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.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation