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Body counts

Remember all the pre-war predictions that thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of civilians would be killed in our attack on Iraq? According to the anti-war "researchers" behind the Iraq Body Count -- people who have been known to inflate their research for political effect -- there have been about 1000 Iraqi civilian casualties since the war began. About 1000 civilians were killed in one day in the Congo last week. There is no Congo Body Count website.

This is not to say that civilian casualties in Iraq are anything other than a tragedy, but it does put the numbers into perspective. And it does put the biases of those counting these Iraqi deaths into perspective (as if they weren't obvious already). It's not civilian lives they care about; it's only whether they can blame the United States for them. These totals are amazingly low, but do we hear that? No; we hear about an attack on a Baghdad market which the U.S. may or may not have been responsible for.

I anticipate one possible rebuttal: that numbers don't tell the story of the human tragedy. When someone dies it isn't a statistic; the people at that market had families, and those families suffer even if the U.S. is being careful. Yes, yes, yes, whatever. So if it isn't about statistics, why have the Iraq Body Count at all?


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Comments (3)

Dave S:

Right, David. There was also no Iraq Body Count before coalition forces went in there, as though Iraqis who Saddam Hussein is allowed to kill as a result of the world's inaction don't count. Yes, every civilian death is a tragedy, but without some frame of reference the numbers are pretty useless. I am glad someone is undertaking the effort, though, since it seems like their work will be difficult to replicate once the war is over.

One thing to remember, of course, is that this number does not (or is not supposed to) include injured people. I've seen some truly depressing hospital footage on CNN (actually cnn.com) of Iraqis who have lost limbs or have been otherwise seriously injured during the current conflict, but it's hard to know how many of the "hundreds" that are pouring into local hospitals are seriously injured, and how many of them are actually civilians. An under-reported aspect of the conflict (or any conflict), IMO, but there is probably no way to report it well.

If I remember my history, more than 10 times this number of people were killed in single days of bombing in Tokyo and Dresden during World War II. The fact that people with such open anti-war aims can arrive at such a low number makes me feel pretty good about the way this war has been carried out thus far--something I was genuinely concerned about going into it.

Dave S:

Also, forgot to mention this above--just looking at the Iraq Body Count's homepage, two things jump out--one is the fact that they've taken Tommy Franks' quote out of context.

First off, he was talking about military casualties on the other side. And the actual quote, as far as I know, was, "You know we don't do body counts," which sounds a bit less defiant then when you leave off the first two words.

Furthermore, the picture of the cluster bomb on their main page implies that such weapons are being used by coalition forces right now in Iraq. But there is no source, date, or location given for the picture.


Apparently 135,000 people died in the night of the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. Twice as many as in Hiroshima. Yikes!


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