The Public Square

Robert Naiman on a Just Foreign Policy


In September Congress will vote on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. During the August recess, Republican Congress members will hear from constituents and may become willing to vote for withdrawal.

More than 3,600 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and more than 25,000 wounded. The financial cost of the war is now $10 billion a month. A proposal opposed by the President would increase spending on children's health care coverage by $35 billion - three and a half months of war.

Supporters of the war accuse critics of wanting to "cut and run." This assumes the war is a worthy enterprise. If the U.S. invasion and occupation has been bad for Iraqis, then "courage" to "stay the course" is misplaced.

Four million Iraqis have been displaced by the war. But neither our government nor media estimate how many Iraqis have died. It is absurd to claim the war has been in the interest of Iraqis without considering the Iraqi death toll.

In a study published last fall in the The Lancet, researchers from Johns Hopkins estimated 650,000 Iraqis had died. There has been no study to update these results.

Just Foreign Policy has created an online update. We extrapolate from the Lancet estimate, using the trend provided by the tally of deaths reported in Western media by Iraq Body Count. We estimate that more than 985,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion.

The exact toll will never be known. But this is no reason not to know what the best estimate is. We don't know many key facts with certainty.

We make estimates, and these estimates form the basis of policy. As Congress considers efforts to end the war, estimates of the Iraqi death toll should be part of the debate.