On Thurs., Oct. 23, Dr. Les Roberts gathered with a group of students from the University of Washington to discuss his independent findings on the civilian death toll in Iraq.
In 2004 Roberts, an epidemiologist from Columbia University, and his colleagues published findings that showed the number of Iraqis killed since the U.S. invasion was much higher than previous reports, yet the Bush administration rejected his findings.
"I think it was not in the government's interest, as it would undermine domestic support for the ongoing occupation," said Roberts.
In 2006 Roberts and his colleagues conducted a more rigorous analysis. They counted 654,964 "excess deaths", 64 percent more than was reported by the Iraqi Health Ministry in the same time period, since March 2003. Excess deaths are fatalities as a consequence of violence or disease that, in peacetime, would have been avoided.
According to Roberts, it is evident that the government ministry did not record accurately.
"The Minister of Health in Iraq was sacked in 2004 -- not long before he had admitted that the government system for recording diseases and deaths was getting no information from most of the country," he said.
"Ninety percent of the people we interviewed had death certificates. We're quite sure they didn't make these deaths up," he added.
When Roberts was in Iraq in 2004, almost every single Iraqi he spoke to said the Americans were fighting their country for oil. He thinks oil does play a part, but that military and political leaders "really thought democracy was a beautiful gift and they thought they would just plant it in Iraq -- in six to 12 months."
A UW student and member of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), Jessie Kindig, attended the discussion.
"National polls say approximately 70 percent of people are against the war," said Kindig.
She believes there are a lot of people who are against the war at the university and around the world.
"But they don't know what to do -- due to the way the war is portrayed," she added.
"CAN is trying to build a group of students that can help bring the reality of war in Iraq home," said Kindig.