As you may well have noticed by now, media outlets across the internet are reporting the findings of a study published by the reputable medical journal, Lancet. The researchers offer a conservative estimate suggesting that 98,000 Iraqi civilians have died -- in excess of the normal or expected death rate, and not even including the city of Fallujah -- since the beginning of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
We are currently consulting experts to determine if the methodology used in this study is sound. The main concern is that researchers chose 33 sample areas, and those areas could have been particularly hard-hit by war and occupation, thus offsetting the results. Researchers admit they had prior "expectations" of the amount "levels of violence" that areas chosen are "believed to have had ... during the previous 3 years." They used this foreknowledge to more fairly assign areas to their interview teams in regions that would be more difficult to enter safely, but they had expectations nonetheless. Also, the 100,000 or so deaths are extrapolated from actual findings of just 73 violent deaths reported by fewer than 1,000 households.
The NewStandard is delaying a full report on the study until we can be reasonably certain that it is based on sensible methodology. Unlike most alternative media sites, we don't jump on a story just because it furthers some position we hold (and we don't care if we are first or last to post important news, so long as it is accurate and reliable). Some leftist sites are of course secretly happy to see the 100,000 figure, because they can use it as an argument against the war.
But I find that kind of reaction simply disgusting. And I am personally very much hoping the number is a massive exaggeration. I will have no problem reporting it if true, but I think journalists have a special responsibility to be meticulously careful about this kind of thing (almost as careful as armies should be when dropping bombs). It appears the researchers were very thorough and thoughtful, which has me quite upset, not at all elated like I fear some of my colleagues are...
If it turns out that the study's methodology is acceptable, and that the findings are even remotely accurate, this should, without exception, be the biggest story of the year -- surpassing in my opinion even reports that torture and abuse in US-run prisons in Iraq likely continue to this day. I am very much afraid that despite my concerns about the methodology, it is probably more true than false.
But even mainstream outlets that seem to consider the report valid are brushing over the significance of the findings. One hundred thousand deaths is a tremendous figure -- especially when one considers what it suggests about the number of Iraqi soldiers, most of them conscripts, who must have been killed, since those groups were openly and explicitly targeted by US airstrikes throughout the invasion. (But another reservation I have is the report's failure to define "civilian," a particularly slippery term.)
We have a report coming, but we are not interested in joining the race to rush to judgement.