Friday, October 29, 2004

The Washington Post* reports that an "international team of public health researchers" estimated in a report published by The Lancet** that "at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have died because of the U.S. invasion" in March 2003. The study is reported to have been "based on a door-to-door survey conducted September of 988 Iraqi households - containing 7,868 people in 33 neighborhoods - selected to provide a representative sampling."

However, a Pentagon 'spokesman' is cited as saying on October 28 that "there is no way to validate estimates" by independent groups, as the Defense Department does "not keep tallies of civilian casualties, ..."

Furthermore, "other experts immediately challenged" the report, in light of the fact that "previous independent estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq"*** "... never exceed[ed] 16,000."

According to Human Rights Watch 'senior military analyst' Marc Garlasco, "'The methods that [the researchers] used are certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting.'" He added that "'these numbers seem to be inflated,'" and "said it is extremely different to estimate civilian casualties, especially based on relatively small numbers," stating that "'100,000 is a reach.'"

Nonetheless, the group "called their estimate conservative because they excluded deaths in Fallujah," lately the target of continued US bombing - in hopes of eliminating a base for Jordanian-born jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has recently sworn his alliegance to the perenially elusive Osama bin Laden.

Les Roberts, one of the chief architects of the study, said that he and his group "'are quite confident that there's been somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 deaths, but it could be much higher.'"

*Rob Stein, "100,000 Civilians Deaths Estimated in Iraq," 29 October 2004, A16.

**It is described as a British-based medical journal; L. Roberts, et. al., "Mortality Before and After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq," 30 October 2004, Vol. 364, No. 9445.

***Such as the Iraq Body Count (IBC) Database, which currently has the tally of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the war in Iraq (based upon wire reports from 38 independent sources and filtered via a stringent set of criteria) from a minimum reported figure of 14,181 to a maximum of 16,312. (The IBC's background information, including their rationale and methodology, can be found here.)

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