Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, November 26, 2007

  Why is the death toll way down in Iraq?

There’s an assumption built into that question, accepted uncritically even by many who should know better. And who’s keeping the death toll? Consider this report today from McClatchy:

Gunmen in Baghdad's Shaab neighborhood stormed into a house not far from an Iraqi police checkpoint and killed 11 members of an Iraqi journalist's family, witnesses and journalism organizations reported Monday.

Iraqi police and U.S. military officials said they had no record of the killings.

In August Patrick Cockburn offered this definitive account of the matter.

The real death toll

More lies have been told about casualties in Iraq and the general level of violence there than at almost any time since the First World War. In that conflict, a British minister remarked sourly that he suspected the military authorities of keeping three sets of casualty figures: "One to deceive the Cabinet, a second to deceive the people and a third to achieve themselves."

The American attitude to Iraqi civilian casualties is along much the same lines. The Baker-Hamilton report drawn up by senior non-partisan Democrats and Republicans last year examined one day in July 2006, when the US military had reported 93 attacks on US and Iraqi forces. Investigation by US intelligence agencies revealed that the real figure was about 1,100.

The Iraqi government has sought to conceal civilian casualty figures by banning journalists from the scenes of bombings, and banned hospitals and the Health Ministry from giving information. In July, AP reported, 2,024 Iraqis died violently, a 23 per cent rise on June, which was the last month for which the government gave a figure.

This is almost certainly an underestimate. In a single bombing in the district of Karada in Baghdad on 26 July, Iraqi television and Western media cited the police as saying that there were 25 dead and 100 wounded. A week later, a list of the names of 92 dead and 127 wounded, compiled by municipal workers, was pinned up on shuttered shopfronts in the area.

The US military began the war by saying that it was not keeping count of Iraqi civilians killed by its troops. It often describes bodies found after a US raid as belonging to insurgents when the local Iraqi police say they are civilians killed by the immense firepower deployed by the American forces. Almost the only time a real investigation of such killings is carried out is when the local staff of Western media outlets are among the dead.

crossposted from

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