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Press Release 14 16 Oct 2006

Concluding remarks

Could five such shocking implications be true? If they were true, they would need to be the result of a combination of the following factors:

  • incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began;
  • bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis;
  • the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas;
  • an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.

We would hope that, before accepting such extreme notions, serious consideration is given to the possibility that the population estimates derived from the Lancet study are flawed. The most likely source of such a flaw is some bias in the sampling methodology such that violent deaths were vastly over-represented in the sample. The precise potential nature of such bias is not clear at this point (it could, for example, involve problems in the application of a statistical method originally designed for studying the spread of disease in a population to direct and ongoing violence-related phenomena). But to dismiss the possibility of such bias out of hand is surely both irresponsible and unwise.

All that has been firmly documented as a result of the Lancet study is that some 300 post-invasion violent deaths occurred among the members of the households interviewed. This information, and the demographic and causative breakdowns presented in the study, are significant additions to the detailed knowledge that is painstakingly being accumulated about the individual victims of this conflict, and the tragedies that have befallen them. These 300 may be added to the roster of some 50,000 others for whom this level of detailed knowledge is available. In some - but still far too few - cases we know the name, ages, occupation, and exact circumstances of death. Information presented at this level of detail is the only way to arrive at once-for-all certainty, in a way that does justice to the victims, honours their memory, and provides the closure that only a full list, or census, can do satisfactorily.

Do the American people need to believe that 600,000 Iraqis have been killed before they can turn to their leaders and say "enough is enough"? The number of certain civilian deaths that has been documented to a basic standard of corroboration by "passive surveillance methods" surely already provides all the necessary evidence to deem this invasion and occupation an utter failure at all levels.

On 9/11 3,000 people were violently killed in attacks on the USA. Those events etched themselves into the soul of every American, and reverberated around the world. In December 2005 President George Bush acknowledged 30,000 known Iraqi violent deaths in a country one tenth the size of the USA. That is already a death toll 100 times greater in its impact on the Iraqi nation than 9/11 was on the USA. That there are more deaths that have not yet come to light is certain, but if a change in policy is needed, the catastrophic roll-call of the already known dead is more than ample justification for that change.

Note for press and media. The Lancet researchers documented 300 violent deaths. Iraq has reached such a sorry state that IBC records 300 deaths every few days. Although comment of the sort offered here is sometimes necessary, it diverts our energies away from the main work to which we are committed, and to which still far too few are contributing. In light of this we regret that, at the current time, we have extremely limited capacity to undertake interviews with individual members of the press or media, and may be unable to deal with urgent requests. Full permission is granted to cite from this release, with appropriate attribution.