Wednesday, November 24, 2004

# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAMBERT 1, OXBLOG 0 (WaPo -1): In an update to his update, Tim Lambert mischievously writes that he didn't have to rely on Google or Lexis to find the truth. He just went to the IAIS hompage, which now has an update advertising the WaPo article that covered its malnutrition study.

So much for my speculation that the WaPo had confused the new study by IAIS with a May 2003 study by UNICEF. Unfortunately, the IAIS update gives us only the most rudimentary information about its study. The update instructs the curious reader to visit this page on its site, which has been available for quite a while now and contains no new information about the study's results.

One should also note that according IAIS, the malnutrition rate for Iraqi children is 7.5% and not 7.7%, as reported in the WaPo. Presumably, those numbers are indistiguishable from a statistical perspective. I have to admit, the 7.7% figure from the WaPo made me somewhat suspicious, since it was exactly the same as the final number provided by UNICEF last year.

IAIS also writes that a 7.7% malnutrition rate translates into 216,000 Iraqi children with the condition, presumably a correction of the 400,000 figure provided by the Post. Frankly, all this presumption is rather frustrating. It would be nice if IAIS were more straightforward abot all of this.

Moving on from facts to logic, Tim is still unhappy with my explanation for why the invasion was not the probable cause of rising malnutrition in Iraq. He writes that:
I didn’t offer “just speculation”, but quoted the conclusion of the study, which found that “Seven out of 10 children reported had suffered from diarrhoea at some time during the previous 5 weeks.” Adesnik can doubt that the children got sick, but the doctors who examined them seem to think otherwise.
That last comment makes me sound like some sort of ostrich-headed Luddite, but Tim is missing the point. The question isn't whether a certain child had some diarrhoea during the invasion, but whether that child started to have diarrhoea (or whether the condition intensified) during that five week period.

I should also point out that diarrhoea is not the same as acute malnutrition, which has been the focus of our survey. As Tim notes, 70% of Iraqi children had diarrhoea. In contast, only 7.7% percent suffered from acute malnutrition. In order to show that the invasion was the primary cause of rising malnutrition, one has to show that the preponderance of the children's severe weight loss took place during the six weeks of major combat operations, rather than the preceding year or so.

Tim is a long way from proving that that is the case, but my argument rests on speculation as well, i.e. the belief that it would take more than six weeks for 100,000 children to develop acute malnutrition. (I said 200,000 in my last post, but I'm assuming that the updated IAIS figure is more accurate than the original figure from the WaPo.)

On a brighter note for OxBlog, Tim doesn't seem to challenge my assertion that the similar results of the UNICEF and IAIS studies demonstrate that the malnutrition rate has been essentially stable since the beginning of the occupation. Thus, the WaPo was still very wrong to report that malnutrition "shot up...this year".

Final score: Lambert 1, OxBlog 0, WaPo -1 (although I'm considering deducting a point from Tim's score because of his assertion that "it doesn’t seem likely that Saddam could get Unicef to cook their numbers". Saddam bribed high-ranking officials at the United Nations. In return, they allowed Saddam to steal billions and billions of dollars even though the Security Council considered him a threat to international security. Why assume that UNICEF -- a UN agency -- was any less receptive to Saddam's tempting offers?)

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