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Another Take on Death Toll Among Iraqis

Posted on Jan 9, 2008
Iraq death toll
AP photo / Hadi Mizban

Iraqi soldiers tend to the dead after a suicide attack disrupted an Army Day celebration in Baghdad’s Karradah neighborhood last Sunday.

The tragic task of tallying the number of Iraqis who have been killed in the war has been attempted by various parties with vastly different results, largely because of built-in logistical issues, and now the WHO’s health ministry has released its own figures while acknowledging the impossibility of precision.


One of the biggest surveys so far of Iraqis who have died violently since the US-led invasion of 2003 has put the figure at about 151,000.

This is about a quarter of the figure given in a disputed Lancet article, but nearly three times higher than that of the Iraq Body Count campaigning group.

The result is based on interviews with over 9,000 families across Iraq carried out by the health ministry for the WHO.

The survey says more than half of all violent deaths were in Baghdad.

The World Health Organization study looks only at the period from March 2003 until June 2006.

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By sdemetri, January 11, 2008 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

I haven’t seen the WHO study yet, but the difference in the results of the two studies could be based on the questions asked. The Lancet/MIT/Johns Hopkins study looked not at only who died as a result of violence, but at causes that would not have happened except for our invasion, inability to obtain medical help, medications, etc. I could be all wet here, but I am not a skeptic of that work.

The methodology of the Lancet, MIT, Johns Hopkins study of mortality in a war zone is very valid. The chief science advisor to the British prime minister told Blair to be very careful disputing the study as it IS the best method for estimating mortality in a war zone.

Iraqi physicians under the direction of Johns Hopkins researchers interviewed over 12,000 Iraqis, in 1849 families, across the country. When those who suffered family losses were asked for death certificates—about 87% of those interviewed were asked—9 out of 10 produced a death certificate. With 5.5 deaths per 1000 in the 14 months prior to the invasion, a number both the CIA and the US Census Bureau numbers closely agree with, the rate jumps to 13.3 deaths per 1000 per year after the invasion. The differences between the pre- and post-invasion numbers were used to estimate the final figure.

The following endorsements came immediately after publication of the report, but received less press than the criticisms of the study. The British Ministry of Defense’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Roy Anderson, called the work “robust,” close to “best practice,” and “balanced.” His recommendation to the British government was to act with “caution in publicly criticizing the study.” Even the prime minister’s advisor was forced to conclude that the methodology could not be disputed, “it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.” An epidemiologist at Columbia University, with many years at the Centers for Disease Control, Ronald Waldman called the survey method “tried and true.” He added, “this is the best estimate of mortality we have.” Finally, scientists at the UK’s Department for International Development also concluded that the methodology used was “tried and tested.” They went even further to state that the approach used in the Hopkins study might actually lead to an “underestimation of mortality.”

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By heavyrunner, January 10, 2008 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

If 1,000,000 people have died as a result of the American air strikes and other bombings and violence in Iraq since March of 2003, and 500,000 died, mostly elderly and children, due to the sanctions imposed during the Clinton years, we have killed 1.5 million Iraqis.  Since there are only about 26 million Iraqis, total and there are 300 million Americans, you have to multiply by 12 to get an equivalent effect.

12 x 1.5 = 18.  So our violence against that country is like 18 million Americans killed. 

3,000 people were killed in the U.S. on 9/11/2001.  While Iraq had nothing to do with those events, I think it is a useful comparison to relate the fact that we have inflicted death on that small, yet oil rich country the equivalent of 6000 9/11s.

That is a 9/11 a day for over 16 years.

To argue that there is some sort of justice in a reduced level of violence in Iraq is like Himmler bragging about a reduction in poison gas costs at Auschwitz when the camp population numbers fell.

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