bush would explain this as 'their fault for fighting among themselves over the
gift instead of accepting democracy for the gift it is'.
July 20, 2005 Los Angeles Times
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ
Report Tallies Almost 25,000 Civilians Slain
Many Iraqis were killed by U.S.-led forces and criminals as well as insurgents
between the invasion and March 19, antiwar groups say.
By Alissa J. Rubin, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD — Violence in Iraq left nearly 25,000 civilians dead and 42,500
injured in the two years after the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003,
according to a detailed compilation and analysis of news reports released
Tuesday by a pair of Britain-based groups opposed to the war.
The report came amid another 24 hours of violence throughout
Iraq that killed at least 29 people, including a political leader, several
police officers, a factory worker and eight Iraqi civilian laborers at a U.S.
In compiling the daily litany of the dead — by adding up the
number of fatalities reported in about 10,000 news reports — Iraqbodycount.org
and the Oxford Research Group have created what they call an "early analysis of
the military intervention's known human costs." It is the most detailed report
on civilian casualties undertaken since the war began.
The U.S. government does not track Iraqi civilian deaths, and
although the Iraqi Ministry of Health compiles death records, it did not begin
to do so systematically until 2004 and does not regularly release them.
The advocacy groups' basic finding is that "no sector of
Iraqi society has escaped," said professor John Sloboda, one of the report's
The data cover the period from the beginning of the U.S.-led
invasion on March 20, 2003, through March 19, 2005. The statistics do not
include deaths that occurred during the last four months, which has been among
the most violent periods.
Since the war began, 1,762 U.S. troops have died, along with
92 British troops and 100 other troops from the U.S.-led coalition, according
to Associated Press. No accurate statistics are available on the number of
enemy combatants and insurgents killed.
Key findings in the report include:
• Women and children accounted for 18% of the civilians killed.
• Nearly half the deaths occurred in Baghdad.
• 30% of the deaths occurred during the invasion phase.
The study's authors used the term "unknown agents" for killers whose identity
could not be determined from news reports. For instance, when three people are
fatally shot outside a mosque, it is difficult to say whether it represents the
act of an insurgent, a common crime or sectarian violence.
Of those killed by insurgents, criminals or unknown agents,
9.5% were clearly slain by insurgents and 36% by criminals and unknown agents,
according to the report.
Outside experts cautioned that because of the difficulty of
gathering reliable information in Iraq and the inevitable political biases, the
information was almost certainly incomplete. However, "the high casualty
figures indicate the stubbornness of the anti-coalition forces," said Anthony
H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a
Washington think tank.
"It is, I suspect, a message to all of us that this is a very
serious counterinsurgent struggle, that people are being killed in significant
numbers. Certainly when you look at this, the fact that so many are innocent is
important," said Cordesman, a military analyst who specializes in Iraq.
But he said reports of the numbers of people killed and
people wounded in war often blur together and that it is difficult to know "how
many were really civilians."
Although Iraqbodycount is critical of the war, its reports
have been recognized by experts as presenting carefully detailed data in
addition to conclusions that reflect the authors' stance.
The new report is particularly vulnerable to the criticism
raised by Cordesman that it may have counted some people as civilians who in
fact were allied with the insurgency. In a guerrilla war, it is often difficult
to tell who is a fighter and who is a passerby.
"Making that judgment is one of the most intricate things we
do," said Hamit Dardagan, one of the study's authors. "We made a judgment based
on the context of each article we reviewed, and most of our uncertainty about
the numbers is due to that," he said.
According to the study, 24,865 civilians had been killed
through March 19. The authors said they required that each death counted be
documented by at least two news agencies.
The U.S. military issued a statement underscoring that it did
not target civilians, a point echoed by the Iraqi government's official comment
on the report. However, officials did not challenge specific figures in the
"Coalition forces have not targeted the Iraqi civilian
population during Operation Iraqi Freedom. We go to extreme lengths to ensure
that everything possible is done to ensure that they are not put in harm's way
during our operations," Army Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a senior spokesman for
the multinational forces, said in an e-mail response to a query from The
"We know that the loss of any innocent lives is a tragedy,
something Iraqi security forces and the multinational force painstakingly work
to avoid every single day," Boylan continued.
The U.S. military and the Iraqi government stressed that it
has been the insurgents who target civilians.
"It should not be lost on anyone, that the former regime
elements, terrorists and insurgents have made a practice of deliberately
targeting noncombatants; of using civilians as human shields; and of operating
and conducting attacks against coalition forces from within areas inhabited by
civilians," Boylan said.
In a statement, Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba called
the report "mistaken" in saying that "the plague of terrorism has killed fewer
Iraqis than the multinational forces. In recent days, for example, terrorists
targeted children playing in the street and killed 24 of them and in another
attack killed nearly 100 people in Musayyib.
"The international forces try to avoid civilian casualties,
whereas the terrorists target civilians and try to kill as many of them as they
can," Kubba's statement said.
In fact, the detailed figures in the body of the report tell
a more nuanced story than the organizations' summary of the numbers.
A close look at the timing of civilian deaths caused by the
U.S. military show that they occurred mainly in three periods. The vast
majority happened between March 20 and April 9, 2003. The other two peaks were
during battles in Fallouja in 2004, when U.S.-led troops mounted large-scale
operations aimed at rooting out insurgents in which civilians also died,
according to the report.
By contrast, the number of civilian deaths resulting from
attacks by insurgents, criminals and unknown individuals was almost zero during
and just after the major combat phase of the war, but then rose fairly steadily
and in most months far outstripped the deaths blamed on the U.S.
"It's not a pretty picture for any side," Dardagan said.
For most Iraqis, especially those in the largest cities,
violence has become a way of life. Many now constrain their daily activities
out of fear.
Amir Taei, 27, who has a university degree in math and
science, says he no longer goes out in the evenings in his middle-class Baghdad
neighborhood to chat and play videogames with his buddies. Recently, one of his
neighborhood friends was gunned down as he worked in his small shop selling
"His name was Akil Hakim. He was in his 30s, married with
three children, and he was very poor. A Korean car with armed men … killed him
with machine gun using a silencer," Taei said.
"We don't know why he was killed, but the people say that he
was always talking badly about the insurgency and praising the current
government." Hakim was a Shiite Muslim, he added.
Taei is afraid to go out because "maybe an unknown group is
watching us. Our neighborhood used to be one of the safest ones."
Times staff writers Borzou Daragahi in Baghdad and John
Hendren in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.