Showing posts with label Iraqi Casualties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraqi Casualties. Show all posts

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Chilcot Report has Ignored Evidence on Intelligence Manipulation

While this blog focuses on a neutral assessment of issues around monitoring and recording the casualties war, it is, in the current circumstances, hard not to comment on other aspects of the Chilcot Report

One of the most baffling findings of the committee was that the UK government was not, despite all the evidence to the contrary, involved in deliberate manipulation and miss-representation of intelligence in the run up to war. While there are probably many factors driving the committee's decision, a quick couple of searches of the inquiry web site provides some parts of the answer. OK, lets try Katherine Gun...

And here's the result for Valerie Plame...

However, Hollywood dares to tread where Sir John does not. Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins will be shortly be starring in Official Secrets, a film about Katherine Gun, who was a Mandarin translator for GCHQ in Cheltenham. The film describes what happened to her when she blew the whistle on the illegal activities undertaken by the British to try and manipulate the UN Security Council into endorsing the invasion. 

And Fair Game, the story of US manipulation of information on nuclear weapons in the Niger 'yellow cake' scandal was already released in 2011 (starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who played Valerie Plame). While in the later case the protagonists are American, President Bush stated in his state of the union speech in Jan 2003 that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." An accusation against Iraq that was proven to be false. 

Why Sir John and his committee have chosen to ignore the clear evidence of British involvement in manipulating intelligence (as well as sexing it up) is something that may only emerge if Blair or others are put on trial. Unfortunately, the Chilcot Report has not delivered closure but raised additional questions over the extent and depth of establishment denial and cover up. Further and more robust action is required.

Accounting for Civilian Casualties in Iraq: Another British Failure

Why was so little effort made by the British to document the number of casualties caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq? And why was little done to ensure they were minimised while much was done to discredit attempts to measure the war's impact?

Chilcot* says this:

*[p29, Executive Summary]

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Chilcot Report - At last

The long, long, overdue Chilcot Report on British involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq will finally be published on Thursday 6th July.

The enquiry was began in 2009 and has lasted over 7 years. Pre-release briefings suggest that the report will be difficult to read due to its excessive length, and that it will distribute blame so widely and thinly that in the end no one is held accountable. But let’s wait and see. Few people would wish their names to go down in history next to the author of the infamous Hutton Report, so perhaps Sir John Chilcot has managed to produce something more credible and useful?

The report publication has certainly been causing concern amongst those most directly responsible for British involvement. Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, for example, have been working feverishly to ensure that the current labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is deposed before the report is published, but with one day to go it looks like they have failed. Corbyn has stated his intention to call for legal action against Blair if justified by the Chilcot Report, so the stakes are high.

To what extent the report will cover issues around British military casualty reporting, the different methods used for documentation of Iraqi casualties, and accountability for military policy and practice remains unclear. Likewise, it is not clear whether the report will address issues such as British special forces involvement in large scale undercover assassination campaigns, and British involvement in the mistreatment and torture of prisoners of war. So the scope of the report as well as its contents will be of wide interest.

Finally, it is interesting to see the BBC being remarkably robust in its criticism of the British involvement over the last week. Jeremy Bowen’s reports and references to the Chilcot report are getting airtime. Their Panorama documentary is also a good primer and reminder of some of the human issues that the weighty Chilcot Report will be addressing. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WikiLeaks: UN High Commisioner for Human Rights calls for war crimes investigation

Following the release of the Iraq War Logs the The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an investigation of torture in Iraq by both the Iraqi and US authorities. 
"The information adds to the High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s concerns that serious breaches of international human rights law have occurred in Iraq, including summary executions of a large number of civilians and torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
The US and Iraqi authorities should take necessary measures to investigate all allegations made in these reports and to bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings, summary executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses, in line with obligations under international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which both the US and Iraq are parties."[OHCHR]

Update 27.10.2010: Members of the European Parliament have demanded that European leaders challenge the US president, Barack Obama, over WikiLeaks' disclosures of alleged torture in Iraq. They want the issue to be raised at the EU-US summit agenda next month.
"Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals group in the European parliament, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration had to investigate the "abuses" revealed by WikiLeaks.

"This will obviously be a sensitive topic for the US administration, but partners in the transatlantic alliance must be clear on common rules of engagement in times of conflict if we are to retain any moral standing in the world," Verhofstadt said

"Whilst the allegations concern actions undertaken during the previous Bush administration, it will be incumbent on the present one to investigate the abuses, pursue those complicit and lay down stricter guidelines for conduct in combat."

"The US remains a hugely important ally in terms of security. We cannot afford to allow our standards to slip so far that respect for the rule of law is ignored." [Guardian]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leaked War Logs Shed Limited Light on Iraqi Death Toll

With the publication of the substantial Iraq war logs by WikiLeaks last week, there was understandable optimism that this would provide a definitive insight into the conduct of the war and its impact on the population of Iraq. [WikiLeaks] Undoubtedly, the logs provide unprecedented access to military records of a conflict and their analysis by the Guardian has contributed greatly to our knowledge of the war. [The War Logs]

The data is being used by a number of organisations.  For example, the Iraq Body Count project is a media reporting based method that has documented deaths in the Iraq war from its inception.[IBC]  Whilst they a use a method that is widely assumed by epidemiologists to result in the substantial under-reporting of casualties, they have estimated that the war logs will allow them to record an additional 15,000 deaths on their database. [CIF]

The War Logs are indeed detailed and highly important.  However, they can not comprise a definitive record of the human impact of the war and attempts to use them to generate a definitive number of civilian casualties are misplaced. [BBC] Their inappropriateness for this purpose arises for several reasons:
  • The logs represent records from the US military only. Files from UK and other coalition forces are not represented.  This will exclude, for example, the numerous killings undertaken by British special forces.
  • The records only document reports lodged by low and mid-ranking uniformed US military personal . Deaths resulting from CIA, US special forces operations and covert operations are therefore largely excluded.
  • Activities of the numerous mercenaries employed by private security companies are not usually documented. So, for example, the killing of civilians and combatants by Blackwater, Aegis, and other companies are likely to be heavily under represented.
  • Even when considering the completeness of the reporting by the uniformed US military there are substantial gaps in reporting.  For example, casualties resulting from the two large scale assaults on Fallujah by US forces in 2004. In an interview on Al Jassera on Sunday Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks said that he thought only about 50% of incidents were reported in the war logs.
  • The result of conflict between different Iraqi groups is likely to be heavily under reported in the war logs. 
  • The low ratio of injured to killed implies a persistent under-reporting of those wounded in the violence.
The overall story that is told by the war logs may be deeply shocking to some of the supporters of the invasion in the west, but has been reported as being nothing new to most Iraqis. [AFP] The political consequences of the data release are still unfolding in Iraq and elsewhere.

Even in the UK, the war logs have led to a call from within the coalition government for investigation of the various documented war crimes committed by British forces and their connivance in torture.

Whilst the war logs cannot come close to painting a complete picture of the human cost of the Iraq invasion, they just might contribute to a permanent change in the more general perception of war and require proponents to more carefully justify its initiation.

Note added: A powerful Channel 4 Dispatches Documentary has explored the contents of the War Logs. 'Iraq's Secret War Files' can be watched here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Estimating the number of civilian deaths from armed conflicts: How to fill the information void?

A research paper on estimating civilian deaths during armed conflict has recently been published in The Lancet medical journal. The paper looks at conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan and a new method for estimating civilian fatalities. This involved building a statistical model from the results of surveys that measured mortality and met certain quality criteria. In all, 107 surveys reported mortality data from Darfur between 2003 and 2008 and the researchers were able to include 63 of these results in their statistical model. [The Lancet]

In an accompanying commentary the limitations of the available data and analysis approach is discussed. Checchi points out that although the number of surveys available from Darfur seems large, they included only 16% of person-time at risk. This, he argues, is an indicator of the information gap that remains to be filled in nearly all large scale crises. Further, "..this limitation suggests the usefulness of mapping information coverage in real time to draw attention to regions where information is lacking or outdated, and to coordinate efforts to gather data. A corollary initiative would be to track the number and location of conflict-affected people in real time." [The Lancet]

What is striking is the paucity of mortality survey data collected on the conflicts covered by this site, namely Afghanistan and Iraq, compared to that in Darfur. Between 2007-2009, the period in Afghanistan when fighting escalated markedly, no mortality survey data has been gathered. Attempts to document civilian fatalities rely on case-by-case investigations by organisations such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commissions [AIHRC]. Such approaches are almost inevitably going to result in partial coverage and under-estimation of the fatality burden. In addition, fatalities represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the total casualty burden, and there seems to be no attempt at all to try and estimate this larger figure in the civilian population.

As Checchi says in his introduction:
"Imagine that you are helping a population cope with the health effects of armed conflict, but have no information about whether their health is improving or not, or whether your programmes adequately address their burden of disease.

...Systematic measurement, analysis, and programmatic use of essential health indicators (mortality rate, prevalence of malnutrition, and coverage of essential services such as vaccination, and water and sanitation) remain the exceptions, despite being predicated in various manuals, policy documents, and meetings."
There are, of course, many reasons why it is so difficult for public health professionals to collect and document information of the health impacts of conflicts such as Afghanistan. However, in cases where initiation of the conflict has been actioned or facilitated by the UK government it must surely have a special responsibility to ensure that reliable data on health impacts are collected and made publicly available, so that humanitarian relief efforts can be appropriately planned. When access by independent scientists is made impossible by insecurity then that role, arguably, should be temporarily assigned to the military. Embedded-journalists are of course notorious for producing one-sided and partial coverage of war news. Could embedded-epidemiologists, following transparent and internationally recognised approaches produce credible data? Its a big question, but given the massive information gap that currently exists, it must surely be worth exploring.

(NB The side bar links to other key research articles and data sources have been updated, with the removal of some dead links and re-focusing of others on the most relevant pages.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

British Withdrawal from Basra: Impact on Casualties and the Chilcot Enquiry

The Iraq War Enquiry has recently heard some details regarding the widely known, but often denied, ceasefire that was negotiated by the British with the al-Mahdi army in 2007. This halted the heavy and persistent rise in British casualties that was occurring at the time. Following the conclusion of the ceasefire the British then withdrew from Basra City at the start of September 2007. The successful conclusion of the negotiations avoided the British having to withdraw under fire.

To reflect this public admission of the negotiated ceasefire the annotation of the graph of British fatalities and serious injuries casualties has been amended. The graph illustrates just what difficulties British forces were experiencing prior to the cease fire and how important those negotiations were in preventing further loss of life. The graph has also been updated on the main Iraq monitoring page.

Graph of monthly British combat casualties in Iraq war

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Over 100 Civilians Die in Baghdad Bomb Blasts

A day after the 100th British soldier died this year in Afghanistan a series of coordinated bomb attacks killed more than 100 people in Baghdad.

The attack happened as officials announced that delayed Iraqi national elections would take place on March 6. the series of at least 4 blasts also left around 200 injured. [Times Online]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Iraq Bomb Attacks Indicate War is Far from Over

During August, hundreds of people were killed in indiscriminate attacks in many parts of the Iraq. The hundreds of civilian casualties, in addition to major property losses, illustrated that the war in Iraq is far from over for the people who live there and the many foreign troops and mercenaries still fighting there more than six years after the invasion.
"The level of insecurity in Iraq remains high and should not be accepted as somehow 'normal' or unavoidable," said Juan-Pedro Schaerer, head of the ICRC delegation for Iraq. In the governorates of Baghdad, Ninewa and Diyala, many Iraqis live in constant fear for their lives whenever they leave their houses, as anyone could be hit simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. [ICRC]
As United States Vice-President Joe Biden visited Baghdad on Tuesday mortars or rockets landed near the US embassy inside the Green Zone. While the US still has 130,000 troops in Iraq, almost twice the number in Afghanistan, US troop levels are due to be reduced to about 50,000 by this time next year. [BBC]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Undercounting of Casualties by Omission and Exclusion

The military death tolls generally reported for in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are notable for two omissions. Firstly, the casualty burden suffered by the large number of combatants fighting against the US/UK/NATO presence are never fully considered. Secondly, the toll exacted on mercenaries working for private companies is usually excluded.

Bernd Debusmann, in a column for Reuters reports, for example, that the US military death toll in the two wars stood at 5,157 in the second week of September. However, to get the true picture he argues that at least 1,360 private contractors working for the U.S. should be added to this figure. There is a growing dependence on private contractors in the conduct of both these wars and mercenaries now outnumber the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

Similar data for British forces seems hard to obtain but these exclusions from official statistics must be born in mind when assessing the human cost of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


Friday, August 15, 2008

British Lay the Ground for Major Troop Withdrawals from Iraq

In a move, apparently designed create the perceptions necessary for a major troop withdrawals of British troops, a senior commander has been talking to the media about improvements in Basra. With the British army struggling to maintain the capabilities to fight effectively in two medium scale campaigns the need to withdraw more troops from Iraq is pressing. [BBC]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Remembering Iraq on World Refugee Day

On June 20th it is World Refugee Day [UNHCR]. Amnesty International are calling for notice to be given to the fact that there are now almost two million Iraqi refugees, fleeing murder, kidnap, torture and ill treatment, the majority of which are now living in Syria and Jordan. [Amnesty International]

They point out that international assistance for Iraqi refugees is desperately needed, due to inadequate contributions to UN agencies working with refugees. In May this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made a fresh appeal for increased funding for its Iraq work. Citing a shortfall of $127 million for assistance programmes, they raised the prospect of essential health and food assistance programs being reduced, which in turn may force many Iraqis into further destitution and increase the likelihood of higher malnutrition rates and increased child labour [UNHCR].

To end on a brighter note, Iraqi oud (lute) player Naseer Shamma has raised more than US$ 24,000 for UNHCR's Iraqi refugee programme with a concert at the Damascus Opera House [UNHCR].

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ICRC Reports on the Ongoing Fighting in Sadr City

ICRC 23.04.08

“Almost a month after the outbreak of armed clashes pitting Coalition and Iraqi forces against the Mehdi Army, the situation in Sadr City, in eastern Baghdad, is putting further strain on the civilian population,” says Patrick Youssef, head of the sub-delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baghdad. “The clashes that began on 25 March did not let up until they eased briefly on 12 April. However, the lull in the fighting did not give the population enough time to stock up on food and water or to seek appropriate medical care.”

Al Jamila market, one of the largest in Sadr City, was entirely destroyed by the fighting. The market used to provide enough supplies to cover everyday needs in Sadr City. People are now short of food, especially as prices of fresh vegetables have increased considerably.

According to ICRC staff in Baghdad, who are in permanent contact with hospitals and health officials, several hospitals have exhausted their stocks of medical supplies as a result of the ongoing fighting.

The ICRC has had difficulty transporting food and medicines where they are needed because of the ongoing fighting.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The US Surge Revisited: What's the evidence for decreased casualties after one year of troop deployment?

In September last year we published a critique of the available data on the impact of the US 'surge' in Iraq. Comparing the figures for US coalition casualties with the data on attacks presented by General Petraeus to the US congress it was evident that things just did not add up. At that stage, in mid September 2007, US casualties had not declined and there was no evidence of a decrease in civilian casualties either. But now, after more than a full year of data has become available on the 'surge' (Feb 2007 - Mar 2008) what is the evidence for an improvement in the casualty burden?

Our updated graph of US Coalition fatalities (non-Iraqi troops only) shows that from mid September 2007 onwards daily fatalities have, in fact, markedly declined. In February 2008 an average of 1.03 deaths occurred per day compared to 3.04 per day in Feb 2007. For March, these figures were 1.26 and 2.65 respectively. This does suggest that conflict levels have fallen substantially. However, it should be noted that some of the decrease in foreign troop deaths may have been due to an increase in the number of active Iraqi units fighting within the US Coalition.

Figures for civilian fatalities are much harder to assess due to the substantial challenges faced in collecting reliable data. We are planning to publish a detailed review of this soon. However, the available trend data does indicate a significant fall. Good news it appears. A major remaining policy issue of course is to what extent the 'US surge' can account for these apparent improvements. The role of the Mahdi Army cease fire and the 'Anbar Awakening' are widely acknowledged to have been critical factors. Future political developments may reveal to what extent these have been responsible.

Data updated 21.04.08

Saturday, March 29, 2008

British ground forces join fighting in Basra as ICRC voice concerns over impact on civilians

British ground forces have joined the fighting in Basra to bolster the offensive by Iraqi government forces against the Mehdi Army. [BBC]

On the same day the International Committe of the Red Cross is concerned about the humanitarian impact of continued fighting in Basra and Baghdad. Its staff in the two cities say that many people are running out of food and water and most shops are reported to be closed. The supply of electricity in Basra and in parts of Baghdad is intermittent or has been cut and hospitals are running out of medical stocks, food and fuel.

Patients' families are reportedly bringing their own small generators to some hospitals in the capital to ensure sufficient power supplies during treatment. Many medical workers are unable to reach hospitals because of the continuing fighting. [ICRC]

A spokesman for the British army, Maj Holloway, said that the action against militiamen in the Basra area was a "complicated operation". "I think we need to be prepared for this to run for a while", he said. [BBC]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years and Counting

Its five years since the invasion of Iraq began. Over the next two weeks we will be posting an updated analysis of data on civilian casualties, the impact of the the US 'surge' and our regular updates on British casualties, both there and in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, a piece in the Guardian provides a good overview of what, perhaps, is the most burning question of today:
What is the real death toll in Iraq?
The Americans learned one lesson from Vietnam: don't count the civilian dead. As a result, no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed in the five years since the invasion. Estimates put the toll at between 100,000 and one million, and now a bitter war of numbers is raging.

Monday, March 17, 2008

ICRC Report Refocuses Attention on Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

Geneva (ICRC) - Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country is among the most critical in the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report issued today.

Because of the conflict, millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to clean water, sanitation and health care. The current crisis is exacerbated by the lasting effects of previous armed conflicts and years of sanctions.

“Better security in some parts of Iraq must not distract attention from the continuing plight of millions of people who have essentially been left to their own devices,” said Béatrice Mégevand Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. “Among them are displaced and refugee families, and those who have returned to their homes, children, elderly people, disabled people, households headed by women and families of detainees.”

Although security has improved in some parts of the country, Iraqis continue to be killed or injured on a daily basis in fighting and attacks. Civilians are often deliberately targeted, in complete disregard for the rules of international humanitarian law. In many families there is at least one person who is sick, injured, missing or detained, or who has been forced to flee from home and live far away.

Health care, water and sanitation services and electricity supplies remain largely inadequate. Hospitals lack qualified staff and basic drugs, and therefore struggle to provide suitable care for the injured. Many health-care facilities have not been properly maintained, and the care they provide is often too expensive for ordinary Iraqis.

The water supply has continued to deteriorate over the past year. Millions of people have been forced to rely on insufficient supplies of poor-quality water as water and sewage systems suffer from a lack of maintenance and a shortage of engineers.

The full report (pdf) can be downloaded here

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turkish Invasion of Northern Iraq: Concerns Over Casualties and Destabilisation

Turkish military action into Northern Iraq has raised fears of a sharp increase in casualties in this part of Iraq that had been previously relatively peaceful.

The Independent
A new crisis has exploded in Iraq after Turkish troops, supported by attack planes and Cobra helicopters, yesterday launched a major ground offensive into Iraqi Kurdistan.
BBC Online
Iraq's foreign minister has warned that any escalation of Turkey's operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq could destabilise the region. Hoshyar Zebari told the BBC Iraq did not approve the "limited" raid into a remote, uninhabited area, and said it should end "as soon as possible".

Both Turkey and the rebels have given conflicting casualty figures...

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the situation. "The protection of civilian life on both sides of the border remains the paramount concern," he said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rehabilitation under fire: Health care in Iraq 2003-2007

A new report by Medact, a global health charity, is being launched today at a meeting at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The report focuses on the failure of the occupying forces and their governments to protect health and help rebuild a health system based on primary health care principles. Researched and written by Iraqi, UK and US health professionals and academics, it assesses the current state of the health system: the impact of insecurity on the workforce and the chronic lack of supplies, medicines and equipment. It also outlines the urgent measures needed to improve health and health services and contains a special focus on the neglected area of mental health care.

The full report can be downloaded here

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Government of Iraq Mortality Survey Published

Results from the Iraq Family Health Survey (IFHS) have just been published online by the high profile New England Journal of Medicine. The survey was designed as a nationally representative survey of 9345 households and collected information on deaths in the household since June 2001. The paper has been authored by a writing committee composed mainly of members of the Iraqi Government, together with the World Health Organisation.

The results indicate that from January 2002 to June 2006 there were 1325 reported deaths in the households included in the survey. They calculated that this mortality rate translates into an estimate of 151,000 (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) violent deaths from March 2003 to June 2006.

The authors conclude that violence is a leading cause of death for Iraqi adults and was the main cause of death in men between the ages of 15 and 59 years during the first 3 years after the 2003 invasion.

The results are substantially lower than other recent survey-based estimates. Nonetheless, the authors conclude that their data points to a massive death toll which is only one of the health and human consequences of an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

No doubt there will be a robust debate over the next few weeks over the comparative reliability of the different published survey results. One immediate observation regarding this latest survey is that the reported death rates change little over the years 2003 to 2006 - while the security situation over this perid was in fact subject to great variation. Slightly odd. Will continue to post on the expected debate as it happens.