Violence in Iraq

VIOLENCE IN IRAQ….An interesting new study about post-invasion death rates in Iraq was released by the World Health Organization today. I had to extrapolate a bit from the raw data, but if I did that correctly then the WHO’s results differ from last year’s Lancet study in two ways:

  • It estimates total excess deaths (through June 2006) at about 393,000. The Lancet study pegged it at 655,000.

  • It estimates total post-invasion violent deaths at 151,000. The Lancet study said the number was 601,000.

(Note: As reported in Table 3, the study calculated 1.09 violent deaths per 1,000 person years after the invasion, from which the authors estimate a post-invasion total of 151,000 violent deaths. They didn’t provide an estimate for total deaths, but the reported increase in all deaths (post-invasion vs. pre-invasion) is 2.84 per 1,000 person years. Applying the same multiplier therefore provides an estimate of 393,000 excess deaths from all causes.)

It’s a big number no matter how you slice it, but I imagine this will reignite the controversy over the Lancet study. The difference in their estimate of total excess deaths (655,000 vs. 393,000) isn’t huge for a study with such inherent difficulties, but the difference in the violent death rate is. The Lancet study calculates that 92% of all post-invasion excess deaths were from violent causes, while WHO figures it at 38%.

Why the difference? Les Roberts, one of the authors of the Lancet study, offered this: “My gut feeling is that most of the difference between the two studies is a reluctance to report to the government a death due to violence,” he said. “If your son is fighting the government and died, that may not be something you’d want to admit to the government.” More here.