March 16th, 2013

Counting casualties

There’s a new study of the costs of the Iraq War. It got some publicity yesterday on memeorandum, among other places.

Counting war casualties is almost always fraught with uncertainty and is one of the areas most ripe for exploitation by writers with an agenda. And don’t ever doubt that most of them have an agenda.

This is not to say that the cost of war, both monetary and in human suffering and death, is not very high. Nor is it the case that all wars are worth that cost. But if you’re going to use statistics involving deaths in war, at least make an attempt to get the figures correct.

And at least acknowledge that the details of how one arrives at such statistics is of the utmost importance.

And yet the author of the study, Professor Neta Crawford, writes:

Although the intricacies of the different methods and their assumptions are fascinating, to focus on the arguments about how to record the dead and wounded is to sometimes to obscure the toll of the war.

No, it is to illuminate and clarify and help to get at the truth of the costs of the war.

However, having skimmed through the entire study, I have to say that it’s by no means one of the worst of its kind. At least Crawford discusses the subject of the competing studies and methods in an appendix. But basically she is just guessing, which is hardly unusual. Crawford does mention that the US official estimate is around 77,000 dead and the Iraq Ministry of Human Rights’ estimate is around 86,000 (from January 2004 to late 2008, the period in which casualties were highest), so my best guess would be to place the number of actual deaths as being closer to that range plus some thousands more, although not as high as Crawford’s estimate. But I agree it’s virtually impossible to know.

But the most interesting thing, at least to me, are the statistics that appear in the full study (28 pages long) but which are nowhere to be found in the lengthy press release about it, and that is the fact that the vast majority of the deaths were perpetrated by terrorists (“unknown” perpetrators).

The casual reader who does not delve deeply into the study is not informed of this rather salient fact—and that’s no surprise, is it?

18 Responses to “Counting casualties”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    When it comes to the casual reader remaining uninformed it is never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, ever a surprise.

  2. vanderleun Says:


  3. Colin Says:

    An interesting observation: ten years of war after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was less deadly for the Iraqu people than the ten years of ‘peace’ that proceeded the invasion and overthrow of that monster.

    It might a,so be worth comparing the carnage of the Iran-Iraq war with our war in Iraq.

    If we’re going to be obsessed with metrics, so be it, but I can’t help but think that by the very measures being propagated by those human rights activists who are most opposed to the Overthrow of Saddam Hussein seem to indicate that just in terms of human life, disposing of Saddam and his Ba’ath party thugs provided the Iraqi people with their only imaginable path out of his slaughter house.

  4. neo-neocon Says:


    Yes, I’ve long been aware of the fact that such metrics almost never include the right comparison, which is the previous regime.

  5. n.n Says:

    It was a civil war, where America was a principal actor. It may have been prosecuted with less casualties under Bush Sr., or perhaps Clinton, when the Iraqi people were better prepared to conduct a regime change.

  6. James Says:

    It always fascinates me how “human rights” activists use the most empty rationalizations to justify leaving leaving Saddam Hussein in power to murder tens of thousands by quasi-legal means year after year.

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    that is the fact that the vast majority of the deaths were perpetrated by terrorists (“unknown” perpetrators).

    But … but it’s all the same, isn’t it? We were involved, and these people died, so we are culpable, right?

    My family and I are dog lovers, and every time we see footage of some catastrophe or such in which a dog appears, however fleetingly, we say, “Another dog-related problem.”

    The casual reader who does not delve deeply into the study is not informed of this rather salient fact—and that’s no surprise, is it?

    The Reds count on it. It’s the essence of all agitprop.

  8. n.n Says:

    re: salient fact

    There is a similar fact-bias in the gun control debate. The majority of violence perpetrated with a gun is committed by government agents, gang members, and individuals who take their own lives.

    As for the human “rights” business, I wonder what their ulterior motive may be. Other than to advance their political, economic, and social standing, of course.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.” Samuel Johnson

    The ideologue’s calculus cares not a whit for objective fact, for such as they, only advancing their agenda has value. It may be the ultimate dehumanization because nothing in that calculus has intrinsic value.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Those who are left because that’s their plan, and those who are left/lib/dem because it makes them feel good would never, if seeing it proven that terrs killed most of those civilians, either care or change their opinion.
    See Hue, massacre of.
    Exemplifies the NVA and VC, right?
    Look, a squirrel!

  11. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    [...] neo-neocon discusses the latest Iraq casualties report [...]

  12. Sam L. Says:

    Yes, let’s bury deeply the fact that terrorists are stone-cold killers, and like that part of their lives.

    Even if we could prove they are only doing that because of BUSH!!!!!111!!!

  13. blert Says:

    Their approach is like discussing the validity of toppling the Nazis… with particular emphasis on area bombing… yet nothing about the Death Kamp routine.

    Saddam & Co. were conducting their own version of slow motion genocide against the Kurds — with a Holodomor against the Shia.


    They also conflate multiple war campaigns into one.

    ‘The Iraq War’ was a compressed Thirty-Years War. The bulk of the blood spilt was by way of EID and VBEID unlawful warfare — sectarian warfare.

    America/ the West wasn’t perpetrating the horror: Iraqis were, them and mercenary-jihadis.

    Afghanistan is now retreading these themes.

    As for the Left: they are absolute Tools of Central.

  14. n.n Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    They routinely manipulate perception to realize their preferred reality. I have largely stopped watching the news because either they no longer care about obfuscating their motives or they have become uncomfortably transparent since my formative years.


    Left-wing ideology is corporatist by design. They concentrate capital and power in minority hands. The Right, including the American Right, is subject to the same corruption, but it occurs in the exception (e.g. corruption), and is either corrected within the market or legal jurisdiction. The principal distinguishing characteristic between Left and Right is that the former practices capitalism through establishment of monopolies or monopolistic practices preserved through force (e.g. government).

    That said, to be fair to the Left, they are not a monolithic group. Neither is the Right, for that matter. There is room to negotiate, but the opportunities are few and far between when discussions are prematurely aborted through acts of emotional (e.g. accusations of racism, sexism, etc.) or legal (e.g. civil rights lawsuits, DOJ intervention, etc.) extortion.

  15. n.n Says:

    re: extortion

    For example, this is why we cannot have a rational discussion of immigration issues. We neither address displacement of Americans nor distortion of the market. We also do not address the motive for annually around one million people leaving their homes and illegally entering this nation. We will neither address the causes of unmeasured illegal immigration or excessive legal immigration.

    Another example, we cannot have a rational discussion of evolutionary fitness. It always devolves into discussion of their simian heritage, inconvenient evolutionary principles, or religions that harsh their mellow.

    Another example, we cannot have a rational discussion of human and civil rights. In America, our unalienable rights are recognized from “creation” (per our national charter), and under our Constitution cannot be withdrawn without cause and due process under equal protection of the law. This establishes that elective abortion is illegal under our law; but, women, and men, choose wealth and welfare over human life voluntarily conceived, when it may interrupt their enjoyment of wealth or interfere with their welfare.

    Oh, well. People incapable of self-moderating behavior will not enjoy liberty for long. The prerequisite for liberty is people capable of self-moderating behavior. The prerequisite for evolutionary fitness is men and women who do not abort their children for capricious reasons. Unfortunately, we live in a “democracy”, where the dreams of the majority direct the fate of a minority. This was not always the case. At one time we lived in a Republic, governed by a Constitution, which required some tweaks after resolution of the original compromise, but otherwise provided good, if incomplete, guidance for a moral and functional people.

  16. blert Says:


    Half of the polity decides all the big issues emotionally — and always has.

    The bizarre notion that we’re going to decide such expansive issues rationally betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of man, himself.


    More generally, not enough Americans are aware of Active Measures — and the First Directorate of the KGB/ SVR.

    Google Bezmenov.

    Anna Chapman was NOT a spy; she was an agent engaged in Active Measures. So, too, were all of her comrades swept up by the FBI.

    Even sophisticated Americans are totally unaware of Central’s gambits.

    (Central = First Directorate of the NKVD/KGB/SVR — Putin, himself, was a First Directorate KGB agent.)

    Central’s ambit is to corrupt all democracies, to fracture all other parties, befoul the voting tabulations, and generally break down all non-Soviet/Russian societies.

    It’s a social pathogen.

    Fracturing the opposition is taken so far as to finance (via cut-outs) additional parties — particularly towards the right.

    In contrast, Central funds up and coming candidates on the left. Both Blair and Brown received KGB funding — so that they’d stay active in politics as a career. Without the KGB, both future prime ministers would’ve had to get real jobs. Obviously, the KGB hid their money — suddenly a ‘foundation’ discovered them and they ‘qualified’ for a stipend.

    Don’t think that this was limited to just them. Central has been pulling our political compass to the left — with money — for generations. It works because the vast bulk of humanity takes their lies as the straight truth. Blair and Brown honestly believed that they were so ‘special’ that, naturally, money would float down from heaven for their careers.

    You can probably imagine how they see themselves, decades later, also sprinkling pixie dust over the budding careers of fellow do-gooders.

  17. Eric Says:

    Neo: “Yes, I’ve long been aware of the fact that such metrics almost never include the right comparison, which is the previous regime.’

    Related to your point, Neo, is that opponents of the Iraq mission entirely ignore that even if Saddam had in 2003 met his burden of proof and particular standard of compliance for the *weapons related* terms of the 1991 ceasefire and subsequent UNSC resolutions – which Iraq did not – Saddam was still in violation of the humanitarian-related resolutions.

    In terms of precedent, Clinton, of course, had intervened in the Balkans without Congressional nor UN authorization on humanitarian grounds.

    After Bush, Obama intervened on his executive authority based on the responsibility to protect doctrine in Libya.

    I expect a lot of negative spin and framing for the 10th anniversary, but from several angles, the Iraq intervention – while the lesser evil from a set of bad choices – was justified.

  18. artfldgr Says:

    Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) tried to allay his fears by pointing out that everyone was being served the same meal. Even after Obama was offered the option of exchanging plates with any of the other diners he still declined to eat and contended that “every plate could well be tainted” and that “I wouldn’t put it past the GOP to willingly sacrifice a dozen legislators for the chance to get me..”

    Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the President’s caution by pointing out that “it’s possible that all of the other diners could’ve been given the antidote in advance. Let’s not forget that it was right about this time of year when Julius Caesar was killed by treacherous senators. So, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

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