It's one of the most controversial questions today: How many Iraqis have died since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion?
That there is no definitive answer should not come as a surprise, given the chaotic situation in Iraq. Still, it's an important question to ask, for obvious humanitarian, moral and political reasons.
Theoretically, the public health surveys and polls that have been conducted in Iraq -- at great risk to the people involved -- should help inform and further the debate. But the data is complicated by different research approaches and their attendant caveats. The matter has been further confused by anemic reporting, with news articles usually framed as a "he said / she said" story, instead of an exploration and interpretation of research findings.
These are the conditions under which spin thrives: complex issues, political interests and weak reporting. So it's not too surprising that last month saw a spate of what international health researcher Dr. Richard Garfield calls "Swift Boat editorials."