Daniel Korski

Which UN figures show 600,000 Iraqi deaths?

Which UN figures show 600,000 Iraqi deaths?
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While skewering Alistair Campbell on his show, Andrew Marr said the Iraq War had killed 600.000 people. Blair’s former spin-doctor was on the ropes at the time and so did not contest the count, which Marr claimed were “internationally-accepted UN figures”. But I’m curious to find out where Marr got this count from.

Finding out how many people have died is difficult, as no Iraqi or Coalition government office regularly releases publically available statistics on Iraqi civilian deaths. I have not been able to find the supposedly authoritative UN figure Marr quoted. But the Iraqi Body Count, the world’s largest public database of violent civilian deaths during and since the 2003 invasion, puts the figure between 95,309 – 103,982 deaths. The Brookings Iraq Index similarly puts the deaths between  May 2003 and August 14, 2008 at 113,616. The Associated Press puts the violent deaths at 110,600 violent deaths as of April 2009.

The only two studies I know of which puts the deaths in the range that Marr quoted are “the Lancet studies” (because they were published in the British medical journal) and the ORB (Opinion Research Business) study. The former put the deaths between 426,369 and 793,663; the ORB research put the death toll at 1,220,580, the highest number published so far.

But both studies have come in for criticism. The Lancet estimate is for all excess violent and nonviolent deaths. That also includes those due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc. The ORB estimate was performed by a random survey of 1,720 adults aged 18+, out of which 1,499 responded, in fifteen of the eighteen governorates within Iraq, between August 12 and August 19, 2007.

Many people died in Iraq as a result of the invasion. Policy-makers should answer for the decisions they took, which lead to these deaths. But there are no “internationally-accepted UN figures” which put the death toll at 600.000, as Marr claimed.