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How many people have died in the Iraq war?

Don't panic ... your war questions answered

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Since the March 2003 invasion, 2,856 American soldiers have died in Iraq.

More than 2,700 of those soldiers have died since Dubya declared the mission in Iraq "accomplished." More than 1,100 of those American soldiers have died since Vice President Cheney said the insurgency was in its "last throes." Between 75 and 100 more American soldiers will likely die in Iraq between now and Dec. 29, the date when Rumsfeld is expected to vacate his Pentagon office. Even though Bush announced the day after the November election that he was dumping Rummy, reports say Bush will let him stay on until the 29th so he can surpass Robert McNamara as the longest-serving Secretary of Defense in American history. After the 29th, will someone please remind me to add "sucked at his job longer than anyone else" to Rummy's Wikipedia entry?

More than 21,000 American soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since the invasion. It's not clear how many of those injuries are serious or permanently crippling. The Pentagon doesn't make that information readily available (I got my numbers from a Brookings Institution line graph). In fact, the Pentagon website doesn't even list the number of wounded soldiers. It does, however, feature four separate "news" stories about how country star Toby Keith is to perform for soldiers. It's shockin', y'all.

The number of Iraqi civilians who've died violent deaths since the U.S. invasion is the subject of much dispute.

The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to offer any information to the press about the total number of Iraqi civilians who've died since the U.S. invasion. Back in 2003, then-commander of the Iraq invasion force Gen. Tommy Franks was asked by reporters about Iraqi civilian casualties. "We don't do body counts," was his answer. He went to high school with Laura Bush. Isn't that neat?

Franks' five-word "fuck you" to the Iraqi people is printed in large black letters at the top of iraqbodycount.net, a website that keeps a running tally of Iraq's war dead. Iraqbodycount.net estimates that between 49,021 and 54,397 Iraqi civilians have died since the invasion. The website derives its numbers from news reports. The 5,000-person range in the estimate is in part due to the fact that different news outlets will often report different casualty totals for the same event.

The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index (http://brookings.edu/iraqindex), which blends IBC's data with United Nations data, estimates that 62,000 Iraqi civilians had died by Aug. 31, 2006.

A study produced by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University and published by the British medical journal The Lancet indicates that IBC and Brookings are dramatically understating the loss of life in Iraq -- by a factor of up to 12.

The Human Cost of the War In Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002-2006 says that more than 655,000 Iraqis have died in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Unlike IBC and Brookings, the Johns Hopkins report doesn't just add up publicly reported deaths. It used a method called cluster sampling. In places such as war zones, where a comprehensive, census-like survey is impossible, cluster sampling is widely considered a practical and accurate alternative.

In a nutshell, the project's researchers went to 1,849 randomly selected Iraqi households. The researchers asked the people if any residents of the house had died and, if so, how. Researchers then extrapolated a figure for the whole country.

Why is their number so much higher than anyone else's? They say it's because other numbers rely almost exclusively on reports by journalists. At great personal risk, the Johns Hopkins researchers went into cities and neighborhoods where Western journalists almost never go.

In keeping with the Bush administration philosophy, which dictates that facts should be dismissed if they do not conform with already-held beliefs, U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. George W. Casey says he doesn't believe the Johns Hopkins report. "That 650,000 number seems way, way beyond any number that I have seen."

The man himself, President Bush, says he doesn't "consider it a credible report." Then again, he also didn't consider Aug. 6, 2001's "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" to be a credible report either.

The Johns Hopkins/Lancet study is available here.

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