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[casi] Iraq to stop counting civilian dead



This story doesn't seem to have been reported much. I find the 1200
Iraqi military deaths hard to believe.

http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ_CIVILIAN_CASUALTIES?SI
TE=IDBOI&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

10.12.2003 [18:03]


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)  Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a
count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics
department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who
oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The order was relayed by the ministry's director of planning, Dr.
Nazar Shabandar, but the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority,
which oversees the ministry, also wanted the counting to stop, said
Dr. Nagham Mohsen, the head of the ministry's statistics department.

"We have stopped the collection of this information because our
minister didn't agree with it," she said, adding: "The CPA doesn't
want this to be done."

A spokesman for the CPA had no immediate response.

The U.S. and British militaries don't count civilian casualties from
their wars, saying only that they try to minimize civilian deaths.

A major investigation of Iraq's wartime civilian casualties was
compiled by The Associated Press, which documented the deaths of
3,240 civilians between March 20 and April 20. That investigation,
conducted in May and June, surveyed about half of Iraq's hospitals,
and reported that the real number of civilian deaths was sure to be
much higher.

The Health Ministry's count, based on records of all hospitals,
promised to be more complete.

Saddam Hussein's regime fell April 9, and President Bush declared
major combat operations over on May 1.

The ministry began its survey at the end of July, when shaky
nationwide communication links began to improve. It sent letters to
all hospitals and clinics in Iraq, asking them to send back details
of civilians killed or wounded in the war.

Many hospitals responded with statistics, Mohsen said, but last month
Shabinder summoned her and told her that the minister, Dr. Khodeir
Abbas, wanted the count halted. He also told her not to release the
partial information she had already collected, she said.

"He told me, `You should move far away from this subject,'" Mohsen
said. "I don't know why."

Shabandar's office said he was attending a conference in Egypt and
wouldn't return for two weeks. Abbas' secretary said he, too, was out
of the country and would return in late December.

The coalition spokesman said officials who direct the Health Ministry
weren't immediately available for comment.

Mohsen insisted that despite communications that remain poor and
incomplete record-keeping by some hospitals, the statistics she
received indicated that a significant count could have been
completed.

"I could do it if the CPA and our minister agree that I can," she
said in an interview in English.

Under Saddam's government, the ministry counted 1,196 civilian deaths
during the war, but was forced to stop as U.S. and British forces
overran southern Iraqi cities. Over the summer, the ministry compiled
more figures that had been sent in previously, reaching a total of
1,764.

But officials said those numbers account for only a small number of
the hospitals in Iraq, and none provided statistics through the end
of the war.

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in the war is well documented. The
Pentagon says 115 American military personnel were killed in combat
from the start of the war to May 1, when President Bush declared
major combat over, and 195 since.

Iraq kept meticulous records of its soldiers killed in action but
never released them publicly. Military doctors have said the Iraqi
military kept "perfect" records, but burned them as the war wound
down.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

COMMENTARY: Creation of the "war crimes tribunal" in Iraq by the
occupation administration and its puppet Iraqi "government" is aimed
at legitimizing the change of government in Iraq. The secondary
purpose of the "tribunal" is to distract attention of the Iraqis and
the international community from the deteriorating situation in Iraq
under the US-British occupation and to divert attention from mounting
civilian casualties in Iraq.

The US occupation administration has been pressuring Iraq to cease
counting civilian casualties for several months now and, it seems,
Paul Bremer finally got his way. Once the Iraqi Health ministry stops
counting civilian casualties in the country, there will be no other
official record of civilians killed by the occupation forces, leaving
the US military free to continue unchecked extermination of Iraqi
civilians.

Current estimates by media and humanitarian organizations in Iraq
show between 10,000 and 15,000 killed Iraqi civilians. Casualties
among the Iraqi military are estimated at around 1,200. The
approximate ratio of 1:10 of military casualties to civilian deaths
closely resemble casualties during the 1999 Operation "Allied Force"
against Yugoslavia that claimed about 300 Yugoslav military
casualties and ten times as many civilian deaths as the result of
NATO bombing.

While in Iraq we at least have some picture of civilian casualties,
the situation in Afghanistan is entirely unclear. We known that for
the past few days the US Air Force has been busy killing children in
Afghanistan, but beyond such episodic reports we known almost nothing
about the plight of Afghani civilians caused by this latest US
military action.

Venik


Mark Parkinson
Bodmin
Cornwall



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