New study estimates lower Iraq death count

It’s been more than a year since we had some extensive and intensive debates at Harry’s Place (see here, here, here, here and here) about the Johns Hopkins University report in The Lancet estimating more than 600,000 violent deaths in Iraq since the US invasion of March 2003.

Now a study conducted by the World Health Organization and the Iraq Health Ministry, and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, has estimated about one-fourth that number of violent deaths for the same period.

According to National Public Radio:

Both studies counted civilian and combatant fatalities. [The WHO’s Ties] Boerma thinks the difference in their findings is that the earlier Hopkins study visited far fewer neighborhoods and villages. Researchers working with Hopkins visited 47 so-called clusters; researchers with WHO visited more than 1,000 clusters.

“Because we are talking about a survey that is much larger, we have a little bit more confidence in that method than in a very small cluster survey,” says Boerma.

Boerma admits that even the bigger survey missed areas that were too violent to get into and so they made adjustments for that.

Now assuming this is a reasonably accurate count, 151,000 deaths is a horrendous number by any measure. And it would be useful (though probably impossible) to get some idea of which sides are responsible for which portions of these deaths. But surely a difference of 450,000 deaths is significant.

I wonder if any of those who defended the Hopkins study’s estimate– sometimes with more political passion than scientific rigor– will be prepared to reconsider.

Update: The latest National Journal has a cover story questioning the findings of the Johns Hopkins study published in The Lancet.

(Hat tip: Hamid.)