Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life In Iraq Before and After The Invasion

One of the major points of contention over Iraq is whether the war has improved the standard of living for the average citizen. Obviously there is much more freedom now than under the previous dictatorial regime of Saddam, and Iraq is a fledgling democracy. Being able to vote however does not provide people with food, jobs or services. A comparison of aggregate statistics from before and after the 2003 invasion actually shows a mixed bag of results for Iraq.

In the 1970s Iraq was a developing country with an increasing standard of living. Health and education were both up. Iraq instituted a mandatory primary education system, and worked on adult literacy. People from around the Arab world went to Iraq to get a college education. Infant mortality and diseases also declined. This expansion was fueled by the growth in oil prices in the 1970s. In the 1980s Saddam decided to go to war with Iran, the first of many poor foreign policy decisions, which placed a tremendous burden upon Iraq's economy, and began a steady decline in the country. The invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War, and the international sanctions in the 1990s had an even more devastating affect upon daily life. One U.N. study found that living standards dropped 2/3 from 1988 to 1995 as a result. By the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003 Iraq was in a sorry state. The looting that took place immediately after the overthrow of Saddam along with a slow reconstruction effort appeared to make things worse. In the last couple years however, parts of Iraq's economy and services have begun to recover and grow.

Per Capita Gross Domestic Product

The rising oil prices in the 1970s boosted Iraq's per capital Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 1980 it had risen to $3,812. The Iran-Iraq led to a dramatic drop to around $250. The Gulf War and sanctions brought per capita GDP down to its lowest level at $180 by 1994, after which it steadily improved. By 2002 on the eve of the war per capita GDP was up to $770. The invasion brought it down again to $570, but then it started increasing again. By 2007 it was at $2,848, and in 2008 it was approximately $3,100. The numbers show that Iraq's economy was slowly improving even before 2003, and that in recent years it has gotten much better. The 2008 per capita GDP however, is still not at the level that it was in 1980, one of the high points in Iraq's development.

Per Capita GDP

1980

$3,812

1988

approx. $3,700

1989

approx $250

1994

$180

2002

$770

2003

$570

2007

$2,848

2008

approx $3,100

Even with the improvements in the economy however, Iraq is nearly at the bottom compared to other countries in the region. When looking at purchasing power parity numbers for example, Iraq is second to last amongst 16 neighboring countries. Qatar was at the top with $58,004, Iraq was at $3,880, with only Yemen lower with $2,290.

Comparison Of Iraq's Purchasing Power Parity Figures With Other Countries In The Region

Qatar

$58,004

Kuwait

$40,826

United Arab Emirates

$29,063

Saudi Arabia

$23,928

Bahrain

$23,702

Oman

$23,654

Libya

$16,431

Iran

$11,748

Lebanon

$10,742

Algeria

$8,344

Tunisia

$7,894

Egypt

$5,689

Jordan

$5,051

Syria

$4,763

Morocco

$4,405

Iraq

$3,880

Yemen

$2,290

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in Iraq has declined since the U.S. invasion. In 1987 it was an average of 65 years. By 2006 it was down to 58.2 years. The violence in Iraq may have played a role in that, but the general poor quality of services was another major factor in this change. Again, when compared to other countries in the region, Iraq is at the bottom in this category. Iraq is also the 3rd least healthy country in the Arab world. Iraqis have a 19.4% chance of not surviving past 40 years old. Only Sudan at 26.1% and Djibouti at 28.6% were worse off.

Life Expectance In Iraq Compared To Region 2006-2008

Country

Life Expectancy

United Arab Emirates

78.3 years

Kuwait

77.3 years

Syria

73.6 years

Saudi Arabia

72.2 years

Jordan

71.9 years

Turkey

71.4 years

Iran

70.2 years

Yemen

61.5 years

Iraq

58.2 years

Infant Deaths

Care for young children was another area that improved during the 1970s and 1980s, and has since recovered to those levels. In the 1970s there were 80 deaths per 1,000 live births. That dropped to an average of 40 deaths per 1,000 births by the 1980s. In 1984 for example, there were 30 deaths per 1,000 births. Deaths of children under five also declined during this period going from 120 deaths per 1,000 children in the late 1970s to 50 deaths per 1,000 children in 1984. The sanctions imposed in the 1990s however led to Iraq's health system falling apart. In 1990, the year of the Kuwait invasion, there were 50 deaths per 1,000 live births, which then doubled to 101 deaths per 1,000 live births by 1999. Fatalities for young children also increased from 62 deaths for children under 5 per 1,000 to 122 per 1,000 in 1999. These two areas have improved since 2003 up to what they were during the 1980s. In 2006 there were 35 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 41 deaths of children under 5 per 1,000. Again, despite the better numbers, Iraq is still worse off compared to other Arab countries. In Kuwait there are 11 deaths per 1,000 live births and 26 deaths per 1,000 live births in Saudi Arabia and Jordan in 2006.

Infant Mortality Rate/Under 5 Mortality Rate In Iraq per 1,000


Infant Mortality Rate

Under 5 Mortality Rate

1984-1989

30

50

1990-1994

50

62

1999

101

122

2004

32

40

2006

35

41

2006 Infant Mortality Rates Iraq Compared to Arab Countries

Country

Infant Mortality Rate

Kuwait

11 per 1,000

Syria

15 per 1,000

Saudi Arabia

26 per 1,000

Jordan

26 per 1,000

Iraq

35 per 1,000

Child Malnutrition

Other statistics for children have only slightly improved since the invasion. Child malnutrition for example is only marginally better. The rate for stunting children under five declined from 22.1% in 2000 to 21.4% in 2006. That meant 1 in every 5 Iraqi children was under nourished. Iran, Syria and Jordan did better in this category, with only Yemen at 53% doing worse. Iraqis in general largely rely upon the government's food ration system, the largest in the world. This was set up during the 1990s sanctions under the Oil For Food Program. Before the war 60% of Iraqis relied upon the rations, the same amount today.

Education
One area that has seen a big improvement since the war is education. Iraq already had a reputation for a great higher education system before its series of wars. That was largely devastated beginning in the 1980s, but schooling overall has improved since 2003. A 2006 United Nations survey found 78% of Iraqis were literate, 86% for men and 70% for women. Access to education varies across the provinces from a high of 89% in Diyala to a low of 57% in Dohuk. Overall however, this is one category where Iraq is comparable to its neighbors like Jordan where 86% have access to education, and 75% in Syria. Students in Iraq's primary, secondary, prep, colleges, and post-graduate schools have all seen increases, with only those in kindergarten going slightly down since the invasion.

Education

School Level

1995/1996

2005/2006

Kindergarten

88,000

82,000

Primary (1st-6th)

2,900,000

4,100,000

Secondary (7th-12th)

861,000

1,019,000

Prep (10th-12th)

293,000

472,000

University

233,000

353,000

Post-Graduate

8,000

15,500

Inflation

Until recently inflation was a major cause for the decline in living standards in Iraq. The inflation rate for fuel and electricity from 1996 to 2002 was 18%. After the invasion in 2005 the government ended subsidies for these two products causing the inflation rate for them to skyrocket to 71.6%. Fuel and energy expenses grew 590% from 2002 to 2005 as a result. They continued to go up 129% from 2005 to 2006. In the 1980s and 1990s an average Iraqi family spent 11% of their money on fuel and energy. That went up to 35% by 2006. In the last few years Iraq's Central Bank has gotten control of the problem, and greatly decreased inflation overall. That has improved the spending power of Iraqis.

Economy Overall
Iraq's overall economy is in some ways worse off than before the invasion. It is much more dependent upon oil now than ever before because of the decline in other sectors. Oil now accounts for roughly 70% of Iraq's GDP, while services are 22%. Industry went from 9% of GDP before the war to less than 1.5% afterward. Farming went from 35% of the GDP in the 1970s to 6.5% after 2003. Oil is also not a labor-intensive industry, and only employs about 2% of the work force. That means 98% of Iraqis are employed in businesses that only contribute around 30% of the GDP. This is the reason why the government is the largest employer in the country, because not only is it safe and steady work, but it provides one of the few opportunities in Iraq since the private sector is so small. In turn, the labor market is distorted as the government starves businesses of workers.

U.S. attempts to improve the economy have only made the situation worse. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) tried to implement free market and free trade reforms. This led to the lifting of tariffs that opened up the country to a flood of cheap imports, which caused major problems for many small businesses and farms. The CPA also cut support for Iraq's state-owned industries that accounted for 90% of industrial capacity and employed around 500,000. Eventually the CPA decided to help some of these businesses, but by then 2/3 of them had closed. Since 2007 the U.S. has tried to bring back many of these companies to very mixed results.

Conclusion

This is only a review of a few factors in the lives of average Iraqis. They can only tell so much as there are large variations from province to province, between rural and urban areas, and between classes. What the numbers provided do show is mixed living standards before and after the invasion. Per capita GDP is better now than before 2003, but not up to the level it reached in 1980. Life expectancy and child malnutrition have declined, but infant mortality is back to what it was in the 1980s. Education and inflation have both gotten better, but the economy overall is in a worse state for those looking for work. In most of those categories, Iraq also ranks at near the bottom compared to its neighbors. Those who want to argue that the U.S. intervention has improved Iraq or not can find numbers to argue both sides. What everyone can hopefully agree upon is that Iraqis deserve much better.

SOURCES

Collier, Robert, “Imports inundate Iraq under new U.S. policy,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/10/03

Cordesman, Anthony, “The Changing Situation in Iraq: A Progress Report,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 4/4/09

Fairweather, Jack, “Iraqi state enterprises warily reopen,” Financial Times, 6/16/08

Government of Iraq, “Iraq National Report on the Status of Human Development 2008,” 12/31/08

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Iraq Labour Force Analysis 2003-2008,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, January 2009

McGeary, Johanna, “Looking Beyond Saddam,” Time, 3/10/03

Reuters, “Iraq must cut food rations in 2008-trade minister,” 12/6/2007

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09

Whitelaw, Kevin, “After The Fall,” U.S. News & World Report, 12/2/02

23 comments:

Anand said...

Good summary. A big reason inflation has fallen in Iraq is the large positive supply shock from improved security.

What we don't really know is how non oil GDP has improved in 2008-2009, post the improvement in security.

I would also mention how Iraq is "throwing away" tens of billions of dollars worth of natural gas by flaring it rather than capturing it; a massive indictment of the CoR (Council of Representatives) and the GoI.

Joel Wing said...

The cut in inflation was more the work of the Central Bank pegging the dinar to the dollar than improvement in security.

Better security though has obviously improved small businesses, but as for overall GDP, I'm not so sure. The 2 year drought has devastated Iraqi farms even more than they were before, and Iraqi industry is still a mess since the CPA closed most of it down. Plus Iraq has no tariffs so the country has been flooded by cheap imports, again thanks to the CPA.

And yeah, there are all kinds of problems with the oil/natural gas industry in Iraq. They finally got production up to 2 mil bar/day in exports and oil prices are slowly creeping back up.

Anand said...

Joel, look up "positive technological shocks." This boosts potential output and reduces inflation. Improved security is a large positive technological shock.

If Iraqi industries are inefficient, is it moral to force Iraqi consumers to overpay for substandard stuff? Iraq is better off without all that waste.

The question should be how to facilitate non oil private sector business development. This is a very difficult challenge.

Joel Wing said...

I just skimmed through five articles that mentioned technological shocks and I don't think theory applies to Iraq. The articles I read were talking about first world and developing countries where technological innovations are the driving force in the economy. That is not what Iraq is. It is a technologically starved country.

2nd Iraq had very high inflation before the 2003 invasion. The situation was made worse by CPA reforms getting rid of subsidies for basic services. Also the Central Bank got control of the inflation problem in mid-2007 when there was still widespread violence in the country.

That's not to say that the fighting didn't affect the situation and the decrease in violence hasn't helped, but Iraq's battle with inflation was largely driven by other forces.

Also I don't think there's going to be any diversification of Iraq's economy in the next ten years. It is instead becoming more and more dependent upon oil for everything, which is a major problem because it doesn't require a lot of workers.

Iraq lost almost 90% of its industrial capacity when the U.S. shut down most of the state run businesses, and that's never been recovered and won't without some kind of government support which is non-existent. Farming is declining because of outdated practices, lack of planning, technology and government support. A lot of small businesses now have the space to develop because of the improvement in security, but that's just not going to provide enough jobs nor drive the economy. There is also the problem of widespread corruption.

This is actually very typical of many oil driven economies and I don't see why Iraq is going to be any different. In fact, it's worse off because it's got to make up for more than 20 years of economic decline and stagnation, largely hidden and ignored because of its oil potential.

Iraqi Mojo said...

Great post. I am amazed by how much you put into your blog! You should consider writing a book.

Bruno said...

"By 2007 it [per capita income] was at $2,848, and in 2008 it was approximately $3,100. "

Ummm ... the per capita situation is actually much worse. Let's not forget that 1980 dollars are worth WAAAAY more than 2008 dollars. The figures should be adjusted for inflation for a realistic match.

Shirin said...

Obviously there is much more freedom now than under the previous dictatorial regime of Saddam, and Iraq is a fledgling democracy."

It is not at all obvious that there is "much more freedom" now than under Saddam's regime. Women in particular would question that statement, as would gays, Christians Mandaeans, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities. In fact, now instead of one, very predictable dictator whose rules were well known and understood, there are now multiple Saddams (including the Americans), no predictability, ever-changing rules, and far, far greater threat to live, limb, and freedom than there ever was in Saddam's day.

As for the "fledgling democracy" bit, elections, even open, honest, fair elections untampered with by outside powers - something Iraqis have yet to experience - do not a democracy make.

Joel Wing said...

Iraq is a work in progress that could go either way.

I would say there is definitely more freedom than under Saddam right now. People are not afraid of the Mukhabart, their phones aren't all tapped, their internet conversations checked, the army of informers no longer exists. I think because of the post-invasion violence people tend to forget what it was like under Saddam, which was pretty much a totalitarian regime.

As for democracy, it is a process and Iraq has many problems. That being said there are the beginnings of it. There are new political parties that have emerged so it's just not the Kurds and the exile parties controlling everything. There is also a definite opposition to Maliki in the parliament, which controls the speakership for example, which is a very good development. The difficulties are still many however with the institutions, personalities rather than parties pushing politics, corruption, etc. So I think you can argue that there is more to Iraqi democracy than just elections. It's a question of whether it will continue or be subverted.

P.S. - Saddam killed at least 200,000 Kurds and Shiites in the 1980s-1990s so it's not like there wasn't mass violence under his rule.

Shirin said...

"I would say there is definitely more freedom than under Saddam right now."

I guess that depends how you define freedom. By my definition and that of the other Iraqis I know, there is anything but more freedom right now, especially for women, gays, religious and ethnic minorities, and secular Iraqis.

I do some work with Iraqi refugees in Syria, and I haven't noticed them willingly flocking back in any great numbers to enjoy the great freedom there despite the fact that many of them have run out of resources, and are in quite desperate straits. On the contrary, Iraqis are still leaving Iraq in significant numbers despite the increased difficulty of obtaining visas from other countries. I have had friends and family members leave within the last six months to a year. Others have returned, and left again. And large numbers of Iraqi refugees who are unable to stay under the radar or get residence in Jordan and Syria are desperately trying to gain admittance to other countries, including the United States, and various European countries. And I won't even go into the plight of many, many Iraqis, especially single women, and single mothers, who are allowed to go to the U.S., where they are promptly abandoned and left to their own devices. Still, they consider themselves better off anywhere but in Iraq.

Sorry, but I just can't agree with your contention that there is "obviously much more freedom". What is obvious to me is that there is overall less freedom, especially for those who do not conform to the strict "standards" of the hyper-religious groups of all kinds, not to mention the criminal groups that were empowered by the invasion and occupation.

As for Saddam's violence that is dwarfed just by what the United States has directly perpetrated. The American military managed to kill more Iraqis in just a few years than Saddam did in all his career. And Saddam's violence is rendered all but insignificant by the ancillary violence that the United States enabled there (and let us not forget that the U.S. also enabled much of Saddam's violence as well). Saddam's violence, in fact, is dwarfed by what is still going on every day in Iraq even with the much-touted "improved security".

Anand said...

"It is not at all obvious that there is "much more freedom" now than under Saddam's regime. Women in particular would question that statement, . . . Yezidis"

Maybe you are talking about 2006. Iraq is much better now. Violence in Iraq has fallen by about 95% from late 2006. Iraq is safer, freer and more prosperous than it was in the late Saddam years.

Have you heard about the night life in Iraqi cities? Why would woman be worse off? The Shia extremist militias have been dismantled by the GoI.

I am especially puzzled by your comments on Yezidis. I would argue that Yezidis (A Noah biblical religion that split off before Abraham in Noah's line), are quite a bit better off now that the great Kurd killer . . . Saddam--may he rest in Lucifer's den--is dead.

Yezidi is the ancient religion of the Kurds . . . and most Kurds honor it . . . even the ones who were converted to Islam (with force in many cases) over a millenia ago.

Iraq was very violent from 1980 on. 1980 is when Khomeini began backing the Iraqi resistance . . . sparking the great Iraqi civil war that ended in 2008.

I would give most of the credit for this improvement to the Iraqi people. Maybe you are alleging that Iraqis might be worse off because because you don't like America? Well, you can praise the Iraqis for their achievements while criticizing America for her many mistakes. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Anand said...

Shirin, 5 million Iraqis fled that demon of evil . . . that spawn of the underworld . . . Saddam the killer Hussein.

Millions of them have returned to Iraq post the fall of Saddam.

"On the contrary, Iraqis are still leaving Iraq in significant numbers despite the increased difficulty of obtaining visas from other countries. I have had friends and family members leave within the last six months to a year. Others have returned, and left again. And large numbers of Iraqi refugees who are unable to stay under the radar or get residence in Jordan and Syria are desperately trying to gain admittance to other countries, including the United States, and various European countries. And I won't even go into the plight of many, many Iraqis, especially single women, and single mothers, who are allowed to go to the U.S., where they are promptly abandoned and left to their own devices. Still, they consider themselves better off anywhere but in Iraq."

Far more exiled Iraqis are returning to Iraq than leaving it. Some Iraqis in Syria might not realize how safe Iraq is yet. Their Iraqi brothers and sisters are asking them to come home. PM Maliki has on occasion arranged transportation from Syria to Iraq.
Yes, many Sunni Arabs and Christians fled to Syria. Iraq is now safe for them to return. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi police have defeated and dismantled the sectarian Iranian backed militias. If they aren't returning . . . ask them why not, since Iraqi violence and crime is lower than in the late Saddam years.

What is your evidence that Syria and Jordan are safer than Iraq? Do you have any evidence that crime in Iraq is higher than in Jordan and Syria?

If Iraqis say they don't want to return to Iraq, ask them why. Are they Baa3thists? Remember that Iraq under Saddam was a concentration camp over a mass grave that Saddam kept filling with the bodies of dead Iraqis. This concentration camp had many collaboraters who did Saddam's dirty work. This is why I am asking if some of the people you talked to Baa3thists? Some Iraqis have told me that most or many of the refugees in Syria are Baathists.

Yes, most Iraqis hate Baa3thists, and I think you understand why.

"those who do not conform to the strict "standards" of the hyper-religious groups of all kinds," What planet do you live on? The extremists Shia backed militias have been defeated by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police. Ask Iraqis inside Iraq about social life inside Iraq.

"not to mention the criminal groups that were empowered by the invasion and occupation." Oh really? Are you an anti Iraqi racist? Many Syrians are. Maybe it is one reason Syria is so messed up. Don't worry, the new Iraqi Army is better quality than the Syrian army. One day, hopefully soon, the Iraqi Army will liberate the Syrian people from the scum who rule them now.

If you just attacked PM Maliki . . . you are some piece of work. PM Maliki is a million times better than Saddam . . . and you can tell all your Syrian friends that. PM Maliki has made Iraq strong, safe, self confident, free and successful again. He is much better than almost any of the Sunni Arab dictators. If the Syrians are lucky Maliki will bring them freedom the way he brought Iraqis freedom.

If you don't think Iraqi security has improved, you are a liar. Who do you think killed the Iraqi people? Baa3thists and Takfiri animals. The lovely neighbors including Asad, the Saudis and the Jordanians sent thousands of suicide bombers to mass murder Iraqis. They tried their best to destroy Iraq. They failed. The Iraqis smashed them. The Iraqi Army smashed them. If they come back to Iraq the Iraqis will smash them again.

It looks like some of the Iraqis you met might have been traitors to their own country and were in cahoots with the Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian plot to destroy Iraq.

Joel Wing said...

1st I don't think there's any room for name calling on this blog. I'd like to keep things civil.

2nd, Shirin, I don't think you know what Saddam did. In the Anfal campaign in the 1980s he killed around 100,000-200,000 Kurds, committed ethnic cleansing and some accused him of attempted genocide. Around 1 million Kurds were displaced.

In the 1991 uprising he killed another 100,000. About 2 million people became internally displaced or refugees.

Together that's 200,000-300,000 killed and 3 million displaced/refugees.

Since the 2003 invasion they estimate about 3-4 million displaced/refugees, and 100,000 killed.

Here are the latest U.N. numbers on refugees/displaced and returns:
http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2009/08/latest-return-statistics-for-iraqi.html

Here are estimates on Iraqis killed:
http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2009/05/iraqi-casualty-reports-in-april-2009.html

The Associated Press, Brookings Institution and Iraq Body Count all have between 100,000-110,000 killed since 2003.

If you want to bring up the Lancet report that claimed 600,000 killed that has been discredited.

According to both the U.N. and the International Organization of Migration more Iraqis are returning now than are being displaced as well.

If you said Iraq was worse off during the sectarian war then under Saddam I would've agreed with you. Public opinion polls of Iraqis even said the same. Since the end of the civil war however, a new status quo has emerged and a sense of normality has returned to many parts of the country. Opinion polls by news agencies and the U.S. show that Iraqis feel very secure within their own neighborhoods now, although suspicious of the country at large.

I'm not one to claim victory or that everything is hunky dory. In fact, if you read enough of my reports you'll find that I am very skeptical about all kinds of things within Iraq. That being said, I recognize that things have changed in the country, and on some fronts thing have gotten better, while there are still plenty of problems as well.

I suggest you look into Saddam's treatment of the Kurds and the smashing of the 1991 uprisings in the north and south.

Shirin said...

Anand, it's a funny coincidence, but over the weekend I spoke to three Iraqis. One is a family member who recently left Iraq to join his family in the UK (they left about a year ago). The second is a friend, currently living in Baghdad, and who is not sure how much longer he and his family can manage there. The third is another family member who finally succeeded in getting his family to `Amman late last year. None of them agreed with the assessment on this blog that there is "much more freedom" in Iraq now. In fact, they said if anything it was the contrary, and that there was less freedom overall.

According to friends and other contacts in Kurdistan, that area is hardly a paragon of freedom and democracy, contrary to the propaganda. Just ask anyone who has been foolish enough to criticize Mas`oud or Mama Jalal in the wrong company.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a dear Damascus friend, an Iraqi who had just arrived in the U.S. on a very hard-won student visa. He had just spent several weeks visiting his family in Baghdad, and he painted a very different picture than is presented here.

As for the Iraqi people, I have always had confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs if allowed to.

But I don't think we can have a fruitful conversation, Anand, now that you have, in your desperation, resorted to name calling and sectarian baiting. Those things do not interest me.

Shirin said...

PS Anand, despite your claim that "Sunni Arabs and Christians fled to Syria", the refugees represent a cross-section of Iraqi society, including Muslims (Sunni and Shi`a), Christians, Saba`is, and others.

And as for your remark about the Yezidis, apparently you are unaware that Yezidis have been targeted in a number of attacks?

And in light of the claims of how wonderful everything is in Kurdistan, shall we talk about abuses of Assyrians there, and some of the things that took place during the elections?

And that, I think, is pretty much all I have to say to you since you seem unwilling or unable to carry on a civil conversation.

Shirin said...

Joel, with respect, you have understated the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the American invasion and occupation by a factor of around ten. The methodology used by Iraq Body Count has proven again and again in a variety of different conflicts to produce serious undercounts, and their numbers cannot be taken seriously as a true count. Early on the people at IBC admitted that, as I recall. More accurate are studies that use epidemiological methodologies, including the one used by the Johns Hopkins/Al Mustansariya and other studies, or even the types of surveys Ra'ed Jarrar and others participated in in the early part of the occupation.

And no, the so-called "Lancet" studies have most certainly not been discredited. Quite the contrary, they are the best studies we have so far. They used a well-accepted methodology that has proven to produce reliable results. In fact, many of the very same people who were most critical of those studies, and declared their methodology "flawed" have not found any problems at all in the past when the same team of researchers have used exactly the same methodology to perform mortality studies in other conflicts. Experts in the field of epidemiology and mortality studies in conflict situations have said the studies were sound. The studies' critics have typically been people who knew nothing about the field, many of whom were clearly clueless about how statistical studies are conducted or analyzed. Could it be that politics determines whether some people find a study valid or flawed?

You are also significantly underestimating the number of Iraqis displaced as a result of the invasion and occupation. There is no way to accurately count the number of internally displaced persons, but it is surely in the millions, and the UN refugee numbers are always an undercount, as they will tell you themselves.

There are no reliable statistics for the number killed and displaced during Saddam's regime, but it is worth noting that the predicted vast numbers of mass graves never materialized.

For the record, I am very aware, and in a very personal way, of what Saddam did, about the Anfal, and how he smashed the 1991 insurgency. I am also aware in a very specific way of the part the United States played in both these, and particularly of the active part George H. W. Bush played in Saddam's viscious crushing of the insurgency. And, of course, there are the sanctions, kept in place for thirteen years only at the insistence of the United States government. Two UN humanitarian coordinators and the director of WHO in Iraq applied the term genocide to those sanctions.

I am also aware in a very personal way of what Saddam's predecessors did, and of the negative and sometimes catastrophic part the United States and other western powers have played in Iraq throughout its history.

And finally, I hope you will forgive me if I give more weight to reports from my family members and friends who are still in Iraq, or who have recently left, and to the refugees with whom I have worked, and to my own personal experience than I do to what I read on an American blog whose owner appears (though perhaps ths is unfair based on such limited exposure) to be invested in the idea that by attacking, invading, and occupying Iraq the United States has benefited the Iraqi people.

Shirin said...

PS Joel, in assessing the number of Iraqis returning it is critical to consider the reasons they are returning. A very large number of them return because they have no other choice. Either they have run completely out of money, and cannot survive anymore in the country they fled to, or they have run out their visas and are forced to leave their host country. Many, many refugees are desperately searching for another country to take them. Many of those who end up in the U.S. are simply dropped somewhere, left to work things out on their own, and end up in desperate straits.

Many are doing their best to stay under the radar knowing if they are discovered by the authorities they will be sent back to Iraq, as others have been. Large numbers of refugees in `Amman are unable to leave the city at all for fear of being stopped at checkpoints and consequently sent back to Iraq, so they are trapped in that small city.

Things are a bit less desperate in Syria. For one thing, you can travel all over Syria by car, by train, or by bus without seeing a single checkpoint or ever being asked for ID, so it's easier to stay under the radar. For another, Syria has been considerably more generous toward Iraqi refugees than Jordan has. Syrians are generally very welcoming toward Iraqis, despite the fact that the refugees have caused the cost of living, and especially the cost of housing to skyrocket.

So, the raw numbers don't half tell the story. You need to look below the surface.

Anand said...

"According to friends and other contacts in Kurdistan, that area is hardly a paragon of freedom and democracy, contrary to the propaganda. Just ask anyone who has been foolish enough to criticize Mas`oud or Mama Jalal in the wrong company." This is anti Kurdish propoganda. Many on Al Jazeera etc. are anti Kurdish racists and resort to pushing out this propaganda. Please name a single Arab country . . . a single one . . . that is freer than Kurdistan. Many nonIraqi Sunni Arabs have an inferiority complex when it comes Kurds and are jealous of them. This is why you need to discriminate regarding the information you receive.

"He had just spent several weeks visiting his family in Baghdad, and he painted a very different picture than is presented here." The Iraqis you met in Syria are not representative of all Iraqis. Why do you think they went to Syria in the first place? I have heard that most Christians go to Kurdistan versus Syria (Kurdistan being safer and nicer to Christians than Syria.) Iraqi Shia tend not to go to Syria. Most Iraqis consider Syria a dangerous enemy. Syria backed the Baa3thist and Takfiri war against the elected Iraqi government and the IA and IP that are loyal to it. Anti Shia bigotry is a huge problem among Syrians and Jordanians. Ask you Iraqi friends if what I say is true. Zeyad from "Healing Iraq" wrote about the anti Shiite bigotry of Jordanians during his visits there (I believe there were a couple in 2004 and 2005.)
"As for the Iraqi people, I have always had confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs if allowed to." I don't believe you. Did you or did you not support violent attacks against the elected Iraqi government and the IA and IP that are loyal to it? Many Syrian and Jordanian sunni Arabs supported precisely that; which is why most Iraqis consider them Iraq's enemies.

"And as for your remark about the Yezidis, apparently you are unaware that Yezidis have been targeted in a number of attacks?" Al Qaeda hit them. Who backed Al Qaeda again?

"And in light of the claims of how wonderful everything is in Kurdistan, shall we talk about abuses of Assyrians there, and some of the things that took place during the elections?" Kurdistan isn't perfect. No part of the middle east is. Many Christians moved to Kurdistan in 2003-2007 to escape the resistance. This has caused some tension between Kurds and Christians (although less tension than exists between Christians and Arabs in the rest of Iraq or the Arab world more generally.)

Joel Wing said...

Shirin,

1st the International Organization for Migration has the most extensive polling of Iraq's displaced and refugees. The number one reason why Iraqis give for returning has been the improved security. Second is improved security and difficulties where they live.

2nd, the Lancet study most assuredly has been discredited.

1st the author refused to answer basic questions about his research or turn over his work.

2nd here is a comment from Tom Ricks blog at Foreign Policy going over problems with the Lancet study.

"This is completely wrong. First of all, you can count the number of epidemiologists who work in the area of conflict mortality maybe on one hand. So it is not like some wide field, nor one that has some kind of monopoly on research in such fields. But here is a page collecting much criticism of the Lancet junk-science:
http://dissident93.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/project-censored-as-censors/
One of the links is from a report by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, run by ....epidemioligists, who say the Lancet study was wrong:
"Research by Debarati Guha-Sapir and Olivier Degomme, from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) estimates the total war-related death toll (for the period covered by Lancet 2006) at around 125,000. They reach this figure by correcting errors in the Lancet 2006 survey, and triangulating with IBC and ILCS data. http://tinyurl.com/3mlz5w"
Among many other such citations, the page also cites this paper which lays out a mountain of evidence that the Lancet study was, simply, a fraud. No wonder the authors of the Lancet study were hiding basic information about their methods from AAPOR:
http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Ethics%20and%20Data%20Integrity_8_09_08.pdf"

"epidemiologist who says the Lancet is wrong:
• Paul Spiegel, an epidemiologist at the UN, commented on IFHS (which estimated 151,000 violent deaths over the same period as Lancet 2006): “Overall, this [IFHS] is a very good study [...] What they have done that other studies have not is try to compensate for the inaccuracies and difficulties of these surveys.” He adds that “this does seem more believable to me [than Lancet 2006]“. http://tinyurl.com/53s82b
And more...
• Mark van der Laan, an authority in the field of biostatistics (and recipient of the Presidential Award of the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies) has written, with Leon de Winter, on the Lancet 2006 study:
“We conclude that it is virtually impossible to judge the value of the original data collected in the 47 clusters [of the Lancet study]. We also conclude that the estimates based upon these data are extremely unreliable and cannot stand a decent scientific evaluation.” http://tinyurl.com/4txbpw
And more...
The Journal of Peace Research Article of the Year Award has gone to Neil F. Johnson, Michael Spagat, Sean Gourley, Jukka-Pekka Onnela & Gesine Reinert for ‘Bias in Epidemiological Studies of Conflict Mortality’ (Journal of Peace Research 45(5): 653–663). http://jpr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/45/5/653
According to the jury who awarded the prize, the peer-reviewed study on msb:
…provides an important advance in the methodology for estimating the number of casualties in civil wars. The authors show convincingly that previous studies (The Lancet) which are based on a cross-street cluster-sampling algorithm (CSSA) have significantly overestimated the number of casualties in Iraq."

Anand said...

"Syrians are generally very welcoming toward Iraqis, despite the fact that the refugees have caused the cost of living, and especially the cost of housing to skyrocket." Is this because most of the Iraqis who go to Syria are Baa3thists?

Why do Shirin's Iraqis not want to return to Iraq? Who, precisely are they afraid of? If they are afraid of the Iraqi Army or Iraq Police (I don't know if this is what Shirin is subtly implying)? If so, why? Do they have a criminal record? Did some Iraqis file a false criminal case against them? What is the precisely do they fear?

Launcet was unscientific and had flawed data collection. The Iraqi Government keeps records of monthly deaths inside Iraq. Why don't you use those? the Iraqi government is certainly more trustworthy that the Sunni Arab dictatorships.

"the UN refugee numbers are always an undercount, as they will tell you themselves." Prove this. Over a million Iraqi refugees returned to Iraq following the death of Saddam. Why do you think this is? They aren't "criminal gangs" like your earlier comment implied, but patriotic sons and daughters of Iraq.

"There are no reliable statistics for the number killed and displaced during Saddam's regime, but it is worth noting that the predicted vast numbers of mass graves never materialized." Most Iraqis died in the Iraqi civil war of liberation from Saddam's tyranny 1980-2003.

"the active part George H. W. Bush played in Saddam's viscious crushing of the insurgency." Please explain, just to make sure I understand what you mean by this. My understanding is that papa Bush asked the Iraqi people to remove the demonic Saddam and the Iraqi people answered this called, rose up and tried to overthrow Saddam. Briefly they liberated most of Iraq. Later, Papa Bush betrayed the Iraqi resistance in their moment of need and stabbed them in the back by refusing to help them. This is why so many Iraqis dislike Papa Bush so much.

"And, of course, there are the sanctions, kept in place for thirteen years only at the insistence of the United States government. Two UN humanitarian coordinators and the director of WHO in Iraq applied the term genocide to those sanctions." The sanctions were UN sanctions that would be lifted if Saddam complied with 16 UNSC resolutions. Saddam purposely refused to comply with them. Saddam's mismanagement killed many Iraqis. BTW, Cuba and South Africa had sanctions too. Castro didn't let his people starve. Neither did the Africaaner white Apartheid government let their poor blacks starve . . . despite the sactions. Saddam purposely starved his people while he lived in nice palaces. I am sure your family could fill you in on this if you asked them.

"Two UN humanitarian coordinators and the director of WHO in Iraq" Both of these were chosen by Saddam. The second was a decent man. Wasn't the first found guilty of taking bribes from Saddam in the Volcker report?

All Iraqi oil revenues during sanctions when the the UN humanitarian coordinators who spent the money at their discretion. Shouldn't Iraqi suffering be blamed on the incompetence or the negative intent of two UN humanitarian coordinators? I think the first of these two coordinators was a collaborator with Saddam. The second did a lot to improve the standard of living of the Iraqi people in the late Saddam years (while openly saying what Saddam forced him to say so that Saddam would let him help the Iraqi people.)

Shirin, the sanctions were UN sanctions kept in place by the UN. Are you aware of any UN security council permanent members who said that Saddam complied with previous UN resolutions (which was a requirement to lift sanctions)? I am not.

This is a broader question. Many leftists support sanctions against most countries in the world (protectionism.) Shirin, do you oppose sanctions against countries in general, or only the sanctions against Saddam?

Joel Wing said...

Another piece critical of the Lancet study from the National Journal:

http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/index.htm

Joel Wing said...

Mass graves from Saddam's time have been found.

Burns, John, "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves," NY Times, 6/5/06

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/05/world/middleeast/05grave.html?_r=1

BBC, "Mass grave unearthed in Iraq city" 12/27/05

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4561872.stm

IraqSlogger, "Shia Uprising Mass Grave Unearthed Near Najaf," 11/20/07

http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/4930/Shia_Uprising_Mass_Grave_Unearthed_Near_Najaf

Roberts, Joel, "Another Mass Grave Unearthed In Iraq" AP, 5/16/03

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/05/15/iraq/main553979.shtml

USAID, "Iraq's Legacy of Terror - Mass Graves," 11/20/03

www.usaid.gov/iraq/pdf/iraq_mass_graves.pdf

BBC, "Babies found in Iraqi mass grave" 10/13/04

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3738368.stm

There are tons more of similar reports.

Summary of the Human Rights Watch report on the Anfal campaign "Genocide In Iraq," 1993

50,000-100,000 civilians killed
4,000 village destroyed
250 towns and village hit by WMD
1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques, 27 churches destroyed
Wiped out 90% of the Kurdish towns and villages in area attacked

Anonymous said...

UN security council permanent members who said that Saddam complied with previous UN resolutions (which was a requirement to lift sanctions)? I am not.

Joel,
Could you tell us after Six years of liberating Iraq and Freedom flourishing why same the UN security council permanent members not lifting the sanctions?

Saddam dead, so is it Iraq/Iraqi still complying with previous UN resolutions as requirement to lift sanctions?

As of your HRW figures about old 35 years under tyrant regime crimes, you should also compare in SIX years what Iraq have an lost and suffering under occupation.

May I take you to read Dr. Omar Al Kubaisy: Speech in the European Parliament, Brussels, 18 March 2009:


1-70% of its doctors have emigrated.

2-It has lost more than 5,500 of its scientists and academics, killed, imprisoned, or emigrated.

3-70% of its hospitals have minimum standard performance, below the required standards in the remnants of what is destroyed, raided, or stolen.



7- Widespread mental illness and drug addiction and the widespread growth of opium poppy plantations and opium for the first time since occupation.


15- Lack of safe potable water for more than 70% of the population and the continuing lack of electricity as well as the lack of proper sanitation.

16- The highest rates of infant and newborn mortality in the world.


17- In Iraq after the occupation:

More than five million persons displaced.

More than 4 million below poverty level.

Approximately, 2 million widows.

Five million orphans.

Insufficient food for more than eight million.

More than 400,000 detainees and prisoners.

More than 28% of the population is unemployed.




Jolel,This is a broader question. Many leftists support sanctions against most countries in the world (protectionism.)

It's not the matter of leftists, or rights, so do you support sanctions against Israel?


Joel read Carnage and despair in Iraq, 17 March 2008, I think time come to see new realities not hooked to Tyrant arena

Joel Wing said...

The U.N. sanctions on Iraq ended in May 2003. Maybe you're talking about the oil for food program or the Kuwait reparations.

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