This is the grim report from the Lancet.
‘In Iraq, as with other conflicts, civilians bear the consequences of warfare. In the Vietnam war, 3 million civilians died; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict has been responsible for 3·8 million deaths; and an estimated 200,000 of a total population of 800,000 died in conflict in East Timor. Recent estimates are that 200,000 people have died in Darfur over the past 31 months. We estimate that almost 655,000 people—2·5% of the population in the study area—have died in Iraq. Although such death rates might be common in times of war, the combination of a long duration and tens of millions of people affected has made this the deadliest international conflict of the 21st century, and should be of grave concern to everyone’.
There is a broad range of error in the Iraq estimates but the sampling methodology seems sound. It does not seem to me a valid criticism to say that the estimate is much greater than other estimates. There is, however, no implication at all, on the basis of these findings alone that the US should withdraw from Iraq (despite the views of one of its authors) – things might well get worse given that 2/3 of the killings have been as a result of sectarian terrorists killing each other - but there it is important to gain an idea of the scale of the overall disaster taking place in Iraq and the need for policies toward Iraq to more adequately address the issue of civilian casualties.
While these arguments do not imply a case for withdrawal there is an increasingly widespread argument even within the military that the Coalition face the prospect of almost no chance of meaningfully winning this war. This increases pressures for a planned withdrawal although a prompt withdrawal, again, could be disastrous. Apart from casualties US military prestige would take propaganda battering from the terrorists in Iraq who are currently inflicting such mayhem. One option is for a phased and gradual withdrawal perhaps preceded by a partition of Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions.