Joho the Blog » 100,000 Iraqi dead

100,000 Iraqi dead

The first scientific study of the human cost of the Iraq war suggests that at least 100,000 civilians have lost their lives since their country was invaded in March 2003.

More than half of those who died were women and children killed in air strikes, researchers say.

This is a newspaper’s summary of a study in the prestigious UK medical journal, The Lancet.

From the article itself:

The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1-419) than in the period before the war.

…Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.

Is this proof that we should not have started this war? Of course not. But it should keep us from ever thinking that war is an easy answer to a hard question.

(You can read the whole article here. It requires a free registration.)


Fuck it. You know, I try to be reasonable. But it’s hard to maintain the cool stoniness of reason when you’re surrounded by a 100,000 corpses — women and children and men — even if your country is directly responsible “only” for most of them.

We have an administration that uses this war to win an election, yet it forbids us from seeing photographs of our honored dead. Then it crows that the Democrats will lose because we’re “reality-based.” A hundred thousand corpses around us is a lot of reality to ignore. Reality is going to catch up with us, and it iis going to hurt 100,000 times more when it does.

What have we become?

21 Responses to “100,000 Iraqi dead”

  1. And your definition of reasonable is:

    A) It’s okay to let Saddam kill 500,000 plus Iraqis

    B) It’s okay for Hitler to kill all the Jews and others that he did

    C) It’s okay for ruthless dictators around the world to commit genocide and other atrocities

    But it’s not okay for the US Military to have collateral damage and death in the process of helping humanity to free themselves from bondage and death?

    What do you recommend, letting them all kill each other before going in? Where is the humanity in that?

    Through diplomacy you say? How many years did Clinton and the UN try to talk Saddam to death? How many years did Europe try to talk Hitler to death? How long did the Clinton, NATO, and Europe wait to stop the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia?

    I’m all for diplomacy first, but there has to be a limit. For me, that limit is when they start killing felow human beings. If I, as a military man is willing to give my life for my country and all of humanity, I believe the oppressed are also willing to sacrifice to make life better for their fellow citizens. War is not and never will be an exact science. Collateral damage is bound to happen. Look at the numbers – do we sacrifice 100,000 to save 20 million, or do we let some dictator kill off several million or more and an entire ethnic group?

  2. To DLD: I hate that logic.  Just hate it.  For me it is about being responsible for my conduct and for how I create the world I want to live in.  We as a society can tolerate that many traffic fatalities in a comparable time, but that’s our problem.  Just as is the death by violence in our own society.  Or the war on drugs we’re … uh, winning.  How about someone who decides to invade us to cure us of our evil ways?

    What kind of world are you proposing to create, and where are you headed to kill some people to save them?  Is this really an idea you are willing to die for?  Intervened in any local crimes lately?  Prevented violence in a family near you?

    My middle son is a Hindu monk (honest).  So I have had more exposure to Hindu-ism than I would have expected in my lifetime.  And the guru that founded the monastery said essentially this when he was receiving an award at the United Nations:  If you want to know how to create world peace, start in your family.  And he was speaking for ahimsa (if I got that right).  It is like the oath that physicians take: First, do no harm.  Got it?

    Here’s something that I saw attributed to an experienced military officer: “The problem with warfare is that it teaches the victor that violence succeeds.”  My addition to that is “the problem with warfare is that it teaches the vanquished that violence succeeds.”  Consider that automatic resort to violence (not defense against it) is an expression of weakness and failure.  We were far from the last resort when we allowed our national grief and fear to take us down this road.

  3. Consider for a sec just how horrific the loss of 3,000 civilian lives was to us. Consider how far above Saddam we hold our level of civilization. Then consider the lives of civilians in Iraq who have been subjected to violence perpetrated by our armed forces.

    If it’s not terrorism to launch nightly bombing strikes on a city like Falluja where the vast majority of citizens are simply trying to live their lives and raise their children, then what is it?

    If the al Qaeda terrorists objectified the people they killed on 9-11, then we certainly must be objectifying these 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. We certainly killed a lot more in WWII. But the more we hold American lives to be 33 times more valid than Iraqi lives, the more we invite more attacks upon our own citizens.

  4. Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan):’The troubling thing about these results is that they suggest that the US may soon catch up with Saddam Hussein in the number of civilians killed.’ It’s well worth reading all of his reflections on this Lancet report: he has his doubts about the figure the authors have arrived at (100,000+), but his conclusions are nonetheless … disturbing.

  5. Thanks for your comments. To Orcmid, I have no doubt as to my conduct and have no doubt about yours. We have no control over the conduct of others though, as in the Saddams, the Hitlers, et al. Our personal universes are centered on us and flow outwards from there. When we reach a point of conflict, then we have a problem. The best offense is a good defense as the saying goes, but that only applies to ourselves and our nation. What about the rest of humanity? Who is going to free or defend the enslaved, persecuted members of humanity beyond our borders? All the prayers, chants, UN resolutions, economic sanctions, and diplomatic condemnations in the world won’t and did not stop some of the aforementioned persons from the massacres and atrocities they committed. And Yes to all of your other questions ;)

    And to Cliff, I am not, and I didn’t see anywhere here that we are placing more value on American lives. My point is that a life is a life is a life, regardless of nationality, creed, color, etc. We in the military have to fight against the oppressors on their battlefield, wherever that may be. I would rather it be in a an honorable venue such as a battlefield rather than hiding behind the skirts of women and the shadows of children. In my opinion, there is no such thing as an acceptable loss of life. But the world is much bigger than just you or me. While we are important to ourselves, families, and friends, beyond that circle, we are just another member of humanity. In the big picture, almost nothings; in our own minds, real people that want to make a difference.

    Tough choices I know, but we need to examine and understand all the facts. Our choices as I hear them so far are to either react forcefully and with purpose or to stick our heads in the ground and let the rest of humanity fend for themselves. Are we Americans, or are we both Americans and members of the global sea of humanity?

  6. Just to keep things in perspective, this is the same “prestigious” Lancet that published the MMR vacine causes autism fraud.

  7. We have the option and amazing historical opportunity to do the hard work and heavy lifting that it takes to create a lawful world.  We frankly don’t trust that, it seems to me, and worry more about our sovereignty than that of the people who share this planet with us.

    So long as we subscribe to the idea that nation states are a good thing, we get to deal with how we become a family of nations.  I don’t think that is having our heads in the sand.

    It is an awful logic that makes it appear there is no middle approach possible through internationally-supported means, and that the only alternative to our ferocity is appeasement.  That’s bull.  We have seen non-violent solutions (especially where the logic of violence was against us, yet that particular “evil empire” is no more).  We have done it at home, and we have seen it in the world.  We have also done it with military force applied in effective ways (as in the former Yugoslavia) as an action to end genocide, or for ushering young American kids through classroom doors.  It may happen in the Sudan.

    We have seen interventions fail, too.  We’re not prescient.  And we’re not being prescient when we say such efforts are doomed.  We are simply living a terrible self-fulfilling prophecy, it seems to me, and we become what we profess to defend the world against.  Lucky us.

    (PS: We did “let” Sadam kill 500,000 or so Iraqis.  That had already happened, hadn’t it?  How many had he killed after 1991 when we left him there?  How many did we protect by enforcing no-fly zones and movements against the Kurds?  The last time I checked, Sadam has been in the klink for a while now.  So, what does that have to with what is happening? If all we wanted to do was bring Sadam to trial like a criminal, we found a terrible way to do it.  So I thank you for your questions.  I have finally realized how questionable the motives — or the intelligence — of the administration must be that our approach was in any way a solution to the “problem” of Sadam Hussein.  I really wasn’t willing to make that leap until this very exchange:  Whether malicious or only dangerously, terribly incompetent, our actions are completely out of line with addressing Sadam Hussein’s being a murderous tyrant.  Dang.)

  8. Ah crap. Let’s at least call in Arthur Andersen, er Accenture, to audit the accounting before stirring up the moral outrage. Had the number been 10,000 in the report, the case for “aw fuck it” moral outrage would be a lot less.

    Call be cynical, but I’d wager this number will be revised downward 5 to 10 fold over the next year. Yeah, it sucks that civilians die. It sucks that soldiers die. We live in a very dangerous world. When that world left our half of the sphere alone, we could be passive. 9/11 changed that. Sorry.

  9. “When that world left our half of the sphere alone, we could be passive. 9/11 changed that. Sorry.”

    ‘Fraid you will be, Brad. From the Kasserine Pass to Fallujah, the United States has not shown itself adept at warfare. You’re on to a hiding to nothing. And if you step into my neighbourhood…

    Okay… Whether dressed in self-interest or altruism, there appears to be a particularly arrogant American mindset that presupposes a right, obligation or duty to use forceful intervention to manipulate other countries’ affairs to suit an American world view.

    Orcmid’s right. Forget it. Stay at home. Learn to stop molesting your kids and beating your wife.

    Should you manage to restrain yourself (yeah, yeah, I know you say you’ve stopped beating her), we living outside the United States might one day again be able to find it in ourselves to share your grief when incidents similar to those of September 9, 2001 take place.

    Should you carry on your chosen course… Well, you said it. “Sorry…”

    enowning: To question The Lancet’s credentials in the way you do is akin to trashing NASA’s achievements because a Martian probe missed. Your point is not altogether logical, eh?

  10. Thanks for posting this, David. I sent it to Dave Farber as well, and he didn’t think it was important enough to post, and it seems to have been a half a day buried on pg. A29 newspaper story.

    And Americans wonder why we are hated in the Arab world. We don’t even take notice of the fact that we are killing Arab woment and children every day.

    In Iraq, every day is a 9-11, thanks to American bombing.

  11. I’d like to address the speculation that this figure will eventually be reduced by a factor of 5 to 10:

    A few months back, there was another news story about a study about the psychological effects of the war on US soldiers. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but they were very roughly along the lines of 50% of US soldiers had killed at least one Iraqi soldier, and 17% had killed one or more civilians. We have what, 130,000 soldiers? After doing a quick bit of arithmetic I thought to myself: we will eventually hear that a lot more than 10,000 Iraquis were killed, the number I was hearing at the time.

  12. The blogosphere is starting to weigh in on why the methodology of this study is a total cluster fuck.

    Why do I get the feeling that this 100K civilians thing is going to be one of those stats that the left is rooting for? Anyone wanna speculate why this seems to be the case?

  13. Here is a reference (The New England Journal of Medicine) for my previous posting:

    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/351/1/13.pdf

    On page 6:
    48% of Army and 65% of Marines were “Responsible for the death of an enemy combatant” in Iraq

    14% of Army and 28% of Marines were “Responsible for the death of a noncombatant” in Iraq

  14. Mark,

    Add in the stat about “had a buddy shot or hit who was near you” — 22% for the Army group, 26% for the Marines group. We’ve had north of 10,000 wounded. The rates I quote are in the neighborhood of the noncombatant rates you quote. You might extrapolate accordingly to account for noncombatant deaths due to ground units.

    The context is important, and your first quote mangles it terribly. The units surveyed were Army and Marine units whose job was combat (primarily ground). We have units there that don’t do much combat at all, with tasks such as logistics and transportation. We also relied heavily on Navy and Air Force pilots who certainly had more capacity to inflict civilian casualties.

    I guess I just don’t see how we can determine a body count without doing a body count.

  15. Brad,

    We will never get an accurate total body count, so the best we can do is estimate.

    As you point out, the stats to “combat units.” Let’s guess that amounts to 80,000 of the troops there. That gives us a minimum of 40,000 Iraqi combatants and 12,000 noncombatants killed. Since some soldiers certainly killed more than one person, the actual number must be significantly higher. Also, the numbers were obtained in late 2003, so the current numbers would be higher yet. Then the number must increase dramatically again when you count people killed by air attacks.

    Comparing directly to the percentage of soldiers who “had a buddy shot or hit who was near you” doesn’t work, since each American who was shot was probably reported by multiple “buddies”.

    I don’t think my line of reasoning here gets us all the way to 100,000 civilians killed, but the estimates going around in the 12,000 to 15,000 range are probably way too low.

  16. Lancet Study on Iraqi Deaths – Revisited

    Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable. There are lies, damned lies and statistics.                          &nbsp…

  17. Brad:

    Since you ask, sure, I’ll speculate on why you “…get the feeling that this 100K civilians thing is going to be one of those stats that the left is rooting for.”

    You tend to set up a strawman opposition. A lot of us do. My imaginary right-wing opponent makes specious, Ann Coulter-like arguments at every opportunity.

    The trouble, and the reason this season has been so depressing, is that the right has so often been ready to fulfill my worst fantasies. For example, even during the Viet Nam war, I thought Graham Greene’s “Ugly American” was nothing more than an interesting study of a pathology in which a nice guy is ready to kill people for their own good. Sure, during the war there were those ready to “destroy the village in order to save it,” but in a combat situation or its aftermath, I’d probably say something even dumber.

    However, this last several months has flushed any number of people like yourself and Dave, apparently ready to provide people everywhere with all kinds of favors, whether they will be able to survive them or not. Maybe it goes along with the fact that, after two world wars and a cold war, 9/11 apparently convinced you that the “other hemisphere” can impinge on ours, or the idea that we can take care of all comers, when we didn’t even try that 1947, when the US was something like the power that you seem to imagine it is today.

    As for the Iraqui civilian dead numbers, “>http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ gives a 14,000 — 16,000 “Reported civilian deaths” number on November 1st, and it has always been accepted that more people die there than are reported in the media. The 100,000 number, using a methodology that has been accepted elsewere, has been presented in a for-what-its-worth manner for all of us to snipe at, and there has been a lot of arm-chair criticism. Fair enough. Let’s let someone else take a crack at it, and reflect that thousands of civilian dead, with air strikes on major centers, is a hell of a way to treat beneficiaries.

  18. Robert Fisk, the correspondent for the “Independent,” in an interview yesterday, speaking of tracking down official figures kept by local Iraqui authorities, said “…the associated press had a pretty good go at this before most of Iraq went outside of government control, we came up with a figure that got to around 20,000 or 30,000 Iraqis.” He believes that both the American and the Iraqui interim authorities are careful not to keep count.

  19. Amazingly, Us talks about liberating oppressed people… ok. So US is against oppressive dictators or undemocratic regimes. So the world is a better place without saddam. thats why we went there?. Why does bush then hold fahads hand and support the pak dictator musharraf?
    Double standards nothing else. Selective justice.. what a joke

  20. Exactly Joie. They, the Bush admin., have no problem with dictators and the atrocities they inflict on their own people, so long as they support the US’s policies and economic interests. To rail that this so- called “war on terror” can somehow be justified on the basis of the necessity of ridding the world of the “evil of Saddam” is ludicrous. This admin. has proven time and again that there is nothing inherently moral in their decision making processes. It was simply a matter of W wanting to get Saddam and making up any excuse to do it. Then as the excuses were unmasked for the lies that they were, a new rationale replaced the previous. Not a good reason to commit billions of dollars and the lives of our youth. Oh, by the way, Iraq had nothing to do with the events of 9/11 so lets stop using that as an excuse to be over there. Everybody to the right seems to have selective memory loss.

  21. its sad in war when civilians get killed but the bad guys use women and children as human sheilds thet are the ones with blood on there hands what about the other rouge nations and anti peace countrys if your not a muslim u die r we supposed to sit back and let bombers kill our children what about the world sorting everything out every nation

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