By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2006 – U.S. and Iraqi officials today discounted an article in a British medical journal that estimates 650,000 Iraqis have died since the war began three years ago. The article, by American and British epidemiologists, appeared in "The Lancet."
During a White House news conference, President Bush said the number in the journal article is not credible. "I know a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me and it grieves me," Bush said. "I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence."
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said he had not seen the report, but he asserted the number is too high. "That 650,000 number seems way, way beyond any number that I have seen," Casey said during a Pentagon news conference today. "I've not seen a number higher than 50,000. So I don't give (the journal article) much credibility at all."
Iraqi government officials said the Lancet report was inflated and "exceeds the reality in an unreasonable way."
At the Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted that many Iraqis have indeed died since the war began, and he pointed the finger at Muslim extremists who are killing innocent Muslim people.
"They do it aggressively, they do it purposely, and they do it successfully," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to kill unarmed civilian people who are going to a shop or operating at a gas station or functioning in a shopping area. And what we have is Muslim extremists killing Muslims and attempting to take over that country, ... notwithstanding the fact that over 95 percent of the Iraqi people don't want that to happen, and 12 million of them went out and voted, at risk to their lives, so that it would not happen."