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Dr. Gilbert Burnham on the 654,965 Death Toll in Iraq

by William Hughes Friday, May. 11, 2007 at 5:26 PM

One of the true horrors of the Iraqi War is the death toll of the civilian population caught up in that conflict. In Oct., 2006, “The Lancet,” a prestigious British Medical Journal, published a study entitled: “The Human Cost of the War in Iraq.” One of its co-authors was Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins U. Its stunning conclusion: 659,965 Iraqis have died in the war as of July, 2006! On May 8, 2007, Dr. Burnham discussed that report.

       Dr. Gilbert B...
dr._gilbert_burnham.jpgtvyfnf.jpg, image/jpeg, 240x310

“The pillars of truth and the pillars of freedom. These are the pillars of society.” - Henrik Ibsen

Washington, D.C. - Dr. Gilbert Burnham is the co-author of the report entitled: “The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study (2002-2006).” (1) It was published by ”The Lancet,” a British Medical Journal, in Oct., 2006. (2) It concluded that 654,965 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion on March 20, 2003, and from the subsequent occupation of that country by the military forces of the Allied Coalition. President George W. Bush Jr., the Liar-in-Chief, dismissed it as “not a credible report.” He insisted that only “about 30,000 Iraqis” have been killed in the war. Nevertheless, the study on Iraqi mortality has withstood all attempts by Right Wing ranters to debunk it. On May 8, 2007, Dr. Burnham gave a Power Point presentation on his work. He went into considerable details with respect to the research, practice and methodology which were utilized in collecting the mortality data. The disaster that is Iraq, is found in this number: 654,965!

Dr. Burnham explained: “We have to do samples. Much of public health is all about doing surveys...There is nothing that beats [like a national census] going out to the population and asking. That is the ‘gold standard’ of estimating populations, deaths and so forth...In sampling, we have a principle called: ‘Sampling Proportion to Population Size.’ That means bigger places get more samples than smaller places and in that way it is representative of the whole country.” After elaborating on how an earlier 2004 mortality survey in Iraq was done and its results, Dr. Burnham moved on to the relevant 2006 survey. It was conducted between May 20 and July 10, 2006. The survey team had the assistance of eight Iraqi physicians--all trained “in heath surveys and community medicine, all fluent in English and Arabic.” (3)

Dr. Burnham is a professor of epidemiology and is the co-Director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response (CRDR) at the Johns Hopkins U.’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is located in Baltimore City. He has been associated with the school for the last 16 years. Burnham’s talk took place at Busboys & Poets, a popular restaurant and book store, in this city. The event was sponsored by Brian Hennessey of that group introduced the speaker. Dr. Burnham is a native of California, who spent six years in the U.S. military. A medical doctor, with training in both the U.S. and the UK, he has also worked for 16 years in Africa, and other areas, too, on the difficult problems concerning refugees.

Continuing, Dr. Burnham said: “In the 2006 survey [with respect to sampling]...we had 47 clusters (locations/places). We did a year of serious thinking about how to sample...We got the best advice. And, this is what we ended up with. We had now 40 households per cluster, instead of 30 (in 2004 survey), and we ended up with 12,000, instead of 9,000 individuals (as in 2004)... We sampled according to where the population was. So, there were 12 samples/clusters in Baghdad...Our team went to the houses and they got causes of deaths, dates of deaths and details...In 92 percent of the households, where we asked, the family had a ‘death certificate.’ I can’t think of another place in the world that would produce this kind of data. But this is a great argument [against] the people who say: ‘families made up the data on deaths.’ I mean the chance of people all over Iraq faking death certificates just because a Hopkins interviewer might come is pretty remote.”

On another front, 3,383 brave U.S. troops have also died in the Iraqi conflict as of today’s date, about 400 of that total have perished since the Democrats took control of the U.S. Congress. On Nov. 7, 2006, the American people voted to end the war. The timid Democrats, however, have ignored that electoral mandate. Activist Max Obuszewski is convinced: “The Democratic leadership wants the war to continued.” Sadly, both of Maryland’s U.S. Senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin, fall into that category. Meanwhile, the seriously wounded members of the U.S. military from the Iraqi War are in the tens of thousands. The overall cost of the conflict to the taxpayers is estimated at trillion. (4) 22,000 to 35,000 troops are slated for Iraq to fulfill the bizarre “Surge” strategy of the desperate Bush-Cheney Gang, whose two leaders, Bush and V.P. Dick Cheney, deserve to be impeached for violating the public trust. (5) The prime architect of the Iraqi War was Paul Wolfowitz, a repulsive Neocon, who is presently under fire as the CEO of the World Bank. (6)

Finally, Dr. Burnham said: “The key message to the public health community is that ‘documentation’ of the impact of war is really important. And, the reason we do this is not to do: “Ain’t it awful.’ We should do it because, of all the disasters that we pick up on, none is worst than war!” (7)

Certainly, the number 654,965 of Iraqis deaths, which has continued to climb, since the July, 2006 survey was completed, is proof beyond cavil of that tragic fact. These are Iraqis who are dead, who wouldn’t be dead, but for the Bush-Cheney Gang launching the unprovoked and pre-emptive attack on March 20, 2003. Dr. Burnham’s study should be made mandatory reading for each member of the U.S. Congress, particularly the Democratic leadership, which has failed to face up to its Constitutional responsibilities with respect to ending this illegal and immoral war.








7. A video excerpt of Dr. Gilbert H. Burnham’s presentation can be found at:

© William Hughes 2007.

William Hughes is the author of “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party” (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at

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