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On 'Mortal Exit Polling' In Iraq

With the War on Terror, many guage the threat level of certain aspects by considering the 'things that keep you up at night.' The sad (and infuriating) truth is that the source of such 'midnight oil generators' is often not from the enemy (jihadists and those who support them), but rather from the sizable segment of the West that is fueled by self-loathing and nihilism. Last night was one such instance, prompted by an MIT-sponsored and Johns Hopkins University 'overseen' 'scientific study' of Iraqi casualties since the 2003 invasion. The study would have the world believe that somehow the global media has overlooked 655,000 “excess” Iraqi deaths (that's over 500 per day unnoticed) as a result of the US invasion. The Washington Post's promoting of the study – touted widely this morning as both scientific and accurate – was logically debunked in the overnight hours in Mortal 'Exit Polling' Touted As Scientific.

There are several points made in the angry rebuttal offered at MilBlogs, but chief among them questions the randomness of the sampling and the geographic locations chosen by the "eight Iraqi physicians organized through Mustansiriya University in Baghdad." Even dismissing the fact that many at the Mustansiriya University have had an axe to grind with the US government since the formation of the initial Provisional Government before the Iraqi elections, there is much to question about the randomness and geocentric nature of the polling.

From a sample of "1,849 randomly selected households," we are to believe a number like 655,000? Stunning boldness rivaling that of the Zarqawi himself.

And 90% of those asked had death certificates? Where were they randomly polling, at the morgue itself? Who issues Iraqi death certificates? And now we are getting somewhere... Who knows more about Iraqi deaths (from which to potentially 'randomly sample' families)? Perhaps "eight Iraqi physicians organized through Mustansiriya University in Baghdad"? A Baghdad university would select doctors from which city? Perhaps the most dangerous one in Iraq? To where might they venture out to 'randomly sample'? In a dangerous country, there is comfort in familiarity...even if it is Baghdad.

‘Random sampling’ in and around Baghdad (and other high-intensity combat zones) in a ‘mortal exit poll’ and then extrapolating the findings across the whole of the Iraqi population is fundamentally flawed and false. It would be parallel to entering Rahway State Prison and determining that 30% of the inmates committed murder, concluding therefore that 30% of the American public are murderers (an equally fictitious figure of approximately 100 million).

Unlike Mortal 'Exit Polling' Touted As Scientific, which is hardly restrained in it’s angry passion, Rick Moran takes a look at the ‘study’ in A Most Ghoulish Debate with a more reserved tone but an effective look back at similarly debunked body counts attempted and proffered by the group in question.

But why is the study politically motivated?

This is the same crew whose 2004 study showing 100,000 Iraqi dead was thoroughly debunked by a wide variety of experts from both sides of the debate.

His is an excellent debunking as he goes on to reference their past studies as well as make similar observations to those found in Mortal 'Exit Polling'.

But the War on Terror is as much an Information War as one of physical combat, as Greyhawk clearly illustrates at the Mudville Gazette in al-Qaeda's 'Working Paper for a Media Invasion of America'.

Najd al-Rawi, the document's author, begins by noting that although they've been successful in many ways, the jihaddists haven't fully exploited the opportunities presented by the US media. Inspired by a video from bin Laden addressing the American people with subtitles in English, the author notes that "It seemed the Shayk wanted to send a clear message to his brother mujahadeen to pay more attention to this part of the mission." He points out that videos from the "Shayks of jihad" are in great demand in the western media.

So too, apparently, are ‘Mortal Exit Poll’ reports. Consider the rapid reaction and propagation:

Yet buried deep within the reports above – if mentioned at all – is the admitted fact that the Iraqi body count figure was ‘scientifically’ extrapolated from a total Mortal Exit Poll result of 629 reported deaths, of which only 547 occurred after the invasion. From that we are to arrive at 655,000?

MIT and Johns Hopkins should be ashamed. This is not science.


The AP is reporting:

More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in the capital in September amid a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks, an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry.

Neither month (September or August) being remotely near the number required to make 500 seem fathomable.

---The AP is reporting:

More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in the capital in September amid a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks, an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry.

Neither month (September or August) being remotely near the number required to make 500 seem fathomable.

Listen, [*] that's 100 per day (civilians only), ONLY in the capitol city, the MOST PROTECTED city, the ONLY city with press coverage. 90% of the area if Iraq is no in control of the United States, there is zero reports coming from those areas.

And to the author of this blog: [*].

You obviously have no clue how science functions.

I suggest you actually read the [*] study.

[* denotes edits.]

Jesse - your comments were edited as they language was inappropriate.

Moreover - your comment does not prove your point.

Iraq's population is estimaged at just under 27 million. 7 million are estimated to live in Baghdad. 100 dead a day in Baghdad does not equate to 500 dead a day across Iraq unless you believe (as you apparently do) that Iraq is more dangerous or equally dangerous throughout the nation when compared to Baghdad.

Baghdad is at this point the most dangerous part of the country (for civilians) and as the study focused on civilians (or 'excess') deaths that is what we are discussing.

If you truly believe that Baghdad represents all of Iraq (in terms of carnage) then each month would have had to have been more deadly than this month to achieve the numbers reported. As the AP piece noted. This month was more deadly by 400 in Baghdad than last month.

My prior comment should have said 'Neither month (September or August) being remotely near the number required to make 500 per day seem fathomable.' And it still doesn't.


Here's the long and short of the whole mess:

From the empirical data set of 547 responses of death since March 2003, the conclusion reached was 655,000. That's not science, that's magic.

Here's why.

What happens to the 547 number (once achieved) is a matter of computer programming, reduced down to simple Boolean algebra at it's most basic level.

But achieving the 547 number in the first place was accomplished through the human-conducted poll, with respondants presumably chosen at random by human beings with direct knowledge of deaths and families of the dead by profession.

Furthermore, the equations plugged into the calculations later performed are based on human judgements as well.

The only scientific portion of this report are the functions and calculations being performed on the original 547 number.

But how that number was reached and choosing which variables to apply to it is subjective human input.

I understand science.

I also understand garbage.

Getting from a presumably accurate 547 to 655,000 is not a matter of science. It's a matter of faith.

50,000 or 500,000 killed----what the diff?! The important thing to remember is that those Iraqis are dying for democracy and there is no greater sacrifice than to give one's life for democracy or for someone to do it for you----just ask George Bush. Under Hussein's regime when you were killed it was murder; under the US intervention, when you are killed it is liberation----now isn't that better than arguing about the number of Iraqis killed.

The difference, Blackspeare, is 450,000. Just me, but I'm guessing that the 450,000 would more prefer to be alive than dead.

Your argument is somewhat opaque, though, and I'm not quite sure what your point is.

Re Jesse and similar trolls, they indict themselves with their language. As Marvin pointed out, he seems to think that Baghdad is representative of the whole country, which shows that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Steve's right, the whole thing is a political attempt to influence the elections.