Art, Data Visualization

Iraq Death Dots – Visualizing Each Death in the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs

What would 108,394 deaths look like?

I’ve been combing through the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs dataset and experimenting with different visualizations. This new one shows each individual death logged in the data. A single death is drawn as a single dot. The color of the dot indicates who was killed: either a civilian, a coalition soldier, an Iraqi soldier, or an enemy combatant. These classifications are taken directly from the military records, I did not categorize the data myself in any way. The dataset documents exactly 108,394 deaths, so exactly 108,394 dots are drawn.

Coalition soldiers are white dots, Iraqi forces are gray dots, enemy forces are blue dots, and civilians are red dots. At a glance you can see the shift from the heavy blue in the early days of the war to the overwhelming red. Let that soak in for a second. Every red dot is a civilian life.

The live visualization is embedded below. Or view a larger standalone version.

This movie requires Flash Player 9.

Explore the visualization by selecting a different tab along the top (Years, Months, Incident Type, Category, Casualty Type) or by using the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out of the visualization. I encourage you to experience the visualization in full screen (use the full-screen button on the bottom-right).

The data

This dataset uses the dataset produced by the Guardian, which filtered the full WIkileaks dataset to only include records with one or more deaths logged. It contains 52,048 records that document 108,394 deaths.

Please note that this data only contains incidents documented by Multi-National Force – Iraq and presents only a partial, incomplete record of the war. Please see this article about issues with this dataset.


This work was inspired by Kamel Makhloufi, who created some fantastic images that colored individual pixels by the type of casualty.