[eDebate] ans Korcok

solistus at mac.com solistus
Wed Aug 8 02:45:38 CDT 2007

I just got to Cali for the "vacation" part of my summer vacation, so  
I'm gonna skip the big evidence debate and the malgor sidenote  
(although I would love to comment on your "I respect democracy unless  
the other guys win" arg).

You accuse me of letting ideology taint my numbers.  How is including  
these atrocities in the average less ideological than excluding  
them?  Obviously, both of us have an argumentative incentive to  
manipulate the number, but how is yours a more objective or honest  
standard than mine?

Your discussion of the Lancet study isn't relevant, since I'm not  
using those numbers.  All of the sources I cited in my analysis were  
either yours or IraqBodyCount, which you indicated approval of.   
Their methodology is publicly declared and pretty scientific.

You admit that you don't have evidence that anything similar to Anfal  
or the Marsh Arab massacre would have happened.  These incidents came  
at or around the Iraq/Iran war and GW1.  Do you have any evidence, or  
even any arguments as to why such things would be likely to happen  
without an outside influence such as a war?  If not, it seems  
reasonable to separate the period around these conflicts from  
"peacetime Saddam era" Iraq.

Your only answer to "Anfal is related to Iraq/Iran war" is that it  
doesn't make sense to you.  That sounds like EXACTLY the sort of  
ideological tainting of the evidence that you criticised.  When  
there's a questionable distinction to be drawn, you rely on your gut  
feeling rather than any rational argument as to how we should carry  
out this analysis.

Yes, some years they only killed 10,000 people whereas others they  
annihilated the Marsh Arabs.  My point is that it seems much more  
objectively likely that the 4 1/2 years of our invasion would have  
been closer to the 10,000 years than the Marsh Arab years.  This is  
based on placing the Marsh Arab campaign and other atrocities in a  
historical context, and realising that that context was no longer  
applicable when we invaded.

When discussing the "downward trend in the bloodbath," you again rely  
on arguments about what you personally are predisposed to believe  
rather than anything grounded in evidence or even warranted analytic  
arguments.  You say it seems removing the sanctions would reverse  
this, and it's likely the Sons would follow in Saddam's bloody  
footsteps.  You provide evidence for neither claim.  It seems like  
including outlier years in your data set requires more burden of  
proof than what you think might have happened.

Even if your claims are true, on what basis do you assume the Anfal/ 
Marsh Arabs numbers would be indicative of the Uday/Qussay or post- 
sanctions lifting massacre?  It seems that any numbers that you could  
reasonably claim to be accurate would have to be based on analysis of  
a specific potential scenario, not taking numbers from other  
atrocities and assuming that they would be similar.  Also, since we  
apparently don't get to claim any offence off a lift sanctions  
counterplan, aren't we assuming the sanctions would remain in place  
anyway?  And when exactly did you expect Saddam would have died?  And  
why do you assume his sons would be able to maintain power?

If you halve your number, from 50,000 to 25,000, the invasion would  
be ahead by about 50,000 after the IraqBodyCount numbers.  That's not  
including deaths not directly attributed to US deaths (see below for  
more source discussion).  50,000 theoretical deaths would have to  
match up against all the deaths caused by other parties (I think you  
attributed "the majority" of deaths in Iraq to suicide bombers in an  
earlier post when criticising leftist notions of blame, so I guess  
more than 70,000?) and the humanitarian crisis (in case you forgot  
about it, which you seem to have, that's 8 million homeless and  
without food, water, power, medicine, etc.).  That doesn't sound like  
it's "ahead" to me.  Halving your number doesn't really make much  
sense, though, so I guess it's irrelevant.

Actually, I found the "vast majority" claim you made:

MK: "the LA Times and others last week estimated about 50,000 total  
Iraqi casualties since March 2003, the vast majority because of  
terrorist attacks"

That total is substantially below the mutually agreed upon  
IraqBodyCount number, which explicitly excludes terrorist attacks.   
But for the moment, let's give you a big favour and assume that all  
the deaths the LA times "missed" were counted in the IraqBodyCount  
(i.e., that they didn't also "miss" some terrorist or insurgent  
caused deaths).  If the "vast majority" is just 2/3, that's another  
33,333.3... deaths.  That seems absurdly low for 4 years of violent  
conflict, but even if we run with it, we're at 20-25,000 per year  
dead (when we add the IraqBodyCount total) due to the invasion, on  
top of the humanitarian crisis, etc.

If, instead of doing you that big favour, we believe the LA Times  
that the vast majority of deaths in Iraq were caused by terrorists,  
and take IraqBodyCount as an accurate representation of deaths not  
caused by terrorists, we need more than 70,000 (enough more that this  
second amount would be the vast majority of the total).  If we stick  
with our "vast majority is 2/3" standard (which seems pretty  
conservative for 'vast'), that means we need to add another 140,000  
deaths.  Guess what?  We're up to right around your total, WITH all  
the disputed numbers still included.  So either the LA Times is wrong  
and terrorist killings are not the vast majority of deaths in Iraq,  
or the source you agreed was accurate before isn't so acceptable now  
(which would pretty clearly prove that ideology is tainting your  
NPOV), or... the invasion was bad.  So, are you wrong, a hypocrite,  
or have we killed more Iraqis than the terrorists?

To your Traffic comment, I can only point to my above claims that you  
are far more guilty of ideological tainting than anyone else in this  
debate.  You literally justified all your answers by appealing to  
your personal beliefs on the matter.  My analysis was based on a  
rational argument (we should be trying to figure out how many deaths  
Saddam would have caused from 2003-present day, not how many he  
caused in the early 90's).

You admit that your Marsh Arabs number is a guesstimate.  Let's stick  
to evidenced claims, as you asked for, kay?

My 200,000 estimate IS BASED ON YOUR NUMBERS!  That's what's left  
from YOUR total if we exclude Anfal, Marsh Arabs, etc.  I didn't  
manipulate shit.

On IraqBodyCount, you said "They only count those who died directly  
because of a terrorist attackm insurgency action, or US actions,  
true."  NO!  They ONLY count US and coalition actions.  They DO NOT  
distinction is huge.  IIRC, the Lancet study claimed to count all  
deaths, which is part of why the number was so much higher.  But I'll  
accept that that study was bunk, so whatever.  The fact remains that  
IraqBodyCount specifically looks only for deaths caused by coalition  
action.  I'm not sure how your comment about how you didn't count  
deaths from poor infrastructure under Saddam is "the other side of  
the equation for this argument."  The argument is about the fact that  
the 70,000 figure doesn't include one single suicide bomber attack.   
If you can find a credible source, feel free to count deaths due to  
infrastructure under Saddam, but that will lead us down a slippery  
slope to counting all deaths in both countries, including natural  
causes.  IraqBodyCount is looking only at infrastructure deaths  
directly resulting from coalition military action against  
infrastructure targets.  Most, if not all of these deaths would not  
have happened if the Saddam era infrastructure was still in place.

As for the death rate/infant mortality debate, you still haven't  
answered my argument about the infrastructure collapse.  Your stats  
say the life expectancy has gone up to 69.31 from 67.4, a gain of  
1.91 years.  If that 69.31 drops by less than 3%, it will be back  
below pre-invasion levels.  So, all I have to win is that 1/3 of the  
population being homeless with no food, water, electricity or  
medicine will lower the life expectancy rate by 3%.  Some simple  
math: if 1/3 of the population lives 9% shorter, this will cause a 3%  
drop in the overall life expectancy rate (remember, life expectancy  
is based on mortality rates).  So, if living in those conditions  
causes a 10% drop in average lifespan, the life expectancy rate will  
drop right back down.  I won't even go into other issues, like lots  
of young people fleeing the country and messing with the numbers,  
because I don't think I need to.

A quick Google search reveals that a health study in the US saw a 20  
year drop in life expectancy among the homeless.


Now, the US has a life expectancy of 78 years.  We'll round this drop  
down to 25%.  That's almost three times the number I need, before  
even taking into account lack of drinking water, food, shelter, and  
basic medical care, which at least a sizeable percentage of the US  
homeless population enjoy.  I don't have time to look for a more  
directly applicable study; perhaps I will later, if you still dispute  
(or neglect to answer) the claim that the current crisis will cause a  
drop in life expectancy.  Also, I still have to wonder how we can get  
accurate mortality statistics in a country in such chaos.  Does your  
source give a margin of error or discuss methodology?  If the numbers  
are only coming from the Green Zone and other US-controlled areas,  
that would be kinda problematic.  Your 3% gain is only relevant if  
this source is extremely accurate; if accurate data isn't available  
for well over 90% of the population, this gain is highly suspect.

Also, you haven't answered my utilitarian calculus args about the  
humanitarian crisis, even before considering future mortality  
increases it may cause.  How many lives reduced to homelessness and  
starvation is equivalent to a single death?  If this question sounds  
appalling to you, well, that's why I hate utilitarianism.  From a  
utilitarian framework, death being the 'biggest impact' doesn't mean  
it outweighs everything else by several orders of magnitude.

We're agreed that your numbers (200,000 - 750,000 depending on which  
incidents are included) should be weighed against IraqBodyCount +  
insurgent/terrorist-caused deaths, and that the total death rates can  
be measured by life expectancy (which is a convenient aggragate of  
infant mortality, adult mortality, and every other age group's  
mortality), right?

So, to sum up:

Debate 1:

1) Your numbers are still ideological bullshit.  There is no  
warranted justification for including the events immediately  
following GW1.  Questions of US culpability in Iraq/Iran and GW1  
aside, there is no reason to believe that the death tolls from Anfar  
or the Marsh Arab campaign would be likely to have recurred from  
March 2003 - August 2007.  Your only attempts at justifying these  
claims were appeals to your personal beliefs and hypotheticals with  
many, many unwarranted claims (lifting sanctions -> ? -> ? -> ... ->  
another mass murder campaign, saddam's death -> ? -> uday and qussay  
taking control -> ? -> ? -> ... -> another mass murder campaign).

2) The IraqBodyCount numbers explicitly exclude all deaths not  
directly linked to coalition military action.  I even quoted their  
methodology for you.  I extrapolated some starting points for the  
number of non-coalition-caused deaths from the LA Times article you  
were discussing a while back.  I admit that this is not the best way  
to go about this analysis, so if you have a solid source on terrorist/ 
insurgent-caused deaths in Iraq post-invasion, please share.

Debate 2:

1) The humanitarian crisis you haven't touched on much (at all?) will  
almost certainly more than erase the 1.91 year gain you claim.

2) a 3% gain on a statistic that requires knowledge of every death  
and the age of the deceased to be perfectly accurate in a country  
where we only control 40% of the capital is really sketchy.  It's not  
even clear there is a gain now for the crisis to erase.

Relevant to both debates:

1) You haven't answered the utilitarian calculus question: how many  
people left homeless and without food, water, medicine, etc. is equal  
to 1 death?  It would have to be hundreds for the body count margins  
you claim to outweigh the crisis.

A reasonable analysis of either of those comparisons clearly shows  
that the invasion has cost lives.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but  
blowing the shit out of a country actually kills people.

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