Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred thousand


The people who brought you that controversial Lancet study back in 2004 claiming 100,000 Iraqis had been killed since the invasion have revisited the numbers, with a wider sample, and come up with an even more whopping figure: more than 600,000 Iraqis killed since the commencement of major mission-accomplishment operations.

I can't make head or tail of the way the numbers were compiled, and Our Leader assures us the methodology is discredited. The Iraqi government disputes the figures as well, and as with the previous study, the margin for error does not inspire much confidence:

The figure breaks down to about 15,000 violent deaths a month, a number that is quadruple the one for July given by Iraqi government hospitals and the morgue in Baghdad and published last month in a United Nations report in Iraq. That month was the highest for Iraqi civilian deaths since the American invasion.

But it is an estimate and not a precise count, and researchers acknowledged a margin of error that ranged from 426,369 to 793,663 deaths.

Full study.

Reason's own Brian Doherty once had a great observation about how fast and loose you can play with impressively large statistics: In almost any news article, you could replace any citation of "100 million" with "100 billion" or "100 thousand" or "eleventy kajillion," and get basically the same rhetorical effect. Still, even the lowest estimate here seems pretty damn high. A few dozen more and I may have to rethink all the shameless cheerleading for the war Reason's been doing all this time.