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
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. military base.
   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 authors.
   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 report.
   "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 Times.
   "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 soda.
   "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.

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