The Iraqi Body Count

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Adam's Apple, Jul 29, 2005.

  1. Adam's Apple

    Adam's Apple Senior Member

    Apr 25, 2004
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    Fun with Numbers
    By John Leo, U. S. News & World Report

    Isn't it awful, a friend said at dinner the other night, that 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion? When I asked where the statistic came from, he said maybe it was 8,000, but definitely somewhere between 8,000 and 100,000. That's a pretty broad spread, so I decided to do some checking.

    The 100,000 estimate is from a survey of Iraqi households conducted last year by a team of scholars from Johns Hopkins University and published in a British medical journal, the Lancet. As luck would have it, the team was anti-war, and the study was released just before the presidential election. The study's co-author called the 100,000 figure "a conservative estimate," the customary phrase attached to politically useful wild guesses. The study said, "We estimate there were 98,000 extra deaths (95 pct. CI 8,000-194,000) during the postwar period." Writing in Slate, Fred Kaplan translated that little technical phrase between the parentheses: It means that the authors are 95 percent certain that war-caused deaths totaled somewhere between 8,000 and 194,000. Kaplan's conclusions: "The math is too vague to be useful."

    Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group, Britain-based anti-war organizations, released an analysis of Iraqi civilian fatalities last week, based on their collection of media reports ( . It said 24,865 civilians had died in the first two years after the invasion, with U.S.-led forces accounting for 37 percent of the total, criminal violence 36 percent, and "antioccupation forces/insurgents" 9 percent. The Times of London dismissed the study as "an entirely arbitrary figure published by political agitators." But Michael O'Hanlon, who tracks statistics on Iraq at the Brookings Institution, says the study "is probably not far off, and it's certainly a more serious work than the Lancet report."

    The modern numbers game of war dead began with the Gulf War. Greenpeace said 15,000 Iraqi civilians died. The American Friends Service Committee/Red Crescent claimed that 300,000 civilians died. Various media assessments hovered around 1,200. Later, Foreign Policy Magazine put the civilian dead at 1,000. Unsurprisingly, the high estimates come from anti-war groups, often described in the media as "neutral and nonpartisan". A New York Times article during the Afghan war ("Flaws in U.S. Air War Left Hundred of Civilians Dead") relied heavily on Global Exchange, a hard-left, pro-Fidel Castro group blandly identified by the Times as "an American organization that has sent survey teams into Afghan villages."

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  2. zozman

    zozman Rookie

    Mar 11, 2005
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    The methodology around the Lancet article was certainly flawed, and has been rightly criticised by a lot of people who work in this field. Saying that, the article quoted doesn't recognise the differences between how data is gathered. iraqbodycount measures only civilians killed in "military" action - primarily from US airstrikes; whereas other studies have examined the wider causes of deaths, including military action and those resulting from damage to infrastructure. Nobody knows the real figure, but 100,000 dead is generally accepted as a ball-park figure by the fledgeling Iraq government, the UN and the few researchers who've been able to work in this hugely difficult area.

    The central question is whether this will cause more anti-Western feeling or whether it will be worth it in the long term. The Jury's out I think it's fair to say, although I'm sure we all hope for a brighter future for the people of Iraq.
  3. USViking

    USViking VIP Member

    Apr 23, 2005
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    Greensboro, NC USA
    Well, 24,000 does not make the US look as bad
    as 98,000, or 194,000, but it does not make us
    look good, either, with the US having caused
    37% of the total.

    30% of all deaths fell during the invasion phase,
    which I think we may assume were close to all
    caused by the US.

    This would be about 8,000 civilians killed, and that
    part is not disturbing to me, considering the size
    of the operation.

    This would leave 7% caused by the US since the end
    of the invasion, compared to 9% by the terrorists.

    I myself have been assuming all along that terrorism
    had accounted for several times the number of deaths
    as US action in this phase.

    This part of the data, if accurate, is disturbing to me,
    and leads me to believe our actions may be underpublicized
    as a cause of Iraqi civilian deaths, at least by the sources
    of news I myself rely on.

    I do not question the morality of US actions- if terrorists
    in effect use civilians as hostages and shields through immersion,
    then they are the truly responsible party,as they are ultimately
    responsible for all the continuing misery in Iraq.

    I only hope the practical consequences of damage to our image
    does not push too many of the now nearly insane over the
    threshold into the full insanity of personal commitment to terrorism.

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