US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calls the deaths of American troops in Iraq “tragic.” He is correct. But Rummy makes no mention of the vast majority of those who died because of the US-led invasion there: Iraqi civilians. One could assume that he just doesn’t care about innocent men, women, and children who die because of the US and UK’s Middle East misadventures. Making matters worse, the Bush Administration refuses to say exactly how much blood is on its hands, claiming that it is impossible to accurately count the number of Iraqi casualties.
Apparently, the task isn’t impossible for one Massachusetts think tank. Yellow Times reports that the Project on Defense Alternatives, using surveys, news reports, Iraqi hospital records and US military statistics, along with stats from Iraq Body Count and the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, has come up with a horrifying finding: Between 10,800 and 15,100 Iraqis were killed during the first month of the US invasion. More than one-fourth of those slaughtered between March 19 and April 20 were non-combatant civilians.
Additionally, Iraq Body Count, which describes itself as “an Anglo-American research group tracking media-reported civilian deaths occuring as a consequence of the US/UK military intervention in Iraq,” reports that between April 14 and Aug. 31, 2,846 violent deaths were recorded by the Baghdad city morgue. When corrected for pre-war death rates, the records show that at least 1,519 more Iraqis died as a result of the “war.”
From Yellow Times:
London’s the Guardian calls the Project on Defense Alternative’s study, –€śthe most comprehensive account so far of how many Iraqis died,–€ť and further notes the report’s comparison to non-combatant deaths in this latest war to the 1991 Gulf War, where an estimated 3,500 civilians were killed.
The study’s author, Carol Conetta, told the Guardian that the similar number of civilian dead proves ineffectiveness of guided weaponry meant to destroy targets but spare innocents; 6.5 percent of precision-guided weapons were used in 1991 versus 68 percent used this year.
“Many of the recent wars have been fought with the notion of a new type of warfare that produce very low civilian casualties. What we see here is that in fact we don’t have that magic bullet,” said Conetta. “In this war in particular we see that improved capabilities in precision attacks have been used to pursue more ambitious objectives rather than achieve lower numbers of civilian dead.”
In a related story, Human Rights Watch is calling for an independent probe after learning that US soldiers killed as many as 94 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, including women and children, between May 1 and Sept. 30.
“It’s a tragedy that US soldiers have killed so many civilians in Baghdad,” said Joe Stork, acting executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “But it’s really incredible that the US military does not even count these deaths. Any time US forces kill an Iraqi civilian in questionable circumstances, they should investigate the incident.”
Thus far, the military says it has concluded only five investigations above the division level, ordered by the deputy commanding general, into alleged unlawful deaths. Of these, soldiers were found to have operated “within the rules of engagement” in four cases. In the fifth case, a helicopter pilot and his commander face disciplinary action for trying to tear down a Shi’a banner in Sadr City in Baghdad, an incident that provoked a violent clash with demonstrators on Aug. 13.
Human Rights Watch conducted its own investigation of two of these five cases, and found evidence to suggest that soldiers had used excessive force, including shooting a person who had his hands in the air and beating a detainee.
In some cases, US forces faced a real threat, which gave them the right to respond with force. But that response was sometimes disproportionate or indiscriminate, harming civilians or putting them at risk.
“The cases we documented in this report reveal a pattern of over-aggressive tactics, excessive shooting in residential areas and hasty reliance on lethal force,” Stork said.
The HRW report opines that the civilian deaths are not deliberate, but states that the US military’s failure to investigate most of the killings, or to keep statistics on dead or wounded civilians, “suggests that civilian casualties are not a paramount concern.”