Over a Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
- This story was voted #1 most censored story of 2008 by Project
Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
Student Researchers: Danielle Stanton, Tim LeDonne, Kat Pat Crespán
Faculty Evaluator: Heidi LaMoreaux, PhD
Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the
2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious
British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers
suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass
killings of the last centurythe human toll exceeds the 800,000 to
900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is
approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia's
infamous "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
ORB's research covered fifteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces. Those
not covered include two of Iraq's more volatile regionsKerbala and
Anbarand the northern province of Arbil, where local authorities
refused them a permit to work. In face-to-face interviews with 2,414
adults, the poll found that more than one in five respondents had had
at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, as
opposed to natural cause.
Authors Joshua Holland and Michael Schwartz point out that the
dominant narrative on Iraqthat most of the violence against Iraqis
is being perpetrated by Iraqis themselves and is not our
responsibilityis ill conceived. Interviewers from the Lancet report
of October 2006 (Censored 2006, #2) asked Iraqi respondents how their
loved ones died. Of deaths for which families were certain of the
perpetrator, 56 percent were attributable to US forces or their
allies. Schwartz suggests that if a low pro rata share of half the
unattributed deaths were caused by US forces, a total of
approximately 80 percent of Iraqi deaths are directly US perpetrated.
Even with the lower confirmed figures, by the end of 2006, an average
of 5,000 Iraqis had been killed every month by US forces since the
beginning of the occupation. However, the rate of fatalities in 2006
was twice as high as the overall average, meaning that the American
average in 2006 was well over 10,000 per month, or over 300 Iraqis
every day. With the surge that began in 2007, the current figure is
likely even higher.
Schwartz points out that the logic to this carnage lies in a
statistic released by the US military and reported by the Brookings
Institute: for the first four years of the occupation the American
military sent over 1,000 patrols each day into hostile neighborhoods,
looking to capture or kill "insurgents" and "terrorists." (Since
February 2007, the number has increased to nearly 5,000 patrols a
day, if we include the Iraqi troops participating in the American
surge.) Each patrol invades an average of thirty Iraqi homes a day,
with the mission to interrogate, arrest, or kill suspects. In this
context, any fighting age man is not just a suspect, but a
potentially lethal adversary. Our soldiers are told not to take any
chances (see Story #9).
According to US military statistics, again reported by the Brookings
Institute, these patrols currently result in just under 3,000
firefights every month, or just under an average of one hundred per
day (not counting the additional twenty-five or so involving our
Iraqi allies). Thousands of patrols result in thousands of innocent
Iraqi deaths and unconscionably brutal detentions.
Iraqis' attempts to escape the violence have resulted in a refugee
crisis of mammoth proportion. According to the United Nations Refugee
Agency and the International Organization for Migration, in 2007
almost 5 million Iraqis had been displaced by violence in their
country, the vast majority of which had fled since 2003. Over 2.4
million vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq, up to 1.5
million were living in Syria, and over 1 million refugees were
inhabiting Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Gulf States.
Iraq's refugees, increasing by an average of almost 100,000 every
month, have no legal work options in most host states and provinces
and are increasingly desperate.1
Yet more Iraqis continue to flee their homes than the numbers
returning, despite official claims to the contrary. Thousands fleeing
say security is as bad as ever, and that to return would be to accept
death. Most of those who return are subsequently displaced again.
Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail quote an Iraqi engineer now working at
a restaurant in Damascus, "Return to Iraq? There is no Iraq to return
to, my friend. Iraq only exists in our dreams and memories."
Another interviewee told the authors, "The US military say Fallujah
is safe now while over 800 men are detained there under the worst
conditions. . . . At least 750 out of the 800 detainees are not
resistance fighters, but people who refused to collaborate with
occupation forces and their tails." (Iraqis who collaborate with
occupation forces are commonly referred to as "tails of the
Another refugee from Baghdad said, "I took my family back home in
January. The first night we arrived, Americans raided our house and
kept us all in one room while their snipers used our rooftop to shoot
at people. I decided to come back here [Damascus] the next morning
after a horrifying night that we will never forget."
1. "The Iraqi Displacement Crisis," Refugees International, March 3,
UPDATE BY MICHAEL SCHWARTZ
The mortality statistics cited in "Is the United States Killing
10,000 Iraqis Every Month?" were based on another article suitable
for Project Censored recognition, a scientific investigation of
deaths caused by the war in Iraq. The original article, published in
Lancet in 2006, received some dismissive coverage when it was
released, and then disappeared from view as the mainstream media
returned to reporting biased estimates that placed Iraqi casualties
at about one-tenth the Lancet estimates. The corporate media blackout
of the original study extended to my article as well, and has
continued unabated, though the Lancet article has withstood several
waves of criticism, while being confirmed and updated by other
studies (Censored 2006, #2).
By early 2008, the best estimate, based on extrapolations and
replications of the Lancet study, was that 1.2 million Iraqis had
died as a consequence of the war. This figure has not, to my
knowledge, been reported in any mass media outlet in the United
The blackout of the casualty figures was matched by a similar
blackout of other main evidence in my article: that the Bush
administration military strategy in Iraq assures vast property
destruction and lethality on a daily basis. Rules of engagement that
require the approximately one thousand US patrols each day to respond
to any hostile act with overwhelming firepowersmall arms, artillery,
and air powerguarantee that large numbers of civilians will suffer
and die. But the mainstream media refuses to cover this mayhem, even
after the Winter Soldier meetings in March 2008 featured over one
hundred Iraq veterans who testified to their own participation in
what they call "atrocity producing situations." (see Story #9)
The effectiveness of the media blackout is vividly illustrated by an
Associated Press poll conducted in February 2007, which asked a
representative sample of US residents how many Iraqis had died as a
result of the war. The average respondent thought the number was
under 10,000, about 2 percent of the actual total at that time. This
remarkable mass ignorance, like so many other elements of the Iraq
War story, received no coverage in the mass media, not even by the
Associated Press, which commissioned the study.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War has made the brutality of the
occupation their special activist province. The slaughter of the
Iraqi people is the foundation of their demand for immediate and full
withdrawal of US troops, and the subject of their historic Winter
Soldier meetings in Baltimore. Though there was no mainstream US
media coverage of this event, the live streaming on Pacifica Radio
and on the IVAW website reached a huge audienceincluding a vast
number of active duty soldierswith vivid descriptions of atrocities
committed by the US war machine. A growing number of independent news
sites now feature regular coverage of this aspect of the war,
including Democracy Now!, Tom Dispatch, Dahr Jamail's MidEast
Dispatches, Informed Comment, Antiwar.com, and ZNet.
UPDATE BY MAKI AL-NAZZAL AND DAHR JAMAIL
The promotion of US general David Petraeus to head CENTCOM, and
General Raymond Odierno to replace Petraeus as commanding general of
the Multi-National Force in Iraq, provoked a lot of anger amongst
Iraqis in both Syria and Jordan. The two generals who convinced US
and international society of improvement in Iraq do not seem to have
succeeded in convincing Iraqi refugees of their success.
"Just like the Bush Administration decorated Paul Bremer (former head
of the Coalition Provisional Authority), they are rewarding others
who participated in the destruction to Iraq," stated Muhammad Shamil,
an Iraqi journalist who fled Iraq to Syria in 2006. "What they call
violence was concentrated in some parts of Iraq, but now spread to be
all over the country, thanks to US war heroes. People are getting
killed, evicted or detained by the thousands, from Basra (South) to
Other Iraqi refugees seem to have changed attitudes regarding their
hopes to return. Compared to when this story was published in March
2008, the refugee crisis continues to deepen. This is exacerbated by
the fact that most Iraqis have no intention of returning home.
Instead, they are looking for permanent residence in other countries.
"I decided to stop dreaming of going back home and find myself a new
home anywhere in the world if I could," said thirty-two-year-old Maha
Numan in Syria, "I have been a refugee for three years now living on
the dream of return, but I decided to stop dreaming. I have lost
faith in all leaders of the world after the surges of Basra, Sadr
City and now Mosul. This seems to be endless and one has to work
harder on finding a safe haven for one's family."
Iraqis in Syria know a lot more of the news about their country than
most journalists. At an Internet café in Damascus, each of them calls
his hometown and reports the happenings of the day to other Iraqi
refugees. News of ongoing violence across much of Iraq convinces them
to remain abroad.
"There were four various explosions in Fallujah today," said Salam
Adel, who worked as a translator for US forces in Fallujah in
2005. "And they say it is safe to go back! Damn them, go back for
what? For roadside bombs or car bombs?"
It has been important, politically, for the Bush administration to
claim that the situation in Iraq is improving. This claim has been
assisted by a complicit corporate media. However, the 1.5 million
Iraqis in Syria, and over 750,000 in Jordan, will tell you
differently. Otherwise, they would not remain outside of Iraq.
To obtain updated information on the refugee crisis, see
http://www.unhcr.org/iraq.html, and http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/.
After Downing Street, July 6, 2007
Title: "Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is
Author: Michael Schwartz
AlterNet, September 17, 2007
Title: "Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda genocide, Cambodian killing
Author: Joshua Holland
AlterNet, January 7, 2008
Title: "Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey"
Author: Luke Baker
Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008
Title: "Iraq: Not our country to Return to"
Authors: Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail
About Project Censored:
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