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1) War may have killed 10,000 civilians, researchers say


War may have killed 10,000 civilians, researchers say

Simon Jeffery
Friday June 13, 2003
The Guardian

At least 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion of Iraq,
an independent research group has claimed. As more evidence is collated, it
says, the figure could reach 10,000.
Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and US academics and
researchers, compiled statistics on civilian casualties from media reports
and estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 civilians died in the conflict.

Its latest report compares those figures with 14 other counts, most of them
taken in Iraq, which, it says, bear out its findings.

Researchers from several groups have visited hospitals and mortuaries in
Iraq and interviewed relatives of the dead; some are conducting surveys in
the main cities.

Three completed studies suggest that between 1,700 and 2,356 civilians died
in the battle for Baghdad alone.

John Sloboda, professor of psychology at Keele University and an IBC report
author, said the studies in Iraq backed up his group's figures. "One of the
things we have been criticised for is quoting journalists who are quoting
other people. But what we are now finding is that whenever the teams go into
Iraq and do a detailed check of the data we had through the press, not only
is our data accurate but [it is] often on the low side.

"The totality is now producing an unassailable sense that there were a hell
of a lot of civilian deaths in Iraq."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said he had not seen anything to
substantiate the report's figures. "During the conflict we took great pains
to minimise casualties among civilians. We targeted [the] military. So it is
very difficult for us to give any guidance or credence to a set of figures
that suggest there was x number of civilian casualties."

IBC's total includes a figure of at least 3,240 civilian deaths published
this week by the Associated Press news agency, which was based on a survey
of 60 Iraqi hospitals from March 20 to April 20, when the fighting was
declining. But many other bodies were either buried quickly in line with
Islamic custom or lost under rubble.

Prof Sloboda said there was nothing in principle to stop a total count being
made using forensic science methods similar to those used to calculate the
death toll from the September 11 attack: it was a question of political will
and resources.

He said even an incomplete record of civilian deaths was worth compiling, to
assist in paying reparations and in assessing the claim before the war that
there would be few civilian casualties.

Lieutenant Colonel James Cassella, a US defence department spokesman, said
the Pentagon had not counted civilian deaths because its efforts had been
focused on defeating enemy forces rather than aiming at civilians.

He said that under international law the US was not liable to pay
compensation for "injuries or damage occurring during lawful combat

The Iraqi authorities estimated that 2,278 civilians died in the 1991 Gulf



Comment and Analysis

Earlier Analysis...

A Survey of Projects Counting Civilians Killed by the War in Iraq
June 12th 2003

Executive Summary

Overview and key conclusions

At the outset of the Iraq War, Iraq Body Count was providing the only
systematic estimates of civilian casualties. Now, 15 different projects are
at varying stages of completion. Press reports increasingly cite data from
more than one project, and critical comparisons are becoming necessary.

This article critically reviews all projects that have made their existence
known publicly, and summarises key project details in tabular form.

Taken together, the projects reinforce rather than contradict one another
and provide converging evidence that current estimates putting the number of
civilians killed at significantly above 5,000 are well-founded.

These projects have already informed immediate humanitarian efforts, and
when complete, can feed into strategic considerations about the costs of
modern warfare. Given the importance of estimating the civilian costs, it is
surprising that no national or supra-national agency has yet contributed to
this work.

Categorisation and comparison of individual projects

Projects differ on a number of dimensions. Two key dimensions are scope
(comprehensive or limited) and sourcing (direct or indirect). Any given
project must choose where to situate itself on such key dimensions, and
accept the limitations that this imposes. Much published criticism of
individual projects is misleading, because it makes the erroneous assumption
that there is a single standard against which all projects can be judged. We
argue that projects with differing aims and scope can complement and
strengthen each other, provided they adhere to minimum standards of rigour
and reporting clarity.

Four active projects, including IBC, are indirect projects that base their
estimates entirely on published press and media reports. These projects
differ primarily in their comprehensiveness and their handling of potential
“double counting”.

Direct projects derive their data from on-the-ground investigations in Iraq.
Four such projects, three of them based solely in the Baghdad area, have
completed their work. The only one of these projects to have published a
full and comprehensive report of its methodology and findings is a study by
the Spanish Brigade Against the War, entitled “Evaluation of the attacks on
the civilian population of Baghdad”.

The remaining projects reviewed are still in progress or have not reported
any firm results as yet. Among these the direct project undertaken by the
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) aims to be the most
comprehensive, using 150 surveyors working in 11 major population centres
around the country.


1. Introduction

Our primary role at Iraq Body Count (IBC) has always been to keep the
civilian costs of the Iraq war firmly in the public eye. We have been able
to maintain a consistent role in promoting public awareness through the
adoption of a strict and openly-declared data-gathering methodology combined
with innovative use of web technologies, particularly for the dissemination
of our findings. This has involved the daily monitoring, sorting and
compilation of media-reported civilian deaths in an expanding and open-ended
public database, based solely on reliably recorded deaths (rather than on
extrapolation or speculation), and the production of a “bottom-line”
statistic giving a running total of the number of reported civilian deaths
at every stage of the war and subsequent military occupation. The
dissemination of this statistic has been greatly enhanced by the
participation of thousands of independent websites, large and small,
carrrying our real-time IBC Web Counters.

IBC’s work has also been a resource for the print and online media, with
many individual articles citing IBC data (eg, Christian Science Monitor,
21st May 2003) and both the Guardian and Reuters making use of IBC figures
to provide regular civilian casualty updates during various phases of the

We are encouraged that the aims and concerns underlying our work are
receiving increasingly widespread acceptance, evidence of which comes from
the growing number of projects that seek, in varying ways, to fulfil similar
and/or complementary roles to ours.

A consequence of this positive development is that, increasingly, reporting
about civilian casualties draws on a number of studies, and such reporting
is often framed in the context of debates about what is the best, or most
accurate, way to estimate the civilian cost of the war. These debates are
vital and timely. This article is our own contribution to that debate. In
it, we review, as comprehensively as possible, the attempts that have so far
been made to estimate civilian deaths in a systematic way. We compare the
strengths and weaknesses of these different attempts, and make some
suggestions how the combined efforts of all those working in this area may
be channelled and focused toward our shared aim of “establishing the truth
of what happened,” an outcome which we believe will best serve the interests
of the war’s victims, including the families and loved ones of those who
were killed by it.


2. Distinctions between projects strengthen rather than weaken the
There are two main distinctions that need to be made among the different
projects which seek to estimate casualties:

1. Scope - comprehensive or limited.

“Comprehensive” projects aim to work towards providing an estimate of all
civilian deaths caused by the Iraq War. “Limited” projects aim to provide an
estimate which is deliberately limited in some way, either in timescale,
geographical location, type of records or cause of deaths.

2. Sources - direct or indirect.

“Direct” projects obtain data from on-the-ground sources in Iraq (such as
hospital or mortuary records, photographic and forensic evidence, and
interviews with family and neighbours). “Indirect” projects rely on
secondary sources (such as media and news agency reports, including
published reports, usually in the form of summaries, of “direct” projects by
NGOs and others).

Due to real-world limitations of time, money and human resources, there is
an inherent conflict between these two approaches. The more direct a project
is and the fuller and higher quality its evidence, the less practical it is
for it also to be exhaustive and complete; and the more comprehensive a
study aims to be, the less likely that it can also be as detailed and as
fine-grained in the evidence it collects as a “direct” project.

This makes it pointless to ask which is “better”. Different types of project
are needed. Direct projects can provide evidence of forensic quality (which
would, for instance, be able to establish facts about the deaths of named
individuals, the exact circumstances of the death, and where direct
responsbility might lie for compensation or reparation). Indirect projects
can draw on evidence from a range of sources to arrive at estimates of
global cost or impact, which will be of importance to political, military,
and strategic debates. Putting all the projects together can strengthen
their total impact.

Another difference relates to the difficulties of achieving “total”
completeness or “absolute” directness. These are unachievable, and possibly
meaningless, concepts. Neither an indirect study such as ours, nor any
“after-the-event” investigation will eventually arrive at a definitive and
totally accurate count. A theoretically “perfect” count would require, at
the very least, a totally accurate census of the Iraqi population on the eve
of the war, and DNA profiling of each individual. It would also require the
entire land area of Iraq to be covered with continuously running video
recorders, whose data had all survived the war. However, the absence of such
“perfect” data place limitations which are no different to the limitations
that hamper any historical or legal investigation. Investigations must do
the best they can on the basis of the available evidence, gradually
improving the scope and reliability of the estimates. Combining different
sources of evidence from different projects can strengthen the evidence

We detect, in some media discussions, a degree of confusion about the whole
“counting the dead” agenda which often comes about by focusing on some
particular shortcoming of individual projects. Any project may always be
criticised for not meeting some standard it cannot achieve and never set out
to achieve. It is always possible to criticise a direct project for not
being complete, or an indirect project for lacking “scientific” standards of
evidence. Any project can ultimately be criticised for not being “total” or
“absolute” in the sense outlined in the previous paragraph. The cumulative
effect of this type of comment is to help create in the public mind a
general (and false) impression that we can know nothing reliable from the
projects that have been undertaken to date, or might be undertaken in
future, and therefore that the whole enterprise may be discounted. This
conclusion may be convenient for some, but is not supported by the evidence.

A good example of media-generated confusion comes in a New York Times
article filed by John R Broder from Qatar on 9th April, at the height of the
slaughter of civilians in the battle for Baghdad. In this report a Central
Command spokesperson was cited as saying that “the number of Iraqi dead were
certainly high, but ultimately unknowable”. In the same report, Mark
Burgess, a researcher at the Center for Defence Information in Washington
(CDI - see below), was quoted as saying that various attempts to estimate
casualties suffered from “dubious methodologies”. The article finishes by
quoting Mr Burgess as saying “We just don't know and we might just as well
make up a number”. What follows shows that there is a great deal that is
knowable from the attempts so far undertaken.


3. The projects

All projects mentioned in this review are summarised in the table at the
bottom of this page. Each project is named and assigned a table-linked
number (#1, #2, etc.) reflecting order of mention in the text.

3.A. Indirect projects based on secondary sources of information

Iraq Body Count (#1 - IBC) began its work in January 2003, and its data base
includes civilian deaths reported from January 1st 2003 onwards. The choice
of January 1st for the start of the count (rather than March 19th) was
deliberate. US/UK military actions against Iraq have been continuous from
1991 to the present day. The illegal US/UK patrols and bombing raids in the
northern and southern “no-fly” zones have taken place on a weekly, and
sometimes daily, basis until 15th March 2003. Between the 1991 Gulf War and
early 2002 some 1,476 people had been killed by such bombing raids,
according to official Iraqi figures.

Although not directly focused on civilian deaths, US Bombing Watch (#2), a
project of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, has provided a
unique research and public information resource. This project has recorded
every single media-reported bombing raid carried out by US or UK warplanes
in Iraq since January 1999 (and plans to provide data going all the way back
to 1991). To date they have recorded over 300 bombing incidents between
January 1999 and the March 2003 invasion.

IBC started counting civilian deaths from the beginning of the month in
which it became active. The 2003 “body count” of civilians killed by US/UK
military actions already stood at 15 on the eve of the March 19th invasion.
At the time of writing, the IBC project consists of 126 separate database
entries recording media-reported civilian deaths, amounting to a maximum
(reported) number of 7,203 such casualties of the war on Iraq.

IBC’s methodology requires each report of civilian deaths entered into its
database to have been published by at least two independent media sources
meeting certain prescribed standards, as set out in our published
Methodology, occasionally supplemented by findings from recognized NGOs such
as the Mines Advisory Group (MAG - see below). A range of internal checks
are also undertaken within the research team before a minimum and maximum
number is published for each item in the data base. This methodology has
been very useful in discounting inaccurate reporting (sometimes due to
mistranscription of interview data), or initial estimates rushed into print
in order to meet press deadlines. While the dual-publisher requirement has
prevented some (otherwise impeccable) reports from being included in the IBC
database, this has most often been only a temporary exclusion until other
corroborating news stories became available. And because IBC always ties its
entries to specific times, locations and other “identifiers” it has been
able to deal with potential double-counting (for an example of this process
in action, refer to the Notes to Incident x073 in our database).

Beyond evaluating whether a source is or was in any position to know, IBC
has never passed judgement on the original source of the estimate. Original
sources have been those which are normally available to journalists,
including government-employed spokespersons of the parties to the conflict,
eye-witnesses, relatives, doctors, hospital officials, mortuary and funeral
directors, and workers or spokespersons for NGOs and aid agencies. In early
phases of the war, some, though not all, news reports of civilian casualties
relied solely on press briefings from Iraqi officials, whose estimated total
had risen to 1,252 civilian deaths by the time of their final briefings on
April 4th. Some of the Iraqi data was unusable in IBC’s database because it
lacked the “identifiers” mentioned above, but in any event IBC’s current
total from a variety of sources has risen since early April to a maximum of
approximately 7,200 deaths, with only about 130 of these remaining solely
derived from Iraqi press briefings. Despite early claims that their figures
were inflated for propaganda purposes, it is now clear from the projects
under review that the Iraqi figures were ultimately under-estimates, as are
all those based only on information from hospitals, and were further
hindered by the breakdown of Iraqi communication channels and the
government's more pressing concern with its own survival. (A recent
Associated Press investigation referenced below provides more detail on how
the Iraqi statistics were produced.)

In this context it is surprising that Operation Iraqi Freedom Total Casualty
Report (#3) includes only the Hussein regime’s composite estimate of April
4th in its web-based table (this was its “methodology” during the war as
well - to simply repeat the most recent official Iraqi claim with a
disclaimer). The authors of this project, sponsored by the Washington-based
Center for Defence Information (CDI), state that “until reporters gain
unfettered access throughout the whole of Iraq, it will continue to be our
position that there is simply no way to clearly ascertain the true extent of
Iraqi civilian casualties. When such a time does arrive, rest assured that
we will give these figures the coverage that they deserve.”   At the time of
writing the last entry to this database appears to have been made on May

A more comprehensive and widely-sourced project is Casualties of the 2003
Iraq War (#4), which is the personal initiative of Pranav Jani, a teacher at
Wagner College, New York. This project is based on what the author describes
as “informal internet searches”.

At the time of writing this project lists 217 separate media-reported
incidents in which there were casualties, either civilian or military, US or
Iraqi, starting March 19th and going up to the present time. Unlike IBC this
project makes no attempt to correct for possible double counting in
differing reports (and is completely explicit about this). It provides data
in the form of a 6-column table, listing Iraqi dead, Iraqi wounded,
coalition dead, coalition wounded, and the dead and wounded of other
nationalities. Civilian and military casualties are not separated out, but
this is one of the few serious attempts to publish a comprehensive list of
wounded as well as dead. Presumably because no mechanism is in place to
prevent double counting in its “informal” coverage of media reports,
Casualties of the 2003 Iraq War refrains from offering any totals.

The projects described so far are the only ones which have operated in the
public eye from the very first day of the invasion of Iraq.

A promising but quickly aborted intervention was made by the Swiss Foreign
Ministry's List of civilian victims of the war in Iraq (#5), one week into
the war. On the last weekend of March the foreign minister Micheline
Calmey-Rey was quoted as saying her ministry would publish a list of
civilians killed in the Iraqi conflict and implied that Switzerland, as the
depository state of the Geneva conventions, had a duty to draw attention to
the innocent victims of the war. This was especially significant for being
the first time such a project had been undertaken by a government, and it
was apparently well-organized and already under way:

“Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey Monday, March 31, was quoted by
the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying that the section -
operational since Monday morning - gathers information and data from
credible and documented sources, adding [that] names of new victims would be
added on an hourly basis.

The initial data available so far reveals the dirtiness of U.S.-British
warmongers, the fakeness of their claims about a clean war, as well as their
indifference to the lives of innocent, unarmed Iraqi civilians, Rey, member
of the ruling Socialist Democratic Party, was quoted by the paper as
 saying.” (IslamOnline)

However after a vociferous outcry from right-wing parties in the country the
project was abandoned just two days after it was announced, with the
Minister citing only the difficulty of finding reliable sources of
information. It is perhaps telling that at the time most (though by no means
all) of the reports of civilian casualties were being disseminated from the
Iraqi Ministry of Information, and that one of the accusations being laid at
her door was that the list of dead would “become part of the propaganda of
this war.” No attempt was made by the Swiss authorities to re-activate their
proposal as multiple and independent sources of information became
increasingly available.

The only other project based on indirect data known to us is the Project on
Defence Alternatives (PDA) report dated 21 May 2003 and entitled Civilian
Casualties in the 2003 Iraq War: A Compendium of Accounts and Reports (#6).
This Washington-based group collected excerpts of journalistic and other
accounts, including those of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT - see below), into a
compendium “meant to serve as a database for further investigation of the
modes and dynamics of conflict that generate non-combatant casualties”.  The
authors write as follows:

“The accounts cover the period from 19 March through the middle of May 2003,
but the compendium is by no means a complete and comprehensive accounting of
civilian casualties in the war. That said, the compendium probably includes
a majority of the accounts of major incidents of multiple noncombatant death
known to have occurred up to 15 May 2003. Moreover, the mortality reports
from hospitals and cemetery records recounted here, while not complete, are
sufficient in scope to suggest the scale of collateral fatalities in the

The accounts derive almost exclusively from Western sources. None rely
solely on official Iraqi government reports of casualties. The compendium
also strongly favors accounts based on field investigations by journalists,
eyewitness testimony, and the testimony of doctors, families of victims,
residents of neighborhoods in which incidents occurred, aid workers, and
cemetery personnel. The collection method included tracking numerous Western
news sources on a daily basis and supplementing this with news database and
Internet news searches. Notably, the effort focused on major cases of
multiple civilian fatalities insofar as these (1) often generated more than
one independent report and (2) constituted a subset of incidents that, while
manageably small, nonetheless reflected a significant portion of the war’s
cost in civilian casualties.”

The authors then strike the following note of caution:

“While the accounts collected here provide a basis for estimating the total
number of civilian fatalities during the war, a useful estimate cannot be
derived by simply adding together the death tolls given in the various
accounts. Further analysis is required to address some of the
inconsistencies in the accounts and to avoid the problem of double counting.
The records of deaths from the Baghdad hospitals especially suggest the
difficulty of separating civilian noncombatant deaths and civilian combatant
ones. Such an analysis is attempted in a Project on Defense Alternatives
memo accompanying this compendium.”

Unfortunately, at the time of writing (12th June) the analysis or “memo”
referred to has not been made available on the PDA web site. Analyses
designed to address such issues have been systematically developed by IBC
(for an example see link from IBC Incident x073), and we await with interest
PDA’s publication of their solution to the problems of varying accounts,
double counting and distinguishing civilian from non-civilian deaths.

Useful features of the PDA report are its reasonably extensive direct quotes
from key sources, and its organisation of most of its data in chronological
order, graphically depicting the unfolding of the conflict. However, it
appears to offer little fresh data that is not already included in Iraq Body
Count (#1) or Casualties of the 2003 Iraq War (#4), and its explicit lack of
completeness sits oddly with claims that its data is “sufficient in scope to
suggest the scale of collateral fatalities in the war” or provides “a basis
for estimating the total number of civilian fatalities during the war.”

We would like to sound our own note of caution on any assessment of total
“collateral fatalities” which involves extrapolating from supposedly
representative samples to the entire country (for which purpose PDA appears
to be suggesting that its compendium is “sufficient in scope”). While this
approach might have some limited value under circumstances where evidence
could not otherwise be expected to emerge, there is no reason to assume this
about a fairly well-developed and well-educated society such as Iraq’s; nor
are we convinced that such extrapolations could have the same value as, let
alone substitute for or improve upon, those conducted in the more
painstaking manner of counting those deaths that have actually been
recorded - and IBC has accordingly resisted the temptation to make such
extrapolations based on its own much larger and arguably more
“representative” database.


3.B. Projects based on direct research carried out on the ground in Iraq

To our knowledge, four direct research projects have been completed and
published up to the present time, and another three have been announced as
under way but not completed.

3.B.1 Completed direct reports (in chronological order of publication)

Three of the completed reports have focused on civilian casualites in
Baghdad, and there is probably considerable overlap between them.

On 26 April a group of researchers associated with the Spanish Brigade
Against the War’s Arab Cause Solidarity Campaign published a report entitled
Evaluation of the attacks on the civilian population of Baghdad (#7), which

“[R]elates 42 documented cases of attacks on the Iraqi civilian population
carried out by the Anglo-American forces in the metropolitan area of Baghdad
between 20 March and 5 April 2003, mostly by aerial bombing and missile
strikes, but also land-based attacks that took place during the initial
phase of occupation of the city. These cases have been documented on the
ground by the Spanish Brigades group that was present in the Iraqi capital
from the beginning of the war until 9 April, when US troops entered the area
of the city where we were staying. Also included are reports of nine
hospital visits, with testimonies of attacks that have not been sufficiently

The report includes a very detailed account of the methodology employed. The
core data consists of 114 questionnaires completed by surviving victims of
these attacks or their relatives who were direct witnesses. These were
augmented by records from 5 hospitals covering the entire area of Baghdad:
the Al-Kindi Hospital, the Al-Yarnouk University Hospital, the Saddam
Hospital Complex; the Al-Nourman Hospital; and the Saddam City Hospital.
Interviews were habitually conducted within a few hours of the attack victim
’s admission, but were followed up during more prolonged interviews with the
affected families, usually in relatives' houses. This immediate and direct
information was complemented by data from visits to the places bombed and
interviews with the neighbours of affected families.

Reconstruction of the stories of the families of bombing victims was
laborious and occasionally fruitless. Due to the systematic destruction by
US/UK bombing of the telecommunications system, and the impossibility of
summoning ambulances to collect the victims, when an attack took place,
families and neighbours would take injured and dying to different hospitals.
As these were also unable to communicate with one another, they could not
inform family members about their respective admissions.

For these and other reasons, the authors caution that the information in the
report cannot be considered to be an exhaustive record of all coalition
attacks (and consequent casualties). Rather “it should be regarded as a
significant report of their breadth, systematic nature and severity”.
However, the data compiled in their report document a total of 204 civilian
fatalities and a further 583 injuries, making an average of 4.5 dead and 13
injured per attack.

The authors conclude, on the basis of what is undoubtedly the most direct
and painstaking analysis of casualties so far to emerge from the war that

“the damage caused to the civilian population during the three weeks in
which Baghdad was attacked was in no way due to mistakes, nor did it
represent the “collateral damage” of a tactical surgical war, whose sole
objective had been the destruction of the city’s governmental and military
infrastructure. Our opinion.. is that the attacks were premeditated,
designed to cause the greatest possible number of civilian victims, many
being carried out repeatedly against densely populated and poor areas of the
Iraqi capital. The logic of this conduct can only be explained by the
deliberate will of the American and British political and military leaders
to provoke terror and undermine the resistance of the Baghdad population.”

This study has not been reported by a single English-language news or media
agency, to our knowledge.

Although not providing cumulative estimates of numbers of civilian
casualties, the work of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT - an initiative of the
Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness organisation) is worth mentioning in
this context. On April 4th this group published a report entitled “Civilian
casualties and infrastructure damage in the 2003 US-led attack on Baghdad
March 20 - April 1 2003”. This report is based on first hand observation and
on interviews conducted by the Iraq Peace Team in Baghdad hospitals and
neighbourhoods. Given the very limited resources of the team and given the
constraints of operating in a war zone, the authors acknowledge that their
report is a mere sampling and an unsystematic one at that. However, the
Spanish Brigades Project has used some of the data provided by the Iraq
Peace Team in its own more systematic report, as has the indirect project by
the PDA (#6). One advantage of the IPT report not shared by any other we
deal with is the inclusion of a considerable amount of photographic evidence
of damage to individuals and to buildings. It is also the earliest
compilation of civilian casualties to come out of Baghdad, but because it
does not include estimates of numbers dead, it is not included in our table
as a “project”. Much like the Spanish Brigade’s project this group’s work
has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, with only the news website providing regular updates on their activites.

On May 4th, three journalists working for US-based Knight Ridder Newspapers
published a report on the Death toll in 19 Baghdad hospitals (#8). Various
stories providing differing degrees of detail about this study were widely
syndicated through the Knight Ridder stable of newspapers, which operate in
most US states.

No full account of the research has been published, but what can be pieced
together from these press reports is that the estimates were “gleaned from
archives that separated military from civilians” and “included those killed
between March 19, when the US air war began, and April 9 when the city fell
to American forces”. Although Iraqi doctors interviewed admit that their
records were not perfect (war conditions did not allow for that), the data
supplied were claimed to be accurate. Only seven of the 19 hospitals in the
study are mentioned by name, although the overwhelming majority of the dead
were said to have been counted at just three, named hospitals:

“The records show 1,101 deaths that doctors felt were clearly those of
civilians, 845 of which were recorded at three hospitals - Al Kharama, Al
Askan and Yarmuk - near the Baghdad airport.

An additional 1,255 dead probably were civilians, doctors say, all reported
at the same three hospitals near the airport. At Al Kharama, 30 per cent of
450 such bodies belonged to women and children, doctors said.

Others were men without identification in civilian clothes who the doctors
believed were civilians. But a final determination was not made, in part
because of the enormous volume of bodies to be dealt with.”

The same records show more than 6,800 wounded. The report also provides
evidence that the biggest number of deaths occurred on April 5th and 6th
when US troops began fighting their way into the city. This report suggests
that the Spanish Brigade researchers were able to take witness evidence
relating to fewer than 10% of the total civilian deaths caused by coalition
action in the battle for Baghdad.

On May 18th the Los Angeles Times published a report by its staff writer
Laura King entitled Baghdad’s Death Toll Assessed (#9). The headline to this
story reads:

“At least 1,700 Iraqi civilians died and more than 8,000 were injured in the
battle for the Iraq capital, according to a Los Angeles Times survey of
records from 27 hospitals in the capital and its outlying districts. In
addition, undocumented civilian deaths in Baghdad number at least into the
hundreds and could reach 1,000, according to Islamic burial societies and
humanitarian groups that are trying to trace those missing in the conflict.”

Like the Knight Ridder project (#8) there is no full report of the research
beyond that which is reported in the single LA Times story on the work.
Similarly, only a minority of the hospitals surveyed are mentioned by name
in the press report. The LA Times project records casualties up until 24th
April, some two weeks after the fall of the Iraqi regime. This means that
some fatalities from unexploded ordnance are included in this project, as
well as from continued fighting after 9th April. Also notable is that the
study is not restricted to hospital records but includes mosque-based
volunteer burial associations who dealt with“undocumented” deaths, often of
those who died on stretches of road.

The failure of either the Knight Ridder or the LA Times projects to give an
exhaustive compilation of deaths by hospital means that it is almost
impossible to know how much overlap there is between these two projects, or
how either of them relate to the Spanish Brigade project, even though all
three projects centre their work on Bahgdad hospitals during the same period
of time.

For meaningful use to be made of these two newspaper-funded projects it is
essential that a full and rigorous compilation of data is either published
or made available to a competent authority to combine with, and compare to,
other data. This brings us to the most recent and ambitious press study,
published on June 10th:

“Someone has taped together the shredded binding, as if that could fix the
horrors inside. There are pages bathed in dried, reddish-brown blood, their
letters smeared and unintelligible. The frantic scribblings and bloody
handprints are a record of war.”

This vivid pointer to the conditions prevailing in Iraq’s hospitals forms
the introduction to another hospitals-based investigation conducted over
five weeks by a team of Associated Press (AP) journalists. Covering civilian
deaths recorded in the month between March 20 and April 20, the Associated
Press Tally (#10) was restricted to 60 “accessible” hospitals (out of 124)
throughout Iraq, and concluded that these hospitals recorded “at least”
3,240 civilians killed by the war.

Though geographically more wide-ranging than the other newspaper tallies, AP
is refreshingly open about its incompleteness. Stating that “the count is
still fragmentary,” AP notes that if ever there is a complete toll, it “is
sure to be significantly higher” :

“Even if hospital records were complete, they would not tell the full story.
Many of the dead were never taken to hospitals, either buried quickly by
their families in accordance with Islamic custom, or lost under rubble.

The AP excluded all counts done by hospitals whose written records did not
distinguish between civilian and military dead, which means hundreds,
possibly thousands, of victims in Iraq’s largest cities and most intense
battles weren't reflected in the count.”

Another point in the AP study’s favour is its publication of a breakdown of
most of its findings by hospital in “key” cities:

• Baghdad: 1,896 (recorded at 24 hospitals)

• Najaf: 293 (four hospitals)

• Karbala: 200 (one hospital)

• Mosul: 118 (five hospitals)

• Samawa: 112 (two hospitals)

• Nasiriyah: 145 (three hospitals)

• Fallujah: 89 (one hospital)

• Madain: 71 (one hospital)

• Diwaniya: 61 (one hospital)

• Kut: 52 (two hospitals)

• Tikrit: 45 (one hospital)

This is useful, but it would have been better still for each hospital to be
named. Another (self-imposed) limitation is that the AP study attempted to
“protect the integrity of its tally” by excluding numbers not based on daily

“In Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city, hospitals issued 413 death
certificates and officials estimated 85 percent were for civilians, but the
hospitals did not keep daily records listing civilian or military status of
casualties. The AP did not include any Basra deaths in its count.”

This means that the grand total of civilian deaths in Basra for the AP study
is zero (instead of around 350, if it had trusted “officials’” - actually,
doctors’ - estimates), giving good grounds for the authors' conclusion that
the actual numbers, both in Basra and elsewhere, were significantly higher.

Neither the Knight Ridder, LA Times or AP studies are defined by any
specific aims. Presumably they are the results of normal journalistic
enterprise, including the delivery of an exclusive story which can be used
to the benefit of the employer and the career of the journalist. It would,
therefore, hardly be expected that these journalists would directly
co-operate with one another. Yet such co-operation would have ensured that
there was no duplication of effort, and that meaningful summative
compilations could have drawn on these reports.

3.B.2 Projects still under way, who have not issued final reports

The best publicised project currently under way is the Survey of civilian
deaths in Iraq (#11) conducted under the auspices of the Campaign for
Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), led by Marla Ruzicka, an independent
US peace activist (most recently reported by ABC News on May 28th). She has
organised 150 surveyors who are travelling the length and breadth of Iraq,
conducting interviews door-to-door with victims and witnesses in the
worst-affected areas.

At the time of the ABC interview this project has documented 620 civilian
deaths in Baghdad, 256 in Najaf, 425 in Karbala and as many as 1,100 in
Nasiriyah, and researchers were still at work in Kirkuk, Najaf, Ramadi,
Amara, Kut, Diwaniyah, and Basrah. This makes the project potentially the
most comprehensive and labour intensive project so far in Iraq. In this
context it is surprising that, according to press reports, the work
currently receives no public or NGO funding, and that funds are down to the
last $50 (though donations may be made via their website).

Ruzicka came to public attention in 2001 for a somewhat similar project
undertaken in Afghanistan, using local researchers. Her work convinced
Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat- Vermont) to insert language in an
appropriations bill allocating $3.75 million to help Afghan victims (but of
which sadly nothing so far has been disbursed, according to the CSM). Leahy
has been responsible for ensuring that the Iraq War Supplemental Bill
(signed by President Bush on 16th April 2003) directs that an unspecified
portion of the $2.4 billion appropriated for relief and reconstruction in
Iraq should pay for “assistance for families of innocent Iraqi civilians who
suffer losses as a result of military operations”. Ruzicka’s concern for
getting money to victims is admirable, but it places on her a particular
responsibility to provide well-documented primary data. Although the CIVIC
website says that “CIVIC will share survey results with all NGO’s who are
interested in conducting similar studies in Iraq”, the only reports of this
work currently available are rather cursory press reports. This limits the
current usefulness of this study. We hope that a full and detailed report of
the research will be made available by CIVIC as soon as time and resources

A second project announced as under way is the Survey of dead, injured, and
missing (#12) by the Iraqi Red Crescent. The most recent report of this work
was given in a Christian Science Monitor article dated May 22nd. In that
article, Haidar Taie, head of the department for tracing missing persons, is
reported as saying “thousands are dead, thousands are missing, thousands are
captured”. Another official told the CSM that “In Baghdad we have discovered
1,000 graves, and that is not the final figure. Every day we discover more”.
At one time it was reported that the Red Crescent would be issuing total
figures by mid-May. It is now nearly mid-June and no report has appeared. In
the same CSM report, two researchers from two different teams who “asked not
to be identified until the evidence was clearer” were quoted as saying the
number of civilian deaths might be as high as 10,000. Until we know who
these researchers are, and what methodology they are using, we must,
however, treat this estimate with caution.

Focusing on mines and abandoned or “dud” munitions, a Survey of deaths
through unexploded ordnance in Northern Iraq (#13) has been reported
undertaken by the UK-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and on a smaller
scale by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). MAG is also involved in
co-ordinating removal of unexploded ordnance in various locations, as well
as public education projects to try to avoid further death and injury.
Cursory and undetailed reports appear on the websites of both organisations,
and have been variously reported in the press. Both groups claim large
numbers of continuing deaths after the end of the hostilities. On 27th
April, HRW claimed that the number of civilians killed or wounded since the
war ended in northern Iraq was higher than it was during the conflict. On
April 17th MAG published a statement saying that

“Fifty-two killed and 63 injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO);
these are the devastating statistics in just one week coming from the main
hospital in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. The real figures will be much higher as
we know that many deaths are not recorded. There is no death registration

There is no more recent report from either organisation than end April, and
no clear indication of scope or methodology of data-collection. There is at
least one press report that HRW is currently conducting a general survey of
civilian casualties in Iraq, but no announcement, details or mention of this
are on HRW’s website, and it has therefore not been added to our table

3.B.3 Statements of intent (projects planned but not underway)

Our round-up of projects concludes with mention of two projects which have
been announced, but appear not to have published any outcomes at all, even
interim ones. The first, and apparently more comprehensive project is that
announced on 29th April by the charity MedAct entitled The short, medium and
long-term health effects of war on Iraq (#14). This project plans to bring
together a whole range of health indicators, including, of most direct
relevance to our concerns, direct and indirect deaths (combatants and
civilians by age and gender on both sides) and deaths from post-war
violence. Involving a very impressive list of international advisors, the
project promises that its “full overview of the short- and medium-term
effects of the war will be published in the autumn.”

The final project is referred to in connection with the Iraq war in an April
15th Washington Post article. A study on civilian suffering in war (#15) is
being conducted under the auspices of the Carr Center for Human Rights
Policy at Harvard University. The director of this project, Sarah Sewall, is
quoted as saying that obtaining totals would be an unrealistic aim “given
the size, intensity and speed of the US campaign” but that “investigating at
least some incidents would not only bolster US credibility but also
contribute to better military planning next time by understading the actual
effects of particular US battlefield decisions”. There is as yet no
information published on scope, sources, methodology or a delivery date for
this study.


4. Summary and conclusions

15 projects focused on estimating civilian deaths have been reviewed, taking
a variety of approaches, differing in scope, methodology, and degree of
completeness. Although those that have reported outcomes tend to report
somewhat different totals, this is entirely understandable as a function of
the different scope, methodology, and completeness of each respective
project. The important thing to note is that there is very little overall
inconsistency. Nothing in one project contradicts or casts doubt on data
from any other project. All projects must be viewed as incomplete
 “snapshots” of different grain. They generally reinforce rather than
contradict one another. None so far has ventured to extrapolate from limited
evidence to a (dubious) conclusion about the entire conflict. All recognize
that more evidence remains to be gathered, but based on what is so far
known, they provide converging evidence that the total number of civilians
killed in the conflict is well above 5,000.

The fact that the various researchers are largely independent of one
another, and have initiated their work without detailed collaboration or
co-ordination, can be seen as both an advantage and a disadvantage. The
advantage is that the total enterprise does not fail if any one project
fails. The disadvantage is, of course, dissipation of resource and
duplication of effort.

Considerations that are often felt to be of importance in evaluating
projects of this sort are (a) the track record of the researchers; and (b)
their political orientation. Our view is that these considerations are
secondary. The primary criterion on which projects of this sort should be
evaluated is the quality and degree of disclosure of their published
materials (methodology, rationale, sources). The more explicit, detailed and
public the project, the less relevant the background of the researcher
becomes to any judgement of the merit of the work. In general, bias that is
openly stated and recognized is preferable to that which is hidden in
self-professed, and in truth perhaps unattainable, “neutrality”. However,
what ultimately matters is the quality of the work.

Our main plea to some of our fellow researchers is, therefore, to publish as
much detail as possible, including all sources consulted, the methodologies
used, and a breakdown of deaths according to place and date. We also
consider it good practice to publish the names and brief vitae of all main
project personnel, together with an email address to which comments and
questions can be directed.

We ask the press and media to assist this process by providing full sourcing
for projects they mention, including contact details. The table below shows
where such sourcing remains deficient.

We end with two questions. (1) Are these projects worthwhile? And (2) Why
have they been left to relatively small unofficial organisations, in the

(1) Are the projects worthwhile?

These projects have a short-term and a long-term value. The short-term value
is to provide information which would assist anyone planning to provide
support or reparation to the families of those killed. This is a
humanitarian imperative about which there can be no real disagreement,
whatever one’s view of the arguments for going to war. The long-term value
is in providing part of the full estimate of the cost of this war, to help
evaluate the claims from the Pentagon that their war fighting strategies
take increasingly few civilian lives, and to provide an empirical foundation
for assessing the war in moral, socio-political and historical contexts. As
soon as a single named death is confirmed, the short-term value can begin to
be realised. Obviously, the long-term value is best gained when a relatively
complete picture emerges. That is why both fine-grained and “broad-spectrum”
projects are needed.

(2) Why have they been left to marginal players?

The single most notable fact about all this work is the almost complete
absence of any official or semi-official agency from the scene, the abortive
Swiss Foreign Ministry attempt notwithstanding. No project funded by any
government has been announced since conquest was declared, and there appears
to be no involvement of any supra-national agencies such as the UN.
Considering the importance of this work, this is an astonishing state of
affairs. It is, of course, possible that unpublicised work is under way -
but we can think of no justifiable reason why governments and supra-national
agencies should undertake such work covertly. On balance our judgement is
that the work is just not being done, and that the parties most closely
involved just don't want to know.

On May 1st 2003, to wide global indifference, the UN’s Commission on Human
Security published its final report, entitled “Human Security Now”. This
report is a scathing indictment of the low priority given by world powers to
the needs and rights of civilians before, during, and after conflict.
Chapter 4 of this report is entitled “Recovering from Violent Conflict”. On
page 65 of that chapter the following is said:

“Justice and reconciliation programmes in post-conflict situations center on
two strategies. The first, relating to the events that occurred in the
conflict phase, focuses on establishing the truth of what happened,
upholding justice for the victims and punishing the perpetrators. The second
focuses on establishing the rule of law, developing a human rights regime
and strengthening judicial systems.”

All the projects we have described in this review are devoted to the key aim
of “establishing the truth of what happened”. That this is not a priority
for the US or UK administrations shows just how far our own nations are from
promoting or even upholding the ideals of Human Security.

John Sloboda and Hamit Dardagan - June 12th 2003

Projects counting civilians killed in the war on Iraq
(as of June 12 2003)
Project name: Iraq Body Count
Organisation (if different) -
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Hamit Dardagan, John Sloboda
Contact details
Period covered January 2003 - ongoing
Scope Comprehensive - all media reported civilian deaths
Sources Indirect - press, media and official NGO reports
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - extensive
Stated aims (if published) “A Human Security project to establish an
independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian
deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military actions by the USA and its
allies in 2003.”
Comments Provides online database and web-counters downloadable to
participating web-sites. Also publishes periodical comment and analysis on
civilian casualties in Iraq.

Project name: US Bombing Watch
Organisation (if different) Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace (CCMEP)
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators -
Contact details
Period covered January 1999 - ongoing
Scope Limited - deaths through US/UK bombing raids only
Sources Indirect - press and media reports
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Not applicable
Stated aims (if published) [A CCMEP service recording “When was the last
time the U.S. Bombed Iraq?”]
Comments Also collects and publishes news, comment and photographs relating
to the war in Iraq and its aftermath

Project name: Operation Iraqi Freedom Total Casualty Report
Organisation (if different) Center for Defence Information, Washington (CDI)
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Armon Caglar, David Worn
Contact details,
Period covered 21 March 2003 - 6 May 2003(?)
Scope Limited - so far only Iraqi government sources, which ended first week
of April
Sources Indirect - press, media and official reports
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “Until reporters gain unfettered access
throughout the whole of Iraq, it will continue to be our position that there
is simply no way to clearly ascertain the true extent of Iraqi civilian
casualties. When such a time does arrive, rest assured that we will give
these figures the coverage that they deserve.”
Comments Also lists coalition military deaths

Project name: Casualties of the 2003 Iraq War
Organisation (if different) -
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Pranav Jani
Contact details
Period covered 19 March 2003 - ongoing
Scope Comprehensive - media reported casualties
Sources Indirect - press and media reports
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) -
Comments Covers both civilian and military deaths and injuries.

Project name: A list of civilian victims of the war in Iraq
Organisation (if different) Swiss Foreign Ministry
Web address -
Name(s) of principal investigators Micheline Calmy-Rey, Swiss Foreign
Minister (instigator)
Contact details -
Period covered Proposed 30/31 March - aborted 1 April
Scope Comprehensive
Sources Unspecified
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “To give an overview of the number of civilian
casualties and to drive home the reality of conflict.”
Comments Project aborted two days after it was announced - it would have
been the first one of its kind by a government

Project name: Civilian casualties in the 2003 Iraq War: A Compendium of
Accounts and Reports
Organisation (if different) Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA)
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Melissa Murphy, Carl Conetta
Contact details
Period covered 19 March 2003 - 15 May 2003
Scope Limited - selected multiple-death incidents only
Sources Indirect - Western press, media and NGO reports
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - extensive
Stated aims (if published) “To serve as a database for further investigation
of the modes and dynamics of conflict that generate non-combatant
Comments Includes direct quotes from sources it uses

Project name: Evaluation of the attacks on the civilian population of
Organisation (if different) Spanish Brigade Against the War; Arab Cause
Solidarity Campaign
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Javier Barandiaran and 8 others
Contact details
Period covered 20 March - 15 April
Scope Limited- coalition strikes on Baghdad 20 March - 15 April only
Sources Direct - completion of questionnaires by surviving civilian victims
and relatives, supplemented by hospital records
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - extensive
Stated aims (if published) “To indicate the breadth, systematic nature and
severity with respect to the number of civilian victims and material damage
caused by the Anglo-American attacks.”
Comments Detailed reports relating to 42 attacks organised in date order,
with supplementary analyses of repeated attacks on the same target, types of
weapon, ages of the injured, areas of Baghdad hit, and hospitals visited.

Project name: Death toll in 19 Baghdad hospitals
Organisation (if different) Knight Ridder Newspapers
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Matthew Schofield, Nancy A. Youssef, and
Juan O. Tamayo
Contact details -
Period covered 19 March - 9 April
Scope Limited - deaths in 19 Baghdad hospitals only
Sources Direct - hospital records
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) -
Comments Only 7 of the 19 hospitals surveyed are named in the press reports

Project name: Baghdad’s death toll assessed
Organisation (if different) Los Angeles Times
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Laura King
Contact details -
Period covered 20 March – 24 April
Scope Limited - deaths in the municipality of Baghdad only
Sources Direct - hospital records, Islamic burial groups and others working
in Baghdad
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) -
Comments Only 9 of the 27 hospitals surveyed are named in the report

Project name: Associated Press Tally
Organisation (if different) -
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Niko Price and at least 7 other AP
Contact details -
Period covered 20 March - 20 April
Scope Limited - hospital-recorded deaths in “accessible” areas only
Sources Direct - hospital records
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “Several surveys have already looked at civilian
casualties within Baghdad,
but the AP tally is the first attempt to gauge the scale of such deaths
from one end of the country to the other, from Mosul in the north to Basra
in the south.”
Comments Few of the hospitals are named but a breakdown is given by "key
cities"; study openly admits to incompleteness

Project name: Survey of civilian deaths in Iraq
Organisation (if different) Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Marla Ruzicka
Contact details
Period covered March 2003 - ongoing (covering entire war period up to
Scope Comprehensive
Sources Direct - interviews with victims and witnesses, supplemented by
hospital records
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “Getting assistance to the innocent families that
are harmed, and getting a proper accounting of war.”
Comments Employing 150 local volunteers surveyors to assist in tasks such as
interviewing victims' families

Project name: Survey of dead, injured, and missing
Organisation (if different) the Iraqi Red Crescent
Web address -
Name(s) of principal investigators Haidar Taie [Tari], director of tracing
missing persons
Contact details -
Period covered Assumed March 2003 - ongoing
Scope Comprehensive
Sources Not stated, but assumed to be direct
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “Getting assistance to the innocent families that
are harmed, and getting a proper accounting of war.”
Comments Hampered by US forces preventing access to some areas that saw
heavy fighting (as reported 18 May) - project is now one month overdue

Project name: Survey of deaths through unexploded ordnance in Northern Iraq
Organisation (if different) Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Sean Sutton
Contact details
Period covered April 2003 - assumed ongoing
Scope Limited - deaths from unexploded munitions only
Sources Direct - field workers and hospital records
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? No
Stated aims (if published) -
Comments MAG's main activityis the safe removal of UXO - reporting is a
secondary task

Project name: The short, medium and long-term health effects of war on Iraq
Organisation (if different) MedAct
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Gillian Reeve
Contact details
Period covered April 2003 - assumed ongoing
Scope Comprehensive
Sources Direct and indirect - “health professionals, aid agencies, academics
and the media”
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? Yes - partial
Stated aims (if published) “Its key objective is to obtain and publicise
information about the health consequences of the war... topics to be covered
include immediate and long-term mortality and morbidity; damage to health
services; water, electricity, sanitation and nutritional data; environmental
damage; physical and mental health; maternal and child health and the health
of other vulnerable groups; and the effects of specific weapons/munitions.”
Comments “The full overview” is due for publication in the autumn.

Project name: Study on civilian suffering in war
Organisation (if different) Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard
Web address
Name(s) of principal investigators Sarah Sewall
Contact details
Period covered Assumed ongoing
Scope Limited - unspecified sample of deaths
Sources Unspecified
Explicit data-extraction methodology published? No
Stated aims (if published) “To bolster US credibility but also contribute to
better military planning next time.”
Comments -

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