Op-Ed: New study estimates over 400,000 deaths from Iraq war

Posted Oct 18, 2013 by Ken Hanly
A new study by researchers from the US and Canada appears in PLoS Medicine. It surveys 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 different geographic regions. From the data, the researchers estimate 405,000 deaths and another 55,800 projected deaths from the war.
The War in Iraq
War on Iraq
Photo: Soldiersmediacenter
The researchers estimate that 60 percent of the deaths were from violence with the remaining 40 percent caused by degradation of the health-infrastructure. The researchers stressed the latter factor since it explains why the study figures are higher than body count figures, although they are lower than another study done in 2006.
Juan Cole has a long article on the new study on his website. Cole notes that passive logging of deaths often cited in the Western press produce estimates close to 150,000 but these miss a lot of people. As Cole points out even the passive gathering of reports was flawed in that no newspaper claimed to report all deaths. He also notes that a military log of deaths revealed by Wikileaks had many deaths listed not recorded in civilian logging of deaths, and vice versa.
To these deaths one might add those estimated to result from the US/UN sanctions of the 1990s. Among other effects chlorine for water purification was interdicted. An estimated 500,000 Iraqis died mainly children who died from diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis often resulting in fatal dehydration.
Taking these two figures together Cole estimates that the war and sanctions together caused the death of about 4 percent of the Iraqi population. Cole notes that if Iraq killed 4 percent of Americans this would be 12 million people. He also points out that Iraq never attacked the US and in the war with Iran US was an ally by 1983. Although Iraq did attack Kuwait, it was out by the spring of 1991. Of the US-lead invasion Cole says: There was no casus belli or legitimate legal cause of war in 2003. Iraq’s main crime appears to have been to be an oil state not compliant with US demands.
Not all the casualties by any stretch of the imagination are the result of direct US action. Many casualties were the result of the insurgency and many caused by the occupiers were by troops from other countries such as Great Britain.
American's perception of the casualty count is not even close to the passive body counts let alone the figures in the new study: While even the most conservative estimates of mortality in Iraq — including the Iraq Body Count — have reached six figures, polling in the U.S. (PDF) and U.K. (PDF) have shown public perception to be that the civilian death toll from the war is in the neighborhood of 10,000.
However, the views of many Americans are not just off base with respect to casualties: "Back in 2011, a University of Maryland poll found that 38 percent of Americans still believe the U.S. had “found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.”