Saturday, March 22, 2008

No End In Sight

This week marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. Just Foreign Policy asks "what is a cautious, conservative, responsible thing to say about the Iraqi death toll?" That is, in addition to the 4304 U.S. and coalition deaths, the 29,314 U.S. wounded, the $500 billion spent so far, how many Iraqis have died since our invasion?

JFP weighs the options. The Iraq Body Count project only tallies the dead who have been reported by the media and official sources -- their answer (almost certainly an undercount): 82,000 to 90,000 non-combatant dead. Two controversial (yet peer-reviewed) epidemiological studies published in The Lancet (pdf here and here) that estimate 650,000 excess deaths (with 600,000 attributable to violence) as of July 2006. And finally, the Iraqi Health Ministry Study which found 400,000 excess deaths over a similar time period (but only 150,000 attributable to violence). JPF extrapolates these two estimates forward (by scaling to the IBC numbers, although regrettably without error bars. sigh.) to conclude:
"...between 300,000 and 1.2 million Iraqis have died, and the statement “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died” has very strong support."
On the fifth anniversary (and the coming of Easter), I think it is worth taking a minute to mourn these lives and ask why? What for? For oil? For power? For lies about WMD? When violence was up, we couldn't leave. Now that violence is (somewhat) down, we still can't leave. How much longer? How many more? Again, for what? And don't ask John McCain - he thinks we should stay for a good long time.

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