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Iraqi dead go uncounted

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    Terrified US soldiers are still killing civilians with impunity, while the dead go uncounted By Patrick Cockburn
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2005
      Terrified US soldiers are still killing civilians with impunity, while
      the dead go uncounted
      By Patrick Cockburn

      04/24/05 "The Independent" - - An American patrol roared past us with
      the soldiers gesturing furiously with their guns for traffic to keep
      back on an overpass in central Baghdad. A black car with three young
      men in it did not stop in time and a soldier fired several shots from
      his machine gun into its engine.

      The driver and his friends were not hit, but many Iraqis do not
      survive casual encounters with US soldiers. It is very easy to be
      accidentally killed in Iraq. US soldiers treat everybody as a
      potential suicide bomber. If they are right they have saved their
      lives and if they are wrong they face no penalty.

      "We should end the immunity of US soldiers here," says Dr Mahmoud
      Othman, a veteran Kurdish politician who argues that the failure to
      prosecute American soldiers who have killed civilians is one of the
      reasons why the occupation became so unpopular so fast. He admits,
      however, that this is extremely unlikely to happen given the US
      attitude to any sanctions against its own forces.

      Every Iraqi has stories of friends or relatives killed by US troops
      for no adequate reason. Often they do not know if they were shot by
      regular soldiers or by members of western security companies whose
      burly employees, usually ex-soldiers, are everywhere in Iraq.

      A member of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi's party, was
      passing through an American checkpoint last year when a single shot
      rang out from a sniper. No US soldier was hit, but the troops at the
      checkpoint hosed down the area with fire, wounding the INC member and
      killing his driver.

      The rector of Al-Nahrain University in south Baghdad was travelling to
      a degree ceremony on the other side of the city when white men in a
      four-wheel drive suddenly opened fire, hitting him in the stomach.
      Presumably they thought he was on a suicide mission.

      It was obvious to many American officers from an early stage in the
      conflict that the Pentagon's claim that it did not count civilian
      casualties was seen by many Iraqis as proof that the US did not care
      about how many of them were killed. The failure to take Iraqi civilian
      dead into account was particularly foolish in a culture where
      relatives of the slain are obligated by custom to seek revenge.

      The secrecy surrounding the numbers of civilians killed reveals
      another important facet of the war. The White House was always more
      interested in the impact of events in Iraq on the American voter than
      it was in the effect on Iraqis. From the beginning of the conflict the
      US and British armies had difficulty in working out who in Iraq really
      was a civilian.

      Marla Ruzicka, the American humanitarian worker who was buried
      yesterday in California, had established in her last weeks in Iraq
      that figures were kept based on after-action reports. Officially, she
      found, 29 civilians were killed in fire fights between US forces and
      insurgents between 28 February and 5 April. But these figures are
      likely to be gross underestimates.

      US soldiers are notorious in Iraq for departing immediately after a
      skirmish, taking their own casualties but sometimes leaving damaged
      vehicles. They would not have time to find out how many Iraqis were
      killed or injured.

      The Health Ministry in Baghdad did produce figures and then stopped
      doing so, saying they had not been properly collated. Iraqi Body
      Count, a group monitoring casualties by looking at media sources, puts
      the total at 17,384. But most Iraqis die obscurely; it is dangerous
      for reporters, Iraqi or foreign, to try to find out who is being
      killed. Much of Iraq is a bandit-ridden no-man's land.

      Even in Baghdad it is evident from the hundreds of bodies arriving at
      the mortuary that this has become one of the most violent societies on
      earth. The Iraqi Body Count figure is probably much too low, because
      US military tactics ensure high civilian losses ­ a bizarre aspect of
      the war is that US commanders often do not understand the damage done
      by their weapons in Iraq's close-packed cities.

      US firepower, designed to combat the Soviet army, cannot be used in
      built up areas without killing or injuring civilians. Nevertheless, a
      study published in the Lancet saying that 100,000 civilians have died
      in Iraq appears to be too high. But the lack of definitive figures
      continues to dehumanise the uncounted Iraqi dead. As Dr Richard
      Garfield, a professor of nursing at Columbia University and an author
      of the Lancet report, wrote: "We are still fighting to record the
      Armenian genocide. Until people have names and are counted they don't
      exist in a policy sense."

      The immunity of US troops means that there is nothing to inhibit them
      opening fire in what for them is a terrifying situation. For all their
      modern armament they are vulnerable to suicide bombers and roadside
      bombs. In the first case the attacker is already dead and in the
      second the man who detonates the bomb is probably several hundred
      yards away and in cover. With nobody else to shoot at it is the
      civilians who pay the price.

      ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.


      IRAQ: Doctors warn of increasing deformities in newborn babies.

      BAGHDAD, 27 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad,
      have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies.

      Health officials and scientists said this could be due to radiation
      passed through mothers following years of conflict in the country.

      The most affected regions are in the south of the country,
      particularly Basra and Najaf, according to experts. Weaponry used
      during the Gulf war in 1991 contained depleted uranium, which could be
      a primary source for the increase, scientists in Baghdad said.

      "In my experiments we have found some cases where the mother or father
      were suffering from pollution from weapons used in the south and we
      believe that it is affecting newborn babies in the country," Dr
      Ibraheem al-Jabouri, a scientist at Baghdad University, told IRIN.

      According to Dr Nawar Ali, at the University of Baghdad, who works in
      the newborn babies research department, a significant number of cases
      of deformed babies had been reported since 2003.

      "There have been 650 cases in total since August 2003 reported in
      government hospitals - that is a 20 percent increase from the previous
      regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the
      number could be higher," Ali warned.

      The health expert said polluted water, which could contain radiation
      from weapons used in previous conflicts, was the main factor behind
      the increase.

      The type of deformities found in newborn babies are characterised by
      multiple fingers, unusually large heads, unilateral lips or no arms or

      In addition, Dr Lamia'a Amran, a pediatrician at the Iraqi Red
      Crescent Society (IRCS) hospital in the capital, told IRIN that
      inter-marriages were also to blame and that most of cases of deformed
      babies were from poor families in the southern region.

      "Most of the women who have deformed babies in our hospital are
      married to relatives and have no idea that a common blood factor can
      also cause such problems," Amran added.

      The IRCS hospital registers at least four cases of deformities every
      week. During April this year, 15 cases were reported, according to the
      hospital spokesman, a number considered high for a short period of time.

      However, Amran added that 60 percent of the cases were not related to
      blood factors, but due to other causes. She explained that after
      studying family history of couples with deformed babies, they
      concluded that radiation and pollution were the main causes of the

      But most of the cases reported don't survive for more than a week,
      doctors said. Nearly 90 percent of such cases at the Central Teaching
      Hospital for Pediatrics in Baghdad do not survive, according to Wathiq
      Ibrahim, director of the hospital.

      "We have asked for help from the government to make a more profound
      study on such cases as it is affecting thousands of families," he told

      "My two children were born with deformities and today I had my third
      one with the same problem. The doctors say pollution is the cause and
      now my husband wants to divorce me claiming that I am not capable of
      bringing healthy children into the world," Fatima Hussein, a
      34-year-old patient at the hospital, told IRIN.

      The Ministry of Health (MoH) is working on developing a programme to
      alert mothers to the problem. A MoH senior official told IRIN that
      studies had been undertaken to discover reasons for deformities
      occurring and to find solutions fast.

      Officials at the World Heath Organization (WHO) have not yet developed
      any kind of research on the subject, but said they would assist the
      MoH if requested.

      "The Iraqi government should take a lead on this issue and if we are
      asked to assist we will do it," Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the
      WHO in Cairo, told IRIN.

      "It is a very delicate problem, I have heard about cancer caused by
      pollution, but deformities in newborn babies is something new and as a
      result of security issues in the country our staff are outside Iraq,
      which makes surveying more complicated," she added.

      "Our children have started to suffer the effect of years of war and
      disasters inside Iraq. The wars happened but no one cared about the
      result it was going to have and today innocent lives are being lost
      due to pollution and poor information," Firdous al-Abadi, a
      spokeswomen for the IRCS, told IRIN.



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