Tallying Iraqi Civilian Deaths

You might think a little accounting would be in order.

We know exactly how many American and British soldiers have died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We can only guess at the number of Iraqis, both military and civilian. We can be sure of only one thing: it far exceeds coalition casualties. Civilians, like truth, are usually the first casualties of war. In the early days of the invasion of Iraq, Gen. Tommy Franks famously told reporters at his headquarters in Qatar, "We don't do body counts." The Pentagon and our British allies have stuck to that position ever since. They have never given an accounting, or even a rough estimate, of the number of Iraqi civilians who have died in the bombing and crossfire of combat during the invasion, or in he deadly insurgency that still wracks the country. The United States and Britain, under the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations, have a binding responsibility as occupying authorities to prevent civilian deaths, including those resulting from the breakdown of law and order and inadequate health care or sanitation. So you might think a little accounting would be in order.

That's what a group of retired military, diplomats and government officials have demanded in an open letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The signatures on the letter were collected by Retired Air Vice Marshall Tim Garden, now a member of the House of Lords. They say a full investigation into the death toll is the only way for Britain to comply with its legal requirement to protect Iraqi civilians. A spokesman for the prime minister said his position would not be changed by the letter.


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