Friday, October 29, 2004

At least they're dying free

A study published in The Lancet claims that the US invasion of Iraq has led to one hundred thousand extra deaths.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US city of Baltimore gathered data on births and deaths since January 2002 from 33 clusters of 30 households each across Iraq.

They found the relative risk of death was one-and-a-half times higher for Iraqi civilians after the 2003 invasion than in the preceding 15 months.

That figure jumps to two-and-a-half times higher if data from Falluja - the scene of repeated heavy fighting - is included.

Before the invasion, most people died as a result of heart attack, stroke and chronic illness, the report says, whereas after the invasion, "violence was the primary cause of death."

Women and children are reportedly the biggest casualties of air strikes

Violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces - and most individuals reportedly killed were women and children.

Dr Les Roberts, who led the study, said: "Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

One hundred thousand extra dead. And note that this is on top of the already terrible death toll wreaked by sanctions. This makes a mockery of claims that the Iraq war was "worth it" and that Iraqis are better off today than they were under Saddam.

The US excuse will no doubt be a flippant comment that at least they're dying free. I'm sure that that will be a great comfort to the grieving families of the deceased.

Update: More here. The BBC article has downplayed the involvement of local Iraqi doctors. And in response to the expected post from NZPundit claiming that the article "isn't peer-reviewed" and that the author is a communist or similar undesirable: The Lancet is one of the most respected journals in the world. Any article published there has met high academic standards. While there's no doubt some of the authors had an axe to grind - they deliberately timed publication in the hope of influencing the US election - it does not follow from that that the study is flawed. In fact,

Richard Peto, an expert on study methods who was not involved with the research, said the approach the scientists took is a reasonable one to investigate the Iraq death toll.

However, it's possible that they may have zoned in on hotspots that might not be representative of the death toll across Iraq, said Peto, a professor of medical statistics at Oxford University in England.

To conduct the survey, investigators visited 33 neighborhoods spread evenly across the country in September, randomly selecting clusters of 30 households to sample. Of the 988 households visited, 808, consisting of 7,868 people, agreed to participate in the survey. At each one they asked how many people lived in the home and how many births and deaths there had been since January 2002.

The scientists then compared death rates in the 15 months before the invasion with those that occurred during the 18 months after the attack and adjusted those numbers to account for the different time periods.

Even though the sample size appears small, this type of survey is considered accurate and acceptable by scientists and was used to calculate war deaths in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

(Emphasis added). Note that the 100,000 additional deaths excludes data from the obvious hotspot of Fallujah.

The full article should be going up sometime today or tomorrow.