Friday, March 31, 2006

"Britain's casualties of Iraq war total 6,700"

The Independent publishes today on the British casualty figures released by the Ministry of Defence online. While their headline conclusion on the total war casualty figure appears to be a little too high, the article does draw out some very important points.

"Almost 6,700 Britons have needed hospital treatment in Iraq since the invasion three years ago - almost as many as the total number of British troops still stationed there. About 4,000 were sufficiently injured or ill to be sent home to Britain...

Even now the MoD admits that some British casualties may have been overlooked, particularly during the invasion itself, "when the tempo of operations meant that some minor injuries may not have been reported in the heat of the action". They also said that they cannot keep a central record of all casualties because it might breach "patient confidentiality"...

Labour MPs were staggered by a total for all casualties equivalent to almost the entire British presence in Iraq today. Mr Reid said this month that the number of British troops stationed there is to be cut by 800, to just over 7,000.

Ian Gibson, one of the Labour MPs who has been demanding to know the full casualty figures, said he would write to Mr Reid to ask how many of the 4,000 medical evacuees needed hospital treatment after their return to the UK, and where they were treated.

"MPs will want to know whether any of their constituents are among those 4,000 and whether they are in hospital locally, because if they are they will want to visit them," he said. "Ministers might even like to visit them," he added.

Peter Kilfolye, a former defence minister, whose home city of Liverpool is being visited today by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said: "The first thing that strikes me is when Jack Straw and Condoleezza Rice are strutting around here, perhaps they should be looking at these figures.

"The MoD is finding it extremely difficult to get their figures right. I welcome the fact that they have now made these figures public, but they show that we are paying a far higher price than we realised for what is not a very productive role in Iraq. This is an argument for getting our troops out."

Until this year, the MoD refused to give any casualty figures other than the number of Britons killed in action, which has reached 103. In January, Mr Reid gave out a figure for the number of wounded, but the figure he gave - 230 - raised immediate suspicion that it was too low."

For the full article go here

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Military families in the UK prepare to lobby parliament over Iraq war

Military Families Against the War are demanding a meeting with Tony Blair to demand "an accounting for the reasons we were taken to war and the reasons why we have suffered so much. Iraq posed us no military threat. We are calling for the troops to be withdrawn."

On Wednesday April 26 they are organising a lobby of MPs in parliament. Following the lobby they will be laying a wreath at the cenotaph and delivering a petition to Downing Street.

They are calling on other families and servicemen and women to join them to make it clear to Tony Blair that he cannot continue to ignore their plight or position.

For more details see their site here

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Compare and contrast: "Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill" and the "Enabling Act"

In order to gain complete political power without holding a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners, the Nazis devised the Enabling Act. The Act was intended to grant the chancellor and his cabinet authority to enact legislation without the Reichstag. As a law altering the legislative provisions of the constitution the Act would have to be ratified by the Reichstag by a two-thirds majority. The Social Democratic Party ( SPD) and the Communist Party ( KPD) were expected to vote against such an Act, but the Nazis knew that the parties representing the middle class, the Junkers landowners and business interests had grown weary of the instability of the Weimar Republic. Hitler reckoned that these parties would be eager to adopt such an extraordinary measure to end the ongoing parliamentary logjam, or at a minimum, would muster only tepid opposition. (from

The boring title of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill hides an astonishing proposal. It gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation. But any other law can be changed, no matter how important. All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voilà, the law is changed.,,1072-2049791,00.html

Friday, March 24, 2006

MOD publishes information on British casualties online

The UK Ministry of Defence have today published some figures on British casualties in Iraq. The information they have chosen to make available can be found here.

On this blog we have followed the hesitant and partial release of information on casualties by the British government with more than a passing interest. Attempts to gain access to the facts via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are described in previous posts.

Two weeks ago, the well known medical journal The Lancet, published an article describing the failure of the government to account fully for casualties.

So, with the publication of the figures today by the MOD the questions for me are:

Do the figures they provide reflect the full picture?
Has the MOD chosen to present the data in a clear and accessible way?
Have they been fully open and accountable?

Do the figures they provide reflect the real picture?

No, they do not. As admitted on the site:-

"These figures are derived from the best records currently held centrally. They are not fully comprehensive for a number of reasons"

They go on to say that, amongst other reasons, records from 3 medical facilities have been lost or destoyed and that:-

"Complete records on TELIC casualties exist, but only in the form of individual medical records, which are held by individual unit commands. These can only be viewed for non-clinical reasons with the express consent of the individual concerned, to protect patient confidentiality. Therefore the information exists, but is not held centrally."

Convinced? Me neither. Are we really supposed to belive that the British military is so disorganised as to not know how many casualties it has sustained in a war? If this were to be true it would be a shocking condemnation of the leadership of our armed forces and the organisation of its medical services.

In the list of reasons for full reporting they also fail to mention that they are not chosing to release the full information collected through the standard Notification of Casualty reporting (NOTICAS).

Has the MOD chosen to present the data in a clear and accessible way?

No, a definete fail on this account also. Let's be generous and look at the new reporting system they present for January 2006. Read the following extract from their site and then ask yourself if you know how many British casualties there were in Januray? and, How many were caused due to fighting or other causes?

For the period from 1 January to 31 January 2006:

Centrally available records show that:

5 UK personnel were treated at UK medical facilities in Iraq for wounds received as a result of hostile action.
1 person was categorised as Very Seriously Injured from all causes.
1 person was categorised as Seriously Injured from all causes.
56 UK military and civilian personnel were medically evacuated from Iraq from all causes.
57 UK service personnel were admitted to the Shaibah Field Hospital. Of these 5 were categorised as Wounded in Action and 57 were categorised with Disease or Non-Battle Injury.

How was it? Myself, I was lost in trying to work out what could be double counting, undercounting or just plain 'we really don't know whats going on' or 'we really just don't want to tell you'.

As for my last question I think there is little that needs saying...

Conclusion? Obfuscation continues to be the modus operandi. It appears that a decision has been taken to prevent the full disclosure of the facts and to continue to report casualties in a misleading and confusing way. Need we ask why.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Strategic Voting in London - new web site points the way?

Click to find out more about Strategic Voting in the May 4th elections in London

With very important elections looming in London on the 4th May there is real chance to send a strong message to Downing Street and the Labour Party.

Blair has conclusively shown himself to be dishonest, disreputable and discredited. With our unresponsive and unrepresentative voting system its also very hard not to be disinterested. But one thing is for certain. It is way past time for a change!

Be Strategic - Vote Strategic!

London Strategic Voter

Sunday, March 19, 2006

EDM 1088

So, 3 years since the start of the Iraq war was marked with large demonstrations in many parts of the world. But violence continues to escalate in Iraq and even the ex, US appointed Prime Minister is calling the situation a civil war. And that's on top of the continuing war being fought against the occupation troops. As for accountability, there is nothing. Not a hint of culpability acceptance, lesson learning or justice.

EDM 1088 is an attempt by a growing number MPs in the UK to hold our government to account. If democracy is to have any real meaning it has to succeed. Is your MPs name on the list? Click on the PIMS logo to find out.

Click to visit the Parliament site and find out who has signed the Early Day Motion


Hogg, Douglas

That this House believes that there should be a select committee of seven honourable Members, being members of Her Majesty's Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of Government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto, in the period leading up to military action in that country in March 2003 and in its aftermath.

Current Count, today, of MPs who have signed up is 156

Update: Count now stands at 158.
Latest signatures are Jim Cousins who signed on the 12.05.06 and Gavin Strang who signed on the 30.10.2006.

To visit the Parliament site click here

Thursday, March 16, 2006

London - Saturday 18th March

Click to find out more

Friday, March 10, 2006

Journey to Guantanamo and Back - Moazzam Begg publishes book on his experiences as a prisoner of the USA

From a review in The Herald

Enemy Combatant. A British Muslim: Journey to Guantanamo and Back by Moazzam Begg with Victoria Brittain.

On that terrifying night in Islamabad in January 2002, normality drained from the life of Moazzam Begg, reducing him to a non-person. For the next three years he was invisible to all but his captors, his fellow internees and his interrogators, who interviewed him 300 times, never producing evidence of their terrorism accusations, never putting him on trial yet shackling and branding him as an enemy combatant, a threat to the United States.

One year on from the three in which he was held illegally by the American government - first at the brutal holding camp of Bagram in Afghanistan and finally inside a steel cage at Guantanamo in Cuba - Begg, a British Muslim from Birmingham, publishes his memoirs.

The book, remarkable for its lack of bitterness, coincides with increasing international pressure on the US to close Guantanamo. In Britain, politicians, judges, lawyers, human rights agencies and religious leaders have repeatedly denounced the camp for breaching the Geneva convention on the treatment of military prisoners.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lawless World: Prof Philippe Sands on the White House memo

From an interview on Democracy Now

British international law professor Philippe Sands, author of “Lawless World,” reveals President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair secretly agreed in January 2003 to invade Iraq in mid-March 2003 regardless of the outcome of diplomatic efforts.

The White House memo was a document that I’ve added into the latest edition in the U.K., and it describes a meeting well known to have been held between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair on the 31st of January, 2003, just five days before Colin Powell gave his famous presentation to the Security Council. What's so striking about the material, which has not been challenged as not being authentic, is that it confirms the absence of evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Why would the British prime minister and the American president be talking about the possibility of provoking a material breach if they had clear and compelling evidence? But more importantly, it also confirms, as some have thought and some have said, that the road to a second resolution was a sham. The decision had already been taken that already, by the end of January, a start date for the war was penciled in and the decision was set in stone and that both Bush and Blair had agreed.

Philippe Sands, the author of “Lawless World” is a professor of international law at University College London.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

13 Questions

Its innocuous. Its administrative. It sounds so dull.

After all, The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will only give ministers power to ignore a democratic Parliament and legislate by decree.

Hey what's wrong with that?

Quotation from the Bill, clause 2(2): orders “may amend, repeal or replace legislation so as to … confer functions on any person (including functions of legislating or functions relating to the charging of fees)”.
Some questions:

(1) Why does the Bill change the current procedures for the enactment into our law of EU legislation?

(2) What guarantees are there that the Bill could not be used to bring in the EU Constitution by the back door?

(3) If the Bill is just a simplifying measure for deregulation, why does it contain no requirement for any orders to actually reduce the amounts of red tape and regulation?

(4) Why does the Bill give the power to create new law, including new criminal offences, to the Law Commissions, which are unelected quangos appointed by Ministers?

(5) If the Law Commissions are supposed to be staffed by impartial technical experts, why are Ministers taking the power to amend the recommendations of the Law Commissions before they are fast-tracked into legislation?

(6) Why do protections in the Bill against new laws to permit forcible entry, search, seizure or compelling people to give evidence not apply to reforms recommended by the unelected Law Commissions appointed by Ministers?

(7) If the Bill allows Ministers to amend, repeal or replace legislation in any way that an Act might, does this not give them an unlimited power to ignore a democratic Parliament and legislate by decree?

(8) If the Bill is so sensible, why has Parliament used a different way of making laws for 700 years?

(9) If the Bill is meant to retain Parliaments ability to scrutinise regulations and regulators, why does it not contain a provision for automatic sunset clauses in orders issued under the Bill?

(10) If the Bill gives Ministers powers to charge fees by decree, is that not a charter to bring in unlimited stealth taxes?

(11) As the Bill permits an order to be made by a Minister under the Bill provided its effect is proportionate to his policy objective, since when in our history as a democratic country has a Government Ministers policy objective directly received the force of law?

(12) What guarantees are there that the Bill could not be used to bring in ID Cards by the back door?

(13) Why does the Bill give the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly a veto over Ministers power to change the law which it denies to English MPs?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Under-reporting of British casualties in Iraq: Analysis published in the Lancet

The highly renowned medical research journal, The Lancet, has published an analysis of government under-reporting of British casualties in the Iraq war. The research, conducted by a Professor Sheila Bird of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at Cambridge, illustrates that casualty figures are almost certain to be much higher than stated by John Reid, the Minister of Defence, and argues that the failure to properly count UK military casualties in Iraq must end.

In the absence of credible official figures, she first looks at estimations of casualties constructed using the deaths:total casualty ratio technique used by ourselves in our published estimates. However, rather than using previous published research data she chooses to go with data from the Iraq Casualty Count site and breaks down the casualty figures according to the different phases of the conflict.

She then points out some valid concerns with using the ratio estimation method and asks:

Against such statistical imperatives for improved accountability, who or what thwarts the UK's competent compilation and dissemination of statistics by which to monitor death rates and casualty rates for UK military personnel deployed to Iraq?

As she tries to collate the necessary data herself part of the answer starts to appear. Amazingly, the Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) could not even provide her with monthly or quarterly numbers (to the nearest 100) of military personnel deployed to Iraq, because, they claim, the figures are not held electronically. However, these data were in fact later revealed in Hansards as a written answer on Feb 13, 2006 to Jeremy Corbyn, a Member of Parliament who had asked the Secretary of State for Defence what the total strength of UK forces in Iraq had been.

Despite her efforts, no information on total casualties, as distinct from fatalities, was gained, and the rest of her Lancet letter is devoted to looking at differences in mortality rates at different phases of the conflict.

The apparent failure of the MOD to monitor casualty rates is truly breathtaking. While such apparent gross negligence appears unlikely to be the result of actual incompetence, the political convenience of shrouding casualty figures in a constructed fog of war is obvious.

Our attempts to gain information on casualties via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appears now to be of even greater importance following the publication of these research findings. Whilst our approach has also been temporarily thwarted, this is not an issue that is going to go away. In principle, the tools exist within our democratic system to find this out - we intend to keep digging.

For background see:-

11th Sep, 2005: MOD figures reveal one thousand British casualties in Iraq to date

Feb 20, 2006: British casualties in Iraq: MOD stalls the release of figures under the freedom of information act

Feb 24th 2006: MOD letter reveals John Reid issued misleading figures on British casualties in Iraq

Update: From June 2007 we are now maintaining a regularly updated graphical analysis of British casualties - from both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan