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Sunday, October 31, 2004

UPDATE: 100,000 Killed in Iraq War?

I see that Fred Kaplan at Slate has scooped me (see my previous post), speaking with Beth Osborne Daponte, who also doesn't believe the Lancet estimates of 100,000 dead since the beginning of the Iraq War:
Daponte (who has studied Iraqi population figures for many years) questions the finding that prewar mortality was 5 deaths per 1,000. According to quite comprehensive data collected by the United Nations, Iraq's mortality rate from 1980-85 was 8.1 per 1,000. From 1985-90, the years leading up to the 1991 Gulf War, the rate declined to 6.8 per 1,000. After '91, the numbers are murkier, but clearly they went up. Whatever they were in 2002, they were almost certainly higher than 5 per 1,000. In other words, the wartime mortality rate—if it is 7.9 per 1,000—probably does not exceed the peacetime rate by as much as the Johns Hopkins team assumes.
Kaplan buries the Daponte critique, and emphasizes -- to my mind, overemphasizes -- questions about the Lancet study's large confidence interval. It is worth noting that Daponte's take on this study is extremely credible.

Daponte, a respected demographer at Carnegie Mellon, had her 15 minutes of fame in 1992 when she publicly challenged the first Bush administration's estimate of civilian casualties. Daponte used demographic methods much like those in the Lancet study, and found that 158,000 Iraqis (military and civilian) died during the Gulf War and its aftermath. For her efforts, Daponte was fired by the Census Bureau, though her job was eventually saved after she initiated legal action and drew strong support from her colleagues and the academic community. She has sinced published her findings about Iraqi mortality in prestigious academic journals.

In other words, Daponte is an expert on the issue and would certainly not be afraid to challenge the Bush administration and endorse the Lancet study if she thought it were correct. I'd guess she'd probably be eager to support the Lancet findings. But she doesn't think those findings are correct.


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