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New study on Iraqi deaths

category international | anti-war / imperialism | other press author Wednesday October 11, 2006 13:26author by MichaelY - iawm Report this post to the editors

Figure much much higher than other estimates

A controversial new study contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war, suggesting a far higher death toll than other estimates.

The survey participants attributed about 31 percent of violent deaths to coalition forces.
Another number - another death last Tuesday
Another number - another death last Tuesday

In the new study, researchers attempt to calculate how many more Iraqis have died since March 2003 than one would expect without the war. Their conclusion, based on interviews of households and not a body count, is that about 600,000 died from violence, mostly gunfire. They also found a small increase in deaths from other causes like heart disease and cancer.

"Deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003," Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The study by Burnham, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and others is to be published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal.

The work updates an earlier Johns Hopkins study — that one was released just before the November 2004 presidential election. At the time, the lead researcher, Les Roberts of Hopkins, said the timing was deliberate. Many of the same researchers were involved in the latest estimate.

Speaking of the new study, Burnham said the estimate was much higher than others because it was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than approaches that depend on body counts or media reports. For Burnham's study, researchers gathered data from a sample of 1,849 Iraqi households with a total of 12,801 residents from late May to early July. That sample was used to extrapolate the total figure. The estimate deals with deaths up to July.

The major funder of the new study was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Related Link:
author by gavinapublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 13:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So, 500 people have died every single day since March 2003? And this 'data' was gathered by interviewing people, rather than counting bodies - an excellent way to gather data. If the Revenue Commissioners got their data using this method, I think you'd find the average wage in Ireland was €500/year.

Even estimates that the figure is around 45,000.

Tripe, if ever I heard it.

author by bootboypublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 13:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is the normal method for carrying out studies on excess deaths - it is used in epidemeology. It is considered far more accurate in estimating deaths across large populations than counting bodies or reading newspapers. It is the same methodology as is used in the DRC and other war-zones. If there was no political reason not to, it would be immediately accepted for Iraq.

Iraq body count does not measure excess deaths. It measures violent deaths that have been reported in the english speaking media.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 14:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Leaving your capacity to calculate, multiply and divide as well as your political conclusions aside (as you very well know "tripe" is mostly in the eye of the beholder), the 'Iraqi body count' site that you quote, itself, notes that its totals are based on media reports alone, which it says p r o b a b l y overlook "many if not most civilian casualties."

If you know anything about the Lancet and the MIT as well, you'd know that they're not exactly either raving anti-Bush radicals or geeks prone to wild exaggerations. They accepted the study which tells its own story.

The study is will be posted on the Lancet website day-after-tomorrow (Thursday) and we can all then go and post our queries.

Your comments reminded me a discussion I was having the other day about what the Nazis did in the Ukraine when their forces started getting pushed back by the Societ Army and the anarchist contingents. In ten days they collected, if that's the right word, over 75,000 Jews, women/men and children of all ages, and shot them all throwing them in a ravine called Babi-Yar.....according to their formal papers and reports, the soldiers doing the shooting were instructed not to use more than 2 bullets per person... economic considerations you see!! In their documents they spoke of a couple of hundred terrorists and law-breakers they had to shoot..... is there a link there you reckon?

author by gavinapublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 14:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors


I assumed that you had at least glanced at the report before you copied and pasted the article (without any attribution, but with your own funeral photo and caption thrown in). The report actually is available on the Lancet's website right now:

I was unaware I had reached a political conclusion, as I made no political statements of any kind, but thanks for letting me know what I was thinking.

I can categorically state that I am no fan of Bush or his cohorts. I like Saddam even less (not a popular view on this site, it seems), but the vast majority of media-reported deaths are attributable to Muslims killing Muslims, not coalition soldiers killing Muslims.

But what should happen now? The war can't be undone, what would you suggest are the next steps? Criticism of all things American/Western/non-Red is easy (especially when living under the umbrella of American protection), but what do you and your group suggest?

Also, I don't know what you mean by your comment, "Your comments reminded me a discussion .... they spoke of a couple of hundred terrorists and law-breakers they had to shoot..... is there a link there you reckon?"

Kindly elaborate.

author by wafflespublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 15:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For Burnham's study, researchers gathered data from a sample of 1,849 Iraqi households with a total of 12,801 residents from late May to early July

average of 7 people per household?...., sample taken during what was the worst period of violence anyhow so pessimism would be the norm. and exagaration commonplace. also does not say what areas? could be all in sadr city which seeing as it has had so many bombings would automatically be tainted

all in all a totally worthless survey and yet another waste of money

it dont say CONTROVERSIAL in it for nothing, they should replace that with pure and utter bullshit

author by sherlockpublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 15:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

All surveys have potential for error and bias. The extreme
insecurity during this survey could have introduced bias by
restricting the size of teams, the number of supervisors,
and the length of time that could be prudently spent in all
locations, which in turn affected the size and nature of
questionnaires. Further, calling back to households not
available on the initial visit was felt to be too dangerous.
Families, especially in households with combatants killed,
could have hidden deaths. Under-reporting of infant deaths
is a wide-spread concern in surveys of this type.Entire
households could have been killed, leading to a survivor
bias. The population data used for cluster selection were at
least 2 years old, and if populations subsequently migrated
from areas of high mortality to those with low mortality,
the sample might have over-represented the high-mortality

author by Musing - nonepublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 15:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

" The survey participants attributed about 31 percent of violent deaths to coalition forces."
Don' tell me that the poor oppressed muslims are killing the other 69%. Let's start an anti-war movement!!! Oooops.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 16:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors


First and foremost, the messages below mine show the resonance and response of such a report. You are being rather coy and ingenious when enquiring about your "political conclusion" call a report of this nature 'tripe' is rather conclusive and definite, don't you think?

Now to your key question: 'What is to be done' ?

My and the IAWM's views:
First and foremost the Empire must listen carefully and register the wishes of the Iraqi people, the American people, the majority of citizens in the UK and our own people here.....not to be talking of what the French, the Spanish, the Italians, the Greeks and the Germans, or the entire Muslim world and the Indians and Chinese feel about this invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.....get the hell out is the message....Spanish and Italian governments have toppled because of this contradiction between Government policy and public sentiment....the Blair Government is in bits about it and he's on his way out and as for the Bush cabal, watch what happens to them in the mid-term elections next month.
Secondly, the Irish Government must stop collaborating by allowing the use of Shannon and Baldonnel as warports. We allowed Apache helicopters go through our neutral State delivered to Israel while the Lebanese invasion was going on....the only talk about what's going on is talk about blood money and the consequence of standing firm....the Minister of Injustice and that honest Taoiseach of ours may think they've survived the winds of change....for how long?
Finally, and before you ask, the West must allow the oppressed and the poor people of this world to go through their process of maturity and political development without exporting to and imposing on them values and forms of government which have not really been that great in their watch Blair and Bush talking about WMDs and exporting justice and democracy to the natives, when butchering them incessantly, is not funny!! I hope we agree.

author by gavinapublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 19:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Tripe' refers to the method of gathering this data and the ludicrous figure of 655,000 - how you infer a political conclusion from this is beyond me. I think you're reading a bit too much into what I said with your 'coy' and 'ingenious' quip.

Rumours seem to spread like wildfire in Islamic countries (witness the famous cartoons, unseen by 99% of the rioters; and that Mossad and the CIA were behind 9/11). The same rumours become 'de facto fact' after enough circulation. To base a survey on the hyperbole of pissed-off interviewees is not only ridiculous, but dangerous in that plenty of people will believe this to be true, and will pass it off as gospel.

I was looking at the IAWM website, and the list of 'lies'. Dear God, I've never seen such support for Iran, a country whose stated aim is to destroy a neighbouring country; run my an idiotic madman who denies the Holocaust took place (and organised a cartoon competition to this effect); supporter and funder of murderers of civilans in cafes. Iran is the next Nazi Germany, how can you support them - what's your agenda? Do you actually support Iran, or do you just despise the US/UK/Israel/West and "my enemy's enemy is my friend"? For sure, the West makes mistakes, and plenty of them, but it's the only West we have. It has no superiors.

And as for Ireland's neutrality, don't get me started. All I say is, thank God you people are such fringe loonies that you'll never have any power.

author by RobbieSpublication date Wed Oct 11, 2006 23:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This methodology is used to estimate fatalities in natural disasters over a large population and large area. EXCEPT, 90% of the deaths reported actually had death certificates to verify the loss.

It would seem, though I don't know, that the survey was conducted over a geographically wide area - unlike Baghdad morgue reports which also have the disadvantage of not numbering the thousands of 'disappeared'.

Finally, re Gavitta's claims of relative impunity by coalition forces. In the US, I heard Jimmy Massey speak of firing into 'the body mass' of a crowd of people. His platoon killed over 250 that day outside the al-Rashid Hotel. None of this was reported in the media. Most of Baghdad is too dangerous for neutral journalists, let alone Iraq as a whole.

How so much energy could be expended tryin' to diss this research, is beyond me. There may be a difference between 48,000+ and 655,000, but when added to the half of a million children under the age of 5 who died as a direct result of Western-sponsored sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s (UNICEF Report), it would be a cynical person indeed, who could not care less.

To see how US invasion has doubled child mortality, see blow link

No matter what way you look at it, the invasion was a mistake, not just botched. - unless of course life doesn't mean anything anymore.

Related Link:
author by Sean A. Ryanpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 01:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Same Jimmy Massey who Claims he used DU 12.7MM Machinegun Bullets?
(Which by the way , there has Never been manufactured, so he's lying)

that Massey?

because he's been largely discredited in his own country.

author by bootboypublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 01:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The samples were randomly chosen from 45 clusters selected to be representative of the population.

To the dufuses above who are rubbishing this report - you are simply regurgitating ignorant spin.

It is simply a fact that this methodology is the scientific way of calculating excess deaths across large populations. It is used in peer-reviewed scientific studies because it has a whole heap of evidence to show that it comes up with far more accurate results than any alternative.

It is also not just a method for calculating deaths - it has the immensely practical application of tracking the spread of diseases across large populations with the aim of controlling them - the sort of thing where you notice if they get it wrong and where there's plenty of feedback to finetune the assumptions.

Also, the Lancet is one of the two top medical journals in the world. The competition for publication is intense and the peer reviewing is rigorous. The chance of getting a paper published which made any sort of basic error in its methodology is practically zero - since the people reviewing the journal would be among the world's top epimediologists

author by Dr. Schwietzer - IAPpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 05:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"In January 2006, it was revealed that data had been fabricated in an article by the cancer researcher Jon Sudbř and 13 co-authors published in The Lancet in October 2005, [1].

The fabricated article was entitled "Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of oral cancer: a nested case-control study". [2].

Within a week after this scandal surfaced in the news, the high-impact New England Journal of Medicine published an expression of editorial concern regarding another research paper published on a similar topic in the journal."

So your following statement isnt exactly true is it?

"The chance of getting a paper published which made any sort of basic error in its methodology is practically zero"

In fact the Lancet has made some questionable studies.

In this case a total of 647 Deaths were extrapolated to over 650,000. 247 of those were from Non-Violent causes, among them Cancer, Heart Attacks/Strokes, etc.

Of the 300 Violent 38 were from Car Bombs. Funnily enough I dont believe the Yanks use Car Bombs, do they?

Related Link:
author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 13:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For those of you who want to read the report, rather than comment about it, please go to:

And Redjade - thanks

As for Gavina - remember the 150,000 loonies who marched in 2003 against the plans of the Empire to invade Iraq.....the biggest demonstration of this State - ever!! And, remember my words, if the US, and its allies, like the butcher of Uzbekistan or that other blood thirsty dictator Musharaf of Pakistan decide to invade Iran....I'm afraid Gavina that there will be more of us in the streets.
As for the war becoming an election this space.

I am delighted though that your political stance comes out bit by bt every time you post a message... keep doing it dear lady.

author by liespublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 13:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the biggest demonstration of this State - ever!!

LIES, biggest antiwar demo--yes
biggest demo ever--NO CHANCE

and if the unions didnt partake you would have had about 100 people if ya were lucky!!

author by redjadepublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 14:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

go get it and judge for yourself...

FULL TEXT: New Lancet Report, Iraq 2003-2006

author by RobbieSpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 14:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So people folloow unions like sheep - or more likely, they took the trouble to make their own way into town on a Saturday afternoon for their own reasons.

Other Weirdness
Watching the authors of the report last night on BBC 2, they claim that the methodology they use is taught by the CIA itself, and that it was used to calcualte the victims of genocide in Rwanda (1994) and in the DRC (1998-2002). Trying to reduce it to 648 reported deaths is disingenuous. From this random survey, one in six households have suffered a violent death in the past three years. Shocking!

One of the authors said last night, "this is a time for contrition, not for beligerence".

The war was/is a disaster. Its architects are eejits. .Why spend so much energy trying to discredit their critics?

On Jimmy Massey
Another example of pot-shots at critic. Apart from the fact that I believe his account of the massacre outside the al-Rashid hotel (DU ammo is not part of this discussion), we all know that the media has limited access in Iraq - to state otherwise is incredible.

Apart from the more than 2,000 US soldiers (mostly from poor backgrounds) who've come back to the US in bodybags, there are the 15,000 wounded, and the countless others with mental health problems. In this state of affairs, Jimmy Massey was lucky to get an honourable discharge.

According to this survey, Allied forces are responsible for the deaths of at least 200,000 Iraqi people in three years. It is sickening that trolls would try to deflect attention away from attrocities done in our name, and from a an ill-conceived war that has been a disaster from its beginning in 1990.

author by M Cottonpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 15:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On Newsnight last night not even the US government representative could argue with the fact that the basic methodology used in this report is just about the soundest possible and has been used by the US government itself (as pointed out by Robbie above) to calucate death rates in other war regions.

His only potentially viable criticism was related to the possibility of over-sampling which Robertson (the lead researcher) proved had been as random as it could possibly be. Again, see above.

And the unanswerable point made by the Labour Party Anti-war MP in the same Newsnight discussion was that even if the report was out by 100% (which nobody is remotely claiming) that would still leave a death toll of approximately 300K - massively more than all previous official estimates. That it is now proved far more likely to be double that figure means that in just three years the death toll has been more than Saddam Hussein managed to inflict on his country throughout his entire period of office. And this slaughter is all supposed to be for the benefit of the very people being slaughtered....(shoves fist in mouth and tries to contain scream).

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 18:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Letter in the Lancet from editors of Media Lens:

New Statesman, 16 October, 2006

Letters: Counting bodies II

Susan Welles's defence of Iraq Body Count is ill-posed (Letters, 9 October). Dr Les Roberts, lead author of the 2004 Lancet study into excess Iraqi deaths, has publicly stated that he used the wrong dates in a different report for the "17 deaths per day" estimate of IBC. Crucially, he says this "does not change any conclusions", namely that the IBC count is a huge underestimation of the death toll and that it "cannot be more than 20 per cent complete".

There are standard tests that can verify the IBC's methodology. Roberts and Stan Becker, both leading epidemiologists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Richard Garfield of Columbia University say a capture-recapture analysis is needed to test IBC's study. Garfield says: "I am strongly convinced that two types of additional studies are needed to understand better the level and causes of excess deaths in Iraq" - capture-recapture analysis and a detailed descriptive analysis of death certificates. No such tests have been conducted and, to our knowledge, IBC has not been able to demonstrate support for its methods from a single professional epidemiologist.

David Cromwell and David Edwards
Co-editors, MediaLens


author by bootboypublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

quote:So your following statement isnt exactly true is it?

"The chance of getting a paper published which made any sort of basic error in its methodology is practically zero"

In fact the Lancet has made some questionable studies.

The study you cite above used perfect methodology - they just made up the data. That is impossible to discern from peer review - it does eventually show up as the experiment is not repeatable. However, you were questioning the basic methodology of epimediology, not the data - which I'm assuming that you are not questioning.

quote:In this case a total of 647 Deaths were extrapolated to over 650,000. 247 of those were from Non-Violent causes, among them Cancer, Heart Attacks/Strokes, etc.

Of the 300 Violent 38 were from Car Bombs. Funnily enough I dont believe the Yanks use Car Bombs, do they?

Oh dear, the maths is worse than the science.

For a start 647-247 = 400.

Secondly, they count non-violent deaths since they are measuring EXCESS DEATHS. That is the amount of people who have died who wouldn't have died if there hadn't been a war. This is important, because much of the deadly destruction of war is due to indirect causes - ie blowing up water treatment plants is a much more effective way of killing people than blowing them up directly.

If they only counted violent deaths in the DRC or Darfur, you'd be dealing in a few thousand.

Finally, there were no car bombs in Iraq before the invasion.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In a statement, the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) has said, the Lancet report showing the US/UK invasion of Iraq has caused 650,000 additional deaths, implicates the Irish government in the mass murder of Iraqi civilians. Bertie Ahern cannot wash his hands of responsibility for the mass killing of Iraqi civilians because of its decision to allow US troops to use Shannon airport.

Even taking into account statistical uncertainty, the deaths attributable to the invasion and occupation range between 400,000 and 900,000. The report found one in six households in Iraq had someone killed since the invasion. This is mass murder by any standard and it results directly from the US led invasion and occupation of Iraq based on lies about weapons of mass destruction.

George W Bush and his Commander in Chief in Iraq General Casey have claimed the report is not credible. But the US military has always maintained that it did not even keep count of Iraqi deaths, so it is their credibility that is in doubt not Lancet’s. Furthermore, the Lancet report used exactly the same methodology as used by the CIA when it calculated civilian deaths in Rwanda in 1994 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998-2002. If the estimates used by the US for Rwanda and Congo are credible, why are these estimates not also credible?

According to a report in the New York Times yesterday (Oct 12) one-fifth of US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are partially disabled as a result of the conflict in those countries. 100,000 Iraqi veterans have been awarded disability compensation. The future cost to the American taxpayer is incalculable

This is further evidence that the US military and its allies are hiding the true scale of death in the Iraqi conflict.

The appalling carnage exposed by the Lancet report represents mass murder on a huge scale. On these figures the current situation is far worse than anything previously admitted by Bush and Blair and even worse than the crime perpetrated by the brutal tyrant Saddam Hussein.

The Irish government are implicated in the mass murder of Iraqi civilians exposed by this report, by allowing Irish airports and airspace to be used by US troops.

Bertie Ahern simply cannot wash his hands of the mass-killing and enormous human rights violations carried out by the US in Iraq while thousand of US troops and weapons are pouring through Shannon airport every week. He has made Ireland complicit.

Once again, we call on the Irish government to end its complicity with US war crimes and mass murder in Iraq. In light of this shocking report, the Irish Anti-War Movement is even more determined to make the war and use of Shannon airport an election issue over the next few months.

PS And we now have the British Commander-in-Chief of their Army telling us that the presence of British troops in Iraq "accentuates and makes the security situation worse"!!

author by gavinapublication date Fri Oct 13, 2006 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors


150,000 marchers? Good one! Try half that! Only the dreamers (nicest euphemism I could think of) of SW invented the figure of 150,000.,_2003_anti-war...#Eire

Remember, more people fill Croke Park every time Dublin plays than went on that march... It's not a big number.

So, if your support lies with those who marched (unions, muslim groups, socialists, communists and Sinn Féin), then no, you will never and can never have power.

You've asked for a political discussion, and you've got it.

PS: it's Gavin A, not a woman's name!

author by Jacobinpublication date Sat Oct 14, 2006 00:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

150,000 marchers, that would be 10% of the dublin population. Its quite significant.

Also the fact that many people do not turn up to a march is not an indication that people do not support the anti-war movement. The problem is that a political apathy has gripped this country. Many people do not see any point in demonstrations as politians do ignore public opinion anyway. For example the majority of british people were against the invasion of iraq but Blair went ahead regardless. Therefore, I don't blame people trying to focus their minds on things such as sport. As all the hypocracy, spin and slaughter can be to much for most people. History has its calm and a eruptive periods anyway.

author by MichaelY - iawmpublication date Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gavin - thanks for the clarification.

To talk about the 2003 march, it is true that we all expected a large march - 20,000 would have been an objective of the organisers. The numbers that were there blew us....I think it's unfair to compare an anti-war march with a tribalist gathering in Croke Park. It was the march, remember, with the sentiments of which Bertie said he agreed with....and it was the march that according to the Irish Times it was "the biggest in the history of the State"! Bigger than the tax marches of 20 odd years ago(100,000) and much bigger than the more recent Irish Ferries march!. Anyway, if the Gardai said 80,000 you could usually double that - you're good in maths anyway! Apply a multiplication by 1.5 or 1.6 and see what you get.

What that huge participation showed is how people felt, how angry we were, about what the Empire was doing....I suggest to you that the same attitude, the same anger/anxiety, continues to dominate the Irish psyche....all of us feel that what the Americans and Brits and their allies, like the Uzbeki and the Pakistani dictatorships, are doing is not in our name! Now, it's even US and British Commanders that are arguing that they should get the hell out! And they they did with the tails cut off in Vietnam. And if they decide to attack Iran we will get the same - if not bigger numbers. Mark my words.

Incidentally, I am glad to see that you decided not to raise the issue of the Lancet study again- which if I recall correctly is how you jumped into this thread. The numbers are not 'trite' Gavin.....they're a factual condemnation, a barbaric one, of political policies. Reality has a habit of slowly but implacably sinking in.

As for taking power, dear friend, lets be realistic. Lets stop the irish Government using Shannon and Baldonnel as warports, lets stop our collaboration with this genocide, which are the objectives of the IAWM. And we can discuss matters of power subsequently. Lets apply what my partner calls 'One step at a time sweet jesus"!

PS To respond to your gender clarification, I am not and have never been in the SWP!

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