Or lancet, from the Greek for “both [ends] pointed…”

A website named “Iraq Body Count” puts the civilian death toll for the battle of Iraq at 48,783, which they argue is more than sufficient to condemn the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

IBC is absolutely opposed to the US presence in Iraq, but they display an intellectual honesty in short supply among most others of the same opinion: For example, the British medical journal The Lancet.

IBC have commented on last week’s Lancet study that alleges 655,000 deaths. The summary:

A new study has been released by the Lancet medical journal estimating over 650,000 excess deaths in Iraq. The Iraqi mortality estimates published in the Lancet in October 2006 imply, among other things, that:

1. On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms;

2. Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment;

3. Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq;

4. Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;

5. The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive “Shock and Awe” invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.

If these assertions are true, they further imply:

* incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began;

* bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis;

* the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas;

* an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.

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.

The mistake IBC makes here is accepting the idea that The Lancet cared about the science even 10% as much as they cared about trading their reputation for a headline.