Estimating Civilian Deaths in Iraq

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Estimating Civilian Deaths in Iraq

As Zoe noted in this earlier post, nearly 655,000 Iraqi civilians are believed to have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003.

That figure is, well, just a little higher than the estimate given by the White House late last year. According to today's Washington Post:

The estimate (of 655,000), produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

Now, I realize that Bush's estimate was given in December. But I don't think that 625,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the last nine months. So it's pretty obvious that even then the White House was way, way low in its estimate. Shocking, isn't it?

What's sad is that most Americans look at U.S. troop casualties — not civilian Iraqi casualties — as the barometer of success or failure in Iraq. This number (655,000) probably won't get much play in the media so that's likely to continue to be the prism through which Americans assess the situation in Iraq.

Homelessness is also a massive problem in Iraq. According to the U.S.-run Radio Liberty, nearly a quarter of a million Iraqis have been rendered homeless since the Samarra mosque attacks back in February.

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