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Tuesday, April 06, 2010


How many Iraqis have died?

A few days ago it was the story of the coverup of the murder by U.S. forces of civilians in Afghanistan, today it's the story of a 2007 massacre in which U.S. helicopter gunships fired on civilians in Iraq. WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald were on Democracy Now! this morning, drawing the (hopefully obvious long ago) conclusion that you can't trust a word the U.S. military says, and also the conclusion that these type of events are absolutely daily occurrences, with only the tip of the iceberg of them being exposed to the public.

All true. But I'd like to point readers to an additional conclusion. Over the years I've written a great deal about the number of people killed in Iraq, and one of the points I have made repeatedly is that when you look at various statistics, some of them (e.g., Iraq Body Count) want to count only "civilians", while others (the statistical surveys) count all the dead (and some count only "violent" deaths, while others count all deaths, e.g., deaths from lack of medical care or poor public health conditions caused by the invasion).

And so one point that can't be emphasized enough is that, whether you agree with me or not that all the deaths, be they of members of the Iraqi armed forces, members of the Iraqi resistance, or "innocent civilians" are equally reprehensible, and all the result of the U.S. invasion, is that the numbers for "civilian" deaths are completely and utterly skewed and rendered meaningless by the kind of false reporting represented by these two incidents. I'm not going to look up this specific incident in IBC, but it's an absolute certainty that a huge number of deaths were excluded from that count because they were reported (first by the U.S. military, and then by the U.S. press stenographic pool) as "insurgents" or perhaps "terrorists" (or maybe "suspected terrorists"). Which is just one more reason why the numbers to focus on are the total number of Iraqis killed, not the bogus and almost completely arbitrary "civilian" totals.

Notice I'm not dwelling on the actual numbers in this post. I've been over that ground before, and for the purposes of this discussion the actual numbers really don't matter. Needless to say they do matter to the actual people involved, those no longer living and those still mourning (and suffering from in very real ways) their loss.

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