Thursday, January 10, 2008

150,000 Iraqi deaths?

Hot on the heels of the National Journal's critique of the Lancet study (which said as many as 650,000 Iraqis had died since we invaded), we have a new, apparently sterling study which indicates that 150,000 Iraqis died between the invasion and the end of 2006.

I'll accept that. When the Lancet study first came out, I counseled taking it with a grain of salt. Plus, it matches an Iraqi government estimate from November 2006.

Back in March, on a discussion board I frequent, I suggested a reasonable number was between 200,000 and 400,000. That appears to have overshot the total -- but not by much at the lower end. Indeed, my number overlaps the study's numbers, since it actually says the death toll could be as low as 104,000 or as high as 223,000.

Anyway, if we accept the 150,000 figure, we then have to add the 2007 death toll, which included some of the bloodiest months of the entire war. Say another 30,000 or 40,000 people. Now we're bumping up against 200,000.

In a nation of 26 million people, that's a lot. It's the equivalent of 2.3 million Americans dying -- something not even World War II accomplished. And it means people are still dying at a rate far higher than they did under Saddam -- two or three times higher. It remains to be seen if the security gains made at the end of the year can be sustained, and if 2008 will see a dramatic drop in deaths. Let's hope so.

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