Thursday, October 12, 2006

Body Counts

We dance in Iraq these days.

I'm sure you've heard about the study in The Lancet (subscription required) concerning the "excess mortality" in Iraq following the 2003 invasion.
The crude mortality rate in the pre-invasion period was 5·5 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 4·3–7·1) and for the overall post-invasion period was 13·3 per 1000 people per year (10·9–16·1)...


Post-invasion excess mortality rates showed much the same escalating trend, rising from 2·6 per 1000 people per year (0·6–4·7) above the baseline rate in 2003 to 14·2 per 1000 people per year (8·6–21·5) in 2006 (figure 2 and table 3). Excess mortality is attributed mainly to an increase in the violent death rate; however, an increase in the non-violent death rate was noted in the later part of the post-invasion period (2005–06). The post-invasion non-violent excess mortality rate was 0·7 per 1000 people per year (−1·2 to 3·0).

Of the 302 conflict-related violent deaths reported, 300 (99%) were post-invasion (table 4). An increase in violent death rates was seen in the post-invasion period (figure 2). Analysis for trend showed that this rate for violent deaths increased significantly in every period after the invasion (p<0·0001)>--snip--

Most violent deaths were due to gunshots (56%); air strikes, car bombs, and other explosions/ordnance each accounted for 13–14% of violent deaths. The number of deaths from gunshots increased consistently over the post-invasion period, and a sharp increase in deaths from car bombs was noted in 2006.Violent deaths that were directly attributed to coalition forces or to air strikes were classified as coalition violent deaths. In many other cases the responsible party was not known, or the households were hesitant to specifically identify them. Deaths attributable to the coalition accounted for 31% (95% CI 26–37) of post-invasion violent deaths. The proportion of violent deaths attributable to the coalition was much the same across periods (p=0·058). However, the actual number of violent deaths, including those that resulted from coalition forces, increased every year after the invasion.

Using what appear to be solid methods, the researchers claim that, since the March 2003 invasion, there have been 655,000 deaths that can be attributed to said invasion.


Here's a Washington Post article that sums up the major points.

If there had never been an Iraq invasion, by this count, then 655,000 people would not have died.

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

The survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are being published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet.

The same group in 2004 published an estimate of roughly 100,000 deaths in the first 18 months after the invasion. That figure was much higher than expected, and was controversial. The new study estimates that about 500,000 more Iraqis, both civilian and military, have died since then -- a finding likely to be equally controversial.

Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. 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.

This is what we've done in Iraq, folks.

Just something to think about.

Glenn Greenwald, as always, has excellent analysis. Ditto Juan Cole.

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