In view of the misinformation about Iraqi war casualties frequently read in the press (“several 10,000 civilians dead”), and in view of the ominous developments concerning Iran, it seems appropriate to draw attention to the survey published last October in the leading British medical journal “Lancet”, conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health using cutting edge survey techniques. According to a report published by the BBC on 26 March 2007:
“The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt.”
“Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet. But the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser said the” Lancet “survey’s methods were “close to best practice” and the study design was “robust”. Another expert agreed the method was “tried and tested”.”
For the Iraqi Health Ministry survey, “the Iraq government asks the country’s hospitals to report the number of victims of terrorism or military action. Critics say the system was not started until well after the invasion and requires over-pressed hospital staff not only to report daily, but also to distinguish between victims of terrorism and of crime.”
For the Lancet survey ”the researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people. In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.”
“President Bush said: “I don’t consider it a credible report.” But a memo by the MoD’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: “The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to “best practice” in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq.””
“However “Speaking six days after Sir Roy praised the study’s methods, British foreign office minister Lord Triesman said: “The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern….””
“Dr Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway London University says that most of those questioned lived on streets more likely than average to witness attacks: “It would appear they were only able to sample a small sliver of the country,” he said. Dr Spagat has previously conducted research with Iraq Body Count, an NGO that counts deaths on the basis of media reports and which has produced estimates far lower than those published in the Lancet.
If the Lancet survey is right, then 2.5% of the Iraqi population – an average of more than 500 people a day – have been killed since the start of the war.”
Even if casualties are overestimated in the Lancet report, they appear to be certainly much greater than the “several 10,000” often mentioned. On top of this, we have the more than 4 million displaced people (about 2 million in neighbouring countries, particularly Syria and Jordan), and the catastrophic collapse of most of the infrastructure including medical services (which must have led to a very large loss of life not directly attributable to violence and therefore not included in above reports).
And all this in the name of Western civilisation and democracy.
An attack on Iran would very likely have even more serious consequences.