This is the impression I get when I study Iraq War civilian death count statistics: that people really just don’t give a damn. Years ago, it finally struck me that I didn’t give a damn either, and I decided to find the actual statistics of how many people died. The results, or lack thereof, was shocking. I have been anti-War ever since. The total wars of our day are usually only contests of how many people you can blow up. My count so far is zero. Thank God.
I first went on to Wikipedia. The results were astounding: the lowest toll was from US Classified logs at about 66,000…and the highest was 1.2 million. That is twenty times more. Many other estimates, and mind you all these estimates were at different time spans, ranged from a hundred thousand to six hundred thousand. To give you an idea of proportions: 3,000 American civilians died in 9/11, and 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Imagine if no one had to die.
The highest estimate at about 1.2 million from the Opinion Research Business agency ( ORB) is extremely controversial, and I wouldn’t put too much stress on it. The second highest number – the estimate that I am most fond of – is from the The Lancet, a two hundred year old peer reviewed science journal. This estimate has also been controversial, but my emphasis is on the fact that we hardly know how many died, and not on how many died.
I highly recommend you check out the abstract of their survey. You need an account to read the whole thing (it’s free), but I’ll post a chart or two soon to give you an idea of their numbers. Basically, these guys (the only other statisticians to use this method were the ORB pollsters) actually went to Iraq, randomly selected 50 clustered blocks of 40 households from all of Iraq, and surveyed them. They asked them who they knew that died, and they tallied up the numbers. To confirm the accuracy of random Iraqi households, 87% of the time they asked for death certificates. 92% of the time certificates were produced. The other 8% is excusable: in some places at certain times death certificates were not issued, and young children weren’t always documented. The journal has been criticized for the small poll group of 2,000 and for the polling method, but the polling was random and the death certificates were almost always provided. Perhaps their critics should be asked why they didn’t use polling numbers. Sitting on the other side of the Earth in front of a computer documenting deaths somehow seems a bit more sketchy to me.
So the Lancet Survey is quite interesting. It shows us the shocking disparity of numbers between government run statistics (the United Nations, the Iraqi government, the American government…) and independently run statistics. It shows us the shocking disparity of numbers between computer analysts that have never been to Iraq and pollsters that risked their lives. It is an awful thing for so many people to have died – and for people over here to not even care, know, or even have the ability to know. I intend to post a bit more on the Lancet Survey and what it teaches us…especially about the demographics of who was killed and when. If the survey numbers are true, the coalition forces that invaded Iraq may have caused more deaths then Saddam Hussein. If they aren’t true, they still killed a damn lot of people – and I am confident that there were better but possibly more pricey ways to not do so.
TO BE CONTINUED.