New Study on Iraq Death Count 50 Times Higher Than Americans Think

U.S. Marines fire a Howitzer in Fallujah, Iraq 2004.
U.S. Marines fire a Howitzer in Fallujah, Iraq 2004.

Part of American Exceptionalism is never having to admit when your government kills hundreds of thousands of people.

A new study says the U.S. invasion and subsequent war in Iraq killed an estimated 460,800, higher than most of the estimates frequently cited in the mainstream media, but lower than the controversial 2006 Lancet study that estimated between 400,000 and 655,000 excess deaths.

The authors of the study, which was published in PLOS Medicine, detail a more rigorous methodology than has ever been employed for previous Iraq War mortality estimates.

But even this may be an undercount. John Tirman, Executive Director at the MIT Center for International Studies and author of The Deaths of Otherstold me in an email that the new study’s estimate of deaths of displaced people, approximately 56,000, is “likely to be more like 100,000 or even greater, but it’s almost impossible to say without more research—i.e., a survey among the displaced.”

Whatever the exact number, what’s certain is that it continues to grow. According to the International Crisis Group, the violence in Iraq is “as acute and explosive as ever.” And as’s own Kelley Vlahos wrote recently, Iraqis are dying in “numbers not seen since the bloody days of 2008.”

Unfortunately, Americans dramatically under-estimate how many Iraqis died as a result of their former president’s war of choice.

“While even the most conservative estimates of mortality in Iraq,” Al Jazeera America reports, “have reached six figures, polling in the U.S. (PDF) and U.K. (PDF) have shown public perception to be that the civilian death toll from the war is in the neighborhood of 10,000.”

That is an embarrassment of enormous magnitude. But one is careful not to be surprised. Back in 2011, a University of Maryland poll found that 38 percent of Americans still believe the U.S. had “found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.”

So not only do Americans refuse to accept the reality of why the U.S. attacked Iraq, but they resist the facts about the consequences of the war. The notion that we went to war on false pretenses and that it directly led to the deaths of about 500,000 people is too much to bear for flag-waving Americans.

If their ignorance weren’t so offensive, it might be excusable. The reality is that a group of people that the American electorate twice empowered at the voting booths made decisions to act criminally and killed hundreds of thousands of people needlessly by attacking and occupying a country that posed no threat to us.  They get away with this mass murder, in part, because of the mass ignorance of Americans.

A death count statistic can never truly depict the unimaginable suffering caused by the U.S. in Iraq. But the 10,000 civilians America believes were killed by the war is not an acceptable representation of the ~500,000 Iraqis that actually died and the millions that had their lives torn apart.

I shudder to think how many Americans know that more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in 2013, two years after the U.S. withdrawal.

69 thoughts on “New Study on Iraq Death Count 50 Times Higher Than Americans Think”

  1. This is pure revisionist bullcrap. While I don’t deny the numbers the editorializing does discredit to the point you are trying to make. You conveniently overlook the fact that Saddam Hussein admitted his disinformation campaign that was supposed to convince his neighbouring countries that he did in fact possess a formidable WMD capacity. His mistake was a belief that the CIA knew it was false. You can make up all the “facts” you want from the perspective of hindsight but the truth is had Iraq infact possessed what they were trying to make the world believe and Bush had taken no action resulting in a major WMD use in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Europe or the US you would be screaming he knew and did nothing. The dishonesty of the left never ends.

    1. With a counting-system like this, why should'nt we wonder how many were killed in the halocaust?

      1. The Germans, apparently, wrote theirs all down.

        That's what makes them evil, and us not.

        Besides, they're losers.

  2. My artillery unit estimated 6,000 to 8,000 killed by our fire missions from April 04 to February 05. I am still not getting a grip on what we did…

    1. Well, Sparky, I suggest you get a grip on the fact you were lied to by Uncle Satan and were/are nothing but a mercenary for the zionists' plan of world enslavement, murder and genocide. I'll bet your friendly recruiter didn't tell you that when you enlisted.

      1. W, cut him some slack…he at least is admitting that he was involved in something terrible and is trying to parse it in his own terms. There are many, many military members who have not, nor will they ever admit they – THEY – did anything wrong because they were fighting for our freedoms…or some other mindf*ck justification.

        1. Yeah, you're right curmudgeon, I guess I am a curmudgeon myself at times, lol. It just gets frustrating when so few of them (publicly at least) realize they were lied to and used as pawns and all the rah-rah, "Support Our Troops" crap most folks are still doing. I don't know though, the remaining members of that so-called "Greatest Generation" are still full of themselves and going to their graves believing they fought a "good" war and are still considered near-deities by the general population. I guess they will have to pass away before that changes, too.

      2. Buddy… I was lied to back in the 80's as a no-nothing teen. Nothings changed. Not even the snarky comments one gets from those on "the outside". We all need to wake up to the lies being fed to us on the military front and even here on the domestic issues where we are routinely lied to and raped out of our hard earned and ever devaluing money.

      3. Go to the head of the class from Washington to the present CIC were and are war criminals bush feith,cherney,rummy, rice, wolfawich, cannot leave America for fear of being arrested for the criminal enterprise called Iraq, wanton slaughter,Rape murder pillage 1million dead 5million refugees bombed to the stone age with depleted uranium American does the average knows what their government do in their name treated as mushrooms fed sh%t kept in the dark by the FCM

    2. Hard to accept I know but lying to ourselves isn't going to help either. Instead let's stop listening to the sociopaths in The Imperial City and stop invading everybody. Enough of this flag waving. rah, rah, nationalism junk. If we had done that in the first place there wouldn't have been a 9/11 to begin with.

      I mean hell, 700-900 bases around the world? How the hell can anybody, anywhere think this is justified? That's just f'ing madness!

  3. I cry for the innocent no matter their places upon this earth; I care not one whit about american militar killed in foreign lands while helping intnatoonal and hundreds of thousands of Americas Carpet Baggers profit from others death and destruction.
    The worlds mentaity has no changed since the perid of Colonizing of all world by European and US.
    In very early part of 1900’s only 6 or 8 in and today there are n reality no more than 8 upon either continent to this da. Now th white euros are recolonizing their old SE Asian colonys includng Phllipins and parts of Malaysian Islands as well.
    This new white empire if I turns racis will indeed kill the remaining billions in its greed t control all.
    Oh govrnments owners will not sla the ill nstead incite and oincline such avtu ons and pay the cost of the populaces own gred and stupidity.

  4. John, were you feeling more than usually arithmetically challenged when you wrote this piece?

    “A new study says the U.S. i… killed an estimated 460,800,”

    “higher than most of the estimates frequently cited in the mainstream media,” [TRUE]

    “but lower than the controversial 2006 Lancet study that estimated between 400,000 and 655,000 excess deaths. ” [FALSE]


    400,000 < 460,800 < 455,000 (Low estimate of 56,800 displaced people murdered)


    400,000 < 510,800 < 455,000 (High estimate of "100,000 or even greater" )

    In otherwords, the current report comports entirely with repeated studies, made between the USA's completely illegal war of aggression waged against Iraq based on the flimsiest fabric of clumsy lies, not even taken seriously by those presenting them and accepted only by the most wilfully ignorant of fools, and today..
    Tom Squires, merely asserting that repeated evaluations are "revisionist bullcrap", apparently based on nothing more than you not finding much to like in the implications, is hardly persuasive. Particularly in the face of the mountains of evidence that the estimates are in alignment with multiple previous studies, performed with appropriate rigour, and which apparently remain serious underestimates.

    Putting it into comparative terms may help grasp the magnitude of our offence against the peace, against humanity, and against the people of the region. The USA is directly responsible for having caused excess deaths in Iraq numbering some 2% of its pre-invasion population – after the murderous sanctions of the previous decade had resulted in an excess of 500,000 surplus child mortalities, dismissed by Madeleine Albright as "we think its worth it". Can you imagine the reaction of the USA if 4% of her population, 2% children, or about 12 million surplus deaths were caused by the deliberate actions and total incompetence of some other nation? Would you excuse those responsible if they said, "We only did it because we were frightened that the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons the USA continues to maintain, in blatant breach of her NPT obligations, posed a lethal and immediate threat to all the people of Earth? Even though that is perfectly true?

    Can you see that what was "believed" by delusional idiots with their own agendas, even if it were true, so long as it was neither direct nor immediate, was irrelevant. Not by the wildest stretch ot the imagination was there any credible military threat to the USA justifying attacks on Iraq over the period of a decade. Not only is it quite apparent that this was not the case, but even had there been some actual possible hypothetical danger, it would not have posed the immediate all encompassing danger which might have justified what the USA has done in and to Iraq.

    Even pleading that the insidious terror paralysing Americans' brains after 9/11, to the extent that they inflicted economic and social damage on themselves that al Qaeda could never have, in their wildest dreams, achieved alone, is simply not germane to accepting that the American military and political leaders who first launched a deliberate combination of illegal attacks on civilian infrastructure intended to cause outbreaks of disease in Iraq, followed by a decade of carefully planned sanctions, attacks and an economic embargo intended to prevent rectification of the situation we had instantiated and which was, with malicious forethought and criminal intent, designed to perpetuate disease and starvation intended to make the country ungovernable; and who then compounded their thoroughly illegal – and brutally effective – acts of aggression by "ginning up" an invasive war of aggression against Iraq, destroying Iraq's national infrastructure, murdering vast numbers of their population, and doing it on $6+ trillion of borrowed money – that not incidentally crashed the International economy; that left the US burdened with more debt than any previous wars, that has left a legacy of worn out military hardware spread over the planet, with obsolete and decaying infrastructure everywhere, with collapsing social services with no budget to replace them, and crippling military-security-policing bills, not to mention thousands of lives in and out of the armed forces destroyed, and a society that will continue to pay the cost of increased militarisation for decades, collectively and individually bear the guilt for these heinous crimes, as do those who supported this insanity at the time, and those who continue to attempt to engage in apologetics for it long after the event, and who are apparently too stupid or to blinded to learn any lessons from this disaster to attempt to prevent its repetition and to lacking in vision to avoid being steered into further misadventures by the same inept, ethically and rationally challenged war mongers who inflicted the ongoing calamity on the people of Iraq, and to a much lesser extent, on themselves.

    Angry yet? You should be. But not at the "revisionists" who merely continue to attempt to put the record straight.

  5. Some years back humanists and humanitarians used to ask a hypothetical question: If the choice was to have the Acropolis in Athens reduced to ruins, or have a child die, which one would you chose? The answer invariably was reduce the Acropolis to ruins.

    The times have changed. To "bring democracy" to the Iraqi people, and to liberate them from the government that killed many of them, we take in stride the killing of hundreds of thousands of people. We even label it "humanitarian (war.)"

    Do we in the West really expect to be taken at our word?

    1. It didn't work out too well for the 500,000 German civilians who were bombed and roasted alive by the "Greatest Generation". And that's not counting the 4 million German military deaths and the nearly 1 million POWs who died of exposure and starvation in Eisenhower's open-air death camps after WW2 ended.

      1. Being facetious Werner.

        The Russians lost 20 million.

        I know it didn't work out for ANY Germans. There was one no one wanted to bury just last week. Paying for his crimes 70 years later?

        That 'National Guilt' isn't going anywhere until somebody tops it with a bigger outrage.

        That guy last week, Priebe? He said it never happened.

        As for most Americans, if it ain't on FOX news, and it ain't, just keep on shopping.
        "They" deserved it.

        1. I'm well aware the Russians lost 20 million people in WW2. And at least that number before the war, all thanks to j** communism.

          In Erich Priebke's case–well, the victors of any war write the history.

          General Patton said after the war, "we roasted the wrong pig (Hitler)." Should have been Stalin. Patton was murdered not too much later.

  6. The numbers should be engraved on the tombstones of those who decided to pursue this war…George, Dick, Don, Condi, Colin, Doug, Paul, etc., etc., etc…

    1. You forgot Hillary, bill, Madolyn, Schumer, Finestein etc. The elites of both parties wanted this war.

      1. Right on, Johnny. All of these people were complicit in war crimes. It's obvious and every one who reads knows it. Where the hell is our Atty General? The U.S. constitution states clearly that refusal to perform ones duties as required by law is an impeachable offense.
        Where is the ACLU now? I'm not a lawyer, thank god, but does anyone out there know the legal technical details of bring charges against the U.S. attorney general. Criminals, murderers, torturers, rapists, thugs and various and assorted nazis are running around loose with no fear of ever being brought to account. Our miserable president Mr. Obama said that the past is past, we need to move on as a country, move ahead, make the U.S. the great power it should be. My reply to Mr. Obama is that there will never be a clean, decent America until it holds its own war criminals

    1. Pay no attention to the gun behind the curtain. If people understood how it worked, it wouldn't work.

  7. this is what happens when nazis win…they get away with and do it over and over doing the same thing expecting different results but they never do…or will…assh***es

  8. The same madness that infects the body politic, and most notably the lunatics in DC, not only ignores these deaths but then goes on and venomously calls for "nuking" Syrian chemical sites and thus releasing murderous clouds of death upon countless tens of thousands for the actions of so-called rebel killers upon civilians. They also would nuke Iranian reactors and irradiate millions so as to make the world supposedly "safe" from nuclear bombs! If that isn't lunacy then I don't know what is.

    1. In the last week, I totaled about twenty minutes of TV, all of it from right behind a certifiable card-carrying GWoT-Sucker. Seemed like cop shows. She burst out "JUST SHOOT 'EM!" with spastic hand gestures at least twice. In the first instance she explained just as loudly that she was sick of the cops-chase-suspect-out-of-fire-escape gimmick, … In the second she didn't explain, but I think it was the extended-moment-when-it-occurs-to-cop-how-serious-it-is-to-take-a-life cliche that p–sed her off. Kinda like she was 'vigilant' about recurring themes that preclude or delay blood.
      A script somewhere sez I should lament: 'what have we become?' The answer is somewhere between obscenely juvenile and subhuman…

  9. and don't forget the FIRST GULF WAR and the SANCTIONS that KILLED 500,000 CHILDREN.
    I almost forgot, how about the war we pushed Iraq into with Iran. MILLIONS of people dead and lives destroyed. USA!! USA!! USA!!

  10. The premise that the United States is responsible for all the "excess deaths: resulting from the Iraq Civil War because it overthrew the Saddam dictatorship and defended the democratically elected government of Iraq from extreme right insurgents is little different from saying that the Republican government of Spain is responsible for the 500,000 deaths during the Spanish Civil War, in that those deaths would have been avoided had the Republicans immediately surrendered to the fascists.

    1. You do realize that there was no Iraqi civil war until the Amerikans swooped in and turned over the apple cart, don't you? So, laying the responsibility for the environment that now exists at the feet of the US is totally justified and deserving. Likewise, the conflict in Syria would also most likely not have happened – at least not now – but with the US destabilizing the entire region thru their hubris flooded the area with radical Islamists – giving them a reason for expanding their ranks with disillusioned refugee fighters. For that matter, you can go back to the end of the 1940's when the US expanded their meddling in the affairs of foreign countries, trying to expand their political reach – succeeding only in opening Pandora's Box for future generations.

  11. This American gullible ignorance is even more disgusting than the ad for a cure to toenail fungus that appeared beside the article.

  12. "460,800, higher than most of the estimates frequently cited in the mainstream media, but lower than the controversial 2006 Lancet study that estimated between 400,000 and 655,000 excess deaths."

    IMO the Lancet study presented a confidence interval and not an estimate, so the 460,800 is within the confidence interval suggested by the Lancet and does not contradict the Lancet study.

  13. I think that you all have it very wrong, it has got to be at least 8 million Iraqi's dead if you count the the children and the elderly who have since died of lack of clean water and food caused by the chaos and that is not war that is genocide on a massive scale, the men we send abroad to these countries are no longer soldiers, they are serial killers and idiots in uniform, it is more than 70 years since we had conscripts who kept the regular volunteers honest.

    1. Just a slight correction to your comment. I was in the Army in the early 70's and they were still drafting (that's how I got in). I think the draft ended in about '73, so it's been 40 years. In any case, an all-volunteer well paid mercenary army makes it much easier for Empires to get away with murder.

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  15. The elephant in the living room remains Saddam Hussein. How could anyone who has looked at the destruction of Iraq still think that things are better since his demise? I remember that "60 Minutes" did a story on Iraq back in the 80's. Their report showed a well educated, secular society with a substantial middle class that was benefitting from oil revenue. No doubt Saddam was brutal and many Iraqis died at his hand. But, with no history of democracy and several competing tribes, who can doubt that it took a strongman to keep the peace. At least under Saddam's rule there was no genocide, which is what is happening to those poor souls still dying in great numbers as a result of clueless GWB's ignorant obsession to outdo his father.

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  18. A new study says the U.S. invasion and subsequent war in Iraq killed an estimated 460,800, higher than most of the estimates frequently cited in the mainstream media, but lower than the controversial 2006 Lancet study that estimated between 400,000 and 655,000 excess deaths.

  19. The argument is rather academic and reminds me of the argument that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs ‘saved’ lives. The invasion of Iraq was to ‘rid’ Saddam of WMDs (which he did not have). If the invasion was to unseat Saddam it would have been better to do this peacefully (as in South Africa). North Korea (that has WMDs) is a far more repressive regime than Iraq EVER was but we would not dare invade it. There is a far more sinister reason for the invasion and has to do with an ongoing argument between Bush, The House of Saud and Saddam himself all to do with money, power and oil. Meanwhile the deaths of many innocent people occurs due to a family feud (but that has been the case in many wars).

    1. Oh yes, money and “oil”, you freaking moron. Idiots like Tony never bother to actually do fact checks when they spout off garbage. Nevermind that the actual deathcount in Iraq is not even 20% of this insane estimate above. Nevermind that this idiot blog continues to count up deaths even after we’ve left (Iraq is a sovereign nation mind you). Nevermind that Saddam killed more Iraqi’s PER YEAR than the USA has PER YEAR since we invaded. Oh, and nevermind that the United States gets less than 4% of it’s oil from any middle eastern source outside of Saudi Arabia. But please, feel free to be a liberal and beat that drum of numb minded lack of common sense, it’s what you lefties are best at.

      1. Did not read my comment did you. I have checked but it looks like you have not and believe 100% in the USA’s ‘Crazy’ Bunch (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. – ‘Crazy’ not being my description but more a description from Republicans such as Reagan and GHW Bush).
        FACT: Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq the ONLY reason put forward by Blair and Bush WAS TO RID THEM OF WMDs.
        FACT: ISIS would not and COULD not get a foothold with Saddam in power.
        The other ‘facts’ you expound could be true BUT (some I suspect are very rubbery) the Afghanistan campaign was very much weakened after the Iraq Invasion and you know it.
        Oh BTW I’d rather be a “liberal and beat that numb lack of common sense,” than be a arsehole conservative that can NEVER admit they were wrong.

        1. Did you not say “oil”? Yes or no? Saying I can’t admit when I’m wrong and you flat out ignore that you mentioned oil, which to this day has had nothing to do with any war in the middle east that the USA has been involved in.

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