Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Estimate puts Iraqi death toll over 600,000

The death toll in Iraq has climbed to over 600,000 since the beginning of the US-led invasion, according to a survey released by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The survey findings were published today's online edition of the The Lancet, according to

The methodology behind the survey is currently being debated; President Bush has said that he does not find the report to be credible.

``I don't consider it a credible report; neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials,'' Bush said when asked about the study at a White House news conference. The study's methodology is ``pretty well discredited,'' he said.

The survey collectors visited 47 randomly selected areas and interviewed over 12,000 particpants to find the numbers of births and deaths for each household during a specified time period. The numbers were then multiplied to represent Iraq's total population of 26 million. For more on the survey methods, see Bloomberg's report and this Chicago Tribune article.

Many of us are taken aback at the total put forth in this survey. Could this estimate really be close to the mark, or is there a serious flaw in this style of statistical survey? Are the Lancet studies politically motivated to put out such shocking figures at election times, as some have suggested?

We have been getting reports of civilian deaths in Iraq numbering in the tens of thousands over the past year or so. This in itself is highly tragic and horrifying, especially given the ridiculous rationalizations for going to war that were bandied about before and after the fact.

I think it's time we took our heads up out of the sand and start paying attention to this war and the suffering that has occured in its wake. I really don't know how many people were even alert to the fact that an estimated 30,000-50,000 civilians were killed in Iraq since the invasion began. Will an estimate that increases the death toll by a factor of ten or more wake people up?