Although Defense Secretary Rumsfeld routinely dismisses the importance of noncombatant casualties—in May 2003 he told reporter Helen Thomas “we don’t track them (Iraqi dead)”—it is an indisputable fact that innocent men, women and children are the most common victims of war.
Efforts to substantiate the number of Iraqi dead have include www.iraqbodycount. net, a website which culls information from press reports. At last count the project estimates that between 15,000 to 20,000 individuals were directly killed by coalition forces. The site however does not conjecture on indirect deaths caused by disruption to the Iraqi public health infrastructure.
A group of British physicians were not satisfied with such estimates and conducted a cross-sectional survey in Iraq comparing the mortality rate 14.6 months before the invasion in March 2003 with the mortality rate for the 17.8 months afterwards. This rigorously peer reviewed study was published in the Lancet
The Lancet doctors found that violence related deaths went up 58-fold after the invasion. Violence became the leading cause of death immediately following the US invasion, followed by myocardial infarction and stroke, whereas prior to the war, myocardial infarction and stroke had been the leading causes of death.
The authors conclude that there were 98,000 extra deaths in the postwar period. They conclude that the “survey indicates that the death toll associated with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is probably about 100,000 people, and may be much higher.” The study ended prior to the U.S. campaign against Fallouja where untold thousands were killed and the city essentially destroyed.
Please note that this count does not include morbidity. Nor does the Lancet article include the tragic loss of 1500 Americans killed in battle, nor the 20,000-plus American injured. The articles specifically focused on mortality—and not on the maimed, nor the brain damaged, nor the spinal cord injured, nor the amputees nor those who died from common treatable infections for want of adequate medical care. (Add to Iraq’s burden—an estimated 500,000 children who died due to the sanction program for the ten years prior to the war).
American officials rarely refer to noncombatant injuries or deaths. When Bush administration officials express concern about casualties, it is universally limited to American or Iraqi government combatants. (American deaths are nonetheless concealed through banning photographs of returning coffins). Yet, thanks to the internet, it’s not difficult to find terrifying images from the ground war.
Yet the vast majority of Americans remain ignorant of the tremendous human costs of the war; certainly, the mainstream press does not communicate the devastation. However, if Americans are oblivious to the consequences of their actions, people in the Arab world are not. If the war has succeeded in nothing else, it has, as predicted, vastly increased the hostility of the world to America.
Among the many tragedies of war, the most fundamental is the inevitable human suffering and loss of life. Nevertheless, we are today tasting the bitter fruits of war here at home. President Bush’s staggering FY 2006
budget of $500 billion for the military and Iraq is taking from education and health care, housing and the environment, transportation and scientific research—the cornerstones of a healthy society. Given this administration’s creation of the largest deficit in history, our children will also be paying for this war
for generations. And, here at home, new stories of American soldiers involved in torture and “mercy killings” seem to appear every week. Even our cherished civil liberties are now under threat in pursuit of an unending “war on terror.”
I ask, what is becoming of our America?