There has been much written about the ability to estimate how many Iraqis have died since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. In 2005, President Bush speculated that 30,000 Iraqis died, a number close to what Iraq Body Count derived. In that year, Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the war will end in 2009. I used that occasion to determine whether the insurgency really was in its “last throes,” and noted that such a prediction seemed premature, given the rate of coalition dead and wounded at the time, but there was a significant reduction. We debated over the methods of Iraq Body Count to count the Iraqi dead.
Now, the AP claims that the number between 2005 and now is 87,215:
BAGHDAD – Iraq’s government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings, according to government statistics obtained by The Associated Press that break open one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war. Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by The Associated Press, the figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The number is a minimum count of violent deaths. The official who provided the data to the AP, on condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity, estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records. The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them — along with hospital and morgue figures — to publicly release casualty counts. But by early 2007, when sectarian violence was putting political pressure on the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the Iraqi numbers disappeared. The United Nations “repeatedly asked for that cooperation” to resume but never received a response, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday. The data obtained by the AP measure only violent deaths — people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings that have ravaged Iraq. It excluded indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that caused thousands more to die.
The numbers show just how traumatic the war has been for Iraq. In a nation of 29 million people, the deaths represent 0.38 percent of the population. Proportionally, that would be like the United States losing 1.2 million people to violence in the four-year period; about 17,000 people are murdered every year in the U.S. Security has improved since the worst years, but almost every person in Iraq has been touched by the violence.
The AP agrees with Iraq Body Count, for the most part. Actually, the AP’s estimate is slightly higher than IBC’s max of 99,861.