How to count deaths in Iraq; adjunct faculty

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Ronald Osborn’s article “Still Counting: How Many Iraqis Have Died?” (February 11) was informative, but recirculated a number of errors and myths regarding the Iraq death counts. For example, Osborn wrote: “The 2006 Lancet study (building on an earlier 2004 survey by the same authors) was the first scientific attempt to determine how many Iraqis had died from all causes during the war. It was also the first analysis of Iraqi war deaths to be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.” This is mistaken—it’s a widely circulated Web myth. The 2004 Lancet study was preceded by a much larger scientific study, the 2004 UNDP “Iraq Living Conditions Survey” (ILCS).

Like the Lancet studies, ILCS was an epidemiological cluster-sample survey. It surveyed over 21,000 Iraqi households (compared to approximately 1,800 in the 2006 Lancet study). The Lancet study authors (Gilbert Burnham, Les Roberts, et al.) were aware of the UNDP study and referenced it.

Osborn also circulates a few discredited myths about the Iraq Body Count (IBC)—for example, when he writes, “The organization, some have suggested, might therefore more accurately be called the ‘Iraq English Media Body Count.’” This “English media” myth originates in a...

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