Iraqis Forced to Pay a Horrific Human Price for US Unilateralism in the Region

Cape Times (South Africa), September 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

Iraqis Forced to Pay a Horrific Human Price for US Unilateralism in the Region


BYLINE: Ebrahim Bham

As the world is focusing on the number of soldiers killed and the financial resources attached to the occupation in Iraq, the humanitarian side of the war is forgotten.

The mounting financial cost of the American war effort in Iraq is dwarfed by its rising humanitarian impact. Evidence of the scant interest in the impact the war has on human lives is displayed in disputes between government agencies, NGOs and human rights organisations about the actual number of Iraqi civilians killed.

During November 2006, the United States's Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on the contradictory numbers of civilian deaths given in Iraq. The CRS indicates that, although the US Department of Defence often releases accurate statistics on the number of US soldiers killed, or those wounded in action, it does not do the same for civilian deaths.

For such statistics one has to turn to non-profit or media watchdogs for estimates. This could be read either as a sign of ignorance, or total disinterest in the impact the ongoing war has on Iraqi citizens.

The CRS report gives a breakdown of civilian death estimates provided by different organisations. These include: Iraq Body Count estimates that between 47 016 and 52 142 civilians died between March 19, 2003 and November 14, 2006; the Iraq Casualty Count estimates 19 480 died from March 1, 2005 to November 14, 2006; the Iraq Minister of Health estimates 150 000 people died from March 19, 2003 to November 10 2006; while a study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, argues that between 426 369 and 793 663 civilians have died during the war so far.

It is obvious such widely divergent body counts can only be interpreted as an indication of the extent to which both the occupying powers and the Iraq administration are failing to comprehend and keep track of the realities of war and its devastation.

In stark contrast to the guesstimates of civilian deaths, the US Department of Defence provides accurate and up-to-date reports on military casualties, numbers of wounded soldiers, and those evacuated from Iraq because of psycho-logical disorders.

If one is to apply a simple exercise in logic, the number of 35 000 wounded US soldiers should make one wonder about the extent of civilian casualties from military operations; suicide bomb attacks; roadside bombings; reprisals; and action by sectarian warlords. How many Iraqi civilians have been turned into walking wounded?

The human impact of conditions in Iraq should become the driving force behind international efforts to find a solution to the war.

As the US increases its military budgets, it is likely that the statistical curve of "collateral damage" will rise as well. This leads to the second hidden cost of the war in Iraq. US military spending is the largest item on the Federal budget. The projected defence budget for 2008, together with supplementary financing for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, may push the budget to a staggering $647. …

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Iraqis Forced to Pay a Horrific Human Price for US Unilateralism in the Region
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