Saturday, October 30, 2004

100,000 civilians dead in Iraq

The British medical journal, The Lancet, published a study Friday which estimated that over the last year and a half, 100,000 civilians have been killed in the Iraq war. It says many of the victims were women and children who died as a result of air strikes, and that the risk of death in Iraq today is far higher than before the U.S. went into Iraq. As summarized by the New York Times, Oct. 29:

Although the authors acknowledge that data collection was difficult in what is effectively still a war zone, the data they managed to collect is extensive. Using what they described as the best sampling methods that could be applied under the circumstances, they found that Iraqis were 2.5 times more likely to die in the 17 months following the invasion than in the 14 months before it.

Before the invasion, the most common causes of death in Iraq were heart attacks, strokes and chronic diseases. Afterward, violent death was far ahead of all other causes.

"We were shocked at the magnitude but we're quite sure that the estimate of 100,000 is a conservative estimate," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins team. Dr. Burnham said the team excluded data about deaths in Falluja in making their estimate, because that city was the site of unusually intense violence.

In 15 of the 33 communities visited, residents reported violent deaths in their families since the conflict started. They attributed many of those deaths to attacks by American-led forces, mostly airstrikes, and most of those killed were women and children. The risk of violent death was 58 times higher than before the war, the researchers reported.

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

There is bound to be skepticism about the estimate of 100,000 excess deaths, since that translates into an average of 166 deaths a day since the invasion. But some people were not surprised. "I am emotionally shocked but I have no trouble in believing that this many people have been killed," said Scott Lipscomb, an associate professor at Northwestern University, who works on the project.

That project, which collates only deaths reported in the news media, currently put the maximum civilian death toll at just under 17,000. "We've always maintained that the actual count must be much higher," Mr. Lipscomb said.


There have been many reports in the media about this study, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to rise to the level of public concern in America that it deserves. If this study is correct, then it is really astounding that so many civilians in Iraq could be killed in less than two years of occupation. No one questions that Saddam was a brutal dictator, but we cannot ignore our own role in suffering and death in Iraq. Certainly the rest of the world is paying attention.


Blogger Robert said...

I think it is a side of war that some refuse to pay attention to. We plan for out deaths... we plan for the deaths of enemy soliders... how often do we plan for the deaths of civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time? It is another reason why war needs to be the last resort, after everything else has failed. The consequences for those who are innocent is simply too great.

Better be careful about using italics for quotes Steve, it might get you accused of lying. ;)

I heard this on the news last night, and I'm glad you blogged to it.

1:09 PM  

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