Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who's Killing The Iraqis?

When we hear figures of Iraqi civilian casualties from the war, whether it is the 100,000 figure from the widely discredited Lancet study, or the more agreed upon figure of 25,000 or so that has been bandied about by UN reports and Iraq Body Count, we seldom hear any breakdown of who, exactly, has been doing the killing. Rod Nordland, in a piece at Newsweek's website, of all places, puts things in some much-needed perspective.

Nordland recounts the twists and turns the anti-war Left engages in to avoid stating plainly that Coalition troops aren't killing many civilians at all. An example:
Fully 30 percent of the civilian fatalities Iraq Body Count records took place prior to May 1, 2003, when U.S. troops were actively engaged in the invasion and in subduing remnants of Saddam's army. During that military campaign, large numbers of Saddam Fedayeen and other irregular forces foght [sic] back from the cover of civilian dress, a violation of the laws and customs of warfare. Those who died were inevitably declared civilians by their loved ones. And such forces in most places represented the bulk of the resistance against the invasion; the uniformed Iraqi military for the most part deserted and fled. And Saddam's forces, both uniformed and not, systematically took refuge in schools, mosques, hospitals, and civilian neighborhoods, using those places as firebases - a guarantee that civilians would be killed in the process. In many places, coalition troops held their fire and slowed their advance for fear of causing greater civilian loss of life. In all, 6,616 civilian fatalities are listed by the report. Even if you make the dubious assumption that all of them were truly civilians, it is not surprising that so many died. Given the tactics of the enemy, it's surprising that so few did.
Nordland also demolishes the statistical significance of the Lancet study, and documents the ludicrous overcount of civilian casualties at Fallujah. His conclusion:
...A much fairer rendering of IBC's own statistics would suggest that at worst 9.8 percent of these fatalities could be attributed to U.S.-led forces, another 32.5 percent to the fog of war, crossfires and the like, and the remaining 42.3 percent to insurgents and terrorists. And even that assumes, falsely, that all of these civilians were really civilians.
If Nordland is correct, that means about 2,400 civilian casualties can be attributed to the Coalition in the twenty-eight months that we have been in Iraq. While even that number is tragic, it's a far cry from the indiscriminate slaughter being thrown about by those who oppose the war.

UPDATE 4:27 p.m.: Once again, many thanks to Leon H at Red State for the link; if you're not taking part in the conversation at Red State, you're really missing out on one of the best parts of the conservative Internet presence...

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