Friday, October 22, 2010

Iraq War: Death and body bags

Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 21 – 27 October, 2010

A new US estimate of the number of Iraqis killed seven years after the US-led invasion serves as a reminder that civilians are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, writes Salah Hemeid

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s famous quotation apparently justifying the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of the Washington- backed and UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s has often been remembered as a cold-blooded assertion of US policy objectives.

The aphorism came to mind again last week when US media reported that the United States had finally released its first official compilation of data on Iraqi casualties, more than seven years after its invasion of the country.

The report, posted on the US Central Command website in July, drew little notice until last Thursday, when media outlets published details showing that 63,185 civilians and 13,754 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed from early 2004 to August 2008.

It is not clear why the figures did not include casualties from the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003, or from the period after August 2008. It is not clear either how the data were compiled and using what methodology.

The figures seem to represent a “policy engineered” anti-climax as the Obama administration, facing a mid- term election challenge, tries to bring an end to America’s misadventure in Iraq.

The number of Iraqis killed during the US-led invasion and its aftermath has long been hotly debated, estimates ranging from fewer than 100,000 to more than a million.

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