Socialist Worker

Tony Blair knew 655,000 Iraqi deaths report was right

Issue No. 2044

Its official – the survey that revealed that the occupation of Iraq has claimed over 655,000 Iraqi lives was “robust”, despite attempts by George Bush and Tony Blair to rubbish the results.

Last October the Lancet medical journal published the report on the number of “excess deaths” in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

It found that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed in violent incidents, the majority by gunfire. A further 55,000 died because of the collapse in health care.

Emails obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act prove that the chief scientific adviser at the ministry of defence, Sir Roy Anderson, accepted the methods used in the survey.

Anderson states in an e?mail to a colleague, “The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to ‘best practice’ in this area.”


The figure stunned supporters of the war, and Bush rubbished the results as “not credible”.

Another email from the foreign office warns, “The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.”

The civil servants advised ministers not to question the methods, but instead pour scorn on the results. It was advice they did not take.

Shortly after the report Lord Triesman, a foreign office minister, declared, “The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern.”

He was lying.

The survey questioned 12,800 people in 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 of Iraq’s provinces.

Those questioned were asked how many of their relatives had been killed since 2003. All deaths were confirmed by death certificates. The number was then used to estimate the amount of “excess deaths” across Iraq.

In response to the survey, the British government quoted the lower figures produced by Iraq Body Count, which only records a death if confirmed by two separate media sources – a difficult task when journalists find it almost impossible to travel freely.

Figures produced by the Iraqi ministry of health are widely considered unreliable.

The 655,000 figure created deep embarrassment for the British and US governments who claimed they had invaded Iraq to free the people from tyranny.

Read our original report on the survey 655,000 reasons to get out of Iraq now

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Article information

Sat 31 Mar 2007, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2044
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