Counting the dead in Iraq

Opinion

On an almost daily basis, U.S. casualties in the invasion of Iraq continue to mount, one by one, as families grieve for their loved ones who are not coming home. Thus far, there have been more than 50 U.S. military deaths since May 1, the day White House Resident Bush declared the war over. We know those numbers (if the mainstream press isn’t lying again) because those lives are deemed, rightly so, important enough to report on. But what about the lives of Iraqi civilians? Are the Iraqi dead being counted accurately?

The Associated Press reported June 11 that “at least 3,240 civilians” have been killed so far. But reports by others such as iraqbodycount.net (IBC) reveal a much greater toll. AP called its June 11 report the “first attempt to gauge the scale of such deaths from one end of the country to the other.” Again, the U.S. corporate media gets it wrong. AP was not first.

IBC has maintained an incident-by-incident tally of Iraqi civilian deaths beginning before the brutal invasion. It counts a minimum of 5,567 civilian deaths and a maximum of 7,240, as of June 22.

The U.S. military doesn’t think we need to know the depth and breadth of the crime they are committing. General Tommy Franks, U.S. Central Command, said “We don’t do body counts,” much as Secretary of State Colin Powell stated during the Persian Gulf War that he wasn’t “terribly interested” in body counts. Well, some of us are interested in the great human cost to the people of Iraq because we owe it to them, as residents of the invading country, to know exactly (to the extent possible) what this war has cost them. Our ignorance of their suffering will compound the tragedy of capitalist aggression and allow it to repeat its crimes unchecked.

AP admits its numbers are based on records from only 60 of Iraq’s 124 hospitals. The news agency’s stated reason for its low figure is that many of the other 64 hospitals were not visited because they were in “dangerous or inaccessible” areas.

Additionally, AP excluded hospital figures when the written record didn’t distinguish between civilian and military deaths, although the agency admits that “possibly thousands” of civilian deaths were not counted because of that exclusion. But there’s another way of looking at civilian versus military casualties: those defending their own land from invasion are just as much victims as civilians without a gun.

A new story from the lie-masters is that U.S. troops are in Iraq as liberators. The “liberators” added to the body count in Falluja, 35 miles west of Baghdad, on April 28 when 17 civilians were killed and 70 wounded by U.S. troops during a protest calling for the U.S. military to leave Iraq. Two days later, in the same town, an additional 3 civilians were killed and 17 injured when a U.S. military convoy opened fire. Human Rights Watch is calling on U.S. authorities to investigate the “apparent use of excessive force.” No matter how the capitalist propaganda machine twists things, being shot dead is not liberation.

Scotland’s Sunday Herald reports, “The impact of war and regime collapse on top of 12 years of stifling sanctions has turned Iraq into a wasteland.” In this “wasteland,” Iraqi civilians are burying their loved ones, victims of U.S. imperialism.

What is being done in our names is a crime, and we need to know the magnitude of the crime. Each murder must be counted and called what it is.



Barbara Jean Hope is a reader in Philadelphia. She can be reached at Bjhope2000@cs.com