From the beginning of the Iraq war, in March of 2003, to the present day, controversy has swirled around the death toll of the war. This paper narrows down the range of uncertainty for the numbers and trends in violent deaths in the war. I assemble and appraise all primary sources that cover the period from March of 2003 onwards - six sample surveys plus a casualty recording project (Iraq Body Count [IBC]). Data permitting, I present cumulative monthly figures with, for the surveys, 95% bootstrapped uncertainty intervals. The analysis uncovers a core of high-quality mainstream sources that are highly consistent with each another. In addition, there are three outlier surveys that are compromised by serious flaws and produce estimates far outside the mainstream. Discarding the outlying and flawed surveys reveals a clear picture of the violent death toll from the Iraq war. IBC figures, extended to include combatants, occupy a central position within the mainstream range of estimates. The strong consistency across the high-quality sources provides a rare validation of three war-death-measurement methodologies - household-based surveys, sibling-based surveys, and casualty recording. Methodological success notwithstanding, we must transcend the numbers to truly comprehend the human costs of the war.
|Submitted - 2023