|The student reflection of St. Michael's College|
|News||Features||Sports||Naked Opinion||Multimedia||Op-Ed||Letters to the Editor|
February 27, 2008
|Collateral damage, one million and counting|
|Dr. Laurie Gagne | Director, Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice|
I appreciate Stew Shearer's letter and I encourage more discussion on campus of important issues like these. There are several different figures given for the number of Iraqi deaths since the U.S. invasion in March, 2003 and this discrepancy can certainly be confusing. Having studied the question, however, I believe the strongest case can be made for the accuracy of the “more than 1 million” figure I referred to in a couple of campus-wide e-mails advertising our March 5 Day of Resistance to the War.
In July 2006, a team of public health experts representing Johns Hopkins University conducted a survey measuring “excess deaths” in Iraq during the period of the war. (“Excess deaths” refers to the number of persons dying above what would normally have been expected.) The study used the standard “cluster approach” which has been employed by the UN to estimate mortality in dozens of countries experiencing conflict. The findings, which put the death toll at 654,965 (with 601,027 violent deaths) were published in October of 2006 in Europe’s most prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.
Last September, a British polling organization, Opinion Business Research—a respected polling company which has conducted studies for customers as mainstream as the BBC and the Conservative Party—stated that 1.2 million Iraqi citizens “have been murdered” since the March 2003 U.S.-U.K. invasion. Les Roberts, co-author of the Johns Hopkins study, said that this figure is just what one would expect given the 14 additional months covered by OBR’s poll “with deaths escalating over time.” “Overall,” Roberts said, “(the two reports) seem very much to align.”
What about the 89,000 figure given by the Iraq Body Count which is cited by Mr. Shearer? As BBC’s Newsnight editor Peter Barron commented, “The IBC figure is …not offering a comprehensive estimate of the total number of deaths.” IBC only collects records of violent civilian deaths reported by two different media sources operating in Iraq. Epidemiologists report that this type of study typically captures around 5 percent of deaths during high levels of violence. In other words, a body count will naturally yield different results from a population—based survey. “Nowhere but Iraq,” Les Roberts says, “have partial tallies from morgues and hospitals been given such credence when representative survey results are available.”
Our March 5 Day of Protest will focus on the cost of the war, both to the U.S. and to the Iraqis. In beginning to determine the human cost of the war to Iraq, I believe that we should use the best information available. For those who are interested in reading the Johns Hopkins study, there are copies available in my office (Klein 112). Again, I want to thank Stewart Shearer for initiating this discussion. I encourage him to attend our information sessions and panels on March 5. I think all of us on the steering committee envision this as a day of dialogue as well as protest.
|Archives | Corrections | Mission | Staff|
St. Michael's College