To mark the recent fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, The New York Times published an interactive timeline. This is the third in a series of posts exploring the most misleading statements and glaring omissions from its Iraq War history. (If you missed either of the first two parts, you can read them here and here).
Timeline Entry: W.H.O.'s Iraqi Civilian Death Toll
This entry reads in full: "January 9, 2008, W.H.O. Estimates Deaths: The World Health Organization publishes a study estimating the number of Iraqi civilian deaths from the start of the war through June 2006 as between 104,000 and 223,000. It estimated that the actual total was 151,000."
In the accompanying article filed on Jan. 10, 2008 (linked under the timeline), The Times does note the John Hopkins study, which estimated "about 600,000 [Iraqi civilian] dead between the war’s start, in March 2003, and July 2006." So why, then, isn't this acknowledged in the timeline? Moreover, nine paragraphs into that same companion article, The Times mentions in passing:
In any case, the study [W.H.O.'s] ended four months after the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra helped set off a wave of killings throughout Baghdad and other mixed Sunni-Shiite areas. So because of its timing, the study missed the period of what is believed to be the worst sectarian killings, during the latter half of 2006 and the first eight months of 2007.
FACT: This not only undercuts W.H.O.'s count but, considering the John Hopkins study only covered through the following month (July 2006), it also illuminates the shockingly high number of Iraqi civilian deaths by John Hopkin's estimate, which was counted before the "worst sectarian killings, during the latter half of 2006 and the first eight months of 2007."
The Times' omission of the John Hopkin's study is not surprising, considering it's framed in the accompanying article as having "come under criticism for its methodology." In reality, its methodology was almost solely criticized by the White House (President Bush falsely claimed that "the methodology has been pretty well discredited"), the Pentagon, and partisan pro-war supporters in the media.
Yet even more irresponsible of The Times is its omission of both Opinion Research Business (ORB) studies, the first in September 2007 and the follow-up in January 2008: the former estimated over 1 million Iraqi civilian deaths as a consequence of the 2003 US invasion and the latter, an even more comprehensive accounting, confirmed the initial estimate.
Incidentally, Opinion Research Business is a non-partisan British polling agency that has conducted studies for the BBC and the British Conservative Party. As Patrick McElwee further noted in FAIR's newsletter Extra!:
"...ORB is neither left-wing nor anti-war; its clients include the British Conservative Party (which supports the war in Iraq), the Bank of Scotland and Morgan Stanley Bank. Its chair has worked with Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin and Ronald Reagan."
Additionally, ORB's survey solidified the credibility and confirmed the conclusions of the John Hopkins study, effectively disproving the partisan and unscientific grumblings that sought to impugn its methodology. The same type of methodology used to estimate the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s and the one in Darfur today. For some reason, the method through which those numbers were derived is only "controversial" when it's applied to estimate Iraqi civilian deaths.
The ORB study neutralized any fact-based claims that either the ORB or the Johns Hopkins conclusions were colored by antiwar bias. It's near universal blackout by US major media proved how threatening these numbers were to the Bush administration as well as editors and publishers across the nation who, to this day, refuse to report the full truth on this matter.
As McElwee pointed out:
"...with the exception of a story in the Los Angeles Times (9/14/07), a five-minute segment on National Public Radio (9/18/07) and one-paragraph briefs buried in Newsday (9/14/07), the Seattle Times (9/14/07) and the Houston Chronicle (9/14/07), major U.S. newsrooms did not report the ORB findings. They were not mentioned on any of the major TV networks or cable news channels."
the media blackout only expanded with the publication of the follow-up
2008 ORB study, which, again, confirmed its initial 2007 findings.
According to a LexisNexis search, no US mainstream news outlets carried
What kind of effect does this censorship have on American citizens?
Consider this alarming statistic cited by McElwee: "...an Associated Press poll in February (2/24/07) that asked Americans how many Iraqis have died received a median response of less than 10,000." Ten thousand? That doesn't even come close to the number of US soldiers wounded (which is also shamefully underreported), let alone the number of Iraqi dead.
It's clear, of course, how hiding the real numbers from the American public aids the Bush administration's effort to keep US troops in Iraq. Currently, two-thirds of US citizens believe the war was a mistake and over 80% think our country is on the wrong track. Imagine what would happen if that number - over million Iraqis dead - received even half the attention it deserves.
The Pravda-esque omissions of The Times' editors (and the mainstream media at large) are a willful distortion of the now genocidal numbers of dead Iraqis, who have died, as these studies have proven, as a direct consequence of the US invasion. Specifically, this timeline's treatment of Iraqi civilian deaths is a mockery of history and truth - a blindfold for the American public, an insult to Iraqi civilians and their families, and a black mark on journalism.