An occasional criticism of my monthly posting of US fatalities in the Iraq war is that the numbers belie the larger number of innocent Iraqis who also are dying. It’s a good point; my main defense is that it’s harder to get those numbers. But not impossible. See this item from Discourse.net, describing a new study from Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group: Iraq body count.
The people at the Iraq Body Count project and the Oxford Research Group have released what appears to be a quite careful and judicious report counting and analyzing Iraqi civilian casualties since the beginning of the war. They count 24,865 civilians (just civilians, not soldiers or recruits or insurgents) killed in Iraq in the two years stretching from March 20, 2003 to March 19, 2005, and they estimate that there have been more than three injuries for every death. Nearly half of the reported deaths were in Baghdad (likely that proportion is so high in part because Baghdad is the best-reported of Iraq’s conflict-ridden areas, and because of the good quality of mortuary data there); about one in every 500 Baghdad civilians has been killed violently since March 2003. Baghdad didn’t have the highest number of civilian deaths per capita, though; that honor, among the larger cities, went to Fallujah, where the number rose to 1 in 136.
About 37% of those folks were killed by U.S. forces. Just under 11% were killed by insurgent forces, and about 5% were caught in cross-fire in which both groups participated. That leaves 36% killed in the continuing wave of violent crime that followed the war, enabled by the absence of police and the easy availability of weapons (this is an “excess” figure, subtracting out the average number of pre-war killings over a two-year period), and 11% who could not be classified.
The vast bulk of the 9,270 civilian killings by U.S.-led forces took place either in March 20-April 30 2003 (6882 reported civilian deaths, or 164 per day), or in April-November 2004 (2038 civilian deaths, or between eight and nine per day for the eight-month period). During other calendar periods, U.S.-led forces have killed, on average, fewer than one Iraqi civilian per day.
Counting dead bodies, reducing the lost lives to ticks on a piece of paper, is a lousy way to get at the reality of what’s going on in Iraq. But I think it may be at least slightly less lousy than not even giving those deaths that much attention. In any event, I think these numbers are significant, and are worth thinking about.