Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Study: More than 600,000 Dead in Iraq

2 posts in this topic

Recommended Posts

The new mortality survey of Iraq that estimates 600,000 deaths by violence is startling, and should alter the way America thinks about this war.

The John Hopkins University researchers were meticulous about the methods used to randomly choose the survey sites and analyze the data. It is state-of-the-art work, and its accuracy is not an issue. The survey is the only scientific account of the war dead. There is no other, and those who publicly dismiss the findings must offer an alternative. There is none. Every other account is deeply flawed in method, and this one is not. It is standard in epidemiology and disaster response.

The survey, which my Center helped organize, is available here.

Just two weeks ago, the Washington Post published a survey of Iraqi attitudes toward the U.S. and the war. The survey, conducted by the State Department, revealed that enormous majorities blamed the U.S. for the violence and wanted us to leave Iraq. Another poll from the University of Maryland published the next day confirmed that sentiment and also reported that 60 percent of Iraqis support attacks on U.S. troops. The Johns Hopkins mortality survey and these polls go hand-in-hand. The Iraqi attitudes are difficult to grasp unless the violence people suffer is an enormous, daily threat to them.

The implications of this level of mayhem are profound. Most obviously, the U.S. is not providing security. It is not viewed by the Iraqi people as doing so, and the death rate confirms why these attitudes are so firmly held. The "mission" is not being accomplished, and if trend lines are an indication, the mission is deteriorating rapidly. The debate about withdrawing must be waged in this context.

It is conceivable that the application of force by the U.S. military is making things worse. Again, this is what Iraqis believe. A number of explanations for the violence see insurgent action in particular as "defensive"-that is, the insurgents believe they are defending their communities. Because the U.S. went in with a relatively small number of troops, more force was applied to compensate for those inadequate numbers. (That does not mean, however, that larger numbers would have changed the course of the war.) This strategy has perhaps stirred the insurgency as much as any other plausible factor, and the growing violence then generates itself in a giant feedback loop: the U.S. attacks a village where they think insurgents are harbored, and this produces more insurgents who then act violently, exacting a new U.S. military response, and so on and so on.

Many of the journalistic accounts of the war, such as Thomas Ricks' Fiasco, suggest that this may be what is occurring. At the same time, journalists are only seeing a tiny fraction of what goes on in Baghdad, what Dexter Filkins of the New York Times describes as 2 percent of the entire country, and thus their scope is very limited in seeing the violence, accounting for the dead, or drawing out the broader meaning. As a result, we have very little understanding of how the violence affects everything-politics, ethnic and sectarian divisions, the hundreds of thousands displaced (another invisible statistic), the many thousands leaving Iraq in droves, the deterioration of the public health care system, and every other dimension of life-and death-in Iraq.

This is what we need to concentrate on as the discussion of the mortality survey unfolds. Even if there were a large sampling error in the survey-which there does not seem to be-the numbers would be colossal in scale. And it is the meaning of these colossal numbers that we must debate. We now have empirical evidence of the scale of this human disaster. In that light, what is best for Iraq? How can such violence be ended? How can the U.S. carve out a constructive role from the ruins of its intervention?

Let's honor the dead of Iraq by grappling realistically with their tragedy, and forge a way to ensure that this horrific human cost does not continue to mount.

John Tirman is Executive Director of MIT's Center for International Studies.

Edited by Steven_and_Jinky

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
- Back to Top -

Important Disclaimer: Please read carefully the Visajourney.com Terms of Service. If you do not agree to the Terms of Service you should not access or view any page (including this page) on VisaJourney.com. Answers and comments provided on Visajourney.com Forums are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Visajourney.com does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. VisaJourney.com does not condone immigration fraud in any way, shape or manner. VisaJourney.com recommends that if any member or user knows directly of someone involved in fraudulent or illegal activity, that they report such activity directly to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You can contact ICE via email at Immigration.Reply@dhs.gov or you can telephone ICE at 1-866-347-2423. All reported threads/posts containing reference to immigration fraud or illegal activities will be removed from this board. If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by contacting us here with a url link to that content. Thank you.