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New Iraq Death Toll Study

John Rentoul

464917 us troops leave iraq 300x168 New Iraq Death Toll StudyA new cluster sample survey in Iraq suggests the post-war death toll from violence might have been around 250,000, to the nearest 200,000 or so. This kind of study has been misreported before and, in the case of the two Lancet studies, discredited.

The latest one will probably be reported as estimating a death toll of 405,000 between the invasion in 2003 and 2011. In fact, its authors say that “more than 60% of excess deaths were directly attributable to violence”. The rest were “excess deaths”, compared with pre-invasion death rates, from illness and accidents.

So the central estimate is 60% of 405,000, which is 243,000.  Probability surveys of this kind produce a range of estimates. In this case, the authors say that the 95% confidence interval for excess deaths is 48,000–751,000 (it is 95% likely that the true number lies between these numbers). Which means the number of violent deaths is likely to be between 29,000 and 450,000 (assuming you can take 60% of the main estimates, which will be roughly right).

This is compatible, therefore, with the more reliable estimate from Iraq Body Count, supported by the Iraq Family Health Survey, of a death toll from violence 2003-2013 of about 170,000, of which about 50,000 were combatants.

This is, as I have said before, far too many, and the case against the invasion is strong enough not to require the wild exaggeration that is common in the murkier parts of the internet.

All previous blog posts on this subject are here.

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  • Pacificweather

    An interesting philosophical point. If two cats are let out of bags and they start to fight to what extent are those who bag and unbag cats responsible.

  • mightymark

    It is precisely what the critics of the war have accused the allies of failing to do and I am simply reproducing it here.

  • mightymark

    An even more interesting point would be who if anyone, was the “unbagger!”,

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  • John Robb

    No, critics of the war do not bemoan the failure to impose some spurious order, where order means they die quietly and the oil flows unimpeded. Critics accuse the “allies” – another quaint and loaded term – of mass murder and breaches of international law.

  • porkfright

    Some critics of the war are still waiting for the famous and notoriously elusive WMD to be found. And if not, for The Hague to begin to do its job.

  • John Robb

    ha ha ha ha, you call that a critic? Someone who writes Iraqis “naturally” feel “gratitude” to the US, and that it is “safe to assume” the coalition “intended to bring democracy” to Iraq?

    Yeah, right you are.

    Critics opposed the war, full-stop, on moral and legal grounds. You are offering here a supporter of the invasion who has some issues over strategy.

  • mightymark

    The site was devoted to criticism of the war and you will clearly try to discredit anyone who doesn’t share your narrow view requiring it seems both “moral and legal” opposition – so anyone who doesn’t do both presumably isn’t “pure” enough for you. My recollection is clear – that in the early days after the immediate “conventional” conflict and the defeat of Sadaam’’s forces, there were a number of displays of thanks to the allies. What largely put an end to that was the insurgency which many blamed, in part at least, on the disbanding of security forces. I recall that that decision was criticised at the time both by those who had broadly supported the war and those who had opposed it.

    Of course you realise that of you are right it suggests that the harder core opponents (fair description I hope?) were a bigger bunch of headbanging neanderthals than even I had thought. Lets take the contrary position and assume they supported the or were indifferent to the disbandment . Presumably it would then be fair to blame them along with Bush and Blair for the insurgency – yes or no?

  • John Robb

    You recall a number of acts of gratitude? Care to elaborate?

    It is interesting that you see those who opposed the invasion of Iraq on moral or legal grounds as “headbanging Neanderthals.” Still, better that than a bloodthirsty and unrepentant supporter of war crimes.

  • mightymark

    Happily. There were a number of scenes of co-operation and general friendliness between allied troops and ordinary Iraqis – also the pulling down of Sadaam’s statue and the hitting of it with shoes (a traditional Arab insult) which suggested they were at least grateful he was gone. Similarly the scenes outside polling stations where million went to vote for the first time. None of these would have happened had we not overthrown Sadaam. If you doubt this look at the difficulty the rebels in Syria are having getting rid of Assad – so much for the “leave them to do it thewmselves” school of thought so prominent among the anti war brigade at the time.


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