Wednesday, January 31, 2007

First do no harm...

In mid-December 2006, two of the authors of the Johns Hopkins/Lancet studies, Doctors Les Roberts and Gil Burnham, gave a briefing on their work to a bipartisan Congressional hearing on civilian casualties in Iraq, convened by Congressmen Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX).

See here for a transcript of the confronting material laid before the US people’s representatives.

It’s a longish document, but worth a read. Roberts and Burnham make a good fist of explaining the methodology and limitations of the study in everyday language. Les Roberts also makes some interesting remarks about how their results more accurately reflect reality than do other sources.

Roberts and Burnham also note that the cluster survey model is increasingly commonly used by the UN, USA and others, to measure mortality and other health issues in situations of conflict and other settings, where more conventional or direct measurement has been rendered impossible. Roberts cites Kosovo and Darfur as theatres where the method has been successfully employed. It emerges also that USAID has accepted the method as a reliable tool for measuring health effects in conflict zones.

And I quite liked these closing remarks from Congressman Ron Paul (a Republican from Texas, no less):

I’d like to thank my colleague and friend, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and his staff for their hard work in organizing this important oversight hearing, and I appreciate the opportunity to have sponsored this event along with Representative Kucinich.

As a medical doctor, I’ve spent a good part of my professional life trying to reduce pain and suffering. It is something I feel very strongly about. Various reports, including the very important Lancet study, suggest that the level of pain, and suffering, and worse, among the non-combatant population in Iraq is on a scale almost unimaginable.

While the administration has shown little interest in the extent of civilian deaths in Iraq, it is important that we in Congress treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

We need to have a better understanding of the unintended consequences of this war, not the least in the hope that in the future, Congress will take its constitutional responsibilities regarding war and declaration of war more seriously.

It is also clear we have failed to consider carefully enough our own dead and wounded in this Iraq war. Recent reports suggest that some 100,000 U.S. soldiers have been permanently disabled fighting in Iraq. We need to think of their terrible pain and suffering, and that of their families.

This pain and suffering will not end when this terrible war finally ends, it will continue for the rest of their lives. This is the tragedy of the unnecessary war — both sides suffer needlessly.

I hope this hearing, and others that hopefully will follow, mark the beginning of congressional oversight of this misguided war in Iraq that has sorely been lacking in the three-and-a-half years since the war started.

7 Comments:

Blogger CG said...

This article is BS. No way have 100k been "permanently disfigured." It's disgraceful to even post this nonsense.

1/2/07 12:56 PM  
Anonymous You worst nightmare said...

What's disgraceful is when you rebutt someone's arguement with an attack and no evidence to support it.

1/2/07 1:06 PM  
Blogger Gavin said...

Well, this study is from the Lancet. They published an article last year stating around 6-700,000 Iraqis died due to the war. I think most other studies put the number at half. I'd probably think that this "100,000" figure will be shown to be around 50,000 but most other studies.

1/2/07 2:10 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

A more careful reading of the document to which I linked might be helpful.

Gavin, the 100,000 figure is of US servicemen (not Iraqis) reportedly permanently disabled in the Iraq war, as asserted by Mr Paul citing "recent reports".

And what "other studies" are you referring to? See a previous post of mine for a discussion of available sources.

CG, what's your empirical basis for refuting the assertion of 100K permanently disabled (not "disfigured") US servicemen?

1/2/07 2:36 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Incidentally, I want to thank everyone for their interest in this post. According to SiteMeter, there have been almost 700 page views in the last 24 hours.

A majority of these have been from the USA, judging by the SiteMeter map, in which the USA lights up like a Christmas tree.

So, greetings to all our US visitors from this Australian-based blog.

I'm assuming that this interest is mainly driven by the fact that Mr Kucinich recently stepped up for the Democratic presidential nomination.

1/2/07 3:06 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Whoa! 700 hits for a single post in one day? You're a superstar Jacob!

You'll be too good for us locals soon. *Sniff*

3/2/07 1:10 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

More likely just a flash in the pan, Caz.

I was wrong anyway about the cause of this volume of traffic. Turns out that a quote from the Ron Paul extract was lifted out of my post and featured at this discussion site.

3/2/07 2:01 PM  

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