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Iraq Conflict in Numbers
March 21, 2008

Since the conflict in Iraq began in 2003, there have been battles over numbers. These disagreements range not only over how much money the was has cost — and may eventually cost — but over casualty numbers for coalition members and Iraqis. Counting the Iraqi citizens who were killed, injured or even displaced by the conflict faces some logistical challenges due to the lack of standardized reporting entities on the ground. But there is also and ongoing debate over just how the Department of Defense enumerates those injured in the conflict. Critics contend that many in-theater deaths and injuries go uncounted in the official totals — ruled accidents.

Of course, numbers are not just numbers in the coverage of a controversial war. As the NEW YORK TIMES public editor noted in the wake of a controversy over contradictory casualty figures reported by his own paper, the reality in Iraq depends on who's counting. And the numbers are used to support or criticize administration initiatives like the recent troop surge.

A media battle erupted in 2008 between the authors of a study in the British medical journal, THE LANCET, and THE NATIONAL JOURNAL. The LANCET STUDY contends that some 600,000 post-invasion Iraqi deaths are due to violence. The NATIONAL JOURNAL labeled the study "Data Bomb," questioning both the methodology and the Iraqi researchers who performed the data collection. One of the study's commissioners, argued back in EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, that the JOURNAL's evaluation was "a hatchet job." Read the study and the articles:

Additional debates over statistics involve other medical and international research groups, official Department of Defense numbers and the British-based Web site, Iraq Body Count. The numbers of Iraqi dead ranges from over 80,000 to over 600,00 among these groups. Review the methodology and results of additional sources:

New England Journal of Medicine Iraqi Family Health Survey Study Group
Results: 151,000 civilians deaths between March 2003 and June 2006
Methods: The IFHS is a nationally representative survey of 9345 households that collected information on deaths in the household since June 2001. We used multiple methods for estimating the level of underreporting and compared reported rates of death with those from other sources.

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Results: 654,965 additional civilian deaths between March 2003 and July 2006
Methods: The estimates were derived from a nationwide household survey of 1,849 households throughout Iraq conducted between May and July 2006.

Iraq Body Count Project
Results: 81,874-89,353 civilian deaths (as of February 1, 2008)
Methods: IBC's documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violent events leading to the death of civilians, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures.

Opinion Research Business
This British polling agency which has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since September 2005.
Results: 733,158-1,220,580 civilian deaths between March 2003 and September 2007
Methods: In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question: Q: How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.
None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%
"Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003. Calculating the affect from the margin of error we believe that the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063."

The Brookings Institute Iraq Index
Results: 103,567 (May 2003 through February 2008)
Methods: "Information for May 2003-December 2005 is based upon data from Iraq Body Count. The data for war-related fatalities was calculated at 1.75 times our IBC-based numbers, reflecting the fact that estimates for civilian casualties from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior were 75 percent higher than those of our Iraq Body Count-based estimate over the aggregate May 2003 – December 2005 period. During this time, we separately studied the crime rate in Iraq, and on that basis estimated 23,000 murders throughout the country. In order to add these back in to our estimate, we used estimated monthly murder rates for Baghdad as a guide in proportionally allocating these 23,000 additional fatalities."

"Our estimates from January-December 2006 are based upon the numbers published in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, “Human Rights Report: 1 May–30 June, 2006” and subsequent reports. This data combines the Iraq Ministry of Health's tally of deaths counted at hospitals with the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute's tally of deaths counted at morgues."

"Figures for January-August are approximations based on a graph presented by Gen. David Petraeus during Congressional testimony given on September 10-11, 2007 and reprinted in the U.S. Department of State's “Iraq Weekly Status Report” dated September 12, 2007. Updates for subsequent months have been provided by the U.S. Department of Defense."

Below you'll also find sites which monitor coalition force casualties — and provide biographical information as well as recent anniversary round-ups of war-related statistics.

Published on March 21, 2008.

Related Media:
OWhat's Next for Iraq?
What's Next for Iraq? NPR's Deborah Amos — just back from Damascus — and THE NEW YORKER's George Packer on the Iraq war and what you haven't heard from Washington.

Buying the War
How did the mainstream media get it so wrong in the lead up to the Iraq War?

The Cost of War: A Bill Moyers Essay
How do you make tangible the true costs of the Iraq war? With photos from Nina Berman's book PURPLE HEARTS.

OLori Grinker aboard the U.S.S. Comfort
Photojournalist Lori Grinker documents the activity of a hospital ship in the Persian Gulf.

References and Reading:
Memorials to U.S. Troops
CNN: U.S. and Coalition casualties

"Faces of the Fallen: Iraq and Afghanistan casualties," THE WASHINGTON POST

Central Command publishes a list of casualties daily.

Additional Statistical Coverage
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count Drawing on figures from CENTOM, The Department of Defense, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and news reports, this site counts both coalition and Iraqi and wounded and breaks the information down by date and circumstances. There is an extensive description of their methodology on the site.

"W.H.O. Says Iraq Civilian Death Toll Higher Than Cited ," THE NEW YORK TIMES, By Lawrence K. Altman and Richard A. Oppel Jr., January 10, 2008.

Iraq Body Count: War dead figures
Report on the IBC from the BBC.

"Calculating casualties,"
Controversy analysis from THE ECONOMIST.

5th Anniversary Round-ups
Reuters: Bearing Witness
Anniversary coverage on five years of the Iraq War.

"The Reach of the War,"

5 years in: The Iraq war by the numbers
Anniversary coverage and statistical summary from THE ARMY TIMES.

Also This Week:

Enter the story of Iraq war veteran Tomas Young who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, BODY OF WAR tells the poignant tale of the young man's journey from joining the service after 9/11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.

Bill Moyers interviews former talk show host Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro on the true cost of war and their documentary, Body of War, depicting the moving story of one veteran dealing with the aftermath of war.

>Read a Q & A with filmmaker Ellen Spiro

Get information on the numbers behind the conflict — and the controversy over tallying U.S. and Iraqi casualties.

Useful Web sites for veterans and their families.

Plus, tell us the songs that inspire you.

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