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Iraqi Body Count Project
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A couple of weeks ago, I debunked the sloppy, atrocious methodology of the Iraqi Body Count Project.

I've since heard it mentioned on NPR, though they at least did a decent job of pointing out that it was an unscientific estimate.

And the Californian professor on Bill Maher's show invoked it as a representation of truth as well. At that time, the upper end of the estimate was 1,400 Iraqi civilians dead, and Maher posed this question to his guest, "That's three weeks of casualties, making 500 casualties a week. Wouldn't that many have died under Saddam's rule anyway? Didn't they at least die for something worthwhile?"

The professor didn't like the question. He just blathered on about American troops slaughtering and maiming, ignoring the thrust of the question.

But the thought occurred to me...with the casualties from the Iran-Iraq war, which range widely from 300,000 to 1.5 million, the genocidal campaign against the Kurds, and the disappearance of dissidents in Iraq, there are credible estimates of around 1 million deaths caused by Saddam's rule.

Let's do a little of our own specious math, shall we?

Saddam was in official power for about 24 years (though he was an executioner for the Ba'ath party for years before that). But let's constrain ourselves to deaths directly under his rule.

24 years x 52 weeks = 1,248 weeks

1,000,000 deaths / 1,248 weeks = 801.28 deaths/week

Let's round it off to an even 800, shall we? So under Saddam an average of 800, by some estimates, died per week.

All right, this sort of analysis probably doesn't hold up to scrutiny extremely well, but I did it to make a point. Statistics can be skewed for particular purposes, depending on the person wielding them and what their intent is.

The IBCP people basically have a political agenda that supercedes their desire for accuracy or truth. Mining news stories for questionable secondary sources, then reporting those numbers as anywhere close to accurate estimates of Iraqi civilians is irresponsible and dumb.

And yet I fully expect to hear more references to it in the future.

Update: Josh Chafetz has an article in the Daily Standard discussing the ICBP and the media (via Instapundit).

Update II: The Onion's take.

Reflecting on his time as Iraq's president in a pre-taped television address, Saddam Hussein expressed pride Tuesday that, despite the success of the U.S. invasion and the civilian casualties it has inflicted, he still has killed far more Iraqis than President Bush.

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