New Estimates Suggest U.S. War Led to Nearly Half a Million Iraqi Deaths

For every three people killed by violence in Iraq, two died as a result of conflict-crippled health care, water, and transportation systems, a new study finds.

Dozens of empty coffins are carried by Iraqi security forces in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, during a ceremony held on Oct. 7, 2008 to commemorate Iraqi mass graves victims.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Oct. 15, 2013, 1:08 p.m.

Es­tim­at­ing cas­u­al­ties of war is a dif­fi­cult sci­ence. Ex­act counts are nearly im­possible to achieve, es­pe­cially in areas where vi­ol­ent con­flict con­tin­ues long after the last of for­eign troops have with­drawn. De­term­in­ing a death toll for Ir­aqi ci­vil­ians dur­ing the eight-year U.S.-led oc­cu­pa­tion has proven es­pe­cially chal­len­ging. Mul­tiple at­tempts by dif­fer­ent or­gan­iz­a­tions have covered only a few years of the war, and the res­ult­ing tal­lies range from as low as just over 100,000 to as high as 600,000.

The latest es­tim­ates, de­tailed in a study pub­lished Tues­day in the journ­al PLOS Medi­cine, come from an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the total num­ber of Ir­aqi deaths between 2003 and 2011 by the Uni­versity of Wash­ing­ton De­part­ment of Glob­al Health. Nearly 40 per­cent of deaths in Ir­aq that oc­curred in that time peri­od were a res­ult of the U.S. con­flict, re­search­ers say, put­ting the death toll at about 461,000.

Re­search­ers vis­ited 2,000 ran­domly se­lec­ted homes throughout the Middle East­ern coun­try. They asked adults to re­count births and deaths with­in their im­me­di­ate and ex­ten­ded fam­ily since 2001. Through this can­vassing, the re­search­ers es­tim­ated 405,000 deaths could be at­trib­uted to the war through mid-2011. They made up the re­main­ing sev­er­al thou­sands in their fi­nal num­ber by es­tim­at­ing mor­tal­ity rates for about 2 mil­lion people who fled the coun­try dur­ing the con­flict.

Re­search­ers say 60 per­cent of the 461,000 deaths are dir­ectly at­trib­uted to vi­ol­ence, such as gun­shots (62 per­cent), car bombs (12 per­cent), and oth­er ex­plo­sions (9 per­cent). Non­vi­ol­ent deaths were at­trib­uted to health prob­lems stem­ming from crippled health care, clean wa­ter, nu­tri­tion, and trans­port­a­tion sys­tems. For every three people killed by vi­ol­ence, two died as a res­ult of crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture that sup­ports these areas, ac­cord­ing to the study.

The sur­vey, however, like the oth­ers that came be­fore it, is not without its lim­it­a­tions. The re­search­ers state their cas­u­alty es­tim­ate with 95 per­cent cer­tainty. The ac­tu­al num­ber, they write, could be as low as 48,000 or as high as 751,000. The re­search­ers point to the af­ter­math of the 2010 earth­quake in Haiti as an­oth­er ex­ample of a situ­ation in which wildly dis­sim­il­ar cas­u­alty counts were un­avoid­able. In the years since, the death toll for the nat­ur­al dis­aster has been es­tim­ated to be any­where between 46,000 and 316,000, re­veal­ing the prob­lem­at­ic prac­tice of cal­cu­lat­ing mor­tal­ity.

MOST READ
What We're Following See More »
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
×