The latest report on casualties in Iraq, published in The Lancet estimates 650,000 killed since the ‘Coalition’ invasion of 2003. The survey which reached this conclusion worked from interviewing 2000 Iraqi households, and then extrapolating the results over the whole of the population.
This technique of surveying works for consumer surveys where product penetration is known to be remarkably similar over a whole poulation, and random sampling gives a good picture, as is the casew ith political polling. Deaths from warfare are not uniformly distributed over a population, however. They are usually concentrated into hotspots where the majority of deaths take place.
The figured are given for deaths only. The figure amounts to 2.5% of the Iraqi population. The ratio of dead to wounded from gunshot and bomb attacks is usually approximately 1:3. This would suggest that 7.5% of the Iraqi population must also have been wounded, if the death statistic were correct, in the sense of being in the ‘ballpark’. Giving 10% of the population as dead or wounded.
An equivalent figure in the UK today would be 6 million people killed or wounded. In WW1 Britain lost 3 millions – around 750,000 killed and 2,250,000 wounded and missing. It seems unlikely that Iraq civil war and insurgency would have caused casualties at the same rate as Britain’s in the First World War, when our population was nearer 30 million.
The Independent newspaper has treated the figure as reliable, and the BBC has given the story major billing. It seems a shame that such key media organisations are unable to assess news information objectively, but prefer to grab any statistic which supports their own particular viewpoint. The public’s trust in the media can only erode further, and the reliance on blogging to find balance in reporting can only grow.