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August 25, 2007

On Civilian Casualties in Iraq
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

O'hanlon's piece in the Wapo today points to a significant reduction in sectarian violence.  But as Matt points out the U.S. military won't actually verify those numbers or show any proof. 

In fact getting access to any kind of civilian casualty number has grown much more difficult in the past year.  The most reliable source for civilian casualty estimates, the UN, has not been allowed access to the data since the start of 2007.  The Iraqi government was mad because it thought the UN's numbers were too high so it stopped sharing the data. 

There are also numerous reports of underreporting of civilian casualties inside Iraq.

Even more damning is the fact that just last August the military and the Bush Administration specifically underreported civilian deaths in an attempt to tout the success of the original Baghdad security operation.  An accusation that was confirmed by the Iraq Study Group.

A drop in civilian casualties would be great news.  I just wish someone who doesn't have a vested interest in reporting that news could actually verify those numbers.


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I understand the desire to have some sort of neutral, outside agency for the reporting of casualties, but it seems a fallacy to pretend, especially on this issue, that the UN is somehow less biased than the US administration. has reliable figures for the year March 2006--March 2007, and for the past four weeks.

from Iraq Body Count:

On every available indicator the year just ended (March 2006 – March 2007) has been by far the worst year for violence against civilians in Iraq since the invasion.

Within the last year, there has been a marked upward trend in violence. This trend is reflected in IBC’s monthly figures, which peaked in July at nearly 3,000 and have since remained elevated at around 2,500 or higher throughout the second half of the year.

For the period July 16 -- August 19, 2007, there were 2,876 civilian deaths in Iraq attributed to violence. (Note: I added weekly figures to get this total.)

I guess we shouldn't listen to spinmeister O'Hanlon. Didn't we already know that?

AP reports:

The figures are considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual numbers are likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted. Insurgent deaths are not a part of the Iraqi count.

The findings include:

• Iraq is suffering about double the number of war-related deaths throughout the country compared with last year — an average daily toll of 33 in 2006, and 62 so far this year.

• Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. AP reporting accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006.

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U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent.U.S. officials also said that Iraq had weapons of mass distruction. At this point everything that U.S. officials say must be treated with a bucket of salt...

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