A helicopter flies over Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad. (Reuters/Stringer)

I first reported this at my blog a couple of days ago and feared it would disappear without a trace. But now it’s been covered by everyone from MSNBC to Stars and Stripes, so perhaps its impact will linger.

Remember, around 2006, when a couple of studies (including one published by prestigious Lancet) found that up to 600,000 Iraqis died in the years after the US invasion? The studies were derided, even mocked, by most in the Bush administration, the mainstraim media and expert commentators. The critics pointed to more reputable exacting counts of those known to be killed in the conflict, often right down to their names, which placed the number at “only” about 100,000.

When WikiLeaks released its Iraq War Logs, the documented deaths shot up another 10,000 or so.

Now it turns out the early studies might have been a bit inflated for that time frame, but close to correct for the entire conflict. What the studies perhaps got wrong was not so much the number of fatalities but the cause—almost half we now learn were related to the war but not directly caused by the weapons of war. But still: just under half a million died in any case—that is, they were “excess deaths,” above the number of Iraqis who would have died in the normal scheme of things for that period, which stretches past the time frame of the earlier estimates. So, sadly, my book on the media and the war, So Wrong for So Long, had it right when I questioned those who insisted the death toll reached 100,000 at the very most.

NBC reported this on Tuesday:

About a half million Iraqi people died during the eight-year war in that country, and among those casualties roughly four in 10 perished due to Iraq’s decimated infrastructure—from crippled health-care and power systems to interruptions in water and food supplies, according to a study released Tuesday.

US researchers hired Iraqi physicians to go door-to-door at randomly selected homes in 100 Iraqi neighborhoods to ask families what members died between 2003 and 2011 and how they lost their lives, the report states. Among non-violent deaths tied to the war, the most common cause was heart attacks or cardiovascular conditions, followed by infant or childhood deaths other than injuries, chronic illnesses and cancer.

Here’s a later Los Angeles Times report, as published by Stars and Stripes:

The study’s release follows several controversial and widely varying estimates of Iraq war deaths. It is the first analysis published since 2006, the bloodiest period of the war.

Lead author Amy Hagopian, an associate professor of global health at the University of Washington, said the analysis was limited by a lack of accurate health and census reporting in Iraq. However, she said, it was a duty of public health officials to assess the effects of war.

“It’s a politically loaded topic,” Hagopian said. “Everyone’s against polio and wants to eradicate it, but it’s different with war.”

According to Hagopian and her colleagues, at least 60 percent of the excess deaths were the result of violence. The rest were linked to so-called secondary causes.

“War causes a huge amount of chaos, disruption and havoc,” Hagopian said. “Some deaths are direct, but there are also deaths that result from destroyed infrastructure, increased stress, inability to get medical care, poor water, poor access to food. … These are all reasons why people die.”

Of those deaths determined to be the result of direct violence, the study attributed 35 percent to coalition forces, 32 percent to sectarian militias and 11 percent to criminals. Contrary to public perception of mayhem in Iraq, bombings accounted for just 12 percent of violent deaths. The overall majority of violent deaths, 63 percent, were the result of gunfire.

The Nation presents a special report on America’s Afghan victims.