How many people have died in the Iraq War?

Don't Panic ... your war questions answered

click to enlarge How many people have died in the Iraq War? - Andisheh Nouraee
Andisheh Nouraee
How many people have died in the Iraq War?

Since the March 2003 invasion, 3,305 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq.

More than 3,100 of them have died since the president dressed in military drag and gave a triumphant speech in front of a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

Last week, President Bush said, "It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." President Bush was speaking at a memorial service for those killed during last week's mass murder at Virginia Tech. I would have quoted something the president has said at a soldier's funeral, but he doesn't go to any.

Since pro-war presidential candidate John McCain staged an April 1 photo op in a Baghdad market and declared "The American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here," 64 American soldiers have died in Iraq. According to McClatchy Newspapers, more American troops have died during the past six months in Iraq than during any other six-month period of the war.

As of March 28, 24,314 American troops have been wounded. I got that number from the website of D.C. think tank the Brookings Institution. I tried to find it on the Pentagon's website, but I could not. I looked for it by clicking on "Special Reports" and then "War On Terror." On Monday morning, the "War On Terror" page led with a photograph of a yellow Labrador retriever named Grek resting his paw on a U.S. Army staff sergeant. Grek is a weapons-sniffing dog. Sen. McCain is right about the American people not getting the full picture. I can't recall the news media ever reporting about the adorable military puppies deployed in Iraq. Shame on you, Brian Williams.

Since March 2003, 269 coalition forces — 144 of whom were from the United Kingdom — have died in Iraq.

The second-largest foreign force in Iraq after the U.S. military are the 100,000-plus contractors and private security forces paid by the Pentagon to pick up slack for the understaffed U.S. military. These contractors do everything from driving supplies from Kuwait to guarding U.S. officials to doing laundry. The exact number of contractors who have died is unknown. lists 393 casualties on its "partial list" of contractors who've died in Iraq since March 2003.

How many Iraqis have died as a result of the war? Nobody knows the answer for sure. If the U.S. government is counting, it won't say. It won't even guess. Isn't that weird? How is it that the Bush administration seems to care so much about whether Iraqis are able to vote (the White House website boasts that nearly 10 million Iraqis voted in the last election), but seemingly not at all about whether Iraqis live or die? Isn't breathing a slightly more pressing concern than voting?

Last October, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war. The researchers used a method called cluster sampling. Teams of researchers went to randomly selected streets and homes around Iraq and asked people about deaths in their families. The hard numbers were then extrapolated for Iraq's population.

President Bush and his political allies in the press and abroad have trashed the report, and the motives of those who carried it out — as if teams of researchers would risk their lives driving around Iraq just to spite the president. Others have said they don't believe it simply because the number is so much higher than other estimates.

I don't know how accurate the report is. I do know that cluster sampling is an accurate-enough method of counting dead in conflict zones that the U.S. government uses it in its reports about places such as Congo or Sudan.

In March, documents obtained by the BBC show that the U.K. Ministry of Defence's chief scientific advisor called the study "robust," "best practice" and "balanced." The British government ignored him though, and, like the Bush administration, trashed the report.

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