October 28, 2005

What’s In A Number?

About a year ago, a study estimated the number of Iraqi casualties since the war began at 100,000 dead—higher than any other estimate. The study was mostly ignored. Alex Blumberg revisits that study to look at the reality behind it. In Act One he reports that not only is the study probably accurate, but it says that most of the deaths were caused by coalition forces (despite concerted efforts to avoid civilian casualties). In Act Two, we hear U.S. forces trying to cope in the aftermath of some of those deaths.


We're a nation at war, but it hardly feels like it. That contrast is especially jarring for people like Hannah Allam, who just returned home to Oklahoma after two years in Baghdad running the Knight-Ridder Newspapers bureau there. Host Ira Glass talks with Hannah and Army Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss about what it feels like to come home from a war that nobody's paying much attention to. (5 minutes)
Act One

Truth, Damn Truth, And Statistics

About a year ago, a John Hopkins University study in the British medical journal 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, and was mostly ignored. This week, 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. (The original Lancet study is online; free registration is required). (38 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 working in Iraq, and talk to Captain Gist about what things have been like since. (10 minutes)
Act Three

What Do We Do With These Numbers Anyway?

So if, in fact, 100,000 Iraqis died because of the war—and that number is a year old—what do we do with that number? It instantly brings you to all these imponderable questions about what's worth 100,000 dead. In a way, this doesn't seem like a helpful question to think about. So Ira turns to Nancy Sherman, who writes about the military and its values. She's a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and was the Distinguished Chair of Ethics at the U.S. Navy Academy. She also wrote Stoic Warriors. (3 minutes)