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October 14, 2006

The Lancet and the Ideology

Filed under: Opinion, Politics, UK — limewoody @ 1:44 pm

I could bring together the themes of the last two posts by saying that none of the British quality papers in their coverage of the latest Lancet study has mentioned that one of the authors, Les Roberts, recently ran for Congress as a Democrat. Until he dropped out of the race in May, he was one of the candidates in New York State’s 24th congressional district. Here is his position paper on Iraq and here’s an interview with him for a website supporting the left wing of the Democratic party called That’s my Congress. Here’s another interview, this time with Socialist Worker Online.

Three of the authors of the two general studies of casualties in Iraq (Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta and Gilbert Burnham) are also the authors of The Role of Small Arms during the 2003-2004 Conflict in Iraq. It was produced by the Small Arms Survey. The Survey is a gun control organisation “dedicated to documenting the effects of small arms on social well-being and public health throughout the globe.”

From the various links above, I think we can get a picture of Les Robert’s politics. He is a transnational progressive.

His politics do not mean that his figures are wrong. [ADDED LATER: I think, however, that his politics make certain types of error more likely. LATER STILL: I keep not making myself clear. What I meant to say was that his politics are not in themselves a sufficient reason to suppose him wrong, although they are one factor contributing to my assessment that he is wrong.] But the fact that he, like me, is a political animal is something I wouldn’t mind knowing, and something that we would hear a lot more about if the boot were on the other foot.
To me, Les Roberts comes across as somewhat more politically congenial – or less uncongenial – than the editor of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton. In the Socialist Worker Online interview Dr Roberts doesn’t sound particularly happy about it when he says that most of the interviews he has had in America were with “marginal” left wing magazines – a bit of an “ouch” moment for Socialist Worker‘s Joseph Choonara, perhaps.
In contrast Dr Horton appeared passionately happy to be on the same stage as Galloway and friends in Manchester last month. Harry’s Place has up a couple of videos showing Dr Horton. The first was filmed at the Stop the War rally in Manchester on September 23. Horton tells the crowd:

“As this axis of Anglo-American imperialism extends its influence through war and conflict, gathering power and wealth as it goes, so millions of people are left to die in poverty and disease.”

The second video is less moonbatty – being unashamedly to the left of the Labour party is not the same as moonbattery – but I am not sure how Dr Horton reconciles

“Values and ideas are, of course, worth defending”


“We have got to avoid the suggestion that we in Britain are somehow superior, better and more civilised; that our values somehow trump the values of other societies.”

There is a paragraph near the end of the article from the Socialist Worker Online which says,

Speaking at a special lecture at London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last week, Les Roberts said that the Lancet was chosen because it was the most highly regarded medical journal in the world, with the tightest peer-review procedures.

Something tells me that another reason the Lancet was chosen was that Dr Richard Horton was its editor.



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