Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Study estimates 600,000 Iraqis dead by violence
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
More than 600,000 Iraqis have died by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to a study released today by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The figure is based on surveys of households throughout most of the country. It vastly exceeds estimates cited by the Iraqi government, the United Nations, aid and anti-war groups, and President Bush.
The new estimate was immediately challenged by the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Mark Bellesteros, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Iraqi government "would be in a better position ... to provide more accurate information on deaths in Iraq."
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said "many experts" found that a 2004 study by the same group "wildly inflated the findings." That study said the war had caused 100,000 Iraqi deaths.
"This study appears to be equally flawed," he said. The new study said the deaths have resulted from coalition military activity, crime and religious violence.
Iraq's Health Ministry estimated 50,000 violent deaths since the war began, through June. Last December, President Bush put the figure at 30,000. The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, estimated the death toll at 60,000.
Overall, the analysis estimates that 2.5% of the Iraqi population has died as a result of the conflict.
The research relied on random sampling of 1,800 Iraqi households by researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the School of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Based on deaths suffered by those households, analysts calculated an average of about 600 deaths a day since the invasion.
"I think it's perfectly plausible," said the study's lead author, Gilbert Burnham, professor of international health at Johns Hopkins.
Then-British foreign secretary Jack Straw was among those who criticized the earlier study.
This time the researchers doubled the size of their random survey. In 92% of the homes in which residents reported deaths, families had death certificates, they said.
Beyond violent deaths, the study said about 53,000 deaths from other causes, such as accident and illness, were attributable to the war because of its effect on health care.
Gunfire was the leading cause of violent death; car bomb fatalities are rising, the study said.
James Fearon, a Stanford University political scientist and Iraq expert, said, "One thing (the study may) certainly do is confirm the view that there is a very, very serious civil war going in Iraq."