The Media Ignore Credible Poll Revealing 1.2 Million Violent Deaths In Iraq
We Can’t Talk About Oil
Economist Alan Greenspan - former Chairman of the US Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve - writes in a single sentence of his new 531-page memoir:
A Sunday Times leader briefly waved away this curious outburst:
Asked to explain his remark, Greenspan said:
Greenspan noted that he made his "pre-emptive" economic case for war to White House officials and that one lower-level official told him: "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil." (Bob Woodward, 'Greenspan: Ouster Of Hussein Crucial For Oil Security,’ Washington Post, September 17, 2007)
Greenspan’s comment was too important to be completely ignored by the media, but far too dangerous to be seriously discussed (the three sentences from the Sunday Times, above, constitute the most in-depth discussion to appear in the UK press). We can be sure that honest and open analysis of this absolutely central issue will not be forthcoming. Indeed, Greenspan has quickly "clarified" that, in arguing that "the Iraq war is largely about oil", he of course didn’t mean that oil was the motivation for the war:
1.2 Million Iraqis Have Been Murdered
Another aspect of reality that has no place in the corporate media’s painted window was highlighted last Friday with the release (September 14) of a new report by the British polling organisation, Opinion Research Business (ORB). ORB is no dissident, anti-war outfit; it is a respected polling company that has conducted studies for customers as mainstream as the BBC and the Conservative Party.
The latest poll revealed that 1.2 million Iraqi citizens "have been murdered" since the March 2003 US-UK invasion.
In February, Les Roberts, co-author of the 2004 and 2006 Lancet reports, argued that Britain and America might by then have triggered in Iraq "an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide", in which 800,000 people were killed. (Roberts, 'Iraq's death toll is far worse than our leaders admit,' The Independent, February 14, 2007;
The key importance of the new poll is that it provides strong evidence for this claim, and strong support for the findings of the 2006 Lancet study, which reported 655,000 deaths. Roberts sent this email in response to the ORB poll:
[* MOH = Iraqi Ministry of Health] (Email to Media Lens and others, September 14, 2007)
And yet, despite its obvious significance, the ORB study has been almost entirely blanked by the US-UK media. At time of writing, four days after the findings were announced, the poll has been mentioned in just one national UK newspaper - ironically, the pro-war Observer. It has been ignored by the Guardian and the Independent.
The BBC’s Newsnight may have been alone in providing TV broadcast coverage. The programme devoted the first 28 minutes of its September 14 edition to the financial crisis at Northern Rock bank. At 28:53 anchor Gavin Esler said:
Esler’s contribution ended after 34 seconds at 29:27.
Could it be that journalists are just too ill-informed to understand the importance of the ORB study? Not according to news presenter Jon Snow, who responded to one emailer asking why Channel 4 had not covered the new study:
We are to believe, then, that highly trained professional journalists have a solid grasp of these issues - members of the public need not worry on that score! But what is so striking is that journalists consistently exhibit an inability to grasp even the basic meaning of the figures involved. Consider Esler’s comment above:
Iraq Body Count (IBC) does not at all offer a "total" figure to be compared with the Lancet and ORB studies. IBC only collects records of violent civilian deaths reported by two different (mainly Western) media sources operating in Iraq. Epidemiologists report that this type of study typically captures around 5 per cent of deaths during high levels of violence, such as exists in Iraq. By contrast, the Lancet studies provide figures for all deaths - violent and non-violent, civilian and military, reported and unreported.
The response we received from the Newsnight editor, Peter Barron, is a further case in point:
The suggestion that the Lancet reports are not based on "real data" is remarkable. It is also wrong to suggest that IBC provides a different "end of the spectrum" to the Lancet reports. Talk of a "spectrum" presupposes that the same quantity is being measured in each case. But that is simply false.
Snow also comments:
For the media to ignore the ORB study is an authentic scandal. Doubtless the failure is in part rooted in simple ignorance of its significance. If so, this amounts to a form of criminal negligence in the face of vast war crimes. But, as discussed above, structural realities continue to apply - the media system is an integrated component of a system that benefits from the subordination of people and truth to profit and power.