December 18, 2005

The civilian death toll.

This graph compares the numbers of civilians who have died in various recent conflicts. The contrasting numbers for the Iraq War and the politically motivated killings under Saddam Hussein, whom the war ousted from power, are very stark. The contrasting numbers for the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan civil war are much more extreme. There are numbers too for the conflicts where the United States has not intervened -- Rwanda, Darfur. We can only speculate what the total number would have been if there were two bars on the graph for each of those conflicts, one for the civil war and one for the intervention. By the same token, we cannot know what the length of the bar for Iraq and Afghanistan would be if there had been no intervention and therefore no second bar splitting up the total number.


Meade said...

It would also be interesting to see bars representing lives lost in the war to which so many of Bush's opponents eagerly compare the Iraq intervention.

Lonesome Payne said...

It's been interesting to me how that Lancet study figure of 100,000 civilian deaths, with "the majority" coming as a result of Coalition actions, has been dropped not only from the mainstream media but even from most anti-war pieces I read. It's as if everyone finally tacitly agreed that it simply made no sense, but of course it did its damage at the time and also still exists at some kind of subconscious level for the anti-war-minded.

When it came out, I e-mailed one of the authors of the study, and just related my skepticism, which was based primarily on math: it would have meant something like 200-250 civilian deaths every single day since the war began, at that point. Since even anti-war writing hardly ever reported an incident at that level - the peak of Fallujah fighting produced several hundred civilan deaths, for example, going from memory - I just did not buy the argument that we were seeing the result of lack of reporting. It made no common-sense sense.

He wrote back and urged me to be careful with concluding figures like those being reported, while at the same time defending the sampling methodology which he said was quite standard and common. So it seemed to me he was trying to haveit both ways.

I wrote him back wondering why he didn't have a press conference saying people shouldn't really trust the 100,000 figure, since he kind of said that to me, and also saying I detected a hint that even he knew there was a basic logic problem wiht the figure. He never wrote back.

Glenn Howes said...

I was curious about Saddam's war with Iran, which the Times curiously omitted from it's chart. According to Wikipedia, the death toll for that conflict was a very round 1 million dead. I'm sure the plus/minus on this number far exceeds the toll for the current conflict. Link

A well known technology columnist once e-mailed me a personal description of Iranian children marching across a battle field and being mowed down by Iraqi guns. The Iranians felt this would harm the Iraqi will to fight. Strangely, he gave this in the context of reasons why we shouldn't have invaded Iraq.

Jake said...

One hundred thousand Iraqis were executed every year under Saddam. Shortly after our liberation, the new Iraqi government found a list of Iraqis who were scheduled to die at the hands of Saddam’s butchers in the next 12 months.

That list contained 77,000 names. The liberation of Iraq has saved over 250,000 lives in the past three years.

Lonesome Payne said...

Be interested in a link on that list, Jake.

Jake said...


Here is another problem with that 100,000 civilian deaths number. In war, for every person killed there are over 4 people injured. For 100,000 to be killed there has to be 400,000 to 500,000 injured people in hospital beds right now. It would also mean that the streets would be lined with hospital beds. The truth is that hospitals are not even filled to capacity.

The more accurate and more widely accepted number is 10,000 civilian deaths. 90% are attributable to car bombs, Al Qaida executions and suicide bombers. These number are supported by hospital admissions.

Nick said...

The problem with many studies of Iraqi civilian deaths is that they don't at all conform to the demographics of Iraq. The deaths following the invasion thus far have been overwhelmingly Male and of people age 18 and above. An accurate count of civilian deaths would be distributed over the 50% of Iraq that is female and the 45% that is 18 and below.

The Private intellectual. said...

Aside from just looking at the graph, perhaps checking the time periods would also be a good idea?

How can one compare so many people killed over more than ten years with the number killed in the Iraq war over a very short period of time and then suggest that the Iraq war was better because less people were killed? Perhaps a little bit of math would be useful when comparing the assumed number of deaths in Iraq under Saddam with the assumed number of deaths in Iraq during the (not yet completed) war there under Bush.


Freeman Hunt said...

Pi, the time period posted for Iraq's internal violence is 1988-1991, only three years. So in Iraq's case, the time periods are comparable.

Jonathan said...

The chart's "Iraq internal violence" number arbitrarily restricts the date range to the years 1988-1991 (inclusive? who knows) and appears not to include, e.g., the massacre of southern Shiites after Gulf War 1. Since Saddam Hussein formally came to power in 1979 and mass-murdered Iraqis for decades, this arbitrary restriction of the comparison timeframe appears tendentious. And of course it was Hussein who was responsible for the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf War, so exluding the casualties of those wars from consideration looks like another attempt to minimize the destruction that we put a stop to.

Somebody who was crafty could make the argument that the USA could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives by deposing Hussein and overthrowing his regime at the end of Gulf War 1. But if the NYT editors were that crafty they wouldn't be NYT editors.

Aspasia M. said...

I'm also curious if this chart includes the massacre of the Shiites after their Gulf War I uprising.

We do not know yet what the total civilian death toll will be when violence subsides in Iraq. Hopefully Iraq will not blow up into a hot civil war.

Today the McLaughlin Group used the John Hopkins numbers on their Sunday show of 100,000.

Gordon Freece said...

It's deceptive to compare civilian deaths in Iraq during peacetime under Saddam Hussein with those during a war started by the US, or to compare either of those with the current civil disturbance in Darfur or the unfortunate events in Rawanda.

The reason it's deceptive is that it implies that the US is somehow less responsible for some of these tragedies than for others.

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant installed and supported entirely by the United States — why do you think he had all those US tanks and missiles and airplanes? Why did his army have American rifles? He invaded Sudan in our interests, and destroyed the factory where they made the medicine, and everybody died. Everybody. The conflict in Sudan is, like other problems in the Islamic world, an entirely predictable result of the ongoing injustice in Palestine, as well as a perfectly predictable reaction to BushCo's open contempt for international law: Nations never behaved that way until the US set a bad example. The blood is entirely on our hands. In addition, Bush's absurd refusal to take responsibility for the sacking of Troy — another absolutely predictable result of American foreign policy — simply proves once again that character is destiny, and Bush has no destiny. Er, no character, I mean. He has no character. Because it's his destiny, to have, to not have any character, is his problem. Is what I'm saying. And that's destiny.

These are the darkest days of our nation's history. The eagles are coming home to roost, in one basket, singing their swan-song, and BushCo has burned the barn door behind us. Who will think of the children? When the Founders wisely wrote Rove vs. Wade, the bedrock and capstone of our liberties, they displayed their wise contempt for the cynical criminal Rove, and they were thinking of the children. We can do no less.

Eric said...

"why do you think he had all those US tanks and missiles and airplanes? Why did his army have American rifles?"
What? His tanks, missiles, airplanes and rifles were almost entirely Russian, Chinese and French. What American weaponry did he have? Not that the U.S. didn't support Iraq but in terms of his weapons a large proportion if not all of his weapons were not of U.S. origin.

john(classic) said...

"why do you think he had all those US tanks and missiles and airplanes? Why did his army have American rifles?"

Have you any reputable source for any of those allegations?

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Eric, John---read his post again :)

richard mcenroe said...

mcg — I see the confusion. They probably didn't realize they were reading a DNC policy paper...

michael a litscher said...

mcg: Eric, John---read his post again :)

Yea, it's a joke. But a pretty good one as I once had a barking moonbat screaching and spitting right in my face that we armed Saddam.

When I informed the idiot that Saddam used French-made figher jets, helicopters and howitzers, Russian-made fighter jets, tanks, and Scud missiles, and Russian and French made anti-aircraft batteries, not to mention Russian-designed AK-47 rifles, the moonbat just started screaching about something else.

No matter, at that point I wasn't listening any more.

Tom Grey said...

Thank you for a link to a great and relevant graphic.

I wish there was also an avg deaths/year dotted line on each bar.

I also liked the Nicuagura inclusion -- wish there'd been room for Pinochet & Castro, too.

The stupid Lancet 2,000 - 100 000 - 200 000 (somewhere in between) essentially meaningless number is an embarrassment to the Left.

If Bush's Iraq war isn't a HUGE success, what is?

Greyhawk said...

Actual Q and A from the President:

Q Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I'd like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators.

THE PRESIDENT: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq.

PD Quig said...

Did anyone get a snapshot of the graph? Looks like it got moved or pulled down.

Georges said...

It is interesting to also see who is causing the civilian deaths in Iraq:

Perspective is a lost art!

Anthony said...

I did a quickie calculation on deaths/year and came up with this ordering (min==>max):

Afghan against Taliban: 3750/yr
Nicaragua: 5833/yr
Iraq War (current):10,000/yr
Iraq Internal: 16,363/yr
Afghan/Soviet war: 41,667/yr
Bosnia: 50,000/yr
Darfur: 60,333/yr
Rwanda: 2,000,000/yr

One could also weight this against total population, although I'm not sure this would accomplish a whole lot. It'd be a different metric, but I'm not sure what it would really mean.

Freeman Hunt said...

Anthony, how did you come up with your Iraq Internal number? It appears to be off.

Freeman Hunt said...

I get 45,000 per year, based on the graph.

T J Olson said...

Anthony misleadingly conflates the War of invasion - the deadliest portion (for Iraqi's - both military and civilian) in spring of 2003 - with the civil war against terrorism, where the rate of death has fallen from 2,000 per year to now around 1,000.

It's the rate that matters, first - but the direction of the rate, in this case radically down, that also matters.

Anthony simply isn't thinking the problem through.

antiamerican said...

America is one of the only countries that still supports this war. This comes as no surprise, after seeing the consumer culture of this pathetic country. America is a country of greed, obesity, drugs, immorality and corruption. As an outsider to this country (and glad to be), i've seen presidents and members of government ratting out their own people to gain power and engaging in adultery, sanctioning torture and other debassing immoral acts. This country is no better than the 3rd world countries its curropt leaders seek to bomb for their own gain. Its extreme religious right wing and israel loving attitudes show its fanatism. Bush's war for example, was based on a lie, was based on false assumptions and was based on nothing but a whim. A whim that destroyed your economy. It doesnt matter what the death count is, although it is certainly higher than 30 000, think about it logically, dont look at sources that a) dont have a clue what they are talking about or b) are biaised. The war has created havoc in the company, it did not help the situation at all, there is no stability, no proper government, corruption and torture is abound and sanctioned by the US invaders. All the war did was get some texas idiots oil money. Deal with it, your country is the dirt of this world, because its people are.

brianef said...

Um, duh. Let's think about this. Are Iraqis just fungible people? The US invasion killed lots of people who would NOT have been killed if Saddam had stayed in power. The earlier entry about how Saddam had a list of people to kill ... presumably (and I may be wrong here, so please refute me if so) those people were on the list for a reason. Probably they were political enemies. Those folks MIGHT have had some choice in deciding whether to oppose Saddam or not, and risk ending up on that list (this should delight all the conservative readers - free choice, market force, get it?). Many of the people killed by US bombs had NO choice. Many were children.
It's really simplistic to say, "Gee, we killed fewer than we THINK Saddam would have killed, so this was OK! Go USA! We're NOT really all that bad!"
We had no reason to invade Iraq. The war was sold based on lies -- I highly recommend Ronald Suskind's THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE on that point. There were no WMD. I repeat: there were no WMD. And if there were, it was highly unlikely Saddam would have handed them off to terrorists - he would have risked immediate US retaliation, such as Bush et al sought to carry out against Iraq in the hours after 9/11. There was no link to Al Qaeda. I repeat: There was no link to Al Qaeda. There was no justification for this war. People were killed by US bombs and weaponry who would be alive today. That's the fact. Accept it.

Unknown said...

Leave it to an American to try and spindocter her way out of the shame of her country. Trying to avert our attention to conficts that pale in comparison to what the U.S. has done to Iraq. Some say that the death toll is too high, that 250 civilians must have died each day to reach such an astronamical number. This sounds far fetched, but in actual fact it is too low a figure. IBC(Iraqi Body Count) counts only the civilian deaths that are announced in the Iraqi media(T.V. and newspapers). As one of my sources states, it seems unlikely that every or even most individual civilian casualties would be mentioned in the media. The staff at IBC claims fluency only in English, and as IBC states, "We have not made use of Arabic or other non English language sources, except where these have been published in English. ... It is possible that our count has excluded some victims as a result."

I know it's hard for this simplton to understand, but thousands upon thousands of people died from worsening health and environmental conditions directly related to the conflict that began in 2003, U.S. and Iraqi public health researchers said(CNN).

If you want a realistic death toll to date, you're looking at 655,000(CNN) poeple.

Unknown said...

The death toll in Iraq has reached over 1 million civilians and the number of refugees went over 2.5 million. The number of injured of people is in the millions. So many people died slow deaths because they could not reach functioning hospitals (US bombed electrical grids and destroyed ability for hospitals to function).

The Pentagon has officially stated that they do not do bodycounts of Iraqi victims but every single US casualty (either injured or dead) is tracked meticulously. This alone should suffice for any civilized person to realize that there is something deeply wrong with this.

There is not a single family in Iraq that has not lost one of their family members or who has not suffered so deeply from this injuste invasion of revenge and destruction.

The invasion of Iraq is a war crime and is the bloodiest coup d'etat ever known in the Middle East.

US government officials who launched this horrible war must be tried for war crimes.

It is troubling that the author of this blog is trying to justify this bloodbath and to minimize the death toll by quoting sources from the invaders themselves.