Just before the 2004 election, a Johns Hopkins research study was released stating that about 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the year and a half after the invasion of Iraq. The “research” announced in 2004 was conducted by talking to about 900 Iraqi families. Based on what they said about births and deaths, the “research” estimated the death rate for Iraq to be between 8,000 and 194,000 deaths. How did they come up with the announced 98,000 deaths? Well, if you divide 194,000 by 2 and round up, you arrive at the magical number. Not surprisingly, this figure was accepted as gospel truth by people who hate President Bush and our actions in Iraq.
Roll the clock forward to another election year, and — surprise, surprise — there is another Johns Hopkins research study released, this time claiming that 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the U.S. invasion and aftermath. Here is the way Gilbert Burnham, a researcher for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, explains the methodology behind the new numbers:
Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates because we used a population-based, active method for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that depend on counting bodies or tabulated media reports of violent deaths.
So Johns Hopkins researchers do a better job because they have an “active” method of research of talking to a few people and then applying a WAG, while others use a clearly inferior and “passive” method of actually counting dead bodies and listening to news reports of dead bodies. How passé!
What do we have here? It is clear that the number this time is just as made up as the earlier number, and both announcements beg the question: where are all the bodies? If 1 out of 20 Iraqis have died violently in the last three years, why aren’t there dead bodies lying all over the place? How about this question — where’s the proof?
Since Johns Hopkins researchers feel it is fine to invent their “research” numbers, why are they releasing their guestimation now? Here’s a clue about the timing from the news report that announced the research:
The work updates an earlier Johns Hopkins study — that one was released just before the November 2005 presidential election. At the time, the lead researcher, Les Roberts of Hopkins, said the timing was deliberate. Many of the same researchers were involved in the latest estimate.
Note the part I bolded — this “research” was released just before elections in a blatant attempt to affect the vote. Because Johns Hopkins is willing to invent these numbers to influence the elections, how much are you willing to believe any other research that originates from Johns Hopkins in the future?
In closing, here is the cartoon created by Chris Muir of “Day by Day,” mocking the “research” by Johns Hopkins.
There’s only one problem with the cartoon — judging by the way the “research” from Johns Hopkins arrives just before an election, we can expect to see another report from them a month or two before the 2008 election, not in 2007.
UPDATE (10/13/2006 8:24:54 AM): And again Cox and Forkum do a wonderful job of showing the silliness of the “research.” They have some great links on their page.