On the doing of body counts

The quote for the day –

Lieutenant General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during his time as head of US Central Command, once announced, “We don’t do body counts.”

He, of course, had nothing on a certain former first lady:

NOFX

But back to the story.

… five years after Bush and Tony Blair launched the invasion of Iraq against the wishes of a majority of UN members, no one knows how many Iraqis have died. We do know that more than two million have fled abroad. Another 1.5 million have sought safety elsewhere in Iraq. We know that the combined horror of car bombs, suicide attacks, sectarian killing and disproportionate US counter-insurgency tactics and air strikes have produced the worst humanitarian catastrophe in today’s world. But the exact death toll remains a mystery.

There is no shortage of estimates, but they vary enormously. The Iraqi ministry of health initially tried to keep a count based on morgue records but then stopped releasing figures under pressure from the US-supported government in the Green Zone. The director of the Baghdad morgue, already under stress because of the mounting horror of his work, was threatened with death on the grounds that by publishing statistics he was causing embarrassment. The families of the bereaved wanted him to tell the truth, but like other professionals he came to the view that he had to flee Iraq.

An independent UK-based research group, calling itself the Iraq Body Count (IBC), collates all fatality reports in the media where there are two or more sources as well as figures from hospitals and other official sources. At least four household surveys have been done asking Iraqis to list the family members they have lost. The results have then been extrapolated to Iraq’s total population to give a nationwide estimate.

The results range from just under 100,000 dead to well over a million. Inevitably, the issue has become a political football, with the Bush administration, the British government and other supporters of the US-led occupation seizing on the lowest estimates and opponents on the highest.

It is a long and fantastic article about the trouble involved in trying to get estimates of dead civilians when the corporation making them won’t co-operate. For those of you who’ve not been to the site of the Iraq Body Count, you really should:

247 dead: Last week’s death toll (as counted by Iraq Body Count)

Monday March 10 – 34 dead
Including Dr Khalid Nasir, the only neurosurgeon in Basra; sheikh Thair Ibrahim and his five-year-old niece, killed by a female suicide bomber; 10 people killed by a suicide bomber; and a mother and son killed by gunmen.

Tuesday March 11 – 90 dead
Including a couple kidnapped the week before; 16 members of a family returning from a funeral, killed by a roadside bomb; three killed in a US air strike; and 20 people whose bodies were found in a mass grave.

Wednesday March 12 – 24 dead
Including a 10-year-old girl killed by US forces; five shot and beheaded at a checkpoint; and three truck drivers killed in a roadside bomb.

Thursday March 13 – 39 dead
Including a journalist killed by gunmen; 18 people killed by a car bomb in Baghdad; a 15-year-old girl shot dead by police; and Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho.

Friday March 14 – 15 dead
Including ex-footballer Munther Khalaf, killed outside his home by a group of armed men; a street sweeper killed by a roadside bomb; an Iraqi interpreter, killed by a suicide bomber; and the son of the chief of al-Kharaj tribes, killed during a raid by joint forces.

Saturday March 15 – 19 dead
Including Hussein Awda, killed by gunmen; three brothers; and an Iraqi contractor, Athir Ibrahim.

Sunday March 16 – 26 dead
Including two policemen killed in an armed assault and 16 others whose bodies were found, including that of an 11-year-old boy.

icasualties.org is another site worth visiting. Amongst other things, it might just remind you of how many non-civilians have died, also (since surveys here in the US show fewer people than ever know these numbers – rather relevant ones, one would think – 3988 confirmed by the DOD, by the by):

people press

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