Wednesday, July 20, 2005

US/UK coalition forces are largest single cause of Iraqi civilian deaths

While the UK government continues to try and escape its responsibilities over the London attacks, new evidence emerges of the horror that was visited on Iraq by the invasion and occupation. A new report published yesterday provides a detailed analysis of civilian casualties caused by the US/UK invasion of Iraq. "A Dossier on Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-2005" (pdf format) is the first detailed account of all reported non-combatant deaths or injuries during the first two years of the continuing conflict. The report, published by Iraq Body Count in association with Oxford Research Group, is based on comprehensive analysis of over 10,000 media reports published between March 2003 and March 2005.

Some of their main findings:

- 24,865 civilians were reported killed in the first two
years of the war
- Women and children accounted for almost 20% of all
civilian deaths
- US-led forces killed 37% of civilian
victims

- Post-invasion criminal violence accounted for
36% of all deaths
- Anti-occupation forces/insurgents killed 9% of
civilian victims
- Post-invasion, the number of civilians killed was
almost twice as high in year two (11,351) as in year one (6,215)

Speaking at the launch of the report in London yesterday, Professor John Sloboda, FBA, one of the reports authors said: "The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq. On average, 34 ordinary Iraqis have met violent deaths every day since the invasion of March 2003. ....It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two and half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed."

The IBC report is one of several that have attempted to estimate the impact of the invasion and occupation on Iraqi public health. The only nationally representative mortality survey conducted so far was published in the Lancet in October 2004 and estimated that 98,000 additional deaths had occurred in Iraq as a result of invasion and occupation. This estimate included both civilians and combatants but most deaths reportedly caused by collation forces were women and children.

The IBC do themselves acknowledge that the method they have adopted, whilst having many advantages, "is certain to be an underestimate of the true position, because of gaps in reporting or recording". Therefore, while the IBC report published yesterday is an invaluable contribution to understanding what is happening in Iraq it cannot be assumed to represent the full magnitude of the horror.

Faced with the weight of the evidence, even the BBC was forced yesterday into reporting, probably for the first time in two years (please comment if this is incorrect), that the widespread killing of Iraqi civilians by US forces is a continuing, serious, and barely acknowledged reality. Previous attempts by John Simpson to describe the extent of US killing were blocked, probably after intervention from the Prime Minister's office in Baghdad.