When the new Lancet study came out estimating excess Iraqi deaths at 655,000 since the war began, America’s right wing knew one thing right away: it was wrong. That was certain.
Unfortunately, they then had to go to the trouble of deciding why it was wrong. And keeping an all-encompassing fantasy world functioning is hard work. Reality is a powerful and remorseless foe. So you can understand why Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review didn’t quite feel up to it. She outsourced the job to someone working on Capitol Hill who emailed her this:
The article below will be a story today, even though it shouldnâ€™t…Even Human Rights Watch said the earlier report by these same researchers was “certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting.”
Now, the Human Rights Watch part is true. Here’s the passage from an October 29, 2004 Washington Post story:
“The methods that they used are certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting,” said Marc E. Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, which investigated the number of civilian deaths that occurred during the invasion. “These numbers seem to be inflated.”
Mr. Garlasco says now that he had not read the paper at the time and calls his quote in the Post “really unfortunate.” He says he told the reporter, “I haven’t read it. I haven’t seen it. I don’t know anything about it, so I shouldn’t comment on it.” But, Mr. Garlasco continues, “like any good journalist, he got me to.”
Mr. Garlasco says he misunderstood the reporter’s description of the paper’s results.
Few reporters, apparently, understood what the study actually said. Fewer still called Garlasco after he himself had time to read it. â€œI hate the interview I did for The Washington Post,â€ he says. â€œI was on the train, I hadnâ€™t read the report yet [when the Postâ€™s reporter called for comment]. In general, Iâ€™m not as negative as that [Post] report made me seem. This is raising issues that are not heard of much in the U.S.â€
This is not incredibly difficult information to come by. If you search Google for “Garlasco Lancet Iraq” you’ll find Garlasco’s repudiation of his original statement in four out of the top five results. (The other is the original Washington Post story.)
So, you might ask: how on earth could this Capitol Hill staffer be unaware of this? I mean, wouldn’t you expect someone at the center of power would know the MOST BASIC INFORMATION about a gigantic war he helped start?
Well, you’ve obviously never constructed an all-encompassing fantasy world. It doesn’t matter if there are four pieces of evidence demonstrating the difference between your fantasy and reality. Or four hundred. Or four million. All you need is ONE piece of evidence saying that the world’s as you desire it to be. Once you’ve got that, everything else can be ignored forever.
Still, an important aspect of fantasy worlds is that it’s easier to maintain them when there are others inside with you. That way you can all swap stories about how the sky is green and rain falls up. “Did you hear?” you can say to your friend Kathryn Jean Lopez. “Even Human Rights Watch says the sky is green. And Amnesty International just admitted that rain falls up!” Then Kathryn will wander off and deliver this important information to the other fantasy world residents. Best of all, the others may eventually repeat this back to you, without you realizing you originated it. And so you will sleep well at night, certain in the knowledge the sky is green and rain falls up.
Then you will all live happily ever after, right up to the point you finally destroy America.