Retrospective two-stage cluster sampling for mortality in Iraq

Seppo Laaksonen
University of Helsinki

INTRODUCTION

Giles (2007) presents a summary of the debate that began as soon as Burnham et al. (2006) published their Iraq Mortality Survey (IMS) results in the British journal The Lancet. His article starts:

It's not often that George W. Bush takes time out to attack a scientific paper on the day that it's released. But then few papers attract as much attention as the one that claimed that more than half a million people, or 2.5% of the population, had died in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion.

The corresponding total was also published, claiming that about 601,000 (95% confidence interval 427,000 to 794,000) violent excess deaths had occurred in Iraq by July 2006. This is more than ten times the sort of official truth obtained from the register of deaths maintained by the Iraq Body Count (between 43,450 and 48,164 deaths for the same period). It is quite conceivable that the registration of deaths cannot be done correctly in such circumstances, but this difference is much more than anyone expected. This was just one reason for the debate.