The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] War's cost to Iraq should be at core of discussion

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

Hi Everyone,

Like Colin, I've been awaiting a follow-up to the AP's "Iraq's Health Ministry
Ordered To Stop Counting Civilian Dead"
( The original story got
some play in the US (USAToday and a Boston Globe comment[1]), but overall made
little impact.

In February when IraqBodyCount's estimate of civilian deaths reached 10,000
(high-end), the Independent noted the AP report [2] as did Media Lens [3].
However, these reports didn't update the information, and a Google news search
(variations on 'civilian Moshen Shabandar') turns up nothing substantive.

By the way, IBC's counts are consistently ignored here ... perhaps unsurprising
to CASI members, who are painfully aware that Albright's boneheaded 'price is
worth it' comment went unremarked, and that UNICEF's excess death estimate
disappeared from coverage of the 1999 report.

Naomi Klein's recent Globe&Mail piece nailed it:  "To talk about the price of
the Iraq war strictly in terms of U.S. casualties and tax dollars is an
obscenity. Yes, Americans were lied to by their politicians. Yes, they are owed
answers. But the people of Iraq are owed a great deal more, and that enormous
debt belongs at the very centre of any civilized debate about the war."[4]

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

US evades blame for Iraqi deaths
By Derrick Z. Jackson, 12/12/2003
(email me for full article)

The terrible human cost of Bush and Blair's military adventure: 10,000 civilian

UK and US authorities discourage counting of deaths as a result of the conflict.
But academics are monitoring the toll and have identified a grim new milestone

David Randall

02/08/04: (The Independent) More than 10,000 civilians, many of them women and
children, have been killed so far in the Iraqi conflict, The Independent on
Sunday has learnt, making the continuing conflict the most deadly war for
non-combatants waged by the West since the Vietnam war more than 30 years ago.

The passing of this startling milestone will be recorded today by Iraq Body
Count, the most authoritative organisation monitoring the human cost of the war.
Since the invasion began in March, this group of leading academics and
campaigners has registered all civilian deaths in Iraq attributable to the
conflict. They do this in the absence of any counts by US, British, or Baghdad

Iraq Body Count's co-founder, John Sloboda, said: "This official disinterest
must end. We are now calling for an independent international tribunal to be set
up to establish the numbers of dead, the circumstances in which they were killed
and an appropriate and just level of compensation for the victims' families."

His call was backed by Bob Marshall Andrews, Labour MP for Medway. He said:
"These are figures which are airbrushed out of the political equation and yet
are central to whether it is possible to create a stable and democratic Iraq."

Iraq Body Count said last night that deaths are only recorded by them when
reported by at least two media outlets. Its leading researcher Hamit Dardagan
said that its careful, but necessarily incomplete, records are in contrast to
"the official indifference" to counting either the Iraqi lives lost or those
blighted by injuries.

Neither the US or British military, nor the Coalition Provisional Authority have
kept a record of Iraq civilian or military casualties, and Washington and London
have both rejected calls for them to compile such totals.

This attitude extends also to the provisional Iraqi government. Until late last
year, an official at the Iraqi Health Ministry, a Dr Nagham Mohsen, was
compiling casualty figures from hospital records. But, according to a barely
noticed Associated Press report, she was, in December, ordered by her immediate
superior, director of planning Dr Nazar Shabandar, to stop collating this data.
The health minister Dr Khodeir Abbas denied that this order was inspired or
encouraged by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Several other groups have attempted to make educated guesses of the war's true
total of dead and injured. Among them is Medact, a organisation of British
health professionals, most of whom are doctors. In November it published a
report on the war's casualties and health problems in post-conflict Iraq.
Omitted from this report was a suggestion that the total dead and wounded on
both sides could be as high as 150,000-200,000. But in the end it was felt that
the lack of scientific basis for this figure would undermine a carefully worded

One of the issues confusing any attempt to arrive at an accurate figure for the
war's toll is the unknown number of Iraqi military who died. This is in marked
contrast to the precise records of coalition service fatalities and injuries,
which are kept by service arm, age, circumstance, and, in the case of wounded,
by severity. Meanwhile, no one knows Iraqi military deaths to the nearest
20,000. Iraq Body Count concentrates on quantifiable civilian deaths.

On its website, the organisation says: "So far, in the 'war on terror' initiated
since 9/11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000
civilian deaths, not only the 10,000 in Iraq, but also 3,000-plus civilian
deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the
world's attention has moved on.

"Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the
USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide. Adding the official 9/11
death toll (2,976 on 29 October 2003) brings the total to just under 3,500."

Ali Abdul-Amir was one of many Iraqi civilians injured or killed by munitions
left behind or not cleared by both sides in the conflict. At 2pm on 3 May the
eight-year-old put a match to a piece of explosive ordnance outside a school in
al-Hay al-Askari, a neighbourhood of Nasiriyah. The explosion left him with
severe burns and shrapnel injuries (pictured left). Six days later in Baghdad,
Muhammad Keun Jiheli, 16, brought a piece of ordnance home to use for cooking
fuel. An explosion killed four members of his family. Muhammad suffered burns
over 72 per cent of his body, and Jamil Salem Hamid, also 16, received burns
over 54 per cent of his body.

Iraqi forces left behind more than 600,000 tons of munitions. Many had been
stored in civilian areas, and were not secured or cleared by coalition forces
quickly enough to prevent casualties. The town of al-Hilla was the worst
affected by cluster submunitions used in battle that failed to explode on impact
as intended. Easily discovered and picked up by children, they were still
causing death or injury months after the conflict ended.

Four-month-old Dina Jabir was the only survivor when American bombs fell on the
family home. Her father Zaid Ratha Jabir, 36, an engineer, and his family
returned to their home in al-Karrada, Baghdad, on the night of 7 April to gather
some belongings. They had been staying a mile away with Dina's great-uncle,
Sa'dun Hassan Salih, shown here holding the baby. A strike levelled the Jabir
home just after 9pm, killing six people. Dina was found the next day in a
neighbour's yard. She had broken arms and legs, shrapnel in her skull and
internal injuries, but was alive and would recover. The intended target,
Saddam's half-brother Watban Ibrahim Hasan, was captured alive a week later.

British forces caused dozens of civilian casualties when they used
ground-launched cluster munitions in and around Basra, including a strike in the
neighbourhood of Hay al-Zaitun on 25 March. Jamal Kamil Sabir, 25, lost his
right leg to a blast while crossing a bridge with his family. His nephew took
shrapnel in his knee and his wife still had shrapnel in her left leg two months
later because doctors were afraid to remove it while she was pregnant.
Submunitions had also fallen on al-Mishraq al-Jadid on 23 March, killing Iyad
Jassim Ibrahim, 26, sleeping in the front room of his home, and 10 relatives
with him.

MEDIA LENS: Public Opinion - No Value

2004-02-18 | In 1794, George Washington confided to Alexander Hamilton, a fellow
architect of the nascent US republic forged upon democratic ideals, that he had
"long since learned to hold public opinion of no value." [1] Just over a century
later, in 1898, US Senator Albert Beveridge publicly disparaged the notion "that
we ought not to govern a people without their consent." The "rule of liberty
that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the
governed," he declared, "applies only to those who are capable of
self-government. We govern the [native American] Indians without their consent,
we govern our children without their consent." [2]

These are but two examples of elite disdain for public opinion and genuine
democracy. The tradition is long and dishonourable, as Noam Chomsky, for
example, has repeatedly pointed out. [3]

In 2004, in continuance of the needs of power, the US occupation in Iraq is
certainly not about to relinquish its attempts to impose neo-colonial domination
and to allow true democracy. The natives, presumably, are just not "capable of
self-government". Accordingly, preparations for Iraqi elections need to be
carefully managed in advance. As Noah Feldman, a New York University law
professor and the Coalition Provisional Authority's constitutional law adviser,
told the New York Times: "If you move too fast, the wrong people could get
elected." Indeed, a poll in October 2003 by the Center for Research and
Strategic Studies found that 56 percent of respondents wanted an Islamic Iraq.
[4] Meanwhile, as civilians and US-trained security forces in Iraq continue to
suffer the brunt of spiralling violence, mainstream media continue to talk of
the "hope" that the US will be able "to hand over power by 30 June and extricate
its troops...from the Iraqi quagmire". [5]

Naomi Klein points out that the US 'handover of power' actually equates to
appointing approved candidates:

"Mr. Bremer wants his Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to appoint the
members of 18 regional organizing committees. The committees will then select
delegates to form 18 selection caucuses. These selected delegates will then
further select representatives to a transitional national assembly. The assembly
will have an internal vote to select an executive and ministers who will form
the new government of Iraq. That, Bush said in his address, constitutes 'a
transition to full Iraqi sovereignty.'" [6]

Fear of genuine democracy, at home and abroad, is a familiar theme in
establishment circles everywhere. Sometimes it slips out into the open.
Recently, Tony Blair said bluntly: "We can't end up having an inquiry into
whether the war [in Iraq] was right or wrong. That is something that we have got
to decide. We are the politicians." [7]

No independent inquiry will be allowed the possibility of judging whether
Blair's government was right or wrong to hitch its wagon to the Bush war
caravan. That would simply be political suicide given that public feelings of
scepticism, indeed outright betrayal, are running high. According to a recent
opinion poll, fully 54 per cent of the British population believe that Blair
lied over Iraq. An even higher proportion - 68 per cent - believe that the
forthcoming Butler inquiry into the failure to find WMDs in Iraq will be a
whitewash. [8]

The monitoring group conservatively estimates that over 10,000
Iraqi civilians have now died as a result of the invasion and occupation.
Neither the US or British military, nor the Coalition Provisional Authority,
have kept a record of Iraqi civilian or military casualties. Indeed, Washington
and London have both rejected calls for them to compile such totals. Until
December last year, Dr Nagham Mohsen, an official at the Iraqi Health Ministry,
was compiling casualty figures from hospital records. According to a barely
noticed Associated Press report, she was ordered to stop collating this data by
her immediate superior. The health minister Dr Khodeir Abbas denied that this
order was inspired or encouraged by the Coalition Provisional Authority. [9]

Adam Ingram, the UK defence minister, had already offered the following
ludicrous evasion as government policy: "Through very strict rules of
engagement, the use of precision munitions and the tactical methods employed to
liberate Iraq's major cities, we are satisfied that the coalition did everything
possible to avoid unnecessary casualties. We do not, therefore, propose to
undertake a formal review of Iraqi casualties sustained." [10]

The US-UK line that "unnecessary" casualties would be avoided wherever possible
has been a constant refrain in the attack on Iraq, just as it was in earlier
illegal attacks on Afghanistan in 2001 and the former Yugoslavia in 1999. The
government is "satisfied" and the case is thus closed.

Taking government pronouncements at face value, as ever, the BBC repeats the
propaganda: "the aim of the US and British is to reduce [civilian casualties] to
a minimum and to reduce damage to the civilian infrastructure to a minimum as
well". As "Shock and Awe" was about to be unleashed on Iraq, BBC defence
correspondent Jonathan Marcus was opining that "the level of casualties on both
sides will depend upon the degree of Iraqi resistance." [11] Presumably, any
deaths and injuries have little to do with the actions of the invading

But then mainstream journalists can be relied upon to provide useful cover for
"coalition" war crimes. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, for example, is
consumed by "Blair's personal tragedy"; namely: "the squandering of his
political capital over Iraq." [12] Toynbee fails to mention the personal tragedy
of vast numbers of Iraqis. Her response to a reader's challenge enters the canon
of stupefying journalistic glibness: "Well, in the end I guess Iraq will judge
whether it was worth it on whether they get peace and democracy, or an outbreak
of internecine civil war. If the former, maybe the deaths will seem worthwhile."

This brutal remark echoes the words of UK Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, last
year when it was put to him that the Iraqi mothers of children killed by cluster
bombs would not thank British forces for their actions. Hoon replied: "One day
they might." [14]

A restricted, power-friendly notion of "tragedy" is also conveyed by John
Kampfner, the political editor of the New Statesman, in a recent article [15] on
the fallout from the Hutton inquiry: "The death of Dr David Kelly and the events
that led to it are a triple tragedy. They are a tragedy for his family, a
tragedy for the better scrutiny of government and a tragedy for investigative

Again, fitting the usual pattern, there is no reference to the tragedy that has
befallen so many people in Iraq. Instead, Kampfner's emphasis is on the impact
on investigative journalism and, in particular, the BBC. Thus: "The corporation
was beginning to break out of its 'on the one hand, on the other, only time will
tell' straitjacket that had dictated coverage for decades. It was beginning to
ask searching questions, to allow its senior correspondents to go out on a limb,
to 'call' stories and to get stories."

Kampfner upholds the myth that the BBC has been hamstrung by an 'impartiality'
and 'objectivity' that has emasculated any journalistic efforts to penetrate to
the heart of news stories. That the BBC has, in fact, been a faithful propaganda
organ for the views of state-corporate power is beyond thinkable thought.
Instead, post-Hutton, Kampfner writes of his hope of seeing "the corporation
embark[ing] on the long haul back to respectability [sic]".

The acquiescence of the British media in the face of relentless government
propaganda about the supposed threat of Iraq, is merely "another example of lazy
journalism" in Kampfner's eyes. The exhumation of this 'liberal herring', as
Media Lens likes to call such deceptions, echoes the words of Channel 4 news
presenter Jon Snow:

"Journalists are lazy, they live in a goldfish bowl, they're not interested in
breaking out and breaking this stuff [controversial stories] themselves." [16]

Despite the media's continuing smokescreen for government war crimes, as well as
the media's own role in facilitating them, public distrust in both institutions
remains unabated - perhaps precisely because so many people can, in fact, see
through the smokescreen.

In a sign of the desperation that is afflicting the Blair government, Margaret
Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment and Food, warned rebel Labour
members of parliament that it would be "the politics of madness" to vote against
the government in the recent vote on tuition fees [17]. Beckett added: "We are
approaching an abyss and I hope people will look over it before they jump."
After much bullying, cajoling and coercion, the government scraped through with
their smallest majority to date: a mere five votes.

That MPs might actually reflect, en masse, the concerns of their constituents -
vehement opposition to Blair's expensive warmongering, with public services such
as education, health and transport remaining desperately underfunded - is
progress. Such developments are indeed "the politics of madness" for a
government that is overlooking its own "abyss": a near-total loss of public


[1] 'The Forging of the American Empire. From the Revolution to Vietnam: A
History of U.S. Imperialism', Sidney Lens, 2003 edition, Pluto Press, London
(first published in 1971), p. 21.
[2] See, for example, the final chapter, 'Force and Opinion', of the classic
book 'Deterring Democracy', Noam Chomsky, Vintage, London, 1991, pp.351-405.
[3] Sidney Lens, ibid., p.178.
[4] 'One Iraqi, One Vote? ', Dilip Hiro, The New York Times, 27 January, 2004.
[5] 'Rebels storm police and army bases leaving 19 Iraqi security men dead',
Justin Huggler, Independent on Sunday, 15 February, 2004.
[6] 'Appointocracy - The model for George Bush's Iraq', by Naomi Klein, The
Guardian, January 24, 2004.
[7] 'Blair confirms Iraq probe No. 4', Jon Smith, Political Editor, PA News, The
Independent, 3 February, 2004.
[8] 'After Hutton, the verdict: 51% say Blair should go', Paul Waugh, The
Independent, 7 February, 2004.
[9] 'The terrible human cost of Bush and Blair's military adventure: 10,000
civilian deaths', David Randall, Independent on Sunday, 8 February 2004.
[10] The Independent, letter to the editor, Lew Smith MP, September 18, 2003.
[11] 'US aims for swift, crushing war', Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence
correspondent, BBC news online, 18 March 2003;
[12] 'Revenge or victory', Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, February 6, 2004.
[13] Email from Polly Toynbee to a Media Lens reader, 8 February, 2004.
[14] 'Hoon is "cruel" for claims on cluster bombs', Paul Waugh and Ben Russell,
The Independent, 5 April, 2003.
[15] 'The Hutton report - How a judge let Blair off', John Kampfner, New
Statesman, 2 February, 2004.
[16] Interview with David Edwards, January 9, 2001,
[17] 'Blair stares into abyss. Chancellor challenged to save PM in fees fight',
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, January 26, 2004.

Naomi Klein

Missing in action in Iraq

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

It was Mary Vargas, a 44-year-old engineer in Renton, Wash., who carried U.S.
therapy culture to its new zenith. Explaining why the war in Iraq was no longer
her top election issue, she told the Internet magazine Salon that, "when they
didn't find the weapons of mass destruction, I felt I could also focus on other
things. I got validated."

Yes, that's right: war opposition as self-help. The end goal is not to seek
justice for the victims, or punishment for the aggressors, but rather
"validation" for the war's critics. Once validated, it is of course time to
reach for the talisman of self-help: "closure." In this mindscape, Howard Dean's
wild scream was not so much a gaffe as the second of the five stages of
grieving: anger. The scream was a moment of uncontrolled release, a catharsis,
allowing U.S. liberals to externalize their rage and then move on, transferring
their affections to more appropriate candidates.

All of the front-runners in the Democratic race borrow the language of pop
therapy to discuss the war and the toll it has taken not on Iraq, a country so
absent from their campaigns it may as well be on another planet, but on the
American people themselves. To hear John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean
tell it, the invasion was less a war of aggression against a sovereign nation
than a civil war within the United States, a traumatic event that severed
Americans from their faith in politicians, from their rightful place in the
world and from their tax dollars.

"The price of unilateralism is too high and Americans are paying it  in
resources that could be used for health care, education and our security here at
home," Mr. Kerry said on Dec. 16. "We are paying that price in respect lost
around the world. And most importantly, that price is paid in the lives of young
Americans forced to shoulder the burden of the mission alone."

Conspicuously absent from Mr. Kerry's tally are the lives of Iraqi civilians
lost as a direct result of the invasion. Even Mr. Dean, the "anti-war
candidate," regularly suffers from the same myopic math. "There are now almost
400 people dead who wouldn't be dead if we hadn't gone to war," he said in
November. On Jan. 22, he put the total number of losses at "500 soldiers and
2,200 wounded."

But on Feb. 8, while Mr. Kerry was in Virginia and Mr. Dean was in Maine, both
of them assuring voters that they were the aggrieved and deceived victims of
President George W. Bush's war, the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the
invasion reached as high as 10,000. That number is the most authoritative
estimate available, since the occupying authorities in Iraq refuse to keep
statistics on civilian deaths. It comes from Iraq Body Count, a group of
respected British and U.S. academics who base their figures on cross-referenced
reports from journalists and human-rights groups in the field.

John Sloboda, co-founder of Iraq Body Count, told me that while the passing of
the grim 10,000 mark made the British papers and the BBC, it received
"scandalously little attention in the United States," including from the leading
Democratic candidates, even as they hammer Mr. Bush on his faulty intelligence.
"If the war was fought on false pretences," Mr. Sloboda says, "that means that
every death caused by the war is a death on false pretences."

If that's the case, the most urgent question is not, "Who knew what when?" but
"Who owes what to whom?" In international law, countries that wage wars of
aggression must pay reparations as a penalty for their crimes.

Yet in Iraq, this logic has been turned on its head. Not only are there no
penalties for an illegal war, there are prizes, with the United States actively
and openly rewarding itself with huge reconstruction contracts. "Our people
risked their lives. Coalition, friendly coalition folks risked their lives and
therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that," Mr. Bush said.

When the reconstruction spending has attracted scrutiny, it has not been over
what is owed to Iraqis for their tremendous losses, but over what is owed to
American taxpayers. "This war profiteering is poison to America, poison to
Americans' faith in government and poison to our allies' perception of our
motives in Iraq," John Edwards said. True, but he somehow failed to mention that
it also poisons Iraqis  not their faith, or their perceptions, but their bodies.

Every dollar wasted on an overcharging, underperforming U.S. contractor is a
dinar not spent rebuilding Iraq's bombed-out water-treatment and electricity
plants. It is Iraqis, not U.S. taxpayers, who are forced to drink typhoid-.and
cholera- infested water, and then to seek treatment in hospitals still flooded
with raw sewage, where the drug supply is even more depleted than during the
sanctions era.

There is currently no plan to compensate Iraqi civilians for deaths caused by
the willful destruction of their basic infrastructure, or as a result of combat
during the invasion. The occupying forces will only pay compensation for
"instances where soldiers have acted negligently or wrongfully."

According to the latest estimates, U.S. troops have distributed roughly
$2-million in compensation for deaths, injuries and property damage.That's less
than the price of two of the 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched during the
war, and a third of what Halliburton admits two of its employees accepted in
bribes from a Kuwaiti contractor.

To talk about the price of the Iraq war strictly in terms of U.S. casualties and
tax dollars is an obscenity. Yes, Americans were lied to by their politicians.
Yes, they are owed answers. But the people of Iraq are owed a great deal more,
and that enormous debt belongs at the very centre of any civilized debate about
the war.

In the United States, a good start would be for the Democratic candidates to
acknowledge some collective responsibility. Mr. Bush may have been the war's
initiator, but in the language of self-help, he had plenty of enablers.

They include Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards, among the 27 other Democratic senators
and 81 members of the House of Representatives who voted for the resolution
authorizing Mr. Bush to go to war. They also include Howard Dean, who believed
and repeated Mr. Bush's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They
include, too, a credulous and cheerleading press, which sold those false claims
to an overly trusting U.S. public, 76 per cent of whom supported the war,
according to a CBS poll released two days after the invasion began.

Why does this ancient history matter? Because so long as Mr. Bush's opponents
continue to cast themselves as the primary victims of his war, the real victims
will remain invisible, unable to make their claims for justice. The focus will
be on uncovering Mr. Bush's lies, a process geared toward absolving those who
believed them, not on compensating those who died because of them.

If the war was wrong, then the United States, as the main aggressor, must devote
itself to making things right. Part of grief is guilt, when the grieving party
starts to wonder whether they did enough, if the loss was somehow their fault,
how they can make amends. Closure is supposed to come only after that reckoning.

Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows.

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]