1,220,580

The new highest estimate of Iraqi deaths, brought together with the others.

That’s the latest estimate of total Iraqi deaths from violence since the invasion, made by the British polling company ORB using standard sampling and interview methods (sample 1720, standard margin of error 2.4% – I assume at 95% confidence).

Roberts and Burnham, authors of the famous Lancet studies, must be relieved. The pinko mantle of leading pacifist fraudsters has now passed to the British suits, just as the Iraq Body Count estimates suddenly became respectable when the Johns Hopkins team published a much higher one.

I’ve updated the synthetic chart I blogged in June, adding the ORB as a fourth survey result.

Iraq deaths Sept07_6410_image001.gif

Spreadsheet here. For explanations, see my previous post.

The ORB estimate of 1.22 million is very close to Lancet 2 updated according to the IBC body count timeline – 1.16 million. So they reinforce each other.

We now have four survey estimates from three independent teams of professionals using two different good-practice methods. They all say that the excess deaths in Iraq are hugely greater than the IBC body count, let alone the numbers from the MNF or the Iraqi government. The mean estimate, combining the ORB result with my extrapolations from the three older ones, is 782,000.

You can of course quibble with the ORB survey and many will. There were no checks with death certificates, as in the Lancet studies. Mark’s query about the definition of households is answered by ORB – household was defined to respondents as “under one roof”. The point that worries me is Kevin Drum’s observation that 20% of the deaths were attributed to car bombs, which would make 32,000 or so of them since 2003, mostly unrecorded by the press.

It’s conceivable that respondents were exaggerating deaths to make a point. But it seems more likely to me that respondents would have good reason not to get into a conversation with strangers about shootings – and who might be responsible for them. Saying “car bomb” could be a polite way of saying “I’m not going to tell you how”. The Lancet interviews were carried out by doctors in the privacy of the respondents’ homes, so they would be more likely to be frank.

The ORB carried out another survey in March, asking Iraqis whether a “family member or relative”, or “colleague or friend”, had been murdered. Since ORB didn’t define these terms, the results can’t generate an overall estimate, just an impression. But the responses – 26% had lost a family member to violence since the invasion – are consistent with Lancet 2 and the new ORB survey if extended family size is a plausible 10; but to be reconciled with IBC, it would have to be 170, which is absurd.

It sheds a curious light on the weakness of Iraqi civil society that the response for “colleague or friend” was much lower than for relatives – 17% for men, 7% for women. Imagine trying to estimate the casualties of 9/11 by asking a similar question of a random sample of New Yorkers. Their non-family circle would be much bigger than their family one, and the ratios reversed.

Update 20 September

Tim Lambert posts a comment from Les Roberts confirming the consistency of the ORB survey with his.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web