The Lancet Medical journal (pdf) reports that between 420,000 and 790,000 Iraqis have died as a result of war and political violence since the beginning of the US invasion in March, 2003. That’s 2.5% of the Iraqi population. Over 30% of violent deaths in Iraq were attributed to coalition forces.

The study which was carried out by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and the School of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, has been examined and validated by four separate independent experts who all urged publication. The figures are based on surveys of 1,849 Iraqi households containing 12,801 individuals from May to July; a much larger sample than the study published in the Lancet in 2004.

“The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.”

In 92% of the interviews, death certificates were produced, making it harder for the war-shills to dismiss this study; but no doubt they will try. The new study corroborates the earlier Lancet figure of 100,000 killed which was vigourously attacked by US and UK government spokesmen at the time. This report is similarly facing a tough haul.

According to the Washington Post

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The report has been criticized by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, himself no expert in epidemiology, but who nevertheless found time to tell Associated Press that the figures were too high. “This is not analysis, this is politics,” Cordesman claimed before criticizing the way the report was carried out, but AP do not report what his criticisms are. He also questions the timing of the report, appearing as it does only a few weeks off the November election. However, the Lancet is a peer-reviewed journal where publication time rests on the availability of reviewers and not when the paper is first published.

George Bush has also derided the report saying at a press conference “I don’t consider it a credible report, neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and it troubles me and grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.”

Far from tolerating the violence, in a recent poll (.pdf) 71% of Iraqis said they want the US out of Iraq now, recognizing more clearly than Bush, General Casey or Iraqi puppets, the toll the invasion has taken on their country.

Furthermore, the Lancet is one of the top 3 peer-reviewed medical journals in the world. Both Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Lancet require very rigorous and statistically sound methods before allowing publication. Right now Bush and company are scrabbling around for reasons to rubbish the report. As the week progresses, we are bound to be treated to arguments on statistical anomalies et alia. However, the study is extremely sound.

Even the BBC’s Paul Reynolds admitted in a private email sent to Media Lens by accident that they would have to take these figures into account…

Steve

Thanks for this. Yes I noticed that the latest Lancet report emerged yesterday in the US and I immediately knew we had to do this today.

I found that Martin Asser was already across it so he is doing it.

No doubt the argument will rumble on. We will need to take account of this report in future references to Iraqi dead.

Paul

Techniques Used In The Survey

The technique employed in the survey is called “cluster sampling” and is used to estimate mortality rates in famines and natural disasters.

The authors said their method of sampling the population is a “standard tool of epidemiology and is used by the U.S. government and many other agencies.” Professionals familiar with such research told CNN that the survey’s methodology is sound.

Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, called the survey method “tried and true,” and added that this is the best estimate of mortality we have.”

‘ The surveyors from the School of Medicine of Al Mustansiria University in Baghdad conducted a national survey between May and July 2006. In this survey, sites were collected according to the population size and the geographic distribution in Iraq. The survey included 16 of the 18 governates in Iraq, with larger population areas having more sample sites. The sites were selected entirely at random, so all households had an equal chance of being included. The survey used a standard cluster survey method, which is a recommended method for measuring deaths in conflict situations.

The survey team visited 50 randomly selected sites in Iraq, and at each site interviewed 40 households about deaths which had occurred from January 1, 2002, until the date of the interview in July 2006. We selected this time frame to compare results with our previous
Human Cost of Iraq War survey, which covered the period between January 2002 and September 2004. In all, information was collected from 1,849 households completing the survey, containing 12,801 persons.

This sample size was selected to be able to statistically detect death rates with 95% probability of obtaining the correct result. When the preliminary results were reviewed, it was apparent three clusters were misattributed. These were dropped from the data for analysis, giving a final total of 47 clusters, which are the basis of this study. ‘

Further information by Stephen Soldz on the methodology used by the researchers in the 2004 Lancet study.

Other key points in the survey:

  • The number of people dying in Iraq has risen each year since March 2003.
  • Those killed are predominantly males aged 15-44.
  • Deaths attributed to coalition forces accounted for 31 percent of the dead.
  • Although the “proportion of deaths ascribed to coalition forces has diminished in 2006 … the actual numbers have increased each year.”
  • Burying the Lancet

    Media Len’s illuminating article which examined how the media and elite attempted to subvert the 2004 Lancet study. Essential reading.

    Part 1 and Part 2

    Video compiled by David Edwards, contains clips from NBC’s Today Show and CNN’s American Morning.

    UPDATE

    British government advisers backed methodology behind contentious Iraq death toll study – March 2007

    The BBC World Service made a Freedom of Information Request on 28 November 2006 for the release of information relating to the Lancet Survey on Iraqi mortality. The information was released on 14 March 2007 and has been instantly forgotten. It can now be revealed that the government ignored its own advisors who recommended caution in publicly criticizing the study.

    One of the documents just released by the Foreign Office is an e-mail in which an official asks about the Lancet report: “Are we really sure the report is likely to be right? That is certainly what the brief implies.”

    The reply from another official is: “We do not accept the figures quoted in the Lancet survey as accurate. ”

    In the same e-mail the official later writes: “However, the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.”

    …the chief scientific adviser to the Defense Ministry, Roy Anderson, described the methods used in the study as “robust” and “close to best practice.”

    A memo from Anderson’s office to senior officials, obtained by the BBC World Service, said the chief scientist “recommends caution in publicly criticizing the study.”

    In another document, a government official — whose name has been blanked out — said “the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.”

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