Feature

Iraq

How many have died?

Remember President Bush's estimate that 30,000 Iraqis'”'œmore or less''”had died as a result of the U.S. invasion and subsequent chaos? Well, turns out it's more'”much more, said Tim Grieve in Salon.com. A study published last week in The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association, estimated the number of Iraqi civilian dead at 654,965. That's a staggering 2.5 percent of Iraq's population, the equivalent of 7.4 million dead U.S. citizens. The president himself was quick to dismiss the new figure as 'œnot credible,' said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, and it's obvious why he wishes that were the case. But while no body count can ever be accurate in a place as chaotic as post-invasion Iraq'”the study's own authors concede the true figure might be as low as 400,000'”you have to conclude 'œthat the human suffering in Iraq has been far beyond our imagining.'

Not if you consider the source, said The Washington Times in an editorial. These same researchers, from Johns Hopkins University, were the ones who in 2004 put the death toll at 100,000'”a figure that, as now, was orders of magnitude higher than any other estimate. That study, just like this one, came weeks before a crucial American election. To come up with the kind of staggering figure required by the 'œanti-American minions of the mainstream press,' said Richard Nadler in National Review Online, the study's authors relied on a highly dubious methodology. Rather than counting actual bodies or death certificates, they interviewed a supposedly random sample of 1,849 Iraqi households and, like pollsters, extrapolated their findings to the country as a whole. To skew the figures further, the study compares post-invasion Iraq to one of the least violent periods in Saddam's reign.

Still, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this new study is correct, said Christopher Hitchens in Slate.com. The researchers aren't saying that 654,965 Iraqis have been killed by U.S. forces. The vast majority of the deaths are attributed to 'œother' or 'œunknown' actors, meaning of course the fanatics whose idea of a good time is setting off a rush-hour car bomb or beheading aid workers on video. To blame these deaths on the U.S. is an act of 'œsimple moral idiocy,' but it's even more idiotic to use these figures to argue for a U.S. withdrawal. If our troops were to depart, 'œthe sort of people who would have a free hand in Iraq' might well slaughter more than 600,000 people, and in just a matter of weeks.

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