BBC News today reported on a study, conducted by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath, a reliable source I should think, which determines that, since 2003, upwards of 665,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a direct result of US occupation. As best I can determine from the article, the figure was arrived at by extrapolating data from a sample population.

According to the article, “The estimated death toll is equal to about 2.5% of Iraq’s population, and averages out at more than 500 additional deaths a day since the start of the invasion.” In addition, “the researchers say that in nearly 80% of the individual cases, family members produced death certificates to support their answers.” Now, this means 80% of the sample population, not 80% of the 665,000, but, if one accepts this methodology and, if one were to only count those deaths documented by a death certificate, the figure would still be 532,000, more than five times the official estimate. The BBC article contains further details on how the study was conducted, but the study itself will be published in an upcoming edition of the highly respected medical journal The Lancet.

Well, I recall when liberal columnist Molly Ivins, and Maureen Dowd as well if I’m not mistaken, got in trouble for saying that more Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the occupation than were killed by Saddam Hussein’s brutal practices. Ivins made the following apology:

CROW EATEN HERE: This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

But, if these estimates are even close to correct, the numbers are, in fact, inching ever closer to each other.

It partly depends upon how you do the math, in both cases, but the numbers are close even if you use an estimate of Iraqi deaths attributed to Saddam that comes from the intensely anti-Saddam and pro-American Iraq Foundation, an organization of expatriates:

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein’s regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran’s reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq’s official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country. Casualties from Iraq’s gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi émigrés and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have “disappeared” into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000.

OK, so if you don’t count Iranians killed in the Iraq-Iran war or the Kuwaitis killed in the Gulf War, that’s 500,000, plus 100,000 as a result of the Gulf War, plus 200,000 as a result of Saddam’s reign of terror. This totals 800,000, and please note that the Gulf War number, if attributed to Saddam rather than the US or some combination of both, is, acording to this source, hugely inflated.

Even less reliable sources estimate higher because they include civilians that may have died as a result of sanctions, which, however one cuts it, were not imposed by Saddam. Eliminate those numbers and you have pretty much the same estimate:

From a very sketchy source: moreorless : heroes & killers of the 20th century:

. . . between 150,000 and 340,000 Iraqis and 730,000 Iranians killed during the Iran-Iraq War. An estimated 1,000 Kuwaiti nationals killed following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. No conclusive figures for the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War, with estimates varying from as few as 1,500 to as many as 200,000. Over 100,000 Kurds killed or “disappeared”. No reliable figures for the number of Iraqi dissidents and Shia Muslims killed during Hussein’s reign, though estimates put the figure between 60,000 and 150,000. (Mass graves discovered following the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 suggest that the total combined figure for Kurds, Shias and dissidents killed could be as high as 300,000). Approximately 500,000 Iraqi children dead because of international trade sanctions introduced following the Gulf War.

OK, so excluding Iranians, Kuwaitis, and those that may have died as a result of sanctions–Minimum: 311,500; Maximum 940,000. 

Some estimates for civilian executions are as high as 600,000, but this figure and the 300,000 one given above seem to be inflated—they are based largely on a mistaken report that 400,000 people were found in mass graves.

Wikipedia’s article on Human Rights in Saddam’s Iraq , which may be the most reliable among all of these sources, includes a total maximum of approximately 330,000 documented civilian deaths as a result of the gulag alone.  To this figure we can add those Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed during the two wars.

So, what is the bottom line of all of this counting which is, at best, estimated? The bottom line from my perspective is that at least half a million Iraqis and Kurds died as a result of Saddam’s brutality and foolishness and at least half a million have died as a result of American foolishness (and, sometimes, brutality). But when you consider that the figure compiled for Saddam covers a period of upwards of twenty years and the American occupation figures cover a period of upwards of three years, one gets a very grim picture indeed. If one accepts the 500 plus a day figure, one must acknowledge that this far exceeds Saddam’s daily average.

At best, one can only conclude that this occupation has caused much more grief for the Iraqi people and has been more a part of the problem than the solution. And one can also conclude that our government has been far less than honest with us regarding the reality for Iraqis, which seems to be getting worse daily, particularly for those in Baghdad.