FAIR has issued an Action Alert: NPR Underreports Iraq Deaths, dealing with an NPR report by Scott Simon in which he stated:
“This coming Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. So far 3,975 U.S. service men and women have died. Estimates on the number of Iraqis killed range from 47,000 to 151,000, depending on the source.”
These numbers are, of course, silly. The 151,000 presumably comes from the recent World Health Organization/Iraqi Ministry of Health study recently reported in NEJM. FAIR speculates that th 47,000 is from Iraq Body Count, but it is their estimate of those killed as of June 2006 [In the email below I erred and said August] and is considerably higher now, around 85,000. And other studies from the Lancet and the British polling firm ORB yield far higher estimates of around one million [extrapolating the Lancet study]. Thus, the number of dead from violence is almost certainly at least 250,000 and most likely higher, perhaps far higher. NPR miserably failed its listeners, the Iraqi people, and the truth in this instance. Alas, this is far from the only time that NPR has been a vessel for propaganda supporting the war.
FAIR calls upon concerned listeners to write the NPR ombudsman and ask for an investigation. Here is my email:
I hope that you will look into the very misleading figures in the March 15 braodcast in which Scott Simon described estimates of Iraqis killed since the war began as from 47,000 to 151,000. As a researcher, I have followed this area closely. I can imagine no credible source for the 47,000 figure as Iraq Body Count (IBC, which counts those dead reported in the Western media, puts the current figure of such reported deaths as over 80,000. IBC is certainly a radical undercount given the exigencies of reporting in a war-torn country where over 100 reporters have been killed and many others kidnapped or arrested.
Further, the 151,000 figure, from the World Health Organization and Iraqi Ministry of Health, was as of August 2006, before the most intense violence.
Further, several additional studies from Johns Hopkins epidemiologists (published in the Lancet) and from the British ORB polling organization have arrived at far higher figures. Johns Hopkins estimated around 600,000 victims of violence by summer 2006 and the ORB estimated around 1,000,000 by the end of 2007.
Surely NPR listeners, as they weigh the five years of war deserve accurate information on the current state of knowledge on the true costs of that war.This Ameriacan Life has reported on the Lancet studies. Surely over reporters should as well. Much as I love Scott Simon, in this case, his report was grossly deceptive at best. The purpose of NPR is to create an informed citizenry. In this instance you failed your mission.
Please investigate and make sure that such an egregious error does not recur.
Thank you very much.
Post your email here.
March 26th, 2008