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The Reports of Civilian Deaths in Iraq Make No Sense

Rowan Wolf

On June 2, 2005, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr stated that 12,000 civilians have died from the attacks by insurgents over the last 18 months. While the number seems high, I'll not debate it. However, if the Iraqi government is keeping track of civilian deaths by insurgents, are they also keeping track of civilian deaths from U.S. and coalition operations? There is continued silence on this issue from both the Iraqi government (in its many renditions), and by the U.S. military which still claims it is not keeping track.

Months ago I removed the Iraq Body Count display from my site. The reason was because I felt it was a misrepresentation of civilian deaths and causalities in Iraq. The results from the Lancet study were released the end of October 2004, and it placed the civilian deaths attributable to the invasion of Iraq at 100,000. While the report was heavily criticised by U.S. officials, the study methodology was not considered a problem for calculating civilian casualties in Kosovo. Personally, I think the Lancet calculation of 100,000 was closer than the Iraq Body Count at the time which was roughly 12,000.

Regardless, the Lancet study was completed before the massive operations that flattened Falluja starting in mid-October 2004, and after the end of the bombing in Falluja, and the US denial of humanitarian groups entrance into the city - likely dramatically increasing civilian deaths. Dahr Jamil reported in IPS that 800 Civilians Feared Dead in Fallujah.

The Lancet study was also completed before the US attacks on Mosul, intensified operations south of Baghdad and the Samarra offensive, Ramadi, offensives in in western Iraq in May of 2005, the siege of Al Qa'im in May 2005, or recent operations in Baghdad.

If Iraqi insurgents have killed 12,000 civilians in the last 18 months, does it make sense that only somewhere between 21940 and 24897 civilians have died due to U.S. operations according to Iraq Body Count. Back in October 2004, one report in the NY Times placed the number of Iraqi's dying each week at 208 a week. This is in contrast to Jabr's estimate of 20 people a week by insurgents. An article in CounterPunch in December of 2004 argued that 200 children were dying every day from the occupation.

Then throw in the reports of soaring child malnutrition rates, hospitals under-supplied and under-staffed, water, sewage, and electric systems still largely not working. This has to have a dramatic effect on civilian mortality rates. And there is no end in site. It is difficult to imagine that the U.S. is not keeping track of this data - even if it is a highly guarded figure. Instead, every Iraqi reported killed is an "insurgent," or sometimes a "suspected" insurgent. Given that most operations are occurring in civilian areas, unless every Iraqi is an insurgent it is unlikely that the reported deaths can be attributed in this way. Even those numbers do not seem to be kept track of by the United States.

What is the cost in human life in Iraq from the "regime change" to "free" the Iraqi people and bring "democracy" to them? It is very high indeed, and far higher than 24,897. If the estimate of 208 a week is reasonable, then the number of civilian deaths are likely at least ten times those caused by insurgents, or roughly 120,000 plus. Please do not interpret this as supporting the insurgent attacks - I do not. I am outraged that the U.S. is not keep track of the effects of its presence in Iraq, and that day after day the only thing in the news is deaths due to suicide bombers. One would think that the only people dying in this conflict are those killed by insurgents. In fact, the conflict is being framed as the U.S. versus the insurgents and that every Iraqi death at U.S. hands is this enemy. I find this incredibly hard to believe as there are always more civilian deaths than troop deaths in war. However, framing the events in this way makes the whole debacle very "clean." It reinforces the myth of the "surgical" capabilities of U.S. weapons and troops. And that my friends keeps the U.S. public pacified and complacent about the costs on all sides of the Iraq war.

Rowan Wolf is a columnist for Project for the Old American Century, 
and the editor of Uncommon Thought Journal. 
Her email is [email protected]  

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