Lancet: A Look Back


Today The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at last year's Lancet study of deaths in Iraq. That article, you may recall, concluded that "about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths."

Despite its newsworthy findings, the paper disappeared quickly from the press—and, the Chronicle notes, it ran into some unfortunate obstacles when it was discussed:

The Washington Post, perhaps most damagingly to the study's reputation, quoted Marc E. Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, as saying, "These numbers seem to be inflated."

Mr. Garlasco says now that he had not read the paper at the time and calls his quote in the Post "really unfortunate." He says he told the reporter, "I haven't read it. I haven't seen it. I don't know anything about it, so I shouldn't comment on it." But, Mr. Garlasco continues, "like any good journalist, he got me to."

Mr. Garlasco says he misunderstood the reporter's description of the paper's results. He did not understand that the paper's estimate includes deaths caused not only directly by violence but also by its offshoots: chaos leading to lack of sanitation and medical care.

You can read the Lancet paper here, and you can read a vigorous defense of it (with links to its critics) here.