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Sunday, November 05, 2006


The Saddam Hussein verdict

Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death today, for his role in the death of an alleged 148 people in Dujail. George Bush is responsible for the deaths of 480,000* Iraqis at a minimum, and possible hundreds of thousands more. What fate do you suppose awaits him? What fate should await him?

*There are, of course, different ways to state the results of the latest Johns Hopkins study. Some prefer to cite the "most probable" number of 655,000 deaths. But since that number is the top of a bell curve, there is actually a 50% chance that fewer deaths than that have occured. I prefer making statements that I know to be true with 95% accuracy. Here's where it gets tricky. The Lancet paper has some very confusing aspects. The "most probable" number includes all deaths, violent and non-violent. But the only error bars that the paper quotes, 425,000 to 795,000, are for the violent deaths only. So if we take the minimum number of violent deaths (425,000), and add to that the number of non-violent deaths (estimated at 53,000), we arrive at a figure of 478,000, which I round up to 480,000. That's not a perfect number, since there are error bars on the 53,000 as well (not specified in the paper), but it's as close as we can come to a number that we "know" (with a high degree of certainty) is true. Not, as I have noted elsewhere, that it matters in some philosophical sense, or even in a legal sense. Whether George Bush is responsible for the deaths of 50,000 Iraqis or 500,000 Iraqis, the fate he deserves is the same.

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