How many Iraqi deaths?

Thoughtful piece by Michel Thieren in OpenDemocracy…

Two scientifically audited numbers today constitute the best available and most cited evidence quantifying Iraqi civilian deaths directly associated with the war in that country which began in March 2003. Each is generated by a credible and independent source, though their conclusions vary widely: one gives a running total of 48,783 (as of 18 October 2006), the other gives 654,965 for the period March 2003 to July 2006.

At this stage in the Iraq war, these different orders of magnitude for civilian casualties are too often relayed by a number-loving (and sensation-hungry) media in ways that both reflect and serve the preordained views of those in favour of or against the war. A statistical language about Iraqi casualties that is able to bring numbers and words, tallies and stories, into a coherent relationship requires understanding of what “48,783” and “654,965” are really measuring, how they were respectively computed, and what they reveal.

The nub of it seems to be that the lower figure compiled by Iraq Body Count measures only deaths directly attributable to interactions with Coalition forces, whereas the Johns Hopkins figures take into account the suicide bombing, ethnic cleansing and general mayhem now rife in Iraq (and causing 900 violent casualties aday).