Casualties of the Iraq War

Casualties of the Iraq War
White and red flags, representing Iraqi and American deaths, sit in the grass quadrangle of The Valley Library on the Corvallis, Oregon, campus of Oregon State University. As part of the traveling Iraq Body Count exhibit (not related to Iraq Body Count project), the flags aim to "raise awareness of the human cost of the Iraq War." (May 2008)

Casualties of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (beginning with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and continuing with the ensuing occupation of Iraq coalition presence, as well as the activities of the various armed groups operating in the country) have come in many forms, and the accuracy of the information available on different types of Iraq War casualties varies greatly.

The table below summarizes some of the Iraqi casualty figures.

Source Iraqi casualties Time period
Iraq Family Health Survey 151,000 deaths March 2003 to June 2006
Lancet survey 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths March 2003 to June 2006
Opinion Research Business survey 1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflict March 2003 to August 2007
Associated Press 110,600 deaths March 2003 to April 2009
Iraq Body Count project 103,536 — 113,125 civilian deaths as a result of the conflict. Over 150,726 civilian and combatant deaths[1] March 2003 to October 2011
WikiLeaks. Classified Iraq war logs[1][2][3][4] 109,032 deaths including 66,081 civilian deaths.[5][6] January 2004 to December 2009

For troops in the U.S.-led multinational coalition, the death toll is carefully tracked and updated daily, and the names and photographs of those killed in action as well as in accidents have been published widely. Regarding the Iraqis, however, information on both military and civilian casualties is both less precise and less consistent. Estimates of casualty levels are available from reporters on the scene, from officials of involved organizations, and from groups that summarize information on incidents reported in the news media.

The word "casualties" in its most general sense includes the injured as well as the dead. Accounts of the number of coalition wounded vary widely, partly because it is not obvious what should be counted: should only those injuries serious enough to put a soldier out of commission be included? Do illnesses or injuries caused by accidents count, or should the focus be restricted to wounds caused by hostile engagement? Sources using different definitions may arrive at very different numbers, and sometimes the precise definition is not clearly specified. As for the Iraqis, where even the death toll has only been very roughly estimated, it appears that no one has attempted to count the wounded.


Overview. Iraqi death estimates by source

Summary of casualties of the Iraq War. Possible estimates on the number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely,[7] and are highly disputed.[8] Estimates of casualties below include both the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the following Post-invasion Iraq, 2003–present.

Iraq war logs

Classified US military documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010, record Iraqi and Coalition military deaths between January 2004 and December 2009.[1][2][3][4][9][9][10] The documents record 109,032 deaths broken down into "Civilian" (66,081 deaths), "Host Nation" (15,196 deaths),"Enemy" (23,984 deaths), and "Friendly" (3,771 deaths).[6][11]

Iraqi Health Ministry

The Health Ministry of the Iraqi government recorded 87,215 Iraqi violent deaths between January 1, 2005, and February 28, 2009. The data was in the form of a list of yearly totals for death certificates issued for violent deaths by hospitals and morgues. The official who provided the data the Associated Press said the ministry does not have figures for the first two years of the war, and estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.[12]

The Associated Press

Associated Press stated that more than 110,600 Iraqis had been killed since the start of the war to April 2009. This number is per the Health Ministry tally of 87,215 covering January 1, 2005, to February 28, 2009 combined with counts of casualties for 2003–2004, and after February 29, 2009, from hospital sources and media reports.[12] For more info see farther down at The Associated Press and Health Ministry. More information.

Iraq Body Count

The Iraq Body Count project (IBC) figure of 94,902 — 103,549 civilian deaths reported in English-language media (including Arabic media translated into English) up to December 2009 includes civilian deaths due to coalition and insurgent military action, sectarian violence and increased criminal violence.[13] The IBC site states: "it should be noted that many deaths will probably go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media."[14]

Iraq Family Health Survey (with WHO)

Iraq Family Health Survey for the World Health Organization.[15][16] On January 9, 2008, the World Health Organization reported the results of the "Iraq Family Health Survey" published in The New England Journal of Medicine.[17] The study surveyed 9,345 households across Iraq and estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) from March 2003 through June 2006. Employees of the Iraqi Health Ministry carried out the survey.[18][19][20] See also farther down: Iraq Family Health Survey.

Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll

Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll conducted August 12–19, 2007, estimated 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the Iraq War. The range given was 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths. A nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 Iraqi adults answered whether any members of their household (living under their roof) were killed due to the Iraq War. 22% of the respondents had lost one or more household members. ORB reported that "48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance."[21][22][23][24][25]

United Nations

The United Nations reported that 34,452 violent deaths occurred in 2006, based on data from morgues, hospitals, and municipal authorities across Iraq.[26]

Lancet studies

The Lancet study's figure of 654,965 excess deaths through the end of June 2006 is based on household survey data. The estimate is for all excess violent and nonviolent deaths. That also includes those due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc. 601,027 deaths (range of 426,369 to 793,663 using a 95% confidence interval) were estimated to be due to violence. 31% of those were attributed to the Coalition, 24% to others, 46% unknown. The causes of violent deaths were gunshot (56%), car bomb (13%), other explosion/ordnance (14%), airstrike (13%), accident (2%), unknown (2%). A copy of a death certificate was available for a high proportion of the reported deaths (92% of those households asked to produce one).[27][28][29]

Ali al-Shemari (earlier Iraqi Health Minister)

Concerning war-related deaths (civilian and non-civilian), and deaths from criminal gangs, Iraq's Health Minister Ali al-Shemari said that since the March 2003 invasion between 100,000 and 150,000 Iraqis had been killed.[30] "Al-Shemari said on Thursday [November 9, 2006] that he based his figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals – though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total."[31] For more info see farther down at Iraq Health Minister estimate in November 2006.

Overview. Death estimates by group

Iraqi Security Forces (aligned with Coalition)

From June 2003, through December 31, 2010, there have been 16,623 Iraqi military and police killed based on several estimates.[32] The Iraq Index of the Brookings Institution keeps a running total of ISF casualties.[33] There is also a breakdown of ISF casualties at the website.[34]

Iraqi insurgents

From June 2003, through September 30, 2011, there have been 26,320 Iraqi insurgents killed based on several estimates.[35]

Media and aid workers

136 journalists and 51 media support workers were killed on duty according to the numbers listed on source pages on February 24, 2009.[36][37][38] 94 aid workers have been killed according to a November 21, 2007, Reuters article.[39][40]

U.S. armed forces

Graph of monthly deaths of U.S. military personnel in Iraq from beginning of war to June 24, 2008.[41]

As of May 28, 2010, there were 4,404 dead and 31,827 wounded in action (WIA).[42] See the references for a breakdown of the wounded, injured, ill, those returned to duty (RTD), those requiring medical air transport, non-hostile-related medical air transports, non-hostile injuries, diseases, or other medical reasons.[42][43][44][45][46]

Coalition deaths by hostile fire

As of 23 October 2011 (2011 -10-23), hostile-fire deaths accounted for 3,777 of the 4,799 total coalition military deaths.[47]

Armed forces of other coalition countries

See Multinational force in Iraq.

As of 24 February 2009 (2009 -02-24), there were 318 deaths from the armed forces of other Coalition nations. 179 UK deaths and 139 deaths from other nations. Breakdown:[43][44][48]


Contractors. At least 1,487 deaths between March 2003 and June 2011 according to the list of private contractor deaths in Iraq. 245 of those are from the U.S.[49][50][51][52][53] Contractors are "Americans, Iraqis and workers from more than three dozen other countries."[54] 10,569 wounded or injured.[49] Contractors "cook meals, do laundry, repair infrastructure, translate documents, analyze intelligence, guard prisoners, protect military convoys, deliver water in the heavily fortified Green Zone and stand sentry at buildings - often highly dangerous duties almost identical to those performed by many U.S. troops."[55] A July 4, 2007, Los Angeles Times article reported 182,000 employees of U.S.-government-funded contractors and subcontractors (118,000 Iraqi, 43,000 other, 21,000 U.S.).[50][56]

Additional statistics for the Iraq War

Overview of casualties by type
(see the rest of the article below for more info)
  • Iraqis:
  • Deadliest single insurgent bombings:[57]
  • Other deadly days:
    • November 23, 2006, (281 killed) and April 18, 2007, (233 killed):
      • "4 bombings in Baghdad kill at least 183. ... Nationwide, the number of people killed or found dead on Wednesday [, April 18, 2007,] was 233, which was the second deadliest day in Iraq since Associated Press began keeping records in May 2005. Five car bombings, mortar rounds and other attacks killed 281 people across Iraq on November 23, 2006, according to the AP count."[58]
Graph of monthly wounded in action of U.S. military personnel in Iraq.[46]
Wounded in action
  • As of January 12, 2007, 500 U.S. troops have undergone amputations due to the Iraq War. Toes and fingers are not counted.[59]
  • As of September 30, 2006, 725 American troops have had limbs amputated from wounds received in Iraq and Afghanistan.[60]
  • A 2006 study by the Walter Reed Medical Center, which serves more critically injured soldiers than most VA hospitals, concluded that 62 percent of patients there had suffered a brain injury.[61]
  • In March 2003, U.S. military personnel were wounded in action at a rate averaging about 350 per month. As of September 2007, this rate has increased to about 675 per month.[46]
Injured/fallen ill
  • U.S. military: number unknown.
    • An October 18, 2005, USA Today article reports:
      • "More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment, according to The Pentagon's first detailed screening of service members leaving a war zone."[62]
  • Iraqi combatants: number unknown

Iraqi invasion casualties

In March 2002 — before the Iraq War — at a news conference at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, U.S. General Tommy Franks had said, "we don't do body counts."[64][65]

Franks reportedly estimated soon after the invasion that there had been 30,000 Iraqi casualties as of April 9, 2003.[66] That number comes from the transcript of an October 2003 interview of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with journalist Bob Woodward. They were discussing a number reported by The Washington Post.[when?] But neither could remember the number clearly, nor whether it was just for deaths, or both deaths and wounded.

A May 28, 2003, Guardian article reported "Extrapolating from the death-rates of between 3% and 10% found in the units around Baghdad, one reaches a toll of between 13,500 and 45,000 dead among troops and paramilitaries.[67]

An October 20, 2003, study[68][69] by the Project on Defense Alternatives at Commonwealth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, stated that for March 19, 2003, to April 30, 2003, "Based on the analysis that follows we estimate that the 2003 Iraq war produced between 7,600 and 10,800 Iraqi combatant fatalities."

The study also stated: "Our analysis of the evidence leads to the conclusion that between 10,800 and 15,100 Iraqis were killed in the war. Of these, between 3,200 and 4,300 were noncombatants – that is: civilians who did not take up arms."

The study explained that to arrive at these numbers, they had adjusted the underlying incident reports from the field by reducing each count by anywhere from 20% to 60%, based on their own reliability assessments, in order to "control for casualty inflation – a prevalent form of bias."

The study author Carl Conetta reported: "All told, more than 40,000 Iraqis were killed or injured,"

The Iraq Body Count project (IBC) documented a higher number of civilian deaths up to the end of the major combat phase (May 1, 2003). In a 2005 report,[70] using updated information, the IBC reported that 7,299 civilians are documented to have been killed, primarily by U.S. air and ground forces. There were 17,338 civilian injuries inflicted up to May 1, 2003. The IBC says its figures are probably underestimates because: "many deaths will probably go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media."[14]

Iraqi civilian casualties

A soldier carries a wounded Iraqi child into the Charlie Medical Centre at Camp Ramadi, Iraq (March 20, 2007).

Iraqi civilians have suffered the bulk of fatalities in this conflict. Estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties are highly disputed.[71][72] It is difficult for most estimates of Iraqi casualties to separate civilian from combatant casualties. Various estimates are discussed below, and elsewhere in this article. See also the section on total Iraqi casualties. In December 2007, the Iraqi government reported that there were five million orphans in Iraq — almost half of the country's children.[73][74]

For the major combat phase of the war from March to April 2003, Abu Dhabi TV reported on April 8, 2003, that Iraqi sources had claimed that 1,252 civilians had been killed and 5,103 had been wounded. The Iraq Body Count project (IBC project), incorporating subsequent reports, has reported that by the end of the major combat phase up to April 30, 2003, 7,299 civilians had been killed, primarily by U.S. air-and-ground forces.[70]

People's Kifah

A study by an Iraqi political party, the People's Kifah, or Struggle Against Hegemony (PK), reported the findings of a survey it conducted between March and June 2003 throughout the non-Kurdish areas of Iraq. They tallied 36,533 civilians killed in those areas by June 2003. Information on this study was first published in August 2003 on the website of Jude Wanniski, a retired reporter for The Wall Street Journal.[75] While detailed town-by-town totals are given by the PK spokesperson, details of methodology are very thin and raw data is not in the public domain. A still-less-detailed report on this study appeared some months later on Al Jazeera's website.[76] The Al Jazeera report claims the study covered up to October 2003, but this cannot be accurate, as exactly the same figures were already published on the Wanniski website in August 2003.

Note that both the IDC project below and PK above define the word civilian to exclude the various paramilitary forces operating in Iraq as well as the official military forces that existed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Iraq Body Count project

An independent UK/US group, the IBC project compiles "reported" Iraqi civilian deaths resulting from the invasion and occupation, including those caused directly by coalition military action, those caused directly by the Iraqi insurgency, and those resulting from excess crime (the IBC project asserts that the Occupying Authority[clarification needed] is responsible to prevent these deaths under international law). It shows a minimum of 99,004 and a maximum of 108,076 as of December 2, 2010.[13]

This total represents civilian deaths that have been reported by media organizations, non-governmental-organization-based reports, and official records.[14] The IBC project has been criticized by some who believe it counts only a small percentage of the number of actual deaths because it only includes deaths reported by respected media agencies.[25][77] The IBC project's director, John Sloboda, has stated, "We've always said our work is an undercount, you can't possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the deaths."[78] However, the IBC project rejects many of these criticisms as exaggerated or misinformed.[79]

Following are the yearly IBC project civilian-death totals[13] (as of August 14, 2011):

Year Civilian deaths
2003 12,079
2004 10,834
2005 15,034
2006 27,850
2007 24,677
2008 9,245
2009 4,681
2010 4,045
2011 2,407

Concerning the yearly totals, IBC project states: "All figures are taken from the "maximum" confirmed deaths in the IBC database. However, IBC's rates and counts will rise over the coming months, as data is still being added to the IBC database for 2006 and other periods covered here."[80]

The IBC project released a report detailing the deaths it recorded between March 2003 and March 2005[70] in which it recorded 24,865 civilian deaths. The report says the U.S. and its allies were responsible for the largest share (37%) of the 24,865 deaths. The remaining deaths were attributed to anti-occupations forces (9%), crime (36%) and unknown agents (11%). It also lists the primary sources used by the media — mortuaries, medics, Iraqi officials, eyewitnesses, police, relatives, U.S.-coalition, journalists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), friends/associates and other.

Iraqi refugees crisis

As of November 4, 2006, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 1.8 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighboring countries, and 1.6 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.[63]

As of 2007 more Iraqis had lost their homes and become refugees than the population of any other country. Over 3.9 million people, close to 16 percent of the Iraqi population, have become uprooted. Of these, around 2 million have fled Iraq and flooded other countries, and 1.9 million are estimated to be refugees inside Iraq.[81]

Roughly 40 percent of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled, the U.N. said. Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return. All kinds of people, from university professors to bakers, have been targeted by militias, Iraqi insurgents and criminals. An estimated 331 school teachers were slain in the first four months of 2006, according to Human Rights Watch, and at least 2,000 Iraqi doctors have been killed and 250 kidnapped since the 2003 U.S. invasion.[82]

Project Censored cites the large number of Iraqi refugees as additional support of their argument that the number of Iraqi casualties is much larger than generally addressed in the mainstream media.[8]

A May 25, 2007, article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that in the past seven months only 69 people from Iraq had been granted refugee status in the U.S.[83] As a result of growing international pressure, on June 1, 2007, the Bush administration said it was ready to admit 7,000 Iraqi refugees who had helped the coalition since the invasion. According to Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International, the U.S. has admitted fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees since the invasion, Sweden had accepted 18,000, and Australia had resettled almost 6,000.[84]

Non-Iraqi civilian casualties

Many non-combatants from both coalition and non-coalition countries have also been killed or wounded, including journalists and international aid personnel and foreign civilians. See the main overview chart at the top for numbers and more information.

Coalition military casualties

Coalition deaths by country

 USA: 4,459
 UK: 179
 Italy: 33
 Poland: 23
 Ukraine: 18
 Bulgaria: 13
 Spain: 11
 Denmark: 7
 El Salvador: 5
 Georgia: 5
 Slovakia: 4
 Latvia: 3
 Romania: 3
 Australia: 2
 Estonia: 2
 Netherlands: 2
 Thailand: 2
 Azerbaijan: 1
 Czech Republic: 1
 Fiji: 1
 Hungary: 1
 Kazakhstan: 1
 South Korea: 1

TOTAL: 4,777
v · d · e

Most U.S. casualties, like these in a C-17 military transport aircraft, return to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. (unknown date)

For the latest casualty numbers see the overview chart at the top of the page. See also the site:[43] or the Iraq Page.[85]

Since the official handover of power to the Iraqi Interim Government on June 28, 2004, coalition soldiers have continued to come under attack in towns across Iraq.

National Public Radio,, and have month-by-month charts of American troop deaths in the Iraq War.[7][86][87]

The British Casualty Monitor has a fortnightly updated graphical analysis of British casualties.[88]

A U.S. Marine killed in April 2003 is carried away after receiving his Last Rites.

The combined total of coalition and contractor casualties in the conflict is now over ten times that of the 1990–1991 Gulf War. In the Gulf War, coalition forces suffered around 378 deaths, and among the Iraqi military, tens of thousands were killed, along with thousands of civilians.

Troops fallen ill, injured, or wounded

See the overview chart at the top of the page for recent numbers.

On August 29, 2006, The Christian Science Monitor reported:[89] "Because of new body armor and advances in military medicine, for example, the ratio of combat-zone deaths to those wounded has dropped from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the numbers of those killed as a percentage of overall casualties is lower."

Wounded U.S. personnel flown from Iraq to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for medical treatment. (February 2007)

Many U.S. veterans of the Iraq War have reported a range of serious health issues, including tumors, daily blood in urine and stool, sexual dysfunction, migraines, frequent muscle spasms, and other symptoms similar to the debilitating symptoms of "Gulf War syndrome" reported by many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, which some believe is related to the U.S.'s use of radioactive depleted uranium.[90]

A study[91] of U.S. veterans published in July 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that 5 percent to 9.4 percent (depending on the strictness of the PTSD definition used) suffered from PTSD before deployment. After deployment, 6.2 percent to 19.9 percent suffered from PTSD. For the broad definition of PTSD that represents an increase of 10.5 percent (19.9 percent - 9.4 percent = 10.5 percent). That is 10,500 additional cases of PTSD for every 100,000 U.S. troops after they have served in Iraq. ePluribus Media, an independent citizen journalism collective, is tracking and cataloging press-reported possible, probable, or confirmed incidents of post-deployment or combat-zone cases in its PTSD Timeline.[92]

Information on injuries suffered by troops of other coalition countries is less readily available, but a statement in Hansard indicated that 2,703 U.K. soldiers had been medically evacuated from Iraq for wounds or injuries as of October 4, 2004, and that 155 U.K. troops were wounded in combat in the initial invasion.[93]

Leishmaniasis has been reported by U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, including visceral leishmaniasis. The number of those who may become infected could reach 750 to 1,250 or even more, what made up to nearly one percent of U.S. troops serving in Iraq in from 2003 to 2004.[94]

Accidents and negligence

As of August 2008, sixteen American troops have died from accidental electrocutions in Iraq according to the Defense Department.[95] One soldier had been electrocuted in a shower, while another had been electrocuted in a swimming pool. KBR, the contractor responsible, had been warned by employees of unsafe practices, and was criticised following the revelations.[96]

Nightline controversy

Ted Koppel, host of ABC's Nightline, devoted his entire show on April 30, 2004, to reading the names of 721 of the 737 U.S. troops who had died thus far. He did not mention deaths in Afghanistan. (The show had not been able to confirm the remaining sixteen names.)

Claiming that this would constitute a political statement, the Sinclair Broadcast Group took the action of barring the seven ABC network-affiliated stations it controls from airing the show. The decision to censor the broadcast drew criticism from both sides, including members of the armed forces, opponents of the war,, and most notably Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, who denounced the move as "unpatriotic" and "a gross disservice to the public".


Amputee U.S. soldier (February 2007)

As of January 18, 2007, there were at least 500 American amputees due to the Iraq War. According to a January 18, 2007, Time magazine article, the 500th victim was a 24-year-old corporal, who lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion on January 12, 2007. He was cared for at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and then was transferred to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, located in Washington, D.C.

The article reports: "The 500 major amputations — toes and fingers aren't counted — represent 2.2% of the 22,700 U.S. troops wounded in action. But the number rises to 5% in the category of soldiers whose wounds prevent them returning to duty."[59]

However, in a presentation given by Dean Kamen at a TED conference in March 2008, Dean reports that a senior Department of Defense official disclosed that "1,600 of the kids we've sent out have come back missing at least one full arm. Whole arm. Shoulder disartic..."[97]

Traumatic brain injuries

A March 4, 2009, article in USA Today[98] reported that according to a Pentagon estimate, as many as 360,000 U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts may have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including 45,000 to 90,000 veterans with persistent symptoms requiring specialized care. (A separate estimate for the Iraq conflict alone was not specified.)

A February 2007 article in Discover, "Dead Men Walking — What Sort of Future Do Brain-Injured Iraq Veterans Face?", reports: "One expert from the VA estimates the number of undiagnosed TBIs at over 7,500. Nearly 2,000 brain-injured soldiers have already received some level of care, ..."[99]

USA Today reported in November 2007:

At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by The Pentagon through September 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.[100]

Mental illness and suicide

A top U.S. Army psychiatrist, Colonel Charles Hoge, told the U.S. Congress in March 2008 that nearly 30 percent of troops on their third deployment suffer from serious mental-health problems, and that one year was not enough time between combat tours.[101]

A March 12, 2007, Time article[102] reported on a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. About one third of the 103,788 veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seen at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities between September 30, 2001, and September 30, 2005, were diagnosed with mental illness or a psycho-social disorder, such as homelessness and marital problems, including domestic violence. More than half of those diagnosed, 56 percent, were suffering from more than one disorder. The most common combination was post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

In January 2008, the U.S. Army reported that the rate of suicide among soldiers in 2007 was the highest since the Army started counting in 1980. There were 121 suicides in 2007, a 20-percent jump over the prior year. Also, there were around 2100 attempted suicides and self-injuries in 2007.[103]

Time magazine reported on June 5, 2008:

Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. ... About a third of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq say they can't see a mental-health professional when they need to. When the number of troops in Iraq surged by 30,000 last year, the number of Army mental-health workers remained the same — about 200 — making counseling and care even tougher to get.[101]

In the same article Time also reported on some of the reasons for the prescription drug use:

That imbalance between seeing the price of war up close and yet not feeling able to do much about it, the survey suggests, contributes to feelings of "intense fear, helplessness or horror" that plant the seeds of mental distress. "A friend was liquefied in the driver's position on a tank, and I saw everything", was a typical comment. Another: "A huge f______ bomb blew my friend's head off like 50 meters from me." Such indelible scenes — and wondering when and where the next one will happen — are driving thousands of soldiers to take antidepressants, military psychiatrists say. It's not hard to imagine why.[101]

Concern has been expressed by mental health professionals about the effects on the emotional health and development of returning veterans' infants and children, due to the increased rates of interpersonal violence, posttraumatic stress, depression, and substance abuse that have been reported among these veterans.[104][105] Moreover, the stressful effects of physical casualties and loss pose enormous stress for the primary caregiver that can adversely affect her or his parenting, as well as the couple's children directly.[106] The mental health needs of military families in the aftermath of combat exposure and other war-related trauma have been thought likely to be inadequately addressed by the military health system that separates mental health care of the returning soldier from his or her family's care, the latter of whom is generally covered under a contracted, civilian managed-care system.[107]

Iraqi insurgent casualties

In 2003, 597 insurgents were killed, according to the U.S. military.[108] From January 2004 through December 2009 (not including May 2004 and March 2009), 23,984 insurgents were estimated to have been killed based on reports from Coalition soldiers on the frontlines.[109] In the two missing months from the estimate, 652 were killed in May 2004,[110] and 45 were killed in March 2009.[111] In 2010, another 676 insurgents were killed.[112] In January and March through October 2011, 451 insurgents were killed.[113][114][115][116][117][118][119][120][121] Based on all of these estimates some 26,405 insurgents/militia were killed from 2003, up until late 2011.

However, this number could be an overestimate and may include some civilian fatalities, since there have been contradictions between the figures released by the U.S. military and those released by the Iraqi government. For example, the U.S. military's number of insurgents killed in 2005, is 3,247, which is in contrast to the Iraqi government's figure of 1,734.[122] In 2007, 4,544 militants were killed according to the Iraqi ministries,[123] while the U.S. military claimed 6,747 died. Also, in 2008, 2,028 insurgents were reported killed[124] and in 2009, with the exception of the month of June, 488 were killed according to the Iraqi Defence Ministry.[125] These numbers are also not in line with the U.S. military estimate of some 3,984 killed in 2008 and 2009.[126]

U.S. military- and Iraqi Defence Ministry-provided numbers, including suicide bombers

  • 2011 — 451 (not including February & August)
  • 2010 — 676
  • 2009 — 488 (not including June)
  • 2008 — 2,028
  • 2007 — 6,747 (U.S. military), 4,544 (Iraqi Defence Ministry)
  • 2006 — 3,902
  • 2005 — 3,247 (U.S. military), 1,734 (Iraqi Defence Ministry)
  • 2004 — 6,801
  • 2003 — 603

In addition as of August 22, 2009, approximately 1,719 suicide-bombers had also been reported killed.

Grand total — 21,221–26,405 insurgents dead

On September 28, 2006, an Al Qaeda leader claimed that 4,000 foreign insurgents had been killed in the war.[131]

On June 6, 2008, an Iraqi Army official revealed that about 6,000 Al Qaeda fighters were among the insurgents killed since the start of the war up until April 2008.[132]

Insurgent deaths, like civilian deaths, are hard to count or estimate. See:[133][134]

See also the examples of undercounting shown in one of the sections below.

The Lancet surveys did not ask respondents if the dead they were reporting were combatants or not.

Contractor casualties

Their status as civilian is controversial. They are employees of U.S. government contractors and subcontractors, private military contractors, U.S. Department of Defense, etc. The contractors come from many nations including Iraq and the U.S.

A July 4, 2007, Los Angeles Times article reports:

"More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times. ...

"The numbers include at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis — all employed in Iraq by U.S. tax dollars, according to the most recent government data."[56]

A July 3, 2007, Reuters article reports:

"The department said it had recorded 990 deaths — 917 in Iraq and 73 in Afghanistan — by the end of March. Since then, according to incident logs tallied by Reuters in Baghdad and Kabul, at least 16 contractors have died in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. ...

"The Labor Department's statistics put the number of wounded in Iraq between March 1, 2003 and March 31, 2007 as 10,569. The corresponding figure for Afghanistan, from September 2001 to March 2007, is 2,428. ...

"Joseph McDermott, the Assistant Inspector General for Iraq, quoted Labor Department statistics as saying that of 900-plus contractors killed by the end of April, 224 were U.S. citizens."[49]

From a New York Times article published May 19, 2007:

"At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as United States government contractors in Iraq.[54]

The April 30, 2007, quarterly report to Congress of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction states:

"Since Iraq reconstruction began, 916 death claims for civilian contractors working on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq have been filed. In the quarter ending March 31, 2007, the Department of Labor reported 146 new death claims. DoS reports that 16 U.S. civilians died in Iraq this quarter. Since the beginning of the U.S. reconstruction effort, 224 U.S. civilians have died in Iraq."[51][52][53]

A February 23, 2007, Associated Press article reports that there are 120,000 contractors. It states that through the end of 2006 there have been 769 deaths and "3,367 injuries serious enough to require four or more days off the job."[135]

A January 28, 2007, Houston Chronicle article[136] reports that the Pentagon estimates around 100,000 contractors are currently in Iraq, and that the Pentagon does not track contractor deaths. The article reports: "Halliburton's KBR is the largest military contractor operating in Iraq, with more than 50,000 employees and subcontractors working there, as well as in Kuwait and Afghanistan."

The article reports from Labor Department information that more than 770 civilian contractors of U.S.-based companies in Iraq died between March 2003 and December 31, 2006. 7,761 have been injured in Iraq. "How many of these civilian-contractor casualties were American citizens is unknown. Labor officials say they cannot provide a breakdown by nationality."

The article also reports:

The Labor Department has these numbers because it tracks workers' compensation claims by injured workers or families of slain contractors under the federal Defense Base Act. "Using employee time lost is a kind of a weird way to track casualties", Singer noted. "But it's part of the bizarre nature of this industry and the way it's been used in Iraq." Still, the Labor Department figures don't tell the full story.

An October 10, 2006, Reuters article[137] reports, "Their number in Iraq is estimated at up to 100,000, from highly-trained former special forces soldiers to drivers, cooks, mechanics, plumbers, translators, electricians and laundry workers and other support personnel."

An April 2, 2004, Boston Globe article[138] reports: "Just how much the growing security burden in Iraq is costing US taxpayers is hard to gauge because few reconstruction contracts are made public and there is no official estimate of how many security specialists are active there. Analysts estimate that corporations have some 30,000 to 40,000 workers in Iraq"

Concerning the number of security-related contractors an April 19, 2004, New York Times article[139] states: "But more and more, they give the appearance of private, for-profit militias — by several estimates, a force of roughly 20,000 on top of an American military presence of 130,000.

That article also reports: "Sorting out lines of authority and communication can be complex. Many security guards are hired as 'independent contractors' by companies that, in turn, are sub-contractors of larger security companies, which are themselves subcontractors of a prime contractor, which may have been hired by a United States agency."

An April 13, 2004, Robert Fisk article[140] reports: "At least 18 000 mercenaries, many of them tasked to protect US troops and personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq."

The article reported: "At least 80 foreign mercenaries — security guards recruited from the United States, Europe and South Africa and working for American companies — have been killed in the past eight days in Iraq." The article noted that this was more than the roughly 70 coalition troops who were killed in the same period.

Iraqi healthcare deterioration

A November 11, 2006, Los Angeles Times article[141] reports:

The [Iraq] nation's health has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s, said Joseph Chamie, former director of the U.N. Population Division and an Iraq specialist. "They were at the forefront", he said, referring to healthcare just before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "Now they're looking more and more like a country in sub-Saharan Africa."

A November 9, 2006, International Herald Tribune article reported what Iraq's Health Minister, Ali al-Shemari, said about the issue:

Al-Shemari said Iraq needed at least 10 years to rebuild its infrastructure, and that the medical situation in the country was "gloomy." There was a shortage of medical supplies, which sometimes took months to reach the country from abroad, while roadblocks prevented people from getting to hospitals, he said. No hospital has been built in Iraq since 1983, and the country's 15,000 available hospital beds were well short of the 80,000 beds needed. The minister also noted that many doctors had left the country. "We need help from anybody", Al-Shemari said.[30]

Most Iraqi children suffering from psychological symptoms

Seventy percent of children are suffering from trauma-related symptoms according to a study of 10,000 primary school students in the Sha'ab section of north Baghdad, conducted by the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists and the World Health Organization. "We're now finding an elevation of mental health disorders in children – emotional, conduct, peer, attention deficit", according to Iraqi psychiatrist Hashimi. "A number are even resulting in suicide."[142]

Total Iraqi casualties

Estimates of the total number of Iraqi war-related deaths are highly disputed. National Public Radio has a bar chart with various estimates.[7] Project Censored has named the "corporate media blackout" of the number of Iraqi deaths caused by U.S. occupation (which it estimates at over one million) as the number-one censored story for 2009.[8] In December 2007, the Iraqi government reported that there were five million orphans in Iraq — almost half of the country's children.[73]

Various estimates

In December 2005 President Bush said there were 30,000 Iraqi dead. White House spokesman Scott McClellan later said it was "not an official government estimate", and was based on media reports.[143][144]

The United Nations reported that 34,452 violent civilian deaths occurred in 2006, based on data from morgues, hospitals, and municipal authorities across Iraq.[26]

For 2006, a January 2, 2007, Associated Press article reports: "The tabulation by the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defence and Interior, showed that 14,298 civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers had been killed in the violence that raged across the country last year. The Associated Press figure, gleaned from daily news reports from Baghdad, arrived at a total of 13,738 deaths."[145] The Australian reports in a January 2, 2007, article: "A figure of 3700 civilian deaths in October '[2006]', the latest tally given by the UN based on data from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, was branded exaggerated by the Iraqi Government."[146] Iraqi government estimates include "people killed in bombings and shootings but not deaths classed as 'criminal'." Also, they "include no deaths among the many civilians wounded in attacks who may die later from wounds. Nor do they include many people kidnapped whose fate remains unknown."[146]

A June 25, 2006, Los Angeles Times article, "War's Iraqi Death Toll Tops 50,000",[147] reported that their estimate of violent deaths consisted "mostly of civilians" but probably also included security forces and insurgents. It added that, "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths in the chaotic first year after the invasion, when there was no functioning Iraqi government, and continued spotty reporting nationwide since." Here is how the Times got its number: "The Baghdad morgue received 30,204 bodies from 2003 through mid-2006, while the Health Ministry said it had documented 18,933 deaths from 'military clashes' and 'terrorist attacks' from April 5, 2004, to June 1, 2006. Together, the toll reaches 49,137. However, samples obtained from local health departments in other provinces show an undercount that brings the total well beyond 50,000. The figure also does not include deaths outside Baghdad in the first year of the invasion."

Iraq Body Count

The Iraq Body Count (IBC) project has recorded the numbers of civilians killed in violence since the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on a "comprehensive survey of commercial media and NGO-based reports, along with official records that have been released into the public sphere. Reports range from specific, incident based accounts to figures from hospitals, morgues, and other documentary data-gathering agencies." Current IBC figures, to December 2010, place the number of civilians killed at 99,151–108,234. The IBC was also given access to the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Iraq War Logs and has estimated that these documents show the total number of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion to be over 150,000, with about 80% being civilian.[148][110]

Iraq Living Conditions Survey

A study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), called the Iraq Living Conditions Survey (ILCS), sampled almost 22,000 households across all Iraqi provinces. It estimated 24,000 war-related violent deaths by May 2004 (with a 95 percent confidence interval from 18,000 to 29,000). This study did not attempt to measure what portion of its estimate was made up of civilians or combatants. It would include Iraqi military killed during the invasion, as well as "insurgents" or other fighters thereafter.[149] This study has been criticized for various reasons. For more info see the section in Lancet surveys of Iraq War casualties that compares the Lancet and UNDP ILCS studies.

Iraqiyun estimate

In the introduction of the report for the 2006 Lancet survey are listed some previous death estimates. One was the Iraqiyun estimate: "An Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Iraqiyun, estimated 128,000 deaths from the time of the invasion until July, 2005, by use of various sources, including household interviews." The reference listed in the Lancet report: "NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq. Iraq emergency situation, final report. Baghdad: NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, 2006."[27] A July 2005 United Press International (UPI) article said the number came from the chairman of the Iraqiyun humanitarian organization in Baghdad, Dr. Hatim al-'Alwani. He said 55 percent of those killed were women, and children aged 12 and under. The UPI article reported: "Iraqiyun obtained data from relatives and families of the deceased, as well as from Iraqi hospitals in all the country's provinces. The 128,000 figure only includes those whose relatives have been informed of their deaths and does not include those were abducted, assassinated or simply disappeared."[150] A 2010 book by Nicolas Davies reported the Iraqiyun estimate, and that Iraqiyun was affiliated with the political party of Interim President Ghazi Al-Yawer. Davies wrote: "The report specified that it included only confirmed deaths reported to relatives, omitting significant numbers of people who had simply disappeared without trace amid the violence and chaos."[151][152] A peer reviewed article by Professor Michael Spagat notes that "a single UPI article is the sole basis for the claim that a survey was done," and that no official report on this survey has ever surfaced. The paper also notes that the UPI article is repeating claims made in a report by Mafkarat al-Islam, or Islam Memo, a source that has been referred to by Middle East historian Juan Cole as "the radical Sunni Arab newspaper", and which a US State Department report has described as "perhaps the most unreliable source of 'news' on the internet", describing how it repeatedly reported that large numbers of US toops had been killed when few or none had been killed.[153]

The Associated Press and Health Ministry. More information

The Associated Press reported that the Health Ministry of the Iraqi government had recorded 87,215 violent deaths of Iraqi citizens since the beginning of 2005. The data was in the form of a list of yearly totals for death certificates issued for violent deaths by hospitals and morgues between January 1, 2005, and February 28, 2009. The number excludes thousands of people who are missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official notice. If included, those would raise the number of dead for that period by 10 to 20 percent according to the government official who provided the data to The Associated Press.[12]

The Associated Press used this data to estimate that more than 110,600 Iraqis had been killed since the start of the war to April 2009. This number is derived by combining the Health Ministry tally of 87,215 with counts of casualties for 2003–2004, and after March 1, 2009, from hospital sources and media reports, citing Iraq Body Count as its main source for this data. The AP article stated that it had "reviewed the Iraq Body Count analysis and confirmed its conclusions by sifting the data and consulting experts. The AP also interviewed experts involved with previous studies, prominent Iraq analysts and provincial and medical officials to determine that the new tally was credible."

The AP also reported: "Experts said the count constitutes an important baseline, albeit an incomplete one. Richard Brennan, who has done mortality research in Congo and Kosovo, said it is likely a 'gross underestimate' because many deaths go unrecorded in war zones. The Iraqi Body Count numbers are likely even more incomplete, given that many killings occurred in incidents journalists were unaware of or in inaccessible areas. Mass graves have been turning up as improved security allows patrols in formerly off-limits areas, but how many remain will never be known."[12]

Iraq Family Health Survey

The Iraq Family Health Survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed 9,345 households across Iraq and was carried out in 2006 and 2007. It estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) from March 2003 through June 2006.

The study was done by the "Iraq Family Health Survey Study Group", a collaborative effort of six organizations: the Federal Ministry of Health, Baghdad; Kurdistan Ministry of Planning, Erbil; Kurdistan Ministry of Health, Erbil; Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology, Baghdad; World Health Organization Iraq office, Amman, Jordan; World Health Organization, Geneva.

Opinion Research Business survey of Iraqi war deaths in August 2007

A September 14, 2007, estimate by Opinion Research Businss (ORB), an independent British polling agency, suggests that the total Iraqi violent death toll due to the Iraq War since the U.S.-led invasion is in excess of 1.2 million (1,220,580). Although higher than the 2006 Lancet estimate through June 2006, these results, which were based on a survey of 1,499 adults in Iraq from August 12–19, 2007, are more or less consistent with the figures that were published in the Lancet study.[22][23][24][25]

On January 28, 2008, ORB published an update based on additional work carried out in rural areas of Iraq. Some 600 additional interviews were undertaken and as a result of this the death estimate was revised to 1,033,000 with a given range of 946,000 to 1,120,000.[21][154]

Participants of the ORB survey were asked the following question:

"How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof."

The revised results[154] were

Number of deaths

in household


of responders

None 72%
One 14%
Two 3%
Three 1%
Four or more "more than zero but less than 0.5%"
Don't know 2%
No answer 8%

This ORB estimate has been strongly criticised as exaggerated and ill-founded in peer reviewed literature[155]

D3 Systems poll in early 2007

From February 25 to March 5, 2007, D3 Systems [36] conducted a poll for the BBC, ABC News, ARD and USA Today.[156][157][158][159][160][161]

ABC News reported: "One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. ... 53 percent of Iraqis say a close friend or immediate family member has been hurt in the current violence. That ranges from three in 10 in the Kurdish provinces to, in Baghdad, nearly eight in 10."[157]

The methodology was described thus: "This poll for ABC News, USA Today, the BBC and ARD was conducted February 25–March 5, 2007, through in-person interviews with a random national sample of 2,212 Iraqi adults, including oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk and the Sadr City section of Baghdad. The results have a 2.5-point error margin. Field work by D3 Systems of Vienna, Virginia, and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul."[157][159][162]

There was a field staff of 150 Iraqis in all. That included 103 interviewers, interviewing selected respondents at 458 locales across the country.[159] "This poll asked about nine kinds of violence (car bombs, snipers or crossfire, kidnappings, fighting among opposing groups or abuse of civilians by various armed forces)."[159]

Question 35 asked:

"Have you or an immediate family member - by which I mean someone living in this household – been physically harmed by the violence that is occurring in the country at this time?"

Here are the results[159] in percentages:

Groups Yes No No opinion
All 17 83 0
Sunni 21 79 0
Shiite 17 83 0
Kurdish 7 93 0

17% of respondents reported that at least one member of the household had been "physically harmed by the violence that is occurring in the country at this time." The survey did not ask whether multiple household members had been harmed.

Iraq Health Minister estimate in November 2006

In early November 2006 Iraq's Health Minister Ali al-Shemari said that he estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 people had been killed since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.[30][31][163][164] The Taipei Times reported on his methodology: "Al-Shemari said on Thursday [, November 9, 2006,] that he based his figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals – though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total."[31] The Washington Post reported: "As al-Shemari issued the startling new estimate, the head of the Baghdad central morgue said Thursday he was receiving as many as 60 violent death victims each day at his facility alone. Dr. Abdul-Razzaq al-Obaidi said those deaths did not include victims of violence whose bodies were taken to the city's many hospital morgues or those who were removed from attack scenes by relatives and quickly buried according to Muslim custom."[164]

From a November 9, 2006, International Herald Tribune article:[30]

"Each day we lost 100 persons, that means per month 3,000, per year it's 36,000, plus or minus 10 percent", al-Shemari said. "So by three years, 120,000, half year 20,000, that means 140,000, plus or minus 10 percent", he said, explaining how he came to the figures. "This includes all Iraqis killed — police, ordinary people, children", he said, adding that people who were kidnapped and later found dead were also included in his estimate. He said the figures were compiled by counting bodies brought to "forensic institutes" or hospitals.

From a November 11, 2006, Taipei Times article:[31]

An official with the ministry also confirmed the figure yesterday [November 10, 2006], but later said that the estimated deaths ranged between 100,000 and 150,000. "The minister was misquoted. He said between 100,000-150,000 people were killed in three-and-a-half years", the official said.

2006 Excess Mortality Study

The October 2006 Lancet study[27][28] estimated total excess deaths up to July 2006. Total deaths (civilian and non-civilian) include all additional deaths due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc.. The survey estimated 654,965 excess deaths related to the war. The 2006 study involved surveys between May 20 and July 10, 2006. More households were surveyed than during the 2004 study, allowing for a 95% confidence interval of 392,979 to 942,636 excess Iraqi deaths. The result was disputed by President Bush, epidemiologists, demographers, the Iraq Body Count, and many others, based both on the number of deaths and the alleged methodology.[165]

Although the British Government initially tried to dispute the accuracy of the Lancet survey, the U.K. Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser wrote in an email on the day of publication that the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".[166] An October 12, 2006, San Francisco Chronicle article[167] reported: "Asked at the news conference what he thinks the number is now, Bush said: 'I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life.' At a separate Pentagon briefing, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the [Lancet] figure 'seems way, way beyond any number that I have seen. I've not seen a number higher than 50,000. And so I don't give it that much credibility at all'."

2004 Excess Mortality Study

The October 2004 Lancet study[168] done by public health experts from Johns Hopkins University and published on October 29, 2004, in The Lancet medical journal, estimated that 100,000 "excess" Iraqi deaths from all causes had occurred since the U.S. invasion began. The study did not attempt to measure how many of these were civilian, but the study's authors have said they believe that the "vast majority" were non-combatants, based on 7% of the casualties being women and 46% being children under the age of 15 (including Falluja data). To arrive at these excess death figures, a survey was taken from 988 Iraqi households in 33 clusters throughout Iraq, in which the residents were asked how many people lived there and how many births and deaths there had been since the war began. They then compared the death rate with the average from the 15 months before the war. Iraqis were found to be 1.5 times more likely to die from all causes after the invasion (rising from 0.5% to 0.79% per year) than in the 15 months preceding the war, producing an estimate of 98,000 excess deaths. This figure excluded data from one cluster in Falluja, which was deemed too much of an outlier for inclusion in the national estimate. If it included data from Falluja, which showed a higher rate of violent deaths than the other 32 clusters combined, the increased death rate would be raised from 1.5 to 2.5 fold, violent deaths would be 58 times more likely with most of them due to air-strikes by coalition forces, and an additional 200,000 fatalities would be estimated.[169]

The study contains the following Summary:[clarification needed]

Background: In March, 2003, military forces, mainly from the USA and the UK, invaded Iraq. We did a survey to compare mortality during the period of 14.6 months before the invasion with the 17.8 months after it.
Methods: A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004. 33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002. In those households reporting deaths, the date, cause, and circumstances of violent deaths were recorded. We assessed the relative risk of death associated with the 2003 invasion and occupation by comparing mortality in the 17.8 months after the invasion with the 14.6-month period preceding it.
Findings: The risk of death was estimated to be 2.5-fold (95% CI 1.6-4.2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1.5-fold (1.1-2.3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98,000 more deaths than expected (8000-194,000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included. The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were men. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8.1-419) than in the period before the war.
Interpretation: Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce noncombatant deaths from air strikes.

See Lancet study for more details of the methodology and subsequent controversy about the study.


Most studies estimating the casualties due to the war in Iraq acknowledge various reasons why the estimates and counts may be low.

On February 24, 2009, Morning Edition discussed what a Baghdad central morgue statistics office worker reported to them:

the number of deaths the morgue registers never corresponds with numbers from the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Interior. "They do it on purpose", he says. "I would go home and look at the news. The ministry would say 10 people got killed all over Iraq, while I had received in that day more than 50 dead bodies just in Baghdad. It's always been like that — they would say one thing but the reality was much worse."[170]

A January 31, 2008 Perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine contains the following discussion of undercounting Iraqi civilian casualties in household surveys:

" ... sometimes it was problematic or too dangerous to enter a cluster of households, which might well result in an undercount; data from the Iraq Body Count on the distribution of deaths among provinces were used to calculate estimates in these instances. If the clustering of violent deaths wasn’t accurately captured, that could also increase uncertainty. The sampling frame was based on a 2004 count, but the population has been changing rapidly and dramatically because of sectarian violence, the flight of refugees, and overall population migration. Another source of bias in household surveys is underreporting due to the dissolution of some households after a death, so that no one remains to tell the former inhabitants’ story. " [171]

A January 10, 2008, Washington Post article reported: "Previous research has shown that household surveys typically miss 30 to 50 percent of deaths. One reason is that some families that have suffered violent deaths leave the survey area. ... Some people are kidnapped and disappear, and others turn up months or years later in mass graves. Some are buried or otherwise disposed of without being recorded. In particularly violent areas, local governments have effectively ceased to function, and there are ineffective channels for collecting and passing information between hospitals, morgues and the central government."[20]

On November 10, 2006, The Washington Post reported: "Accurate figures on the number of people who have died in the Iraq conflict have long been the subject of debate. Police and hospitals often give widely conflicting figures of those killed in major bombings. In addition, death figures are reported through multiple channels by government agencies that function with varying efficiency."[164]

The October 2006 Lancet study[27][28] states: "Aside from Bosnia, we can find no conflict situation where passive surveillance [used by the IBC] recorded more than 20% of the deaths measured by population-based methods [used in the Lancet studies]. In several outbreaks, disease and death recorded by facility-based methods underestimated events by a factor of ten or more when compared with population-based estimates. Between 1960 and 1990, newspaper accounts of political deaths in Guatemala correctly reported over 50% of deaths in years of low violence but less than 5% in years of highest violence."[27] The report describes no other specific examples except for this study of Guatemala.

The Lancet reference used is to Patrick Ball, Paul Kobrak, and Herbert F. Spirer and their 1999 book, State Violence in Guatemala, 1960–1996: A Quantitative Reflection.[172] From the introduction:

"The CIIDH database consists of cases culled from direct testimonies and documentary and press sources."

They report in chapter seven:[173]

"Figure 7.1 shows that in the CIIDH database, most of the information for human rights violations prior to 1977 comes from press sources. ... Approximately 10,890 cases were coded from the newspapers. Sixty-three percent of the press cases were taken from Prensa Libre, 10 percent from El Gráfico, 8 percent from La Hora and El Impacto respectively, and 6 percent from El Imparcial. The remaining 5 percent is made up by eight other newspapers."

But they reported that in later, more violent years:

"When the level of violence increased dramatically in the late 1970s and early 1980s, numbers of reported violations in the press stayed very low. In 1981, one of the worst years of state violence, the numbers fall towards zero. The press reported almost none of the rural violence."

There is a list[174] of figures, tables, and charts in the book that can be used to calculate what percentage of the deaths were reported by the 13 Guatemalan newspapers for each year when compared to testimonies of witnesses compiled by popular organizations.

Juan Cole wrote in an October 11, 2006, article:[72] "There is heavy fighting almost every day at Ramadi in al-Anbar province, among guerrillas, townspeople, tribes, Marines and Iraqi police and army. We almost never get a report of these skirmishes and we almost never are told about Iraqi casualties in Ramadi."

A July 28, 2004, opinion piece by Robert Fisk published by The Independent[175] reports that "some families bury their dead without notifying the authorities."

Stephen Soldz, who runs the website "Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report", wrote in a February 5, 2006, article:[176] "Of course, in conditions of active rebellion, the safer areas accessible to Western reporters are likely to be those under US/Coalition control, where deaths are, in turn, likely to be due to insurgent attacks. Areas of insurgent control, which are likely to be subject to US and Iraqi government attack, for example most of Anbar province, are simply off-limits to these reporters. Thus, the realities of reporting imply that reporters will be witness to a larger fraction of deaths due to insurgents and a lesser proportion of deaths due to US and Iraqi government forces."

A June 25, 2006, Los Angeles Times article[147] reports: "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths. ... The [Los Angeles] Times attempted to reach a comprehensive figure by obtaining statistics from the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry and checking those numbers against a sampling of local health departments for possible undercounts."

An October 19, 2006, Washington Post article[165] reports: "The deaths reported by officials and published in the news media represent only a fraction of the thousands of mutilated bodies winding up in Baghdad's overcrowded morgue each month. ... Bodies are increasingly being dumped in and around Baghdad in fields staked out by individual Shiite militias and Sunni insurgent groups. Iraqi security forces often refuse to go to the dumping grounds, leaving the precise number of bodies in those sites unknown. Civilian deaths, unlike those of American troops, often go unrecorded."

On October 11, 2006, Middle East Professor Juan Cole noted:

"But last May [2006], the government authorities in Basra came out and admitted that security had collapsed in the city and that for the previous month, one person had been assassinated every hour. Now, that is 24 dead a day, just from political assassination. Apparently these persons were being killed in faction fighting among Shiite militias and Marsh Arab tribes. We never saw any of those 24 deaths a day reported in the Western press. And we never see any deaths from Basra reported in the wire services on a daily basis even now. Has security improved since May? No one seems even to be reporting on it, yes or no."[72]

The Australian reports in a January 2, 2007, article[146] that Iraqi government casualty estimates include "people killed in bombings and shootings but not deaths classed as 'criminal'." Also, they "include no deaths among the many civilians wounded in attacks who may die later from wounds. Nor do they include many people kidnapped whose fate remains unknown."

In a November 7, 2004, press release[177] concerning the October 2004 Lancet study the Iraq Body Count project (IBC) states: "We have always been quite explicit that our own total is certain to be an underestimate of the true position, because of gaps in reporting or recording".

One of the sources used by the media are morgues. Only the central Baghdad area morgue has released figures consistently. While that is the largest morgue in Iraq and in the most consistently violent area, the absence of comprehensive morgue figures elsewhere leads to undercounting. IBC makes it clear that, due to these issues, its count will almost certainly be below the full toll in its 'Quick FAQ' on its homepage.

Quote from an IBC note:[178] "The Iraq Body Count (IBC) estimate for x350, like that for x334, was made possible by examination of the detailed data supplied to the Associated Press (AP) by the morgues surveyed in AP's 23 May 2004 survey of Iraqi morgues."

That May 23, 2004, Associated Press article[179] points out the lack of morgue data from many areas of Iraq. Also, it states: "The [Baghdad] figure does not include most people killed in big terrorist bombings, Hassan said. The cause of death in such cases is obvious so bodies are usually not taken to the morgue, but given directly to victims' families. Also, the bodies of killed fighters from groups like the al-Mahdi Army are rarely taken to morgues."

Systematic underreporting by U.S.

An April 2005 article by The Independent[180] reports:

"A week before she was killed by a suicide bomber, humanitarian worker Marla Ruzicka forced military commanders to admit they did keep records of Iraqi civilians killed by US forces. ... in an essay Ms Ruzicka wrote a week before her death on Saturday and published yesterday, the 28-year-old revealed that a Brigadier General told her it was 'standard operating procedure' for US troops to file a report when they shoot a non-combatant. She obtained figures for the number of civilians killed in Baghdad between 28 February and 5 April [2005], and discovered that 29 had been killed in firefights involving US forces and insurgents. This was four times the number of Iraqi police killed."

The December 2006 report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) found that the United States has filtered out reports of violence in order to disguise its policy failings in Iraq.[181] A December 7, 2006, McClatchy Newspapers article[181] reports that the ISG found that U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence on one day in July 2006, yet "a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light more than 1,100 acts of violence." The article further reports:

"The finding confirmed a September 8 McClatchy Newspapers report that U.S. officials excluded scores of people killed in car bombings and mortar attacks from tabulations measuring the results of a drive to reduce violence in Baghdad. By excluding that data, U.S. officials were able to boast that deaths from sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital had declined by more than 52 percent between July and August, McClatchy newspapers reported."

From the ISG report itself: "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."[181]

According to Project Censored, the undercounting and underreporting of Iraqi casualties has led to a widespread belief among the U.S. public that very few Iraqis have been killed, with an average "estimate" of under 10,000 reported by an Associated Press poll in February 2007.[8] This survey was, itself, not reported in the mass media, even by the Associated Press.

Casualties caused by criminal and political violence

In May 2004, Associated Press completed a survey[179] of the morgues in Baghdad and surrounding provinces. The survey tallied violent deaths from May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared an end to major combat operations, through April 30, 2004.

From the AP article:

In Baghdad, a city of about 5.6 million, 4,279 people were recorded killed in the 12 months through April 30 [2004], according to figures provided by Kais Hassan, director of statistics at Baghdad's Medicolegal Institute, which administers the city's morgues. "Before the war, there was a strong government, strong security. There were a lot of police on the streets and there were no illegal weapons", he said during an AP reporter's visit to the morgue. "Now there are few controls. There is crime, revenge killings, so much violence." The figure does not include most people killed in big terrorist bombings, Hassan said. The cause of death in such cases is obvious so bodies are usually not taken to the morgue, but given directly to victims' families. Also, the bodies of killed fighters from groups like the al-Mahdi Army are rarely taken to morgues.

Accidental trauma deaths from car accidents, falls, etc. are not included in the numbers. The article reports that the numbers translate to 76 killings per 100,000 people in Baghdad, compared to 39 in Bogotá, Colombia, 7.5 in New York City, and 2.4 in neighboring Jordan. The article states that there were 3.0 killings per 100,000 people in Baghdad in 2002 (the year before the war).

Morgues surveyed in other parts of Iraq also reported large increases in the number of homicides. Karbala, south of Baghdad, increased from an average of one homicide per month in 2002 to an average of 55 per month in the year following the invasion; in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, where there were no homicides in 2002, the rate had grown to an average of 17 per month; in the northern province of Kirkuk, the rate had increased from 3 per month in 2002 to 34 per month in the survey period.[179]

See also


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  3. ^ a b "Iraq: The War Logs". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b Carlstrom, Gregg (October 22, 2010; last modified October 24, 2010 (at November 21, 2010)). "WikiLeaks Releases Secret Iraq File — Al Jazeera Accesses 400,000 Secret US Military Documents, Which Reveal the Inside Story of the Iraq War". Al Jazeera English. Accessed November 21, 2010.
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  7. ^ a b c Editors — Katz, Jeffrey; Doug Roberts, Doug; Sutherland, J.J. (undated). "The Toll of War — U.S. Troop Fatalities in Iraq since March 2003 — A Month-by-Month Count of U.S. Troops Killed in the Conflict" (bar chart of various death toll estimates). NPR. Accessed November 21, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d "Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation". Project Censored.
  9. ^ a b Staff writer (October 24, 2010). "Secret Iraq Files — US Turned Blind Eye To Torture". Al Jazeera English. Accessed November 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Staff writer (undated). "Iraq War Logs — Related Articles, Background Features and Opinions about this Topic" (gateway/portal page of site). Der Spiegel. Accessed November 21, 2010.
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  13. ^ a b c IBC database, see Monthly Table
  14. ^ a b c Iraq Body Count project. Source of IBC quote on undercounting by media is here [1].
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  32. ^ 260 killed in 2003,[3] 15,196 killed from 2004 through 2009 (with the exceptions of May 2004 and March 2009),[4] 67 killed in March 2009,[5] and 1,100 killed in 2010,[6] thus giving a total of 16,623 dead
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  113. ^ Two U.S. troops killed in Iraq
  114. ^ Iraq monthly death toll falls in April
  115. ^ Iraq death toll in May lowest in 2011
  116. ^ Death toll spikes for Iraqis, US troops
  117. ^ Iraq death toll for July second highest in 2011
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