Letters to the editor 

Oh the irony

Oh the irony

The funniest thing in your paper this week were the two ads on the same page, one for Carnival Cruise Lines recruiting workers and the other for the Titanic exhibit. Thanks for the laugh.

-- Dr. Robert Soloway, Decatur

Reviewing the reviewers

I love you all's paper, but your movie reviewers are horrible with their ratings, most of the time. They must be shallow-minded or just don't really pay attention to the movies they watch and then make the reviews to quit. I realize you all have deadlines; I mainly just wanted to voice my opinion because I notice this a lot and it went over the top when I saw Mel Gibson's Apocalypto get two stars (Flicks, "Killing fields," Dec. 7). It seems the reviewer was somewhat attacking Mel Gibson rather than the movie.

This isn't that serious, I just wanted to voice my opinion. Each reviewer of any magazine has his or her own voice, but I could most likely reasonably or logically argue with any reviewer and show them how their review is somewhat shallow or not well thought out (which is what I do to most people I hang around that consider movies, music, etc., "horrible" or "garbage").

In conclusion, you all have a great paper, and it's free, keep up the excellent work.

-- James Lamar, Lithonia

I'm not panicking, but...

Great piece this week (Don't Panic, "How many people have died in the Iraq war?" Dec. 7), as usual. Just two points:

1) You talked American soldiers killed, and you talked Iraqi civilians, but there's a third group that gets zero press: American civilians. Department of Defense civilians are totally under the radar. No one's counting and no one really wants to know. And civilian contractors (American or third-country) deaths are hidden one layer behind DoD-Cs. We've lost many truck drivers and security workers over there, and all of those numbers are hush-hush, top secret.

Here's one number I can throw at you: As of the end of the 2006 fiscal year (Sept. 30), the Corps of Engineers alone had lost 180 civilian security-force employees. Those are employees who primarily run escort duties for project managers, suppliers, and labor teams (as they travel from the Green Zone to project sites, or from log bases to project sites) or those who guard existing and under-construction facilities. One-eight-zero... all off the books, as far as everyone seems to be concerned.

2) With respect to the Johns Hopkins Lancet story, here's an interesting "didja notice" comment on American public discourse: (Not my original observation -- got it from a podcast of "This American Life.")

"First of all, let me tell you, when it comes to politics, I try to keep my opinions to myself, because there are too many people shouting already. But I can't bite my tongue when it comes to selective or disingenuous use of data. We're all entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts." (Thank you, Mr. Moynihan.)

So here's the observation. For starters, have you noticed that, among those attacking the Hopkins study, no one is challenging the techniques used to collect the data? The report talks at length about techniques, and anyone wanting to challenge the data can make their best effort, but all we've heard so far is "can't be right."

But the thing that gets me is this. No one seems to have any trouble believing the data that Saddam killed X number of his own citizens, or gassed Y number of people or killed Z number of Kurds? Those numbers are accepted at face value, unquestioned, because they help us out, but when a researcher and scientist come up with numbers that we don't like, we dismiss them as "not credible." Sorry, can't have it both ways.

Again, great column and great work.

-- Nicht Verstehen, Peachtree City

Shocked and appalled

I am appalled that Andisheh would show the temerity to quote and cite the Johns Hopkins/Lancet study as a basis for war casualties in Iraq, the basis of which uses 47 cluster points for a sample of 1,400 households. Ignoring the fact that using such a small cluster sampling for such a largely populated country, the numbers ignore numerous other issues with a 650,000 death count laid at the feet of the United States. They are (I'm quoting Iraq Body Count, hardly a Coalition source):

-- An average of a 1,000 Iraqis violently killed every day in the first half of 2006, with "less than a tenth being noticed by any public surveillance mechanism."

-- Of 800,000 wounded people in the past two years, "less than a tenth received any kind of hospital treatment."

-- More than 7 percent of the male population killed; 10 percent in central region.

-- Half a million death certificates were issued to families but not officially recorded.

-- The Coalition has killed far more people in the last year than in the invasion and Falluja-type operations of earlier years.

"In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy."

The count of 655,000 in 40 months works out to 16,375 per month -- where are these people? Where are these deaths? Are there that many skirmishes and gun battles on a daily basis that the casualties exceed WWII levels where whole formations of U.S. and British bombers were carpet bombing areas of France or Germany in preparation for ground attacks? Look up the battles around Caen, Operation Epsom and the like for background, but I think you'll find that a 16,000 deaths-per-month average is an entirely untenable number for Iraq.

The Lancet study also states that the number of deaths since September 2004 is 550,000. That's 277,500 excessive deaths per year, or 23,125 excessive deaths per month or 771 excessive deaths per day. Where are these casualties and people being buried?

Statements to the effect of 650,000 deaths based on such a small study with such limited sources borders on utter falsification that credible scientific sources should not reproduce nor publish in what is supposed to be a peer-reviewed journal.

For a journalist to cite it as a credible answer to "how many" makes me question your base motives entirely.

-- Ryan Gill, Decatur

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