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Saturday, December 30, 2006


How many Iraqis died today?

It's an interesting question. When the latest Johns Hopkins study was released, I calculated that, using their data, we could say with 95% certainty that 480,000 Iraqis had died thanks to the U.S./British invasion and occupation. But that study only estimated deaths through July, 2006. Using their "excess death per thousand" rate, one can estimate that 78,000 more Iraqis have died since that study was released, bringing us to 550,000+ (again, that's the 95% certainty number; the "most probable" number would now be at 725,000+).

The problem with the Johns Hopkins study, though, is not its seemingly solid science, but it's gut-level credibility. According to its numbers, 520 Iraqis are dying per day. But you can read an article like today's all-too-typical summary, and it informs you that "At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks Saturday." A frightening number to be sure, but a long way from 520.

But what's missing? Here's something else, again all-too-typical, from the same article: "New deaths announced by the U.S. military included three Marines and a soldier killed in combat in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province, and two soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad." Four soldiers killed in "combat" in Anbar, and not a single Iraqi fatality? Not bloody likely. Given the superior firepower of the Americans, and their disregard for Iraqi life, it's hard to believe that anything less than dozens of Iraqis were killed in that same combat. Similarly, we can imagaine that when two soldiers were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad, the remaining members of their company sprang to action, firing their weapons in every direction and killing anything that moved. Was any of this reported? Nope.

What else? Let's look at that "at least 80 Iraqis" number. It turns out to be the sum of a car bomb which killed 37 in Baghdad, another car bomb in Kufa which killed 31, and 12 bodies bearing signs of torture which were also found in various parts of Baghdad. Every one of them a "double-digit" killing. The death of 5, or 2, or 1 person here or there doesn't even make the news. There are hundreds of cities in Iraq. If one person were killed in just 80 of them, that would double the "count" right there.

What else? Just in those two car bombings, another 134 people were injured. Some superficially, no doubt, but some quite seriously. Does AP report on the people who died in the hospital from yesterday's car bombing, or the one the day before that? Will they report on the ones out of this 134 who die tomorrow or next week? Not in any article I've ever seen.

Then, after all that, we have the people who simply died because of poor health care, lack of medicine, and so on, numbers which have also increased substantially thanks to the results of the invasion.

Does all this add up to 520 per day? I don't know. But it sure adds up to a lot more than 80 (as even AP admits: "The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.").

Saddam Hussein was hanged today for the judicial killing of 148 people. Their trials may not have been fair, but they were tried, and for alleged involvement in a very real crime (an attempted assassination). What fate awaits George Bush & Co., responsible for the death of more than 148 people every day for more than three and a half years?

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