The Iraqi Civilian Body Count

April 25, 2006

Dear Editor,

In "Dead Reckoning: Counting Iraq's Civilian Dead" (By
Adam Shemper, Mother Jones, May/June 2006 Issue), Adam
Shemper writes:

"This tally is updated daily on his website,, which Dardagan cofounded and runs
with a team of 16 volunteers. The site, also known as
IBC, has been the only consistent record of the war’s
human toll, making it the go-to source for reporters,
activists, and even the Bush administration. (...)

There have been more than a dozen independent surveys
of civilian casualties, including a 2004 report in The
Lancet that concluded 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been
killed, but IBC remains the most-cited source for
casualty numbers.

When asked for a figure last December, President Bush
shrugged "30,000, more or less" a number very close to
the one on IBC at the time. Afterward, a CNN White
House correspondent reported that Bush officials named as the source of the president's
estimate. "I think he surprised everyone by giving
this figure," said John Sloboda, IBC’s cofounder. (The
president, however, misused the number, thinking it
included Iraqi military and police casualties.)"
Just a few days ago Dahr Jamail and Jeff Pflueger
"We are, however, alarmed at their apparent lack of
concern at the way their information is being usurped
by the pro-war camp to manipulate public opinion and
minimize the catastrophe the failed US occupation has
become for Iraqis. The authors of this piece submit
that if, as it claims, IBC is truly a humanitarian
research project armed for greater impact with an
aggressive and sophisticated marketing system, it must
not allow its data to be misused and misrepresented
for pro-war propaganda campaigns.

If IBC cannot prevent the misuse of its data, it would
be better for it to remove its web site and counters
from the Internet permanently. It must then limit
itself to objective scholarly research of the English
media without sophisticated marketing paraphernalia."
(Learning to Count: The Dead in Iraq, by Dahr Jamail
and Jeff Pflueger, truthout, 13 April 2006)
In February, Stephen Soldz wrote:
"If Western reporters, competing for scarce public
attention, are loath to accurately portray the extent
of their ignorance about what is going on in enormous
chunks of Iraq, IBC has no excuse not to acknowledge,
openly and prominently, the resultant limits to their
civilian death tally. To not proclaim loudly that the
IBC count is, by its nature, likely a severe
undercount of the true number of deaths, is to
participate in the culture of deceit and denial of the
costs in civilian lives and suffering that has plagued
this alleged humanitarian intervention from the
beginning. If IBC does not understand this point, then
their efforts at promoting truth have now turned into
its opposite and should cease." (When Promoting Truth
Obscures the Truth: More on Iraqi Body Count and Iraqi
Deaths, by Stephen Soldz, ZNet, 5 February 2006)

About the "Lancet study" and the Iraqi civilian
deaths, you and Mr. Shemper may be interested in the

On 29 October 2004, the British medical journal The
Lancet published 'Mortality before and after the 2003
invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey’:
Making conservative assumptions, we think that about
100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the
2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of
the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition
forces accounted for most violent deaths.

Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces
were women and children. (Findings)

Source: Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion
of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, Published
online October 29,2004
This study reads:
"The researchers found that the majority of deaths
were attributed to violence, which were primarily the
result of military actions by Coalition forces. Most
of those killed by Coalition forces were women and
children... Eighty-four percent of the deaths were
reported to be caused by the actions of Coalition
forces and 95 percent of those deaths were due to air
strikes and artillery." ('Iraqi Civilian Deaths
Increase Dramatically After Invasion', October 28,
The Financial Times, on November 19, 2004 wrote:
"This survey technique has been criticised as flawed,
but the sampling method has been used by the same team
in Darfur in Sudan and in the eastern Congo and
produced credible results. An official at the World
Health Organisation said the Iraq study 'is very much
in the league that the other studies are in ... You
can't rubbish (the team) by saying they are
incompetent'". (Stephen Fidler, 'Lies, damned lies and
statistics,' Financial Times, November 19, 2004)
The Chronicle of Higher Education on January 27, 2005
"’Les has used, and consistently uses, the best
possible methodology,’ says Bradley A. Woodruff, a
medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Indeed, the United Nations and
the State Department have cited mortality numbers
compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact
-- and have acted on those results. (...) Mr. Roberts
has studied mortality caused by war since 1992, having
done surveys in locations including Bosnia, Congo, and
Rwanda. His three surveys in Congo for the
International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental
humanitarian organization, in which he used methods
akin to those of his Iraq study, received a great deal
of attention. 'Tony Blair and Colin Powell have quoted
those results time and time again without any question
as to the precision or validity,’ he says."
(Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi
Civilian Deaths Now Wonder Why It Was Ignored, by LILA
GUTERMAN, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January
27, 2005)
According to Les Roberts (Center for International
Emergency Disaster and Refugee Studies at Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, one of the
world’s top epidemiologists and lead author of the
Lancet report) there might be as many as 300,000 Iraqi
civilian deaths (Do Iraqi Civilian Casualties Matter?,
By Les Roberts, AlterNet, February 8, 2006)

The horror inflicted by our governments, with our
money and in our name, might be way far more
horrifying. Dr Gideon Polya recently wrote:
"AVOIDABLE MORTALITY (technically, excess mortality)
is the difference between the actual mortality in a
country and the mortality expected for a peaceful,
decently-run country with the same demographics (i.e.
with the same birth rate and the same population age
profile). Avoidable mortality is a fundamental
parameter to be considered in any sensible discussion
of human affairs – it is the bottom-line issue when
assessing the success or otherwise of societal,
regional and global policies. (...)

Ignoring mass mortality simply ensures its continuance
and denying past atrocities simply ensures their
repetition – history ignored yields history repeated.
Thus the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust (6 million
deaths) was not formally acknowledged by the Allies
until 30 months before the end of World War 2 in
Europe. This tardiness in reportage must surely have
contributed significantly to this atrocity.

However, TODAY Mainstream Media are comprehensively
ignoring the horrendous magnitude of the avoidable
post-invasion deaths in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan
(presently totaling 2.3 million deaths) and the
avoidable deaths in the First World-dominated
non-European World (presently 14.8 million deaths each
year)." (Layperson’s guide to counting Iraq deaths, by
Dr Gideon Polya, MWC News Magazine, 6 April 2006)

One Response to “The Iraqi Civilian Body Count”

Lyle Courtsal

Do these numbers factor in the deaths from the 16 year Iraqi medical blockade by the criminal elements in the US gov’t? No and also Les Roberts found on his initial medical surveys that fatalities were much, much higher than what Iraq Body Count was reporting.

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