notes say that vast quantities of WMDs were found that we weren’t told about. However, if you actually read the article they’re all linking too — again, the reading thing always trips them up — what was actually found appears to have been mostly old and degraded mustard gas and similar stuff left over from before the Gulf War, in “relatively small stockpiles.”

Wingnuts: This is not news. Get a grip.

At one point, the article says, some troops found some old mustard gas that was still potent enough to raise a few blisters if applied to the skin. Wow. And for this we invaded Iraq.

Stuff to read: The Washington Post tried to figure out how many tea party followers there really are and what they really think. The first thing they learned is that of 1,400 or so local tea party groups that are claimed to exist, fewer than 650 could be verified. Even with the help of the parent organizations, independent research, and multiple phone calls, a majority of the groups listed on the tea party websites appear to be made of phantoms.

The groups that were found were sent questionnaires, most of which were filled out and returned. The results showed us, once again, that the Tea Party is a movement without a cause:

Seventy percent of the grass-roots groups said they have not participated in any political campaigning this year. As a whole, they have no official candidate slates, have not rallied behind any particular national leader, have little money on hand, and remain ambivalent about their goals and the political process in general. …

…The most common responses were concerns about spending and limiting the size of government, but together those were named by less than half the groups. Social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion rights, did not register as concerns.

I got a kick out of this:

One question remains: If most tea party groups don’t engage in political campaigning, what exactly do they do?

Lisante, from Miami County, Ohio, said his meetings generally start with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer, and then a speaker and a skit – the most recent was about the bank bailout. (Lisante said it was very funny.) The point, he said, is not to organize political action but to educate members and encourage them to become active on their own.

I can’t be too hard on this group, because at least they give a damn. It’s just a shame they’re never exposed to anything but right-wing propaganda.

Finally, don’t miss Ari Berman’s “Boot the Blue Dogs.”

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22 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Ken Lovell  •  Oct 24, 2010 @10:24 pm

    The Aussie in question is a kind of Glenn Beck wannabe but not so smart, writing for a tabloid newspaper in terminal decline. Being linked by a few US blogs will make his month … I’m sure even now he’s writing an email to his editor pointing out how much his ignorant rants contribute to the newspaper’s global outreach.

  2. erinyes  •  Oct 25, 2010 @5:43 am

    I remember back in the days of the Gulf War, adding up the bodies of Iraqi conscripts killed by saturation bombing the desert; the bodies laid end to end would have lined the roadside from Orlando to Jacksonville.Agory but sobering thought.
    The Gulf War pretty much destroyed Iraq’s ability to dispose of sewage properly, and destroyed Iraq’s military and ability to make clean drinking water for all.
    Dissentary and cholera outbreaks, once rare became common. Death from war takes many shapes, much like we count auto accidents during storm events as “storm related”, and count dumb asses who maim themselves with chain saws during storm clean up as storm related also.
    During the first days of Dubys’s Iraq war, I got into a verbal tuffle with a guy over the morality of the U.S. vs. Iraqis; his arguement was “they” use suicide bombers, while “we” use G.P.S. and lazed guided “smart” bombs to limit civilian deaths. I pointed out that if “close” matters in horse shoes and hand grenades, it certainly matters alot in dropping 500 lb and above bombs.
    When the S.S. Sansenina exploded across the channel from San Pedro back in the seventies, it pretty much blew out every window in town, and I felt the shock wave in Long Beach.

    I have arrived at the conclusion that our brothers and sisters on the right have a limited capacity for critical thought and imagination, and rely heavily on’ faith’ and symbolism; and of course, “Authoritah”.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 25, 2010 @7:48 am

    Sure, 66,000 is still a pretty large numer. And that’s more than the number of people we lost in either Korea, or Vietnam. But, those were our people, and these, well these people are only Iraqi’s. I mean, it’s not the same now, is it? Well, is it? And that other source for numbers came from Lancet, and what do those Limey’s know about numbers? If they knew anything about numbers, we wouldn’t have to keep bailing them out of World Wars, now would we?

    Ands for the 1,400 claimed groups, and only 650 verified, well the explanation is simple. The other 750 groups are such close followers of strict constitutional economics that they can’t be seen because they are hidden by the invisible hand of the market.

    There, I showed you Libtards what your numbers mean. Nothing! Also. Too.

  4. Chief  •  Oct 25, 2010 @9:02 am

    I live in Miami County, Ohio. Is there a link to ‘Lisante’ that I missed?

    Also, in Troy, the county seat of Miami County, last Thursday they had a Meet the Candidates night at the Jr high.

    Link to my post http://libertystreet.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/could-it-happen-maybe/

    Mr. Boehner was not present. Rumor Central has it that he, along with Dick Armey, was attending a Tea Party event in downtown Troy, maybe a half mile away.

  5. jugheadjack  •  Oct 25, 2010 @9:56 am

    Unbelievable, that after 10 years , repugs are still hoping to find weapons of mass destrution. Are they looking for reasons to justify the carnage that is still going on?

  6. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Oct 25, 2010 @11:38 am

    There was another study that came out after the Lancet paper which included similar numbers (by which I mean, within the Lancet article’s error range), with slightly different characterizations. In short, the magnitude that Lancet reported was approximately correct; there’s some question about the causes of those deaths.

    No matter how you slice it, by choosing to invade, we caused a lot of people to die.

    There’s something horrible where “mass murder” becomes perfectly acceptable if you white out the words “mass murder” and pencil in “war”. There’s something even sicker when you have defenders of the mass murder insist that it was a “just war” by philosophies they simply do not comprehend… but then turn around and blame *you* for misunderstanding when you try to claim otherwise.

    Iraq was in no way a “just war”. The people were punished for crimes they had not committed; there was no present danger, no imminent threat, and nothing but ephemeral benefits to be obtained. By the very philosophies that posited the possibility of a “just war” it could not be defended (though certainly some have tried – proof by assertion, proof by repetition, argumentum ad populum, and, of course, argumentum ad hominem were quite popular.

  7. Swami  •  Oct 25, 2010 @11:41 am

    I’ve probably got more” Chemical agents” under my kitchen sink than they found in their search for WMD’s. When we were kids we used to mix vinegar with baking soda in empty Skippy peanut butter jars and throw the in the road to make a small pop. Today making that kind of chemical reaction is considered terrorism/bomb making and is reported a making an explosive device.

    My point is that the Bush warmongers have stretched the truth to justify their actions to the point where they’ve lost credibility. A “chemical cache” could be a gallon household bleach, or a six pack of Coca Cola…neither of which can produce a mushroom cloud. And it was the mushroom clouds that took us into Iraq.

  8. SFAW  •  Oct 25, 2010 @11:42 am

    Are they looking for reasons to justify the carnage that is still going on?

    Yes.

    SATSQ.

    (Of course, they’d hit the trifecta if they could find some [new] way to claim it’s All Bill Clinton’s fault. FSM knows they’re still trying that.)

  9. SFAW  •  Oct 25, 2010 @11:46 am

    A “chemical cache” could be a gallon household bleach, or a six pack of Coca Cola…neither of which can produce a mushroom cloud.

    Not true. As soon as they find the hidden cache of Mentos …

  10. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 25, 2010 @12:01 pm

    And let’s not forget the millions of people displaced.
    My parents spent over 5 years in displaced persons camps after WWII, so they know how horrible it is to move, and to be moved, and lose all contact with family and friends – those that survived, I mean.
    Many Iraqi’s moved from cities and towns that they had lived in for generations to others far away, due to reprisals and sectarian killings. Others moved out of the country all together.
    And we, the nation that started this stupid, needless war and occupation, can’t find it in our hearts to create a meaningful policy to move those that did help us over there here to the US. But, you know, they’re mostly Muslims, so we can’t have that now, can we? To the conservative retards in this country, the only good Muslims are the 66,000 to 1,000,000 who no longer walk the Earth, but are somewhere underneath it.

  11. PunditusMaximus  •  Oct 25, 2010 @12:47 pm

    I’ve come to the conclusion that they know it’s all lies; they’ve just figured out that it’s easier to keep the hooples angry if they give them something, however flimsy, to hang it on.

  12. Swami  •  Oct 25, 2010 @12:48 pm

    LongHairedWeirdo.. Your comment hits the crux of it. The whole Iraq invasion was and is unjustifiable. I guess it’s just a waste of time trying to argue with a bunch of ignorant Righties/conservatives who can’t see the big picture..Either you get it or you don’t…and they don’t!

  13. Swami  •  Oct 25, 2010 @1:00 pm

    SFAW .. Do I have to retract my statement? I guess mixing ammonia with bleach can produce a deadly mushroom cloud also.

  14. SFAW  •  Oct 25, 2010 @2:30 pm

    Swami -
    No need to retract.

    And besides, according to my kids, I also produce “deadly mushroom clouds” of something, usually after eating 12-alarm chili, con frijoles.

  15. SFAW  •  Oct 25, 2010 @2:33 pm

    … with a bunch of ignorant Righties/conservatives who can’t see the big picture …

    Sounds like a news flash from the Department of Redundancy Department.

  16. Bonnie  •  Oct 25, 2010 @3:33 pm

    I read that the sad thing about the Iraqis who left the country is that they were the middle class, highly educated Iraqis. Thus, in any rebuilding, they have lost most of their engineers, scientists, etc. I also wonder about Riverbend, the young woman who blogged while living in Iraq during the early years of the war. Last time she wrote, her family had just arrived in Syria. I wonder what she is doing these days.

  17. anthrosciguy  •  Oct 25, 2010 @4:37 pm

    We know that weapons and explosives that were under lock and key were looted after the invasion. At one such depot nearly 380 tons of high explosives were locked up under UN seals. An embedded news crew from Seattle saw that the explosives were there, still locked up and secure when the invading US forces got to them. The UN inspectors had already reminded the US military and political command that these explosives were there and needed to be guarded, but instead of guarding them the US troops were ordered to keep moving and leave the stuff unguarded. And those explosives were then looted over the course of the next month. That’s hundreds of TONS of high explosives of exactly the sort that were then made into IEDs. That’s the kind of thing the WikiLeaks reports mention, and the fact is that this was due to the Bush administration.

  18. PurpleGirl  •  Oct 25, 2010 @8:03 pm

    Bonnie, I was just thinking of Riverbend, too, when I read Cund’s comment on the displaced. We may never know what happened to her and her family.

  19. Doug Hughes  •  Oct 25, 2010 @8:09 pm

    Of course the Iraq War was a trillion-dollar cluster flock. (as in bird-brained)

    What’s interesting is the tea-bag phenom. It’s weird because it is and it isn’t there. IMO, it’s mostly a catch-all for folks who are not democrats and are also frustrated with republicans. You will find Ron Paul libertarians who claim they are the original core of the movement (with some justification) . And disaffected evangelicals (look who tops the TP polls – Palin Beck and DeMint. But it’s a grab-bag. If you are a racist, you can join. If you think you aren’t racist – but you are SURE Obama is a Black Panther – that’s even better. Hate Mexicans? – great. Birthers – come in in. As long as you are again’ the libruls – even if you are mad at republicans – you can be a teabagger.

    IMO – the TOP people pulling the strings of the GOP will be quite satisfied if the country is split 3 ways – democrats, republicans and teabaggers (whether you go to meetings or not). If the voters split THREE ways – nothing can get done in DC. And that’s good enough. No tax reform – No cap and trade – no immigration reform – no NOTHING. Gridlock. If progress is stopped – they win. They aren’t trying to score. They win if WE CAN’T SCORE. The Tea Party ‘movement’ gives them that.

  20. Kyle  •  Oct 26, 2010 @12:43 am

    The US government has cited Lancet studies as authoritative estimates of mortality in numerous other conflict zones. And yet in Iraq they are suddenly wildly inaccurate and irresponsible. I wonder what could possibly be the difference.

  21. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 26, 2010 @7:28 am

    Unremarkably, the Teabaggers are losing whatever Libertarian influence they might have once had, and have taken to the authoritarian Conservative mindset of, ‘Anything’s ok if it pisses off the Liberals. ANYTHING!’

    And yes, I also wonder what happened to Riverbend? I’d completely forgotten about her until Bonnie and PurpleGirl mentioned her. How sad…

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