That comes from the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry. It’s a death toll resulting from violent incidents (“bombs, murders, fighting”) between 2004 and 2008. The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and our military will depart at the end of 2011. So the war will have taken the lives of many more Iraqis than the 85,000 the ministry has announced.

I have always felt uncomfortable with any of the unofficial death-toll reporting in Iraq. The Lancet‘s high-high estimates — 100,000 by 2004made me queasy, and I spent time trying to be as respectful of its authors’ work as I could, because — you know, we should be vigilant about acknowledging deaths that we cause. The critics of the Lancet often seemed driven by the idea that it was inappropriate to acknowledge U.S.-caused deaths. Everyone here was political — it was as if our determination of reality was contingent on which argument would be bolstered or refuted. And these were people’s lives we were discussing.

The truth is we will probably never really know how many people died because of the Iraq war. The Iraqi capacity for counting the dead has been, to say the least, inconsistent. But now we have an official baseline total. The invasion and occupation killed at least 85,000 Iraqis and over 4000 Americans. Who can honestly say it was worth that cost?