civilian casualties

Via Juan Cole, Stephen Soldz presents an interesting analysis of the statistical methods and implications of the study concluding that 100,000 civilians have died in post-invasion Iraq. From his conclusion:

This study is an extremely well-conducted and analyzed piece of research. Like most high-quality research, it has potential limitations and the paper’s Discussion section details possible interferences with the accuracy of the results. The authors argue convincingly that none of these limitations invalidate their basic findings of high excess deaths following the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In fact, they argue, based on arguments somewhat different from those I present here, that the real number of excess deaths may be even higher than their 98,000 estimate.

So, have excess 100,000 Iraqis died since the invasion? I don’t know for sure. But this study convinces me that it is extremely likely that many tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, far more than the Iraqi Body Count estimate that I had previously relied upon. Noted Middle East scholar Juan Cole came to a similar conclusion.[31]

We researchers never consider a single study to be the definitive word on a topic. We always like to see a number of studies, using somewhat different methodologies and carried out by researchers with different biases. The authors clearly recognize this desirability and do not present their study as the last word on Iraq mortality rates. (See the excellent interview with one of the study authors from the New Republic Online.[32]) Near the end of their paper they call for “confirmation by an independent body such as the ICRC, Epicentre, or WHO” (p. 7). The British-based NGO, Medact has endorsed the call for independent investigations.[33] Medact further points out that this study only examines Iraqi deaths and that “experience suggests that at least three times as many people are injured as are killed in conflict.” Thus, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been wounded in the last 18 months.

In the absence of this confirmation, this study remains the best estimate of Iraq deaths. Its finding are truly horrifying. Recent reports indicate that the US is placing a far greater reliance on air power as a way of reducing Coalition casualties.[34] If this study’s findings are at all accurate, the result of these policies will be even higher Iraqi civilian casualties. The continued US war in Iraq cannot be justified on any conceivable humanitarian grounds when many tens of thousands of Iraqis are being killed and many more injured. Surely, this study should be a wake up call for all those, regardless of their opinions about the original justifiability of the war, who sincerely are concerned about the fate of the Iraqi people. The looming attacks on Falluja and Ramadi suggest that, in the absence of world outrage restraining this Coalition action, the death and injury toll will soon be rising far higher.