Introduction

Civilians during times of war bear the consequences of deteriorating security and lack of safety, and ultimately fall victim of the circumstances. The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of many Iraqi civilians. [2] Exact numbers however, are not known. As is common during times of war, there is the absence of a centralized death registration system in Iraq. [3] Direct methods of counting, whereby official death records of morgues, hospitals, and death certificates are consulted, are therefore unreliable. [4]Given this, indirect methods of interviewing households throughout Iraq are the most reliable method of counting given the circumstances. Many international organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations have counted excess [5] civilian casualties using such methods; however all have reported different numbers. Reports range from 128,000 to 1,033,000. This means the death of over 900,000 Iraqis is disputed.

This discrepancy and dispute over the lives of Iraqi civilians is due to the politics of numbers. That is, the reported number of excess civilian casualties supports policy agendas and serve as political statements. Counting has been treated as a means of elevating political positions. In this way, counting excess civilian casualties of the Iraq war has not been treated as an unbiased scientific endeavor by all parties involved. Individuals and states gaining from the Iraq War, for example, have an incentive to report smaller numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties. [6] The fewer the numbers, the lesser the responsibility on the part of the US and its allies to Iraq and its people. As observed by Marla Ruzicka, “Until people have a name and are counted they don’t exist in a policy sense.” [7]

We may never know the true number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Not only because of the politics of numbers, but also because it is nearly impossible to accurately count numbers of civilian deaths during war. A lack f a centralized death registration system and the mass killing of civilians are only a few reasons for this. What the international community can achieve however, is the strengthening of humanitarian law and policies so that states bear responsibility for civilians during war to ensure enemy forces do not act with impunity towards civilian populations. Accountability is the only force powerful enough to ensure enemy forces take responsibility for civilian lives lost, rather than treating civilian deaths as inevitable collateral damage. Strengthened responsibility towards civilians during war is required if we are to prevent a repeat of the situation in Iraq where, as mentioned, the death of nearly 900,000 Iraqis is disputed.

Direct Methods

Direct and indirect methods of counting excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War produce different numbers due to the different sources they rely on to collect information. Direct methods of counting yield smaller numbers than indirect methods of counting because, as mentioned, relying on death certificates to count excess civilian casualties rests on the false assumption that all deaths are captured by morgues and hospitals. In Iraq, as is true for conflict situations generally, this is not the case for a number of reasons. [8] First, morgues throughout Baghdad have reached their full capacity, yet bodies of civilians continue to arrive. With bodies remaining on the floor until room is created, the families of Iraqi civilian casualties prefer to bury their dead without waiting for a death certificate to be issued by a morgue which may take weeks. [9] In line with Iraqi culture and religion, Iraqis bury their dead by sunset on the day of the death. [10] Second, the bodies of Iraqi civilians buried in mass graves do not reach morgues or hospitals and are not issued death certificates. Third, families may not want to provide their personal details on government forms for fear and suspicion of American troops in Iraq and, because of this, many Iraqi civilian casualties are not recorded. [11] Fourth, relying only on official records does not count the bodies of civilians that were so mutilated from fires and bombings that they could not be identified, and thus not issued death certificates. [12] Fifth, the centralized registration system during Saddam Hussein’s regime captured only one third of deaths in Iraq. [13]

Ruined infrastructure and the departure of health professionals after the US-led March 2003 invasion has resulted in further deterioration of this system. If less than thirty five percent of deaths were accounted for prior to the US invasion, even less so would be accounted for now.

Regardless of these five weaknesses however, this methodology of counting was used by United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq [UNAMI], which reports 35,000 excess civilian casualties in 2006 (the lowest number report using direct methods). [14] This number was extrapolated specifically from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue. [15] The number reported by UNAMI, however, captures only a fraction of the excess Iraqi civilian casualties.

Indirect Methods

Passive Surveillance

Indirect methods of counting excess Iraqi civilian casualties involve either household interviews of Iraqi families; or passive surveillance of the media to collect information of civilian deaths. In the first instance, passive surveillance involves relying on reported Iraqi civilian deaths from selected media sources. However, this methodology possesses two weaknesses, namely that media reports and press releases are based largely on civilian casualties only in Baghdad and not regions of Iraq where Western journalists do not report from. [16] Also, passive surveillance relies on reports from English sources only and not from Arabic newspapers and press releases, thus not capturing all Iraqi deaths. Such weaknesses in methodology lead to fewer Iraqi civilian casualties being counted than is actually the case. [17]

This method however, is used by the Iraq Body Count [IBC] and the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count [ICCC]. IBC reports between 91,466 and 99,861 excess civilian casualties from 19 March 2003 to 21 April 2009. [18] ICCC reports 40,662 excess civilian casualties from March 2005 to 10 March 2008. [19] The discrepancy of reported excess civilian casualties between IBC and ICCC is, at worst, 59,199.[20] The death of almost 60,000 Iraqi civilians is disputed.

Political beliefs are likely to drive the number of Iraqi civilian casualties reported by IBC and ICCC. The decision of whether or not civilian militia and their victims are included in the count is made by opinionated individuals of IBC and ICCC. For example, recent figures from the Iraqi Survey Group report that approximately 60,000 Iraqi civilians have been recruited into the Mahdi Army since the 2003 US-led invasion. The issue of whether or not civilian militia, such as the Mahdi Army, should be included in the count has been largely contested. 11 civilian militias were killed by American troops near Sadr City, a Mahdi Army stronghold, on 21 May 2008. [21] The decision of whether the 11 civilian militia are freedom fighters or terrorists, and thus included in the count or not, was made by IBC and ICCC. The ICCC relies on press reports by the US Department of Defense, the US CENTCOM (under the control of the US Secretary of Defense), and the British Ministry of Defense. The UK argues that victims of civilian militia groups, such as the Mahdi Army, and victims of the civil war in Iraq should not be included in the count of excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War. [22]Therefore, the states of the US and the UK more than likely did not include the 11 civilian militia in the count and, consequently, the ICCC is not likely to have reported these deaths as civilian deaths. The case of the 11 civilian militia is just one example from many occurring every day, where the line between civilian terrorist and freedom fighter cannot be made and thus political opinions and agendas drive numbers reported.

On the other hand, IBC is founded and run by anti-war activists in the USA and the UK. [23] The founder of IBC, John Sloboda, states, “We [IBC] were deeply deeply opposed to the attack on Iraq.”

[24]Therefore, IBC is more likely to include Mahdi Army deaths in the count based on the argument that civilians are recruited to the Mahdi Army in specific response to the US-led invasion in March 2003. [25] That is, had the US and its allies not invaded Iraq then these civilians would not have been recruited, and thus not have died.

Similarly, the decision of whether civilians killed as a result of sectarian killings and terrorist attacks should be included in the count is also largely contested.[26]The US argues that many civilian deaths are a result of the “competition between sects and ethnic political groups for economic and political power,” [27] and thus not a direct result of the US forces. For this reason, the argument is made that they should not be included in the count. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] argues, “The Iraq Body Count we do not regard as reliable. It includes civilian deaths at the hands of terrorists.”[28]Therefore, in light of the evidence that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not likely to include the 11 civilian militia in the count and considering the ICCC relies on press reports by the British Ministry of Defense, there is no doubt that the ICCC does not include civilian militia and their victims to the count. IBC, on the other hand, is more likely to count these deaths as excess civilian deaths.

Analyzing the political views of organizations and the origin of the sources used to count Iraqi civilian deaths is crucial in understanding the discrepancy between numbers reported and provides answers as to why over 900,000 Iraqi deaths are disputed. Specifically, the dispute between IBC and ICCC rests at approximately 60,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

Household Interviews

The more involved method of counting excess civilian deaths is conducting household interviews in Iraq. This methodology is employed by Burnham et al, [29] the Opinion Business Research [ORB], the Iraqi Ministry of Health, and Iraqiyun. Specifically, the Burnham et al study reports 654,965 (with a range of civilian casualties between 392,979 and 942,636) from 18 March 2003 to 10

July 2006. [30] Iraqiyun reports 128,000 civilian casualties from 19 March 2003 to July 2005.[31] Although Iraqiyun does not count excess civilian casualties, this simply means that the number of excess civilian casualties is within this count, and is therefore less than 128,000. [32] The Iraqi Ministry of Health reports 151,000 civilian casualties (with a range of civilian casualties between 104,000 and 223,000) from March 2003 to June 2006. [33] However, this number does not count excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War. Therefore, excess civilian deaths are even less than 151,000 according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health. [34] ORB reports 1,033,000 excess civilian casualties between March 2003 and August 2007 (with the range of civilian casualties between 946,000 and 1,120,000).[35] There is a discrepancy of, at worst, 905,000 Iraqi civilian deaths between different organizations and governments.

The politicization of civilian militia and their victims when conducting household surveys results in the discrepancy of numbers reported. As mentioned, political views drives the decision as to whether or not civilian militia and their victims are included in counts. For the safety of the interviewers, the Burnham et al study did not ask Iraqi families whether family victims were militia during household interviews. [36] Partly funded by the Open Society Institute, [37] the Burnham et al study receives financial support from an organization founded by George Soros; a humanitarian, philanthropist [38] and opponent to former US President George W. Bush during the 2004 elections.[39] The FCO, on the other hand, does not agree with the decision made by the Burnham et al study not to ask Iraqi families whether family victims were militia. [40] The FCO argues that there is a clear line between civilian militias and civilians, and the former should not be included in the count. Similarly, the UK Foreign Secretary criticizes counts which fail to distinguish adequately between those deaths caused by “terrorists” and those caused by “coalition forces.” [41] As mentioned however, the decision of who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter is the decision of the counting party.

Furthermore, whether to believe families reporting deaths without a death certificate is up to the discretion of the interviewer. Deaths of family members may be reported multiple times or reported for a death that did not occur. This may be due to many reasons. First, Iraqis may wrongly blame a family death on US forces due to the fact that they fear retribution from the real perpetrators.[42] Second, interviewees expecting financial compensation from the US may have an incentive to report excess deaths above the true number. [43] Third, relatives of families who have suffered losses as a result of the invasion may find it disrespectful not to report the death of someone they know and, in this case, one death would be reported at least twice; once by the family and once by relatives.[44] Fourth, there is no doubt that there is a desire among Iraqis to rid the country of the US occupying forces. One way to achieve this is to inflate deaths in the family such that the international community can put pressure on the US government and its allies to end the war. [45]

Conversely, in a country where more than forty percent of the population relies on government food rations to survive, [46] families may not report deaths in order to continue receiving government rations. Iraqi officials are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent fake death certificates from being sold in Iraq. [47]Therefore, regardless of whether the interviewee produces a death certificate or not, decisions as to whether or not Iraqi families are telling the truth regarding Iraqi civilian casualties is determined by the interviewer. This therefore, produces different numbers of civilian deaths.

Moreover, the decision of whether the ongoing effects of Saddam Hussein’s regime have caused Iraqi civilian deaths after March 2003 is also largely contested. During the 1990′s, Saddam Hussein reduced public health care funding by ninety percent resulting in a severe deterioration in health among Iraqis. As a direct result of this there was an increase in the number of cases of cholera, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/ AIDS. [48] There was also a lack of investment in hospital infrastructure and training for doctors and nurses, and medical supplies were scarce. [49] Scarce investment and resources were committed to water quality and sanitation. [50] The First Gulf War also resulted in severe air, soil and water pollution from chemical, biological and radioactive sources, severely deteriorating the health of Iraqis. [51] The deaths of Iraqi civilians today are not independent of the consequences of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the ongoing effects of the First Gulf War. Many civilian deaths after March 2003 therefore, are not solely caused by the US invasion, even though they may appear to be because of their timing.

Additionally, the United Nations sanctions imposed against Iraq for a period of thirteen years, lasting from 1990 to 2003, resulted in the further deterioration of the quality of life of the Iraqi people consequently leading to many deaths. The sanctions prevented food and financial resources from reaching Iraq; resources essential to the survival of civilians. [52]

As a result of this, child and infant mortality increased and poverty increased. The negative effect of these sanctions are still being felt today.[53] Many Iraqi civilian casualties of the UN sanctions died and continue to die during the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq. These deaths cannot be solely attributed to the Iraq war. However, over the period of March to May 2003 there was an overlap of both the UN sanctions and the US-led invasion. Therefore, deciding whether to attribute civilian deaths to the UN sanctions or to the indirect effects of the Iraq War at the time when both the war and the sanctions were in force in Iraq is a near-impossible task to achieve.[54]

Just as counting excess civilian casualties cannot be achieved successfully without taking history into consideration, the future cannot be ignored. The negative effects of the US-led invasion on the Iraqi civilian population will be seen decades into the future. The war has resulted in the destruction of vital infrastructure for food, water, security and sanitation. The health system has further deteriorated, resulting in doctors, nurses and other health care professionals leaving Iraq. Fifty percent of doctors left Iraq after the March 2003 invasion, and six percent have been kidnapped or killed. That is, less than forty percent of the initial 34,000 doctors have remained in Iraq. [55] The Iraq Ministry of Health count only violent deaths. [56] All deaths as an indirect result of the war therefore, are not captured in the count. Future indirect deaths will similarly also not be captured, similar to many counts conducted.

Although military action has caused the greatest number of civilian casualties in the areas of Fallujah, Najaf, Tal Afar, Basra and Sadr City, it may not be true that focusing counts on these areas can create a more accurate count of excess Iraqi civilian casualties than is currently the case. This is because the same issues arise in these areas which would lead to political agendas driving the numbers reported. That is, counts will answer the following questions differently: Who is a civilian and who is a terrorist?; Can we believe families without death certificates?; What about the indirect deaths as a result of the Iraq war in other, less militarized areas? That is, identifying excess civilian casualties in the areas of Fallujah, Najaf, Tal Afar, Basra and Sadr City may be just as difficult in areas of Iraq with less military action.

Scientific Bias

Aside from political reasons behind the discrepancy in the number of excess civilian casualties reported, scientific reasons also explain why different numbers have been reported when using the same methodology. First, due to the unstable security situation in Iraq household interviewers focus their interviews on main streets so as to not enter unknown and dangerous territory. This introduces ‘main street bias’ due to the fact that most patrol vehicles, cars, police stations, markets and shops are located on main streets and thus more likely to be exposed to violence and bombing. [57] Overestimation of excess civilian casualties as a result of main street bias is thus likely.[58] For example, Burnham et al, interviewed households on cross-streets to the main streets. This means that the houses living further away from the main street were not interviewed. [59] The security situation in Iraq however means that interviewers cannot interview all households and, for this reason, main street bias is unavoidable under such circumstances.

Second, the security situation in Iraq prevents interviewers from passing both US and Iraq checkpoints, resulting in many households excluded from the count. At US checkpoints interviewers for the Burnham et al study were greeted with suspicion. At Iraq checkpoints, militia, political parties and criminals posed a threat to the safety of interviewers. [60] Interviewers stated that “the militias are unpredictable…They stopped us three times [in different regions]. In the first, they kept us for a few hours for checking, the second they took us to their commander, and the third time they did not allow us to go, so we turned back.” [61] Further, interviewers explain that, “the criminal gangs are miscellaneous groups with different visions and goals. They may kill for any reason: money, revenge, and even for fun.” [62] Therefore, the inability to enter certain Governorates of Iraq results in ‘non-coverage bias’, whereby houses not near a cross-street are not included. This is of particular concern when conducting household interviews in Iraq, and Baghdad specifically, considering the irregular street design of major cities in Iraq. [63] According to critics of the Burnham et al study, non-coverage bias over-estimates the number of excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War by over thirty percent.Third, population figures used to calculate the number of excess civilian casualties for household interviews are unreliable. Specifically, Burnham et al used 2004 Iraq population figures from the Iraq Ministry of Planning; [64] whereas ORB used 1997 Iraq population figures from the Iraq Census. [65] The reliability of counts using unreliable population estimates therefore are also weakened. Finally, the Burnham et al study skipped over empty houses; however the two million Iraqi refugees[66] that the March 2003 US-led invasion has created are likely to have experienced more fatality within their families than those who have remained in Iraq. By skipping houses, refugees and their family losses have also been skipped, and victims are not included in the counts. [67] This is likely to underestimate the count of excess civilian casualties of the Iraq war. Further efforts to count excess Iraqi civilian casualties should attempt to interview refugees in neighboring countries.

Accountability Towards Civilians

All household interviews conducted in Iraq were anonymous and written consent was not required due to danger it places on participants if local militia were to steal written documentation. Also, household interviews were not independently supervised or monitored. [68] The inability to confirm the results of household interviews through documentation and signatures of interviewees as a result of the reality of the danger of the current conflict in Iraq has given rise to critics accusing the Burnham et al study for being orchestrated.[69] For example, the credibility of the Burnham et al study has been brought into question after critics calculated that each interview would have taken six minutes to complete. [70]

Regardless of whether the results of the Burnham et al study are accurate or not, the count of over one million Iraqi civilian casualties as a result of the war led to debate among governments and non-governmental organizations worldwide. Therefore, rather than acting as an accurate count of civilian deaths, the Burnham et al study had the power of putting the issue of excess Iraqi civilian casualties on the political agenda and capturing the attention of world leaders. However, the critical analysis and inquiry into the numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties shaped by the Burnham et al study was conducted by non-governmental organizations; with the governments of the US and its allies merely stating their opposition to the numbers reported and therefore washing their hands of responsibility. A statement released by the former Bush administration dismissed the numbers reported by Burnham et al as “ridiculous.” [71]As mentioned, former US President Bush argued “I do not consider it [the Burnham et al study] a credible report.” [72] Similarly, the FCO states, “the [UK] Government does not accept its [Burnham et al] central conclusion,” [73] and continues, “the numbers that the Lancet [Burnham et al] has extrapolated are a substantial leap from other figures.” [74]

In this way, by indirectly accusing the Burnham et al study of being orchestrated, the US and its allies have strategically avoided taking responsibility for the deaths of Iraqi civilian casualties of the Iraq war. However, the ability for states to avoid responsibility towards the Iraqi civilian population by dismissing civilian counts must end. Accountability is perhaps the force powerful enough to prevent states from acting with impunity towards civilian populations during war and thus limit the number of civilians that die during war. For this to occur we must pressure states to strengthen their commitment to the The Hague Conventions and The Geneva Conventions. Specifically, Convention IV, Article 27 of the Geneva Conventions outlines the responsibility of occupying forces to civilian populations during war:

“… [civilians] shall be at all times humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against acts of violence…” [75]

This commitment to civilians, however, remains to be seen in Iraq. For example, when asked on 12 December 2005 how many Iraqi “civilians, military, police, insurgents [and] translators” have died as a result of the US invasion, former US President George W. Bush responded, “30,000, more or less,” [76] with no explanation as to how this number was calculated nor the actions the US would take to take responsibility for these deaths. Such a lack of compliance to The Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions constitute war crimes. Also, the military of the US and its allies view Iraqi civilian deaths as unavoidable “collateral damage” [77] and, for this reason, take no responsibility for the deaths of Iraqi civilians. US General Tommy Franks states, “We don’t do body counts,” [78] emphasizing the lack of accountability on the part of the US towards counting excess Iraqi civilian casualties.

Sates must be held accountable for civilian deaths. Not knowing the exact number of Iraqi civilian casualties is no excuse. Today there are countless numbers of families, friends, refugees and orphans who have suffered losses that the US and its allies are responsible for.

Conclusion

The US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 has caused irreversible injustice to the Iraqi population. The denial by the governments of the US and its allies over the number of excess Iraqi civilian casualties is further adding to this injustice by highlighting to Iraq the lack of accountability towards Iraqi civilians on the part of the US and its allies. As the release of the Burnham et al study has proven, counts of Iraqi civilian casualties have not served as important tools of accountability. Numbers are denied and the US and its allies take no action towards accountability. Unfortunately, if there was some way that the scale of Iraqi civilian casualties was known with greater certainty the US and its allies would continue to deny responsibility for the deaths.

The international community, non-governmental organizations and civil society together can pressure governments into accountability. The Burnham et al study is one example, having captured the attention of world leaders. Perhaps accountability is the force required to safeguard civilians of future wars. The commitment by the US and its allies to the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions must be strengthened. This commitment is increasingly important in an era where more advanced technology means future wars will be fought from home soils, and are thus likely to result in less military fatalities and greater civilian casualties.

Bibliography

Ahuga, A., 7 March 2007, Conflict over body count as researchers attack report on Iraq mortality figures, The Australian.

Alkhuzai, A., et al, 9 January 2008, Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006, The New England Journal of Medicine, 358 (5), Page 484-5.

Ann Arbor, Summit on Interviewer Falsification, April 4-6, 2003, 21 April 2003, Interviewer Falsification in Survey Research: Current Best Methods for Prevention, Detection and Repair of Its Effects, Page 4-6, American Statistical Association online, http://www.amstat.org/sections/SRMS/falsification.pdf, [accessed 3 April 2008]

Bilukha, O., 23 October 2008, Analytic perspective, Wanted: studies on mortality estimation methods for humanitarian emergencies, suggestions for future research, Emerging Themes in Epidemiology (4): 9, Working Group for Mortality Estimation in Emergencies, Paris: France, BioMed Central online, www.ete-online.com/content/4/1/9, accessed 4 April 2008]

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [The], Beckett comments on Lancet Iraq report (11/10/2006), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pressrelease/2006/10/fco_hp_npr_111006_lancetiraq, [accessed 22 March 2008]

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [The], Written Ministerial Statement Responding to a Lancet Study on Iraqi Casualty Figures (19/11/2004), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/news/2004/11/fco_nst_171104_strawiraqcasualty [22 March 2008]

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [The], Government’s response to the Lancet Iraq Mortality Survey [The], Executive Summary, accessed online: http://www.iraqanalysis.org/local/041120lancetfco.pdf

Buncombe, A, April 20 2005, Aid Worker Uncovered America’s Secret tally of Iraqi Civilian Deaths, in Washington, The Independent, accessed online at: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0420-07.htm [accessed 30 May 2008]

Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

Burnham, G., et al., 11 October 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Page 1, 4.

Checchi, F and Roberts, L., September 2005, Interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies. A primer for non-epistemologists. Humanitarian Practice Network, Number 52, Page 27, London: UK.

Cole, J., 11 October 2006, 655,000 dead in Iraq since Bush Invasion, accessed online: http://www.juancole.com/2006/10/655000-dead-in-iraq-since-bush.html [accessed 30 April 2008]

Farrell, S, 22 May 2008, U.S. Troops Kill 11 Shiite Militants, New York Times.

Fischer, H, 13 March 2008, CRS Report for Congress: Iraqi civilian casualties estimates, accessed online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS22537.pdf [accessed 2 June 2008]

Fisk, R., 28 July 2004, Baghdad is a city that reeks with the stench of the dead, The Independent.

Global Policy Forum, June 2007, War and occupation in Iraq, Chapter 7, Page 65, accessed online at: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/occupation/report/full.pdf [accessed 22 April 2009]

Goldin, R., 17 October 2006, The Science of Counting the Dead, STATS at George Mason University, www.stats.org/stories/the_science_ct_dead_oct17_06.htm, [accessed 3 April 2008]

Hampson, R., 1 June 2004, George Soros putting his fortune behind a new cause: ousting Bushstyle=’font-style:normal’>, USAstyle=’font-style:normal’> TODAY, accessed online: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-06-01-soros-cover_x.htm [accessed 2 June 2008]

Hicks, M, 1 December 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Were valid and ethicalfield methods used in this survey? HiCN Research Design Note 3, Page 13, Households in Conflict Network.

Iraq Body Count, A dossier of civilian casualties 2003-2005, accessed online: <http://reports.iraqbodycount.org/a_dossier_of_civilian_casualties_2003-2005.pdf [accessed 3 May 2008].

Jackson, P, 30 May 2007, Who are Iraq’s Mehdi Army? BBC News online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3604393.stm [accessed 1 June 2008]

Johnson, N., et al., June 2007, Bias in epidemiological studies of conflict mortality, HiCN Research Design Note 2, Page 1, Households in Conflict Network online, http://www.hicn.org/research_design/rdn2.pdf, [accessed 22 March 2008]

Just Foreign Policy – Iraq Death Estimate, www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq/counterexplanation.html, What Just Foreign Policy’s Iraq Estimator is And Is Not, [accessed 27 March 2008]

Kaplan, F., 29 October 2004, 100,000 Dead – or 8,000? How many Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war? Slate, http://www.slate.com/id/2108887/, [accessed 3 April 2008]

Khakee, A and Spring, H 2005, Wulf, Following the Trail: Production, Arsenals and Transfers of Small Arms, HGF Review, Page 26-30.

Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, Country Profile: Iraq, August 2006, Page 8, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iqtoc.html [accessed 10 March 2008]

Moore, S., 18 October 2006, 665,000 War Dead? A bogus study on Iraq casualties, The Wall Street Journal Online, www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009108[accessed 3 April 2008]

Munro, N., 4 January 2008, Counting Corpses, National Journal, http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/sidebar.htm [accessed 22 March 2008]

Munro, N., 4 January 2008, Unscientific Methods? National Journal, http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/sidebar2.htm, [accessed 22 March 2008]

O’Hanlon, M and Campbell, J., 20 March 2008, Iraq Index. Tracking Variables of Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq, Page 47, The Brookings Institute, Washington D.C: USA.

Opinion Research Business, Revised Casualty Data – Press release, 28 January 2008, accessed from ORB online: http://www.opinion.co.uk/Newsroom_details.aspx?NewsId=88 Panch, T., et al., 2004, Enduring effects of war, health in Iraq 2004, Medact online, http://www.medact.org/content/wmd_and_conflict/Medact%20Iraq%202004.pdf, [accessed 5 April 2008]

Apthorpe, Raymond and Des Gasper (eds.), 1996, Arguing development policy: frames and discourses, Cass, London and EADI, Chapter 2.

Report to Congress in accordance with the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007 (Section 9010, Public Law 109-289), 30 November 2006, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, Page 23, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf

Roberts, L., et al., 29 October 2004, Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, 364, Page 1862, The Lancet online, www.thelancet.com, [accessed 22 March 2008]

Sen, B., 2003, Iraq Evaluation Report, Iraq Watching Brief, Overview Report, retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/index_29697.html [accessed 11 June 2009]

Spagat, M., February 2008, Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Surveyof Mortality In Iraq, Page 8, Royal Holloway College online, http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Standards.pdf, [accessed 22 March 2008]

Steele, J., 24 March 2006, The Iraqi brain drain, The Guardian, accessed online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/mar/24/iraq.jonathansteele [accessed 30 May 2008]

United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), 1 November 2006 – 31 December 2006, Human Rights Report, Page 5, http://www.uniraq.org/FileLib/misc/HR%20Report%20Nov%20Dec%202006%20EN.pdf [accessed 4 April 2008]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], April 2007, Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World, accessed online at: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&id=461f7cb92

United Nations Security Council Resolution 661, retrieved from http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/sres0661.htm [accessed 11 June 2009]

World Health Organization, 9 January 2008, Iraq Family Health Survey – Mortality Study Q & A.

White, J, et al, Homicide charges rare in Iraq war, few troops tried for killing civilians, August 28 2006, Washington Post, accessed online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/27/AR2006082700770.html [accessed 22 April 2009]

References

[1] Maria Karagiozakis (MIA candidate, ANU), has worked in the human rights field at both the policy and grass-roots level in Australia and Asia. The author wishes to acknowledge and thank Mr Raymond Apthorpe and Mr Michael Acuto for their support in publishing this paper.

[2] The Iraq War is also referred to as the Second Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

[3] This is not the case for non-conflict situations, where every death is usually recorded with a medically certified cause of death; World Health Organization, 9 January 2008, Iraq Family Health Survey – Mortality Study Q & A.

[4] Even though the argument can be made that cemeteries refuse to bury bodies without death certificates, this is probably not likely in conflict situations such as Iraq; Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

[5] An “excess” civilian casualty refers to a death that occurred as direct result of the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. That is, a death that would otherwise not have happened has the US and its allied not invaded Iraq; Ahuga, A., 7 March 2007, Conflict over body count as researchers attack report on Iraq mortality figures, The Australian.

[6] Checchi, F and Roberts, L., September 2005, Interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies. A primer for non-epistemologists. Humanitarian Practice Network, Number 52, London: UK, Page 29.

[7] Buncombe, A, April 20 2005, Aid Worker Uncovered America’s Secret tally of Iraqi Civilian Deaths, in Washington, The Independent.

[8] However, even though direct methods of counting produce smaller numbers than indirect methods, there are many pro-Iraq War agents that have chosen to use indirect methods of counting. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that the unreliability of hospital and morgue data during the Iraq War is undisputed and unchallenged by the international community.

[9] Fisk, R., 28 July 2004, Baghdad is a city that reeks with the stench of the dead, The Independent.

[10] Cole, J., 11 October 2006, 655,000 dead in Iraq since Bush Invasion, accessed online: http://www.juancole.com/2006/10/655000-dead-in-iraq-since-bush.html [accessed 30 April 2008]

[11] Ibid.

[12] The Government’s response to the Lancet Iraq Mortality Survey, Executive Summary, accessed online: http://www.iraqanalysis.org/local/041120lancetfco.pdf

[13] Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

[14] United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), 1 November 2006 – 31 December 2006, Human Rights Report, Page 5, http://www.uniraq.org/FileLib/misc/HR%20Report%20Nov%20Dec%202006%20EN.pdf [accessed 4 April 2008]

[15] Ibid.

[16] Iraq Body Count online: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

[17] Iraq Body Count, A dossier of civilian casualties 2003-2005, accessed online: http://reports.iraqbodycount.org/a_dossier_of_civilian_casualties_2003-2005.pdf [accessed 3 May 2008].

[18] Iraq Body Count, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ [accessed 2 June 2008]

[19] Fischer, H, 13 March 2008, CRS Report for Congress: Iraqi civilian casualties estimates.

[20] By “at worst” I mean taking the smallest number of reported excess civilian casualties and subtracting that from the largest number of reported excess civilian casualties, to thus calculate the largest discrepancy.

[21] Farrell, S, 22 May 2008, U.S. Troops Kill 11 Shiite Militants, New York Times.

[22] Jackson, P, 30 May 2007, Who are Iraq’s Mehdi Army? BBC News.

[23] Interview transcript: John Sloboda, 28 April 2006, accessed online: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4950254.stm

[24] Ibid.

[25] Jackson, P, 30 May 2007, Who are Iraq’s Mehdi Army?

[26] United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), 1 November 2006 – 31 December 2006, Human Rights Report, Page 1, http://www.uniraq.org/FileLib/misc/HR%20Report%20Nov%20Dec%202006%20EN.pdf [accessed 4 April 2008]

[27] Report to Congress in accordance with the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007 (Section 9010, Public Law 109-289), 30 November 2006, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, Page 23, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf

[28] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO], Written Ministerial Statement Responding to a Lancet Study on Iraqi Casualty Figures (19/11/2004), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/news/2004/11/fco_nst_171104_strawiraqcasualty [22 March 2008]

[29] Also referred to as the Lancet study [since it was published in the Lancet journal].

[30] Burnham et al conducted household interviews throughout Iraq between 10 May and 10 July 2006 using cluster sample surveys. Fifty clusters were randomly selected across Iraq, with every cluster consisting of forty households. 12,801 adults (aged 18 years and over) were interviewed. A death was only counted as an excess civilian casualty is deceased lived in the household for three months in a row before his/ her death. Muthanna, Dahuk and Wassit were not included in the count; Burnham, G., et al., 11 October 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Page 1, 4.

[31] 12 July 2005, Iraqi civilian casualties, United Press International

[32] Iraqiyun conducted household interviews across Iraq. No further details have been provided.

[33] The Iraq Ministry of Health conducted surveys of 9,345 households. However, there was difficulty in interviewing households throughout all of Iraq for security reasons; Alkhuzai, A., et al, 9 January 2008, Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006, The New England Journal of Medicine, 358 (5), Page 484-5.

[34] World Health Organization, 9 January 2008, Iraq Family Health Survey – Mortality Study Q & A.

[35] ORB conducted household interviews of 2,414 adults (aged 18 years and over) throughout Iraq from 12 – 19 August 2007. This household interview was conducted in both rural and urban areas of Iraq. The margin of error for calculating the number of excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War was +/- 2.5%. Household interviews were too dangerous to conduct in Karbala and Al Anbar, and the interview team could not pass the Irbil checkpoint. In all these cases, households were not interviewed; 28 January 2008, Revised Casulaty Data – Press release, accessed from ORB online: http://www.opinion.co.uk/Newsroom_details.aspx?NewsId=88

[36] Burnham, G., et al., 11 October 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Page 1, The Lancet, online, www.thelancet.com, [accessed 22 March 2008].

[37] Spagat, M., February 2008, Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality In Iraq, Page 8, Royal Holloway College online, http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Standards.pdf, [accessed 22 March 2008]

[38] George Soros online, http://www.georgesoros.com/

[39] Hampson, R., 1 June 2004, George Soros putting his fortune behind a new cause: ousting Bush, USA TODAY.

[40] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO], Written Ministerial Statement Responding to a Lancet Study on Iraqi Casualty Figures (19/11/2004), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/news/2004/11/fco_nst_171104_strawiraqcasualty [30 March 2008]

[41] The Government’s response to the Lancet Iraq Mortality Survey, Executive Summary, accessed online: http://www.iraqanalysis.org/local/041120lancetfco.pdf

[42] Hicks, M, 1 December 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Were valid and ethical field methods used in this survey? HiCN Research Design Note 3, Page 13, Households in Conflict Network.

[43] Spagat, M., February 2008, Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality In Iraq, Page 34, Royal Holloway College.

[44] Ibid., Page 30.

[45] Munro, N., 4 January 2008, Unscientific Methods? National Journal Group Inc., http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/databomb/sidebar2.htm,[accessed 22 March 2008]

[46] Iraq’s infrastructure had not recovered since the First Gulf War; Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Appendix E, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

[47] Munro, N., 4 January 2008, Counting Corpses, National Journal

[48] Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, Country Profile: Iraq, August 2006, Page 8, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iqtoc.html [accessed 10 March 2008]

[49] Panch, T., et al., 2004, Enduring effects of war, health in Iraq 2004, Medact online, http://www.medact.org/content/wmd_and_conflict/Medact%20Iraq%202004.pdf, [accessed 5 April 2008]

[50] Ibid.

[51] Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

[52] With the exception of medicine and food for limited humanitarian projects.

[53] Sen, B., 2003, Iraq Evaluation Report, Iraq Watching Brief, Overview Report, retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/index_29697.html [accessed 11 June 2009]

[54] UN Security Council Resolution 661, retrieved from http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/sres0661.htm [accessed 11 June 2009]

[55] O’Hanlon, M and Campbell, J., 20 March 2008, Iraq Index. Tracking Variables of Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq, Page 47, The Brookings Institute, Washington D.C: USA.

[56] Alkhuzai, A., et al, 9 January 2008, Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006, The New England Journal of Medicine, 358 (5), Page 487.

[57] Johnson, N., et al., June 2007, Bias in epidemiological studies of conflict mortality, HiCN Research Design Note 2, Page 1, Households in Conflict Network online, http://www.hicn.org/research_design/rdn2.pdf, [accessed 22 March 2008]

[58] Ibid., Page 1.

[59] Ibid., Page 6.

[60] Burnham, G., et al., 2006, The Human Cost of the War in Iraq. A Mortality Study, 2002 – 2006, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): USA.

[61] Ibid, Appendix B

[62] Ibid.

[63] Johnson, N., et al., June 2007, Bias in epidemiological studies of conflict mortality, HiCN Research Design Note 2, Page 3, Households in Conflict Network.

[64] Burnham, G., et al., 11 October 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Page 2, The Lancet, online, www.thelancet.com, [accessed 22 March 2008]

[65] 28 January 2008, Revised Casulaty Data – Press release, accessed from ORB online: http://www.opinion.co.uk/Newsroom_details.aspx?NewsId=88

[66] Approximately 1.2 million Iraqis have fled to Syria; 750,000 to Jordan; 100,000 to Egypt; 54,000 to Iran, 40,000 to Lebanon; 10,000 to Turkey; 200,000 to the Gulf States; 200,000 to Europe, Northern America and New Zealand; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], April 2007, Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World, accessed online at: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&id=461f7cb92

[67] Conflict and war creates circumstances which prevent interviewers from returning to households in the hope that the families will be there within the following few days, as is common practice during household interviews in peaceful situations; Bilukha, O., 23 October 2008, Analytic perspective, Wanted: studies on mortality estimation methods for humanitarian emergencies, suggestions for future research, Emerging Themes in Epidemiology (4): 9, Working Group for Mortality Estimation in Emergencies, Paris: France, BioMed Central online, www.ete-online.com/content/4/1/9, accessed 4 April 2008]

[68] Spagat, M., February 2008, Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality In Iraq, Page 21, Royal Holloway Collegee online, http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Standards.pdf, [accessed 22 March 2008]

[69] Ann Arbor Summit on Interviewer Falsification, April 4-6, 2003, 21 April 2003, Interviewer Falsification in Survey Research: Current Best Methods for Prevention, Detection and Repair of Its Effects, Page 4-6, American Statistical Association online, http://www.amstat.org/sections/SRMS/falsification.pdf, [accessed 3 April 2008]

[70] Hicks, M, 1 December 2006, Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Were valid and ethical field methods used in this survey? Household in Conflict Network (HiCN) Research Design Note 3, The Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Page 1.

[71]Just Foreign Policy – Iraq Death Estimate, www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq/counterexplanation.html, What Just Foreign Policy’s Iraq Estimator is And Is Not, [accessed 27 March 2008]

[72] Press Conference by President George W. Bush, 11 October 2006, transcript accessed online at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061011-5.html [accessed 2 April 2008]

[73]The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO], Written Ministerial Statement Responding to a Lancet Study on Iraqi Casualty Figures (19/11/2004), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/news/2004/11/fco_nst_171104_strawiraqcasualty [22 March 2008]

[74] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO], Beckett comments on Lancet Iraq report (11/10/2006), accessed from FCO online, http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/press-release/2006/10/fco_hp_npr_111006_lancetiraq [22 March 2008]

[75] Roberts, L., et al., 29 October 2004, Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, 364, Page 1863, The Lancet online, www.thelancet.com, [accessed 22 March 2008]

[76] Press Conference by President George W. Bush on War on Terror and Iraqi Elections, 12 December 2005, accessed online at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051212-4.html [accessed 25 April 2008]

[77] Global Policy Forum, June 2007, War and occupation in Iraq, Chapter 7, Page 65, accessed online at: http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/occupation/report/full.pdf [accessed 22 April 2009], Chapter 7, Page 65

[78] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3672298.stm [accessed 30 April 2008]

5 Responses to Counting excess civilian casualties of the Iraq War: Science or Politics?

  1. [...] the original post: Journal of Humanitarian Assistance » Archive » Counting excess … Tags: afghanistan-, counting-excess, iraqi-ministry, methodology, more-involved, research [...]

  2. [...] Journal of Humanitarian Assistance » Archive » Counting excess …The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of many Iraqi civilians. [2] Exact numbers however, are not known. As is common during times of war, there is the absence of a centralized death registration system in Iraq. … [...]

  3. [...] post: Journal of Humanitarian Assistance » Archive » Counting excess … Tags: a-new-national, and-organizing, check-out-the, first, mortality-study [...]

  4. [...] But Brooks himself was a vehement, vicious advocate for the attack on Iraq, which caused this: [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>