Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alex Blumberg: What's in a Number?

(In my film courses we have recently been watching contemporary documentaries, including The Ground Truth and The Road to Guantanamo, and while doing some research I came across this important story about The Lancet study about the number of deaths in Iraq as a result of the current war. Just one of the horrifying facts detailed in this report, Iraqis have begun tatooing their name/addresses on their bodies so that when they are killed someone will be notified. Via Green Cine and AlterNet.)

What's In a Number: 2006 Edition
by Alex Blumberg
This American Life (WBEZ: Chicago)

Recently, the British medical journal The Lancet published an study which updated their estimate of the number of Iraqis who've died since the U.S. invasion. With that in mind, we revisit a show we did in 2005 about the earlier study published in Lancet estimating the number of Iraqi deaths. That study was mostly ignored in the U.S. Alex Blumberg revisits the original study and looks at the new one.
Prologue. Host Ira Glass talks to ordinary Iraqis about life in their country since the U.S. invasion. Every one of them has friends and relatives – civilians – who've been killed in the violence there. (5 minutes)

Act One. Truth, Damn Truth and Statistics. Two years ago, a John Hopkins University study published in The Lancet estimated the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. It came up with a number – 100,000 dead – that was higher than any other estimate at the time, and was mostly ignored. Producer Alex Blumberg tells the remarkable story of what it took to find that number, why we should find it credible and why almost no one believed it. (36 minutes).

Act Two. Not Just a Number. Captain Ryan Gist was given a particularly tough assignment in Iraq: to build relationships with a town where U.S. bombs had killed twelve innocent people. But first he has to apologize to the families of those who were killed. We hear the apology, captured on tape by a journalist in Iraq, and talk to Captain Gist about his work there after this incident. (8 minutes)
Act Three. The War This Time. The Lancet's new study of deaths in Iraq, by the same research team that did the earlier study, yielded an astounding number – 650,000 civilian deaths. Producer Alex Blumberg talks to Ira about the debate over this new study. (6 minutes)

To Listen to the Program

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