A new epidemiology report released this month has shown that more than 650,000 Iraqi civilians have died at the hands of violence since the American invasion in 2003. Supporters of the war have cricized the report; the scientists involved have stood by their work and have challenged critics to present better methods and numbers:
"I loved when President Bush said 'their methodology has been pretty well discredited,' " says Richard Garfield, a public health professor at Columbia University who works closely with a number of the authors of the report. "That's exactly wrong. There is no discrediting of this methodology. I don't think there's anyone who's been involved in mortality research who thinks there's a better way to do it in unsecured areas. I have never heard of any argument in this field that says there's a better way to do it." (More...)This does raise some interesting questions about the actual number of deaths, how they are best counted, and who benefits from suppressing this information. Last month, the Christian Science Monitor reported that the Baghdad morgue body counts tripled the official August death toll. Now we have learned that the Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered the medical authorites to stop providing mortality data altogether:
Mr. Qazi, a former Pakistani diplomat, says that the order to let the prime minister’s office take over the release of the numbers came down a day after a United Nations report for July and August showed a serious upward spike in the number of dead and wounded. The leader of the Health Ministry in Iraq appealed to be allowed to continue supplying the figures to the United Nations but was turned down according to a subsequent letter from the prime minister’s office, Mr. Qazi’s cable said.Perhaps I'm stepping out on a limb here, but it almost seems as if they don't want to know.