Researchers who rushed into print a study of Iraqi civilian deaths now
wonder why it was ignored

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When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami caused by an Asian
earthquake in December, the immediate reaction in the United States was an
outpouring of grief and philanthropy, prompted by extensive coverage in the
news media.

Two months earlier, the reaction in the United States to news of another
large-scale human tragedy was much quieter. In late October, a study was
published in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, concluding
that about 100,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq since it was invaded
by a United States-led coalition in March 2003. On the eve of a contentious
presidential election — fought in part over U.S. policy on Iraq — many
American newspapers and television news programs ignored the study or
buried reports about it far from the top headlines.

The paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Columbia
University, and Baghdad’s Al-Mustansiriya University, was based on a
door-to-door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people in 33 randomly
selected locations in Iraq. It was dangerous work, and the team of
researchers was lucky to emerge from the survey unharmed.

The paper that they published carried some caveats. For instance, the
researchers admitted that many of the dead might have been combatants. They
also acknowledged that the true number of deaths could fall anywhere within
a range of 8,000 to 194,000, a function of the researchers’ having
extrapolated their survey to a country of 25 million.

But the statistics do point to a number in the middle of that range. And
the raw numbers upon which the researchers’ extrapolation was based are
undeniable: Since the invasion, the No. 1 cause of death among households
surveyed was violence. The risk of death due to violence had increased
58-fold since before the war. And more than half of the people who had died
from violence and its aftermath since the invasion began were women and


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