Saturday, January 20, 2007


Underestimating the Carnage

Jon Weiner of The Nation explains why the recent UN estimate of 34,000 Iraqis killed in 2006 is almost certainly much too low.

The first problem with the UN count is that refers only to civilians--and thus almost certainly omitted deaths of Iraqi policemen, soldiers, insurgent fighters, and members of private militias like the Badr brigade. [...] The second problem is the UN's methodology, which relied mostly on tallying official death certificates.... But many bodies found in mass graves or ditches are unidentified. And there's another problem: according to the L.A. Times, "Victims' families are all too often reluctant to claim the bodies. . . . for fear of reprisals."
So the UN estimate doesn't include all the reported deaths, and doesn't take into account the deaths that go unreported, or unrecorded. It also includes only Iraqis killed by violence. It doesn't take into account "nonviolent" causes such as disease and malnutrition, which have drastically increased because of the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. Weiner points out,
None of the reports in leading newspapers mentioned the other count of Iraqi deaths: the Johns Hopkins study reported last October in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. They estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war--600,000 from violence and 50,000 from other war-related causes.
That conclusion was almost universally rejected by politicians and the news media when it was first reported. The figure was just too appalling. But the methodology, including the sample size from which the estimate was calculated, is much sounder than the methodology the United Nations used. We must face the truth: the invasion of Iraq hasn't liberated the Iraqi people, it's decimated them.
The Lancet-Johns Hopkins numbers work out to one out of every forty Iraqis dead in less than four years.

One out of every forty.

Imagine if some entity, claiming to be "liberating" Americans, put us in a situation where we went from having a stable-if-authoritarian government to having no government at all aside from whatever warlords sprung up to fill the power vaccuum, and at the cost of nearly eight million lives in under four years.

And people wonder why the Iraqis want us out of there.
Can't recall where I read this so no link, but didn't the Lancet simply use the same techniques for estimating casualties that was used by the Pentagon? That is, until Rumsfeld told us we weren't counting anymore.
You are correct, shrimplate. I heard the authors describe their methodology and was impressed. It's very, very hard doing such work, but they checked it in several ways. The uncertainty range is large, but the lower limit is still 200,000. And the upper limit... it's frightening to even think about.

Not to mention the wounded. This is genocide, make no mistake.
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