Lancing the Spin 5

The best available scientific estimate of deaths due to the invasion and occupation of Iraq is 655,000, as of July 2006. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, wrote in Comment is Free earlier this week about the misuse of scientific advice by the government, and its attempts to discredit the research published in his journal.

A report on the BBC FOIA request, that revealed the government machinations in detail, can be read here.

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5 thoughts on “Lancing the Spin

  • Randal

    One of the study's authors, Les Roberts, points out that the death toll consequent on the Iraq invasion exceeds that of the Rwanda genocide.

    I understand estimates for Rwanda range up to a million, but I'm prepared to take Roberts at his word, since I believe he was in Rwanda for the WHO at the time and he is after all a world expert on estimating disaster death tolls.

    Puts Blair and Bush's irresponsibility (I'm being generous here) in some perspective, doesn't it?

  • Randal

    Let's have a quick go at getting a first approximation for an updating of the Lancet figure. The study gives the following figures for excess mortality (deaths per thousand per year):

    Mar 03-Apr 04: 2.6

    May 04 – May 05: 5.6

    June 05 – June 06: 14.2

    There appears to be no obvious reason not to believe that the sharp rising trend has continued into 2007, but to get a rough baseline figure, let's see what we get if the '05-'06 rate is assumed to have continued. That would add roughly an additional 3/4 of a year's additional deaths – 10.6 per thousand population.

    In other words, (using the 26 million mid-2004 population figure they used in the original study) the 655,000 figure would now be in excess of 930,000. Bear in mind this is probably a substantial under-estimate, because it's more likely the rising trend continued than that it suddenly flattened out (anecdotal observation would certainly suggest violent deaths have continued to increase). However, this might be somewhat balanced by the fact that the population has dropped substantially through emigration (UN estimates up to 2m already left).

    Definitely in Rwanda territory, anyway!

  • Randal

    Very welcome, Craig.

    Should perhaps be noted here that the Rwanda business was much more intense, both in time and because it occurred in a country with a population less than a third that of Iraq. But the absolute numbers seem comparable. And on the other hand, the butcher's bill for Blair and Bush's aggression is probably nowhere near yet fully paid.

    In the interests of minimising our national guilt (it will make no difference to the deceased), we must hope that the so-far unproven and unquantified speculation that the figures in the study are somewhat over-stated due to bias in the sampling system proves to have some merit, I suppose.

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