Study Suggests Iraq War Death Toll Higher Than Commonly Thought

Credit: Sgt. Kimberly Snow/wikimediaCredit: Sgt. Kimberly Snow/wikimediaOver at The American Conservative Daniel Larison has highlighted a study that suggests that the death toll from the War in Iraq may be higher than is commonly believed, with 461,000 Iraqi deaths attributed to the conflict. 

The Washington Post’s Matt Fisher explains the research behind the study, which was conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Health as well as four North American universities.

The research is more rigorous than previous assessments of Iraq war deaths; it relies on randomized household surveys, meaning they asked regular Iraqis to recount if, when and how members of their household died during the war. It's also different because it looks at indirect deaths that, the authors argue, can be attributed to the war. We do forget that the invasion, occupation and subsequent sectarian violence led basic services to collapse. One of the authors pointed out to NBC News that neighborhood-to-neighborhood fighting often prevented Iraqis from seeking medical treatment.

Graph from the study below:

Credit: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality StudyCredit: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study

Read Reason.com's forum on the 10th anniversary of the War in Iraq here

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  • Almanian!||

    You know what 461,000 dead Iraqis is?

  • John Thacker||

    Fewer than the number of dead Iraqi children that Pilger and others said that the sanctions caused?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Does anyone still defend the War in Iraq? Is there anyone out there who will stand up and say "yeah, at the time and/or in retrospect, that was a pretty good idea"?

  • Acosmist||

    Saddam is dead. That's a good thing.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I will because there was no realistic alternative. Sadaam had to go.

  • Calidissident||

    Yep. The fabric of the universe literally would have come undone and Earth would have been swallowed into a black hole had the USG not invaded. Thank God the government saved us on that one!

  • John Thacker||

    Well, I suppose if people took the equally large estimates of "the sanctions kill X people per year!" seriously, there's a reasonable case based on that. We did, after all, get rid of the sanctions.

    It would need the violence to settle down at some point, though.

  • ||

    Occupying and rebuilding was the batshit nuts part.

  • Acosmist||

    This.

    A punitive expedition and Saddam's death were reasonable. Thinking Iraqis wanted democracy? Wow. That was dumb.

  • Juice||

    I thought the regular poster here, John, defended it recently.

  • Frodo Teabaggins||

    Can you imagine how much worse it would be if bush or rmoney was in charge? Good thing Pres. Obama is cleaning up all these messes left by the disastrous libertarian policies of his predecessors.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    And in 2016, don't forget to vote for either Hillary Clinton (who supported the Iraq War as a Senator) or Joe Biden (who did the same)!

  • John Thacker||

    Yet somehow that's way less embarrassing than a two week government shutdown (that didn't accomplish anything, mind you, but again, better than an expensive war.)

  • Juice||

    disastrous libertarian policies of his predecessors.

    If you're going to troll you have to try harder than this.

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    Jesus H. Christ. How many people were in Iraq to begin with?

  • Almanian!||

    At least 461,000 too many, according to some

  • Sigivald||

    There's about 31 million now.

    And that's 461,000 "attributed" to the war, over ten years.

    At 46,100 per year, that's 148 per 100,000 (if I'm doing my math right) - which sounds horrible until you remember that the mortality rate in the US not at war is not quite 800 per 100,000.

    The World Factbook suggest a "normal" mortality rate for Iraq of 465/100k (because the country's so young in comparison to the US, I'm sure).

    It's a lot of people, but it's nowhere near Astoundingly Deadly.

  • Juice||

    And that's 461,000 "attributed" to the war, over ten years.

    How does that jibe with the 1 million plus "excess deaths" that are attributed to the war? That figure was checked and double checked.

    I think the 461,000 is supposed to be people directly killed in the war.

  • Calidissident||

    In terms of deaths due (directly or indirectly) to violence, that is a very high number. The US's population at the start of the Civil War was about 30 million, and the death toll was somewhere around 600,000. So higher, but not drastically so, and that was the deadliest conflict in US history.

  • Brian||

    a study that suggests that the death toll from the War in Iraq may be higher than is commonly believed, with 461,000 Iraqi deaths attributed to the conflict.

    America: fuck yeah!

    Seriously, though, if we had a smaller government, how would we wage war? Free-loaders and all of that? Think of the children, and enjoy your airshows!

  • John Thacker||

    This not entirely wrong take by Ezra Klein seems apropos:

    The Obama administration is much more anxious over the defense cuts than your average House Republican.
  • Cytotoxic||

    It's also different because it looks at indirect deaths that, the authors argue, can be attributed to the war.

    IOW, this study is bullshit. Really that line there is all you need to read.

  • Sigivald||

    Nobody reported dead of cancer in 2003 or 2008?

    (War cures cancer, I guess.)

    What that really tells ms is that these numbers (at least per that graph) are pretty damned weak in their basis.

    And if we look at the 2001-2002 numbers, we see a highly variable baseline; if we strike out deaths from fighting in 2003, it looks pretty much just like 2002 (with more "unknown" and no cancer).

    Mildly interesting, but pretty weak sauce.

  • ||

    Besides the "indirect deaths" bullshit, the data-gathering method is hilariously inept. Even in the Middle East, where drama queenery is regnant, the Iraqis have a reputation of being drama queens.

  • Juice||

    Why are indirect deaths bullshit?

  • ||

    Because they're bullshit. They're "determined" by completely subjective means, not by "his head blown off by a mortar shell."

    One of the authors pointed out to NBC News that neighborhood-to-neighborhood fighting often prevented Iraqis from seeking medical treatment.

    Cancer? Tumor? Cardiovascular? Yeah, that's an indirect consequence of the war. Right. Because nobody died of that before or after the war.

  • Juice||

    And the war didn't destroy the water and electrical systems, hospitals, or any other infrastructure that normally keeps weak or sick people from dying, so I think I see how it's total bullshit now. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • ||

    So how do you quantify which sick people died because they were sick and which sick people died because they were unable to get the fine standard of care for which Iraqi hospitals were famous?

  • Calidissident||

    Calculating the exact number is difficult, and to some extent subjective and could be affected by bias, but as Juice said, it's not at all ridiculous in concept attribute nonviolent deaths caused by the war as a part of the war's toll. Iraq is hardly the first conflict for which such deaths have been considered in the death toll.

  • ||

    If your argument is, "Well, there's been bullshit quantification before, so we should accept bullshit quantification now," I'm sorry, I can't agree with that.

  • DRM||

    That "remember whether a relative of yours died of his heart attack in 2002 or 2003" is "more rigorous" than previous approaches simply tells us that we have no rigorous data.

  • eyeroller||

    Reason commenters are funny. So far I don't see any comments attacking Bush or Republicans, or even conservatives.

    But if this were something about a current admin disaster, there would be tons of direct attacks against Obama, Democrats, and "libtards."

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