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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Washington Post Undercounts Iraq Deaths Paper's feature low-balls Iraqi casualties

The Washington Post's weekly Saturday feature on "Iraq War Casualties" has consistently listed a "maximum count" of Iraqi civilian deaths that is dramatically lower than the likely civilian death tolls assessed through surveys of the Iraqi public.

In the most recent edition of this feature (10/25/08) which the Post has been publishing as a chart in the Saturday newspaper since August 2, the Post offers a "maximum count" of 96,719 Iraqi civilian deaths. Yet as the Post itself acknowledged in a footnote to its chart on June 15, 2007, there are studies that put the Iraqi death toll much higher: A 2006 survey by Iraqi physicians and overseen by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated over 600,000 killed at the time.

The source the Post cites for its "maximum count" of Iraqi civilian deaths is based on casualty reports from the group Iraq Body Count, which bases its figures on violent civilian deaths that are reported in media outlets and, when possible, by other NGO and official sources. While the group's figures represent a serious effort to document reported Iraq deaths, they are much lower than the death tolls assessed through surveys of the Iraqi public--the standard method for assessing casualties of large-scale wars or disasters.


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