Post-Invasion Deaths in Iraq

by Kieran Healy on January 10, 2008

A new study estimates violence-related mortality in Iraq between 2003 and 2006:

Background Estimates of the death toll in Iraq from the time of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 until June 2006 have ranged from 47,668 (from the Iraq Body Count) to 601,027 (from a national survey). Results from the Iraq Family Health Survey (IFHS), which was conducted in 2006 and 2007, provide new evidence on mortality in Iraq.

Methods The IFHS is a nationally representative survey of 9345 households that collected information on deaths in the household since June 2001. We used multiple methods for estimating the level of underreporting and compared reported rates of death with those from other sources.

Results Interviewers visited 89.4% of 1086 household clusters during the study period; the household response rate was 96.2%. From January 2002 through June 2006, there were 1325 reported deaths. After adjustment for missing clusters, the overall rate of death per 1000 person-years was 5.31 (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.89 to 5.77); the estimated rate of violence-related death was 1.09 (95% CI, 0.81 to 1.50). When underreporting was taken into account, the rate of violence-related death was estimated to be 1.67 (95% uncertainty range, 1.24 to 2.30). This rate translates into an estimated number of violent deaths of 151,000 (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) from March 2003 through June 2006.

Conclusions Violence is a leading cause of death for Iraqi adults and was the main cause of death in men between the ages of 15 and 59 years during the first 3 years after the 2003 invasion. Although the estimated range is substantially lower than a recent survey-based estimate, it nonetheless points to a massive death toll, only one of the many health and human consequences of an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

150,000 violent deaths in three years is a lot. You’ll recall that the _Lancet_ study estimated about 655,000 excess deaths, which is a lot more. The two numbers aren’t directly comparable because excess deaths due to violence are only one component of all excess deaths (e.g., from preventable disease or other causes attributable to the war). Deaths due to violence rose from a very small 0.1 per 1000 person years in the pre-invasion period to about 1.1 per 1000py afterwards, or 1.67 adjusting for estimated underreporting. This is where the authors get their 151,000 number. The overall death rate rose from about 3.2 per 1000 person years to about 6, an increase of just over 2.8. Depending on whether you use the raw or adjusted estimated rate of violent death this would work out to an overall excess death total of just under 400,000 or just over 250,000. (But this is just a back-of-the-envelope calculation, as the overall death rate isn’t reported.)

[click to continue…]

The impact of political philosophers

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 10, 2008

In “the interview with G.A. Cohen”: that Jon linked to last week, Cohen closes by saying that in the long run political philosophy has an enormous impact on society. He gives as an example Mill’s liberty principle, which he sees as having been implemented a hundred years later; he concludes that ideas of contemporary political philosophers, such as Rawls and Nozick, have “enormous social effect”. We should just not want to see results within a few years, but rather look at a longer time scale.

I am sceptical about this optimism. At the very least, the “enormous” should be replaced with “some” social effect. Surely some political philosophy has some social effect; but in my judgement, it is especially the work of those philosophers who either are also well-informed about empirical matters and those who are willing and able to translate their insights for a broader public of citizens and policy makers, and who are effectively going into debate with citizens, are having most chance of having any effect. So I think the impact of scholars like Amartya Sen and Philippe Van Parijs will be much bigger, both in the short and the long run, then the Cohen-school of political philosophy. The higher the level of abstraction, the more ‘technical’ and (let’s face it) unaccessible the writing style, the more ideal-theoretical the work, the more based on hypothetical models and simplifying-assumptions-based reasoning, and the less informed by at least some empirical knowledge, the less the impact of a particular piece of political philosophy. Moreover, even the most socially relevant of political philosophy has probably only a modest effect in comparison with the impact of charismatic intellectuals, social activists or politicians. In short, I think Cohen & Co are way too optimistic about the societal and political relevance of their work, though of course I’m happy to be proven wrong.

USA Electoral Compass

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 10, 2008

Interesting interview on Dutch television yesterday – with “Andre Krouwel”:, a professor in political science from the Free University in Amsterdam who has designed “an electoral compass for the USA presidential elections”: The Electoral compass has been very popular for recent Dutch elections: by answering questions about the substance of the electoral debate, the programme compares your views with those of the candidates. Questions concern a range of issues, such as health care, pension reform, environmental policies, and so forth – and, unique to the US compass, questions on gun control, the death penalty and Iraq. In 2007 Krouwel and his colleagues designed an electoral compass for the Belgian Federal elections; and now they have designed one for the US elections. According to “their website”:, they are now also designing an electoral compass for the 2008 Spanish elections.

If you answer the 36 questions, your answers are compared with those of the candidates, and the compass tells you which politician has the closest views to yours (or rather, vice versa). It was interesting to note that the democratic candidates are all closely situated to each other on the compass, whereas there is much more internal diversity within the republican camp. I filled out the questions, and the compass revealed that my views are closest to those of Edwards. Yet it may well be that if I would have had the right to vote, I wouldn’t want to lose the historical chance to vote for a female or black American president, even if on substance, my views apparently are slightly closer to the views of Edwards (but then, Clinton and Edwards seem to be very close to each other on the compass). I’m curious to read whether you felt the outcome of the test was what you expected, and also whether the questions cover the most important issues that are being discussed (or should be discussed) in the US electoral debate.