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Excess deaths generally means over and above those that would have died anyway - the normal mortality rate for that population. The assumption being that those are the deaths you can blame on the war.

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Your answer can also be applied in this article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War where it says "Estimated excess deaths" –  Jader Dias Jun 2 '11 at 17:19
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This is not a common usage. For once the journalists make it relatively clear what they mean in the body of the article; the number of deaths in Iraq in the last year, as estimated by this study, that exceed the official estimates.

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