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Re: Speech on Iraq crisis to Sheffield anti-NATO demo

Good speech John!

> ... For forty days and nights, Iraq was subject to a merciless
> bombardment in which 150,000  200,000 Iraqis died...

Other figures that I've seen, comes from King's College London's Lawrence
Freedman and Efraim Karsh.  Their book, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: 
diplomacy and war in the new world order (ISBN 0-691-03772-8; Princeton
University Press, 1993), was recommended to me as the best on the topic by
a former head of the Middle East Department of the FCO in the early 1970s
(late last year he had written a strong letter to the editor of one of the
dailies, observing that Britain seems never to learn from its mistakes in
the Arab world; he has been quite helpful in correspondence with me).

Before quoting, a word of explanation on the "projected number of Iraqi
soldiers in the theatre" [of war]: initial estimates of Iraqi troops
involved were based on a guess that Iraqi units were operating with a high
percentage of their soldiers present.  Later estimates suggest that more
Iraqis did not join their units than originally expected.

I'll quote a few of the surrounding paragraphs as well (pp.408-9):

        In just over 100 hours, coalition forces captured over 73,000
        square kilometres of territory.  Fifteen percent of Iraq was
        under coalition control.  The Iraqi Army which had been in
        occupation had been effectively cut to pieces.  No more than
        seven of the original forty-three Iraqi divisions were capable
        of operations.  Coalition casualties were remarkably low -
        almost as much damage had been done by 'friendly fire' as by
        Iraqi fire.  Almost a quarter of the American deaths and more
        than half the British had come in this form.[21]  Another 138
        were killed and 2,978 injured outside of battle, largely during
        the preceding months of Desert Shield.  Nonetheless, after all
        the gloomy predictions of thousands of casualties, the total was
        remarkably small.

        On the Iraqi side, calculations of casualties were impossible.
        [Allied] CENTCOM had explicitly ruled out any 'body counts' which
        had been both a distasteful and wholly misleading feature of the
        Vietnam campaign.  When pressed, a figure of 100,000 was plucked
        out of the air, with a margin of error of 50 per cent, but that
        was largely based on the fact that, compared to the projected
        numbers of Iraqi soldiers in the theatre, only a relatively small
        proportion had been accounted for as prisoners (64,000 were taken
        by the US, 17,000 by the Arab forces and 5,000 by the British).  A
        year later revised estimates were as low as 10,000, largely
        because the evidence of mass death was slight and the numbers of
        Iraqi troops in the theatre had been dramatically reduced.

        The Iraqis gave only one estimate, of 20,000 killed (of which
        about 1,000 then were civilians) and 60,000 wounded after twenty-six
        days of the air war.  There is no reason to doubt this.  Inter-
        rogation of prisoners revealed that in some units desertions ex-
        ceeded casualties by ten to one, while casualties as a result of
        the bombing varied between 100 and 400 per division, which
        suggests another 4,000 dead.  It is probable that at most another
        10,000 died during the land war, making up to 35,000 in total,
        though this is based largely on circumstantial evidence.  Despite
        the horrific images, most of the vehicles on the 'highway of
        death' were empty, and through there were other such highways
        the total casualties in these attacks were probably measured in
        hundreds rather than thousands.[22]  There were no mass graves or
        large numbers of bodies.  One report suggests that the Saudis
        buried 5,000 Iraqis.[23]  However, the US said in late March that
        444 Iraqi soldiers had been buried at fifty-five sites.  The
        number reached 577 in June.  Reporters asking around Iraqi
        villages found little evidence of a massive loss of young men,
        and the Iraqi health service was not inundated with dead and


[21]  Triumph Without Victory, p. 373.  Eleven more Americans were killed
        when unexploded allied ordnance blew up on them, and a further eighteen
        were killed by unexploded enemy ordnance.
[22]  Anthony Cordesman, 'Rush to Judgement in the Gulf War', Armed Forces
        Journal International, June 1991.
[23]  Dannreuther, The Gulf Conflict, p.57.
[24]  International Herald Tribune, 2-3 March, 18 March, 24 June 1991, 16
        January 1992.  Patrick Cockburn, 'Lower Death Toll Helped Saddam',
        Independent, 5 February 1992.

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

King's College                                                 
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[ARCHIVE NOTE: the word "1,000" from the phrase "of which about 1,000
then were civilians" was accidentally ommited by the message poster, and
inserted into this archived version on his request on 16 Jan 2001.]

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