October 29, 2004


Study puts civilian toll in Iraq at over 100,000 (Elizabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune, October 30th, 2004)

More than 100,000 civilians have probably died as direct or indirect consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, according to a study by a research team at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The report was published on the Internet by The Lancet, the British medical journal. The figure is far higher than previous mortality estimates. Editors of the journal decided not to wait for The Lancet's normal publication date next week, but instead to place the research online Friday, apparently so it could circulate before the U.S. presidential election.

The finding is certain to generate intense controversy, since the Bush administration has not estimated civilian casualties from the conflict, and independent groups have put the number at most in the tens of thousands. [...]

In 15 of the 33 communities visited, residents reported violent deaths in the family since the conflict started in March 2003. They attributed many of those deaths to attacks by coalition forces - mostly airstrikes - and most of the reported deaths were of women and children.

The risk of violent death was 58 times higher than before the war, the researchers found.

"The fact that more than half of the deaths caused by the occupation forces were women and children is a cause for concern," the authors wrote.

The team included researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies as well as doctors from Al Mustansiriya University Medical School in Baghdad.

There is bound to be skepticism about the estimate of 100,000 excess deaths, which translates into an average of 166 excess deaths a day since the invasion. But some were not surprised. [...]

The paper is studied and scientific, reserving judgment on the politics of the Iraq conflict. But in an accompanying editorial, Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, is acerbic and to the point about its message.

"From a purely public health perspective it is clear that whatever planning did take place was grievously in error," Horton wrote. "The invasion of Iraq, the displacement of a cruel dictator and the attempt to impose a liberal democracy by force have, by themselves, been insufficient to bring peace and security to the civilian population. Democratic imperialism has led to more deaths, not fewer."

Over fifty thousand women and children have died in Iraq and nobody knew? And all the fault of the coalition? Boy, it’s a good thing they got this news out just in time. If anyone here is an expert in statistics/public health, it would be interesting to have a professional opinion as to whether the science is as noxious and distorted as the politics. (Free registration required)

Posted by Peter Burnet at October 29, 2004 4:36 PM

"The paper is studied and scientific, reserving judgment on the politics of the Iraq conflict."

Right. More "help" from across the pond.

Posted by: Nicholas Stix at October 29, 2004 6:27 PM

They're counting the victims of the terrorists?

Posted by: Steve at October 29, 2004 6:33 PM

It's already been pretty much demolished here.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 29, 2004 8:09 PM

I haven't read the original report, but like Papaya I read Chicago Boyz. The factoid I took away from those comments was that 51,000 deaths had been extrapolatd from 21 reported deaths.


Reminds me of the way Walt Kelly used to lampoon Life's circulation claims. Or, a bit earlier, and for the benefit of leftwingers (if any pass by here, which is doubtful) the size of the Chinese Nationalist Army, memorably ridiculed by Leibling in 'The Rubber Type Army'

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2004 1:11 AM

Harry --

This is what passes for science in the UK these days. Especially in the case of epidemiologists which is the approach taken here.

Last I heard they were trying to justify a cluster of one.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at October 30, 2004 9:00 AM

      This is an absolutely ridiculous "study." It's expratolated from data "clusters", with one Fallujah cluster giving rise to 40% of the "deaths."

      Add in that most of the other clusters allege only one or two deaths, and any over-reporting will seriously inflate the totals.

      But the good news is, international co-operation is thriving.  Here we see Saddam supporters working with Bush haters to spread lies.


Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge at October 30, 2004 10:56 AM

No quarreling with your main point, Bill, but those guys are from Baltimore

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2004 10:49 PM