Sunday, September 16, 2007

United for Peace and Some Justice?

Do the number killed matter?

In any event, natural or human created, does the body count matter?

We're under the impression it does.

But United for Peace & Justice posted a report by Phyllis Bennis and Eric Leaver that indicates the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war doesn't matter.

The authors of the report offer a low and high estimate. They haven't done their own count so they have to depend on outside sources. For the low they go with Iraqi Body Count which Bully Boy cited so it has the US government stamp of approval apparently. For the high? In interviews United for Peace & Justice has cited the study published by The Lancet, [PDF format warning] "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey," for the 'high' figure in Bennis and Leaver's "Iraq: The Peoples Report."

On CounterSpin last Friday (which echoed the points Ruth and C.I. didn't need weeks to make about how the Democrats do have the power to end the illegal war), co-author Bennis appeared. She was part of an interview that lasted half and hour and, surprisingly, neither she nor the co-hosts (Janine Jackson and Steve Rendall) felt the need to mention the number of Iraqis killed.

So we'll assume the report relied, as United for Peace & Justice spokespeople have said, on the report published by The Lancet. The problem? The report Bennis and Leaver authored says "600,000 plus." The study found: ""We estimate that as of July 2006, there have been 654 965 (392979-942636) which corresponds to 2-5% of the population in the study area." 654,965. Not "600,000." And that count stopped in July of 2006. So to offer "600,000 plus" in September 2007 is just flat out cowardly or ignorant.

Just Foreign Policy takes The Lancet study and adds reported deaths to it (reported since the study). [ERROR: We were wrong. To find out about JFP's count, you can click on their link or click on "Correction & Update" or "Roundtable." The update -- September 23rd -- also notes that UPFJ has decided to use the JFP count.] ]They passed the one million mark some time ago. And Friday, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported on a new estimate done by England's Opinion Research Business which used sampling to estimate that the number of Iraqis killed during the illegal war was 1.2 million.

Now the first question is rather obvious: In a 'report' written in September 2007, why would you lowball figures that stopped in July 2006?

The second question? For an author who spoke on CounterSpin about a "huge disconnect" and "no sense of history," why would such an author be willing to demonstrate a "huge disconnect" and "no sense of history" (or proportion) in a study they co-authored?

Over six hundred thousand (600,000) dead Iraqis are disappeared by Bennis and Leaver's use of "600,000 plus". Is that Peace & Justice?

We don't see it as such. We are opposed to undercounts whether they come from the government, the mainstream media or alternative voices.

Throughout the broadcast, no mention was made of the number of Iraqis who had died. Rather ironic since, in the headline commentary at the top of the program, the hosts made the point -- re: New York Times' coverage -- that some "deaths matter more than other" in the mainstream and complained that a columnist at The Washington Post "can't even get the numbers right" in their headlines. It may be some kind of bravery for CounterSpin to hold the mainstream media up to set of standards but it would be reality for them to apply the same standard to their guests.

As to the report itself, maybe Phyllis Bennis just isn't very well informed. We burst out laughing during one section of the interview (except C.I. who was grimacing at the stupidity of the comment). Noting that General David Petreaus' reports last week used charts and that the charts had figures on them as well as Bully Boy's desire to brag about the number of 'terrorists' killed in Iraq, Bennis declared:

Now apparently they're making body counts. So nobody has asked them, "Excuse me, general, when did you start doing body counts?" From the beginning you told us 'We don't do bodycounts.' When did that [tracking the number of Iraqis killed] begin? When do these figures start from?

Are you laughing? We did too. That question has been asked and answered.

Where was Phyllis Bennis? Playing the Red Cross of the commentator set. Like everyone else in the summer of 2006, she was dropping Iraq.

This is the author of a report on Iraq? Someone who doesn't even know the basics. C.I. says Sabrina Tavernise was the first to mention ("that I know of") a bodycount kept by the US. (Tavernise is with The New York Times. C.I. isn't participating in the writing of this feature nor is Ava.) We don't judge that article very important. The summer of 2006 was when Bennis' question was answered.

But she had dropped Iraq like all our other 'brave' voices in independent media.

Phyllis Bennis, have you heard of Nancy A. Youssef? When Iraq fell off the radar (and only Molly Ivins and Jimmy Breslin called it out), All Things Media Big and Small ignored the revelations in Youssef's article. Youssef reports for McClatchy Newspapers. It was still Knight-Ridder then. She was interviewing the US military and the figures were being held and referred to but she was not allowed to see them. She did find out that the official story is the US military had been keeping track of deaths since July 2005.

"July 2005." That is the answer to Bennis' question and it was asked by Nancy A. Youssef.

"Nobody has asked them," declared Bennis with all the self-assurance and lack of facts it requires to state "over 600,000 plus" Iraqis have died in the illegal war.

It wasn't a good week for Bennis.

And we're done with United for Peace & Some Justice. They posted the report by Bennis and Leaver, they promoted the report in interviews. We don't expect a peace group to undercount the dead. The report gives a "low" and a "high" figure. The "high" figure is off by the hundreds of thousands. United for Peace & Some Justice hasn't apologized or corrected the report. They have, according to e-mails from our readers, ignored complaints made to them about this. "We'll get back to you soon" or some such nonsense is the "reply" but a real reply never comes.

No report should rely on year old figures without noting it and no report from a peace group should undercount the dead.

Apparently only some lives have "value," as CounterSpin might say.

In the on the money (and hilarious) "2006: The Year of Living Dumbly," C.I. concluded, "All of the above added up to make 2006, for independent media, The Year of Living Dumbly. I would say that there's no way 2007 could be worse but I'm afraid some would eagerly accept that as a challenge." Phyllis Bennis seems to have accepted the challenge.
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