How Many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?


Map of Iraqi Civilian Casualties


How many Iraqis died in the Iraq War? That’s the kind of question that should be asked, especially if you happen to live in the countries that launched the war that killed so many.  

The results from a new poll commissioned by the British media watchdog group MediaLens exposed a startling disconnect between the realities of the Iraq War and public perceptions of it: Namely, what the Iraqi death toll was. When Britons were asked “how many Iraqis, both combatants and civilians, do you think have died as a consequence of the war that began in Iraq in 2003?,” 44 percent of respondents estimated that  5,000 or fewer deaths had occurred.

[pullquote] People who fight for justice, peace and democracy EVERYWHERE should look upon Western media, and the American media in particular, as the enemy within. A case of willful and deliberate complicity in the crimes of the global empire. There’s no hyperbole in saying that, as a rule, like their capitalist masters, corporate media are the enemies of humanity. [/pullquote]

As Alex Thomson, a reporter for the UK’s Channel 4 (5/31/13), wrote:

That figure is so staggeringly, mind-blowingly at odds with reality as to leave a journalist who worked long and hard to bring home the reality of war speechless.

And polls done in the United States have offered similar conclusions. A Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll (3/1/06-3/6/06) that asked how many Iraqi civilians had been killed since the beginning of the war yielded a median estimate of 5,000 deaths.

And when respondents were asked in a different poll (AP/Ipsos, 2/12/07-2/15/07) to give their “best guess” about civilian deaths, 24 percent chose the option of 1,001 to 5,000 deaths.

These answers are, of course,  way off the mark. Estimates of the death toll range from about 174,000 (Iraq Body Count, 3/19/13)  to over a million (Opinion Business Research, cited in Congressional Research Service, 10/7/10).  Even at the times of those U.S. polls, death estimates were far beyond the public’s estimates.

Of course, these findings are disheartening because they reflect a very distorted public perception of the war. But they are indicative of an even bigger problem: corporate media’s inadequate coverage of the human costs of U.S.-led wars.

It seems that much of the mainstream media took Tommy Franks’ infamous quote, “We don’t do body counts” (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3/03), to heart, because Iraqi victims of warfare were rarely of interest in news reports.

And when they are, they could be a massive undercount.  A December 1, 2011CBS Evening News report told viewers that “more than 50,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war”  (FAIR Action Alert12/2/11). This figure was sourced to, which had one of the lowest estimates of civilian casualties at the time and warned readers that the number was probably a severe undercount.

The “corrected” figure that CBS put forth 11 days later was 115,676 civilians killed, and sourced to Iraq Body Count–still one of the most conservative estimates to be found (FAIR Activism Update12/13/11).

But the main issue here is that the press has kept the public in the dark:  How can one make a decision about the impact of war if they don’t know, even roughly, how many deaths there were?

As blogger Joe Emersberger put it (Z Blogs5/30/13) , the MediaLens-commissioned poll results

are a striking illustration of how a “free press” imposes ignorance on the public in order to promote war. Future wars (or “interventions”) are obviously far more likely when the public within an aggressor state is kept clueless about the human cost.

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One thought on “How Many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?

  1. I have read about the death count among the Iraq citizenry and found it shocking. Even more shocking are the future deaths, birth defects and health catastrophes that will haunt that country for decades. The tipped, bunker buster bombs are poisoning the water tables, the infrastructure is in shreds and the cities look like a scene from a futuristic, “Road Warrior” movie. “Nation building” is the inverse of what the U.S.
    did to that innocent country. It was “Nation wrecking” to a criminal level. We have been told that the U.S. was building roads, schools and other restorative projects. I’d like to see examples, but pictures can be faked by showing such things from any country, and I’d bet that would be the case. The media is the villain that enables such atrocities to be hidden and publishes lies of the state that would make Hitler’s propagandists proud. I have always felt the abdication of the fourth estate’s guardian of the nation, makes them as culpable if not more so than the perpetrators in D.C. Ms Helmich’s focusing on the subservient media needs to be revealed for just what it is; the enablers of crimes from inside our country to the devastation without regret that has ravaged countless countries. The mind numbing apologists that sell the public
    Orwellian lies about every issue is evident in the exposure of the totality of the security state we now know was far, far worse than the Obama administration had revealed. To listen to the talking heads
    pumping out the sophistry that such unconstitutional acts are really for our “security,” is amazing and a statement of what a morale toadies they are to their corporate owners. “Security”
    has been used for everything from this shocking revelation to justifying drone assassinations of Americans. “Security” trumps all evils. Sadly, the public seems apathetic or worse, endorses their
    own servitude and reflects the depths of the willfully ignorant Socratic mob.

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