Iraqi dead child is prepared for burial

A young Iraqi girl who suffered a violent death is prepared for burial. The photograph originally appeared at some years ago.

I want you all to look carefully at this paragraph from a Yahoo report of a story on Obama’s television announcement that all US troops will be out of Iraq by Christmas. (The full report (jncluding Associated Press TV coverage) is here:

After nearly nine years, the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.

Now, can you see anything wrong with that paragraph?

Am I about to contentiously argue with the President’s phrase “leave with his head held high”?

Actually, no: although I disagreed profoundly with the invasion, and consider Bush, Cheney, Blair and Howard to be criminals for invading without appropriate UN sanction, that is not the section my eye was drawn to.

With some notable exceptions – sometimes actions of deliberate cruelty, sometimes of wanton disregard for civilian safety – I believe the American troops in Iraq, and other Coalition forces, have acquitted themselves with dignity and courage in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Many good men and women have died or been horribly injured doing their political leader’s bidding, and thousands more have endured the psychological trauma of a bloody and frightening conflict, and their sacrifice should be respected. We should also remember the effects on their families and friends.

No, it is that phrase “tens of thousands of Iraqis”.

Have a look here, at the excellent and carefully accurate website Iraq Body Count: It shows civilian deaths to be somewhere between 103 thousand and 127 thousand. This is a closely researched figure, as immediately becomes clear from a perusal of the site.

Other studies, including one by the respected Lancet journal, (although it has been contested), put the figure as high as 600,000+ deaths, and even as high as a million. Governments were quick to discredit the findings, although they did not mention the advice of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, who had called the study “robust” and its claimed methods “close to ‘best practice’ in this area”.

What is clear to anyone but Blind Freddie (and those who choose not to see the truth), is that many, many more than “tens of thousands” of innocent Iraqi civilians have died or been maimed, certainly in the hundreds of thousands, not just by Coalition action, of course, but as a result of the breakdown in civil society that inevitably and predictably resulted from the allied invasion.

So why does a respected journalistic outlet play down the figure by subtly reporting “tens of thousands” of civilian casualties. “Hundreds of thousands” has a completely different emotional and rational impact. What is the reason for downplaying the body count? Mere lazy journalistic sloppiness? Or something more subtle, and insidious, and deliberate?

I think the people should be told. I invite you to re-blog this story, post it to your friends, and ask media outlets directly.

Because if history is written by the victors, we need to be doubly careful that we write it accurately. We owe that to the dead and injured – remember, they are people, not numbers – and to those who served.

You might also care to check out a shirt I designed some years ago reminding us that Collateral Damage Is People. I deliberately chose to illustrate it with a photo of my own daughter, aged about 2, playing happily in our kitchen. She is still alive, thank God. Other people’s daughter’s aren’t. How many families must be torn to pieces before we find better ways to resolve our differences?

Collateral Damage Is People

Collateral Damage Is People t-shirt. Buy a shirt, change the world.

  1. Yeah, somewhere between 103,000 and 127,000. Something like that.

    While I think the Iraqis are much better off under someone other than Saddam Hussein, it’s not up to me or other non-players to apply that judgement. We think in terms of internal American politics and forget about people like that young innocent girl who lost her life.


  2. Simon Ondaatje says:

    This is another terrible indictment of the Bush Administration….like the economic turmoil the US is in now…this unmitigated disaster reflects the disaster that Bush and his puppet master Cheney were for the US and the world.


  3. Dr S Brown says:

    One life killed was one too many in this despicable outrage. Certainly we were lied to in the UK – “kill Saddam now or else risk the possibility that the UK could be hit within 45 minutes” was the Blare rant .

    Also, the clear association being made by Bush between 9/11 and Saddam was a total lie. What happened when we didn’t find WMD? Bush laughed it off – they’ve got to be here somewhere!

    So, because of the UK and US joint policies, around 1000,000 innocent civilians lost their lives; 1 in 5 children in Iraq are now orphans. What must they think of us? Brave US and UK soldiers also lost their lives; Iraq’s cultural treasures were plundered and the whole area is a mess with the West having lost ANY moral superiority it had previously assumed. We went there for one reason only – oil: that is why we have gone there and Libya – but not in other lands where the atrocities undertaken by leaders make Saddam and Gaddafi’s acts pale into insignificance. Oh and by the way – we now have the Patriot Act, which means that anyone can be thrown into prison without any legal representation if s/he disputes their government’s policies. The Act enables “searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order, and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records.” So we have lost many lives and many aspects of our freedom since 2001.


  4. Richard Ember says:

    What you all seem to conveniently ignore is what would happen if we had ‘not’ gone into Iraq and Afghanistan. And Al Q were free to fight in our streets instead of their own. And the collateral damage was your children, wives, parents etc. I don’t claim to have the answer but I can see the other side of the coin.


    • I think you miss the point of the article, Richard. My real question is why is the propaganda machine now downplaying the number of civilian dead. And I am sorry, but the war in Iraq was nothign to do with Al Qaeda – at least at the time of the invasion. (They later took advantage of the chaos.) Afghanistan is a different story.

      I am afraid I can see no moral difference between an innocent child dying in Iraq, London, America or Australia. And a much larger question, of course, is whether the invasion of iraq ever had any true validity on the terms of the excuses used, and whether Sadaam Hussein (who was a thoroughly corrupt and awful person) could have been got rid of more easily.


      • Richard Ember says:

        My point is there would be a lot more people taking to the Blogwaves than a few outraged middle-aged Fabians if the UK & USA had NOT moved when they did.

        Sure, there were major flaws all the way along in the reasoning etc. But one way or the other, we were going to go in as the problem was there (yes, Al Q was operating there BEFORE we went in) and needed to be kept there. Plus we had to get all the equipment there ready to go into Iran.

        Or do you believe that is not going to happen?


  5. […] In Iraq, more than 120,000 civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion. That’s more than five times the number of fatalities among insurgents and soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Wellthisiswhatithink considers the likely figure to be nearer 500,00 civilian casualties due to all… […]


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