Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Iraqi Civilians

Iraqi men mourn a relative, likely the victim of sectarian killing, who was found shot dead with 14 other people in May 2005. Witnesses reported seeing the men being arrested by interior ministry commandos at a market near Baghdad before being driven away. (AFT PHOTO/ALIAL-Saddi/AFP/Getty Images)

No one knows with certainty how many people have been killed and wounded in Iraq since the 2003 United States invasion. However, we know that approximately 165,000 civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through April 2015. The violent deaths of Iraqi civilians have occurred through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.

Because not all war-related deaths have been recorded accurately by the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition, the 165,000 figure for civilians killed from 2003 to 2015 is lower than the actual figure.  

It is unknown how many Iraqi civilians have been wounded in the war, though one report states that as many civilians have been wounded as killed.

At least twice as many Iraqi civilians may have died as an indirect result of the war, due to damage to the systems that provide food, health care and clean drinking water, and as a result, illness, infectious diseases, and malnutrition that could otherwise have been avoided or treated.  

Several estimates based on randomly selected household surveys estimate the approximate numbers of civilians killed, injured, and made sick due to war. These surveys place the total death count among Iraqis in the hundreds of thousands, including nonviolent or indirect deaths.

Despite more than $100 billion committed to aiding and reconstructing Iraq, many parts of the country still suffer from lack of access to clean drinking water and housing.

Key Findings

  • There have been approximately 165,000 Iraqi civilians killed by direct violence since the US invasion.

  • The actual number of civilians killed by direct and indirect war violence is unknown but likely much higher – in the hundreds of thousands.

  • The fighting continues and life-threatening damage to Iraqi health care and other infrastructure has not been repaired: civilians are still dying in significant numbers.


  • The US government should ensure that civilian deaths and injuries are included in public reporting of war deaths and should include a tally of children killed.

(Page updated as of April 2015)