The Lancet’s 2 studies are the only to calculate mortality in Iraq with the scientific methods used in famines and natural disastersâ€”indeed, the UN and State Department have cited mortality numbers on previous conflicts from the same compiler as fact, and have acted on those results.
It is the single most important statistic regarding the illegal US
invasion and occupation of Iraq. How many Iraqis have been killed?
655,000 Iraqis killed as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
I have worked for eight months in Iraq as a journalist, witnessing the
carnage on a daily basis, visiting the morgues with bodies and body
parts piled into them, meeting family after family who had lost a loved
one, or more … Finally, we get an accurate figure that shows how
immense the scale of the long drawn carnage really is.
The first Lancet Report, published on October 29, 2004, reported that
there were 100,000 “excess” Iraqi deaths as the result of the US
invasion and occupation. (Excess deaths are the difference between
pre-invasion and post-invasion mortality rates.) Whenever I have given
public presentations about the occupation, I have invariably found
myself in a difficult position due to the lack of a more realistic and
recent figure I can cite, knowing full well that the number was grossly
higher than 100,000.
The least I could do was mention that Les Roberts, one of the authors of
that report, is known to have said this past February that the number of
Iraqi casualties could be over 300,000. And now, we know it is far
higher, which merely confirms what most Iraqis already know.
In the context of the horror stories that have reached us over the
three-plus years of the occupation, this latest figure is not nearly as
shocking as when the first Lancet report was published in October of
2004. It has been abundantly clear since then that the number of Iraqis
being killed by and because of the occupation has continued to increase
The recent survey, like the first one, was conducted by Iraqi physicians
and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg
School of Public Health. The findings are based on interviews with a
random sampling of households from across Iraq. This survey yielded the
same estimate of deaths immediately following the occupation, as the
first survey. It also found that 30% of the reported deaths are caused
by the occupation forces.
This study is the only one, other than the first study published in The
Lancet, that calculates mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. It
is a technique of “cluster sampling” also used to estimate mortality
caused by famines and after natural disasters.
The 2004 survey came under fire from pro-war critics and from the
supposedly anti-war group Iraq Body Count (IBC) which currently claims a
ridiculously low figure between 44 and 49,000 dead Iraqis. In the past,
the figure generated by IBC has been quoted by George W. Bush.
The controversial results of the first survey were backed by Bradley
Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, who was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on
January 27, 2005: “Les [Les Roberts, co-author of the first survey] has
used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology … Indeed,
the United Nations and the State Department have cited mortality numbers
compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact – and have acted
on those results. [He] has studied mortality caused by war since 1992,
having done surveys in locations including Bosnia, Congo, and Rwanda.
His three surveys in Congo for the International Rescue Committee, a
nongovernmental humanitarian organization, in which he used methods akin
to those of his Iraq study, received a great deal of attention. ‘Tony
Blair and Colin Powell have quoted those results time and time again
without any question as to the precision or validity,’ he added.”
Further underscoring the validity and authenticity of the survey
methodology are two important facts: first, that the leg work has been
conducted by eight Iraqi doctors and second, that the recent survey came
up with the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the
previous survey. Additionally, the figures are backed by official
evidence as the greater majority of deaths were substantiated by death
Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at
the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for several years, said
that the survey method is “tried and true,” and that “this is the best
estimate of mortality we have.” His view was backed by Sarah Leah
Whitson at the Human Rights Watch in New York, who testified, “We have
no reason to question the findings or the accuracy.”
Here it is worth recording that the survey’s estimate of Iraq’s
pre-invasion death rate, which was used as the baseline of the survey,
was roughly the same as the one used by both the CIA and the US Census
As in the instance of the first survey, this study found that the actual
number of dead Iraqis could in fact be higher. The fact that this study
tabulated “excess deaths” implies that these people would still be alive
if the US had not invaded their country.
While the staggeringly high number of the dead may shock some, for
others who have kept track of facts it is no great wonder that surveyors
have found a steady increase in Iraqi mortality since the invasion and a
steeper increase in the last year. This alarmingly reflects the
worsening violence which even the US military, the news media and
civilian groups have been forced to admit.
Most of what we have heard reported, prior to this survey, had been
deaths in Baghdad, with headlines like “50 Bodies Found in Baghdad” and
“Baghdad Morgue Reporting 100 Bodies per Day.” They are stories that
have failed to take into account the rest of the country, although
Baghdad is roughly 20% of the total population of Iraq. What has been
happening in the rest of the country is a question that the latest
survey answers: that there are approximately 500 unexpected violent
deaths every single day throughout Iraq.
The survey found that 87% of the deaths had occurred during the
occupation rather than during the initial invasion, and that 31% of them
were a consequence of attacks and air strikes by the coalition forces.
It was no surprise that Mr. Bush dismissed the findings of the study. He
did not consider the report credible and said that the methodology used
was “pretty well discredited.” I’m sure that the feeble-minded Mr. Bush
took a very close look at the methodology used in the study.
Last December, Bush claimed that 30,000 Iraqis had died as the result of
the invasion and occupation. When reporters asked him if he still stood
by his estimate, he said he stood by the figure that “a lot” of innocent
people have died in the conflict.
Author: Dahr Jamail
News Service: Iraq Dispatches