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A controversial new study by Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and others, contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war, suggesting a far higher death toll than other estimates.
Within hours, President George W. Bush dismissed the study.
Bush told reporters at a White House news conference: "I don't consider it a credible report."
In the new study, researchers attempt to calculate how many more Iraqis have died since March 2003 than one would expect without the war.
Their conclusion, based on interviews of households and not a body count, is that about 600,000 died from violence, mostly gunfire. They also found a small increase in deaths from other causes like heart disease and cancer.
"Deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003," Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The study is to be published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal.
An accurate count of Iraqi deaths has been difficult to obtain, but one respected group puts its rough estimate at closer to 50,000. And at least one expert was skeptical of the new findings.
"They're almost certainly way too high," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 national elections in the United States.
The work updates an earlier Johns Hopkins study which was released just before the November 2004 presidential election. At the time, the lead researcher, Les Roberts of Hopkins, said the timing was deliberate. Many of the same researchers were involved in the latest estimate.
Speaking of the new study, Burnham said the estimate was much higher than others because it was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than approaches that depend on body counts or media reports.