CENSORED: FROM PAGE 151.How Many Iraqis Have Died?
No one knows exactly how many lives the Iraq War has claimed. But even more astounding is that so few journalists have mentioned the issue or cited the top estimate: 1.2 million.
During August and September 2007, Opinion Research Business, a British polling group, surveyed 2,414 adults in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces and found that more than 20 percent had experienced at least one war-related death since March 2003. Using common statistical study methods, it determined that as many as 1.2 million people had been killed since the war began.
The U.S. military, claiming it keeps no count, still employs civilian death data as a marker of progress. For example, in a Sept. 10, 2007, report to Congress, Gen. David Petraeus said, “Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45 percent Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December.”
But whose number was he using? Estimates range wildly and are based on a variety of sources, including hospital, morgue and media reports, as well as inperson surveys.
In October 2006, the British medical journal Lancet published a Johns Hopkins University study vetted by four independent sources that counted 655,000 dead, based on interviews with 1,849 households.
It updated a similar study from 2004 that counted 100,000 dead. The Associated Press called it “controversial.” The AP began its own count in 2005 and by 2006 said that at least 37,547 Iraqis had lost their lives due to war-related violence but called it a minimum estimate at best and didn’t include insurgent deaths.
Iraq Body Count, a group of U.S. and UK citizens who aggregate numbers from media reports on civilian deaths, puts the figure between 87,000 and 95,000. In January 2008, the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government did door-to-door surveys of nearly 10,000 households and put the number of dead at 151,000.
The 1.2 million figure is out there, too, which is higher than the Rwandan genocide death toll and closing in on the 1.7 million who perished in Cambodia’s killing fields. It raises questions about the real number of deaths from U.S. aerial bombings and house raids and challenges the common assumption that this is a war in which Iraqis are killing Iraqis.
Justifying the higher number, Michael Schwartz, writing on the blog AfterDowningStreet.org, pointed to a fact reported by the Brookings Institute that U.S. troops have, over the past four years, conducted about 100 house raids a day — a number that’s recently increased with assistance from Iraqi soldiers.
Brutality during these house searches has been documented by returning soldiers, Iraqi civilians and independent journalists (see No. 9 below). Schwartz suggests the aggressive “element of surprise” tactics employed by soldiers is likely resulting in several thousands of deaths a day that either go unreported or are categorized as insurgent casualties.
The spin is having its intended effect: A February 2007 AP poll showed Americans gave a median estimate of 9,890 Iraqi deaths as a result of the war, a number far below that cited in any credible study.
SOURCES: “Is the United States killing 10,000 Iraqis every month? Or is it more?” Michael Schwartz, After Downing Street.org, July 6, 2007; “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian killing fields,” Joshua Holland, AlterNet, Sept. 17, 2007; “Iraq conflict has killed a million: survey,” Luke Baker, Reuters, Jan. 30, 2008; “Iraq: Not our country to return to,” Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service, March 3,