Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bush rejects report on Iraqi deaths

October 12, 2006

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— President Bush and Iraqi officials on Wednesday attempted to discredit a new study suggesting that more than 600,000 Iraqis have been killed during the war in Iraq - a far higher death toll than previously estimated.

The report by researchers from Johns Hopkins University was published online Wednesday by The Lancet, a respected British medical publication.

The study renewed concern about the human cost of the Iraqi war and the wisdom of pursuing it. Underscoring the report's political implications - the findings come just weeks before the November elections - Bush said at a news conference that "the methodology is pretty well discredited."

"I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and that troubles me, and it grieves me," Bush said. "And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence."

An Iraqi government spokesman, meanwhile, called the study "unbelievable" and said "these numbers are exaggerated."

Though some experts agreed the study had flaws, others said the results were probably a good ballpark estimate.

"Our goal was not to produce the most precise number possible but rather to suggest the scope of war-related deaths," said lead author Gilbert Burnham, co-director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at Johns Hopkins. "And what we show is that the numbers are very, very large."

The research method employed - known as "cluster sampling" - is broadly used in public health to estimate everything from the incidence of disease to the prevalence of death in war-torn areas such as Bosnia or Congo.

An Iraqi man cries over a coffin of a relative in Baqouba, Iraq, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Three people were killed Wednesday in Baqouba when assailants sprayed gunfire into their van, police said. Violence in Iraq claimed at least 14 lives Wednesday.

An Iraqi man cries over a coffin of a relative in Baqouba, Iraq, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Three people were killed Wednesday in Baqouba when assailants sprayed gunfire into their van, police said. Violence in Iraq claimed at least 14 lives Wednesday.

Researchers divided the country into 16 regions and selected specific geographic "clusters" in the regions for door-to-door surveys.

Eight doctors traveled to these areas, asking 1,849 households how many members had died, when, and under what circumstances. In 87 percent of interviews, doctors asked for a death certificate, and in 92 percent of those cases, one was provided.

Researchers then estimated the death rate in Iraq at 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people before the war and 13.3 per 1,000 afterward. Applying the latter figure to the Iraqi population of 26 million, they figured approximately 393,000 to 943,000 war-related "excess deaths" had occurred.

The middle of this range, about 655,000, translates into more than 16,000 fatalities a month since the war began in March 2003. (Of these, 601,000 were estimated to be violent deaths from gunfire, explosions, car bombs and air strikes.)

The numbers include deaths of combatants and insurgents as well as civilians.

The latest Defense Department security assessment, released in September, put the number of deaths among Iraqi civilians and security forces at nearly 120 a day between May 20 and Aug. 11, up from 80 a day in the prior three months.

Mark van der Laan, professor of biostatistics at the University of California, Berkeley, said he wasn't sure he trusted the statistical adjustments the Johns Hopkins team performed to adjust for the small sample of households surveyed and varying levels of violence in the areas that were sampled.

"Given the design of their study, it is likely (the data) should be taken with a large grain of salt," he said.

Comments

Janet Lowther 8 years, 10 months ago

The conventional counts count only the deaths caused by violence, and don't count the heart attacks brought on by excess stress, other deaths brought on by a lack of medical supplies and services, or the suicides brought on by the hopelessness of the situation.

This study measures the number of excess deaths, compared to what would have been expected under Sadam Hussein's reign. More people are dying under our enlightened occupation of Iraq than under Sadam's admittedly often brutal regime.

W. is an MBA and should understand the principles involved unless he is willfully rejecting the data, like he seems to have with evidence that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs had been discontinued.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

General seeks UK Iraq withdrawal

General Dannatt took on his role in August The head of the British Army has said the presence of UK armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems". In an interview in the Daily Mail, Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, is quoted as saying the British should "get out some time soon".

He also said: "Let's face it, the military campaign we fought in 2003, effectively kicked the door in."

There are currently more than 7,000 British soldiers in Iraq, based largely in Basra in the south of the country.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said Britain had "a clear strategy" and worked with international partners "in support of the democratically elected government of Iraq, under a clear UN mandate."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson described Sir Richard's remarks as "quite extraordinary".

He said the new head of British army was "effectively saying we are making the situation worse in Iraq and worse for ourselves around the world by being in Iraq".

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them Sir Richard Dannatt

The comments "directly contradicted so much of what the government had said", our correspondent added.

Sir Richard might be issuing a "very public warning" to the next prime minister, he said.

In his interview, Sir Richard added that any initial tolerance "has largely turned to intolerance. That is a fact."

Sir Richard, who took on his role in August, also said planning for what happened after the initial successful war military offensive was "poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning".

'Not invited in'

He said: "I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

Sir Richard told the newspaper: "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear.

"As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time."

He added: "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

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