If you understand statistical methods

October 11, 2006

then you know that we should leave Iraq as quickly as possible

The Lancet Study (also available here, summarized here) implies this, though it does not say so plainly. It’s very likely that we’ve been the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq because of our invasion, and the death rate has been increasing, not decreasing. The statistical methodology (extrapolation from a carefully designed random sample) is sound, and the people claiming that it isn’t (for example George Bush, General Casey) are not statisticians, have a proven track record of getting it wrong even when they should know the right answers, and they have every incentive to discredit the study because it makes them look terrible. In Bush’s case, very terrible. The scientists, in contrast, were just doing their jobs. We use similar methods to count bears, birds, and butterflies. We use similar methods for cost-effective quality control in factories. We use similar methods in political polling, and I am certain that the Republican and Democratic parties use similar methods to figure out where to spend money, and how, when they try to win elections. Only an immoral ostrich could ignore this study, or so casually dismiss it.

We should leave, now. Bush blew it, badly, and all that money, and all those lives, were wasted. That’s what the numbers tell us, and if we ignore them, we’ll only waste more money and more lives. (And in the quantities that we spent, that money could have saved lives. 300 billion dollars, spent, is almost ten times as large as the total endowment for the Gates Foundation. How many lives could you save with clean water? How many lives could you save with enough bleach to be sure that needles and knives were sterile? How many houses could you spray with DDT to keep away mosquitos? How many pregnant women could get basic vitamin supplements?)

Don’t agree with me? Go read the study. It will seriously not make your day.

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