12,000 Dead in Iraqi Guerrilla War
Rate of Killing Same as Under Saddam
The final toll for Iraqis killed in guerrilla violence or the USG/Iraqi government response to it on Thursday grew to 39. In addition to the early-morning incidents reported here this morning, there were several further attacks around the country. In Baghdad, “men in three speeding cars sprayed gunfire into a crowded market in the northern neighborhood of Hurriyah, killing nine people . . .” In Mosul, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 7 and wounded 10. In Mahmudiyah south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed 3 persons.
2 US servicemen were killed by guerrilla action in western Iraq.
The Iraqi government claims to be deploying 40,000 troops and police to clear some Baghdad neighborhoods of guerrillas, and to have killed 28 and arrested some 700 guerrillas or guerrilla sympthizers. (For the issue of body counts in Iraq, see Tom Engelhardt’s cogent discussion.
Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post reports the allegation by Bayan Jabr, the Iraqi Minister of the Interior, that 12,000 Iraqis have died in the guerrilla war during the past 18 months. A member of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), he maintained that most of the victims have been Shiites and rather defensively said that no Sunni mosques had been destroyed. He was referring to the bombings at Shiite mosques by Sunni guerrillas. But many innocent Sunnis have suffered in the guerrilla war (including virtually the entire civilian population of Fallujah), and he was unwise to downplay that, making himself sound partisan and sectarian.
The Washington Post did not refer to the findings of Knight Ridder for last summer that US troops were responsible for twice as many Iraqi deaths as the guerrillas themselves over a four-month period.
The figure of 12,000 killed in guerrilla violence in the past 18 months tracks generally with the figures arrived at by Iraq Body Count, which gives between about 22,000 and 25,000 civilian deaths for the two years since the beginning of the war. If we subtract the 7,000 or so civilians Iraq Body Count gives as killed during the war through May 1, 2003 from the minimum number, we get a postwar two-year total of 15,000, making an 18-month total of 12,000 plausible in this light. But the Lancet study suggested that much higher totals of civilian deaths are also plausible, up to 100,000 through fall, 2004. The majority of those deaths will have been caused by US aerial bombardment of civilian neighborhoods.
AP has more of Jabr’s interview: “‘The number of Shiite clerics killed is several folds (higher than) the number of Sunni clerics (killed),” Jabr said without giving figures. ”
The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars on Thursday accused the Iraqi army of having killed Shaikh Imad Asim al-Hamdani, the Friday prayers leader and preacher at the Ahl al-Bait Mosque in Latifiyah 35 km south of Baghdad. They said that American “occupation forces” also arrested Shaikh Faisal Husain al-Isawi, the head of the AMS library in Amiriyah near Fallujah. (- Al-Sharq al-Awsat/ DPA).
The 12,000 figure over 18 months would equal about 8000 deaths a year or 22 per day. As noted, this number is actually probably a gross underestimate.
Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, when questioned about the Iraq war that he helped spearhead, asked, “Would you really prefer to have Saddam Hussein in power?”
But the reason for not having Saddam in power was that he had killed so many people. If not having him means that 8,000 people a year have to die, then what? And what if the number of people dying in Iraq is even higher? What if it is not 8,000 a year, as Jabr maintains, but more like 50,000? Jabr’s figures are only for casualties of guerrilla actions. What about all the Iraqis who have died as a result of US bombing raids on civilian quarters of cities? What about all the murders that occur as part of political reprisals?
The Baath Party was in power for about 35 years. If it had killed 8000 civilians per year, that would be 280,000 persons. That is about what is alleged, though it is probably an exaggeration. (The deaths in the Iran-Iraq war cannot all be laid at Saddam’s feet, since he began suing for peace in 1982, but was rebuffed by Khomeini, who insisted on dragging the war out until 1988 in hopes of taking Baghdad and putting the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in power there. Likewise, Mr. Rumsfeld’s offer of support to Saddam and greenlighting of the use of chemical weapons prolonged the war).
In other words, Bayan Jabr’s figures suggest that in US-dominated Iraq, people are dying so far at about the same rate as they did under Baath rule. (If he is underestimating the civilian casualties, then it is possible that many more are dying per year than under Saddam!) In any case, Saddam’s killing sprees were largely over with by the late 1990s, so the rate of death in Iraq now is enormously greater than it was in, say, 2001.
Wolfowitz should give up on the propaganda technique of just demonizing his opponents and then asking how anyone could want them in power. The real question is, are Iraqis better off under US auspices? So far, the answer with regard to the death rate is a resounding “No!”
“In a country where almost half the population of 27.1 million people is less than 18 years old, some of the most startling findings relate to youth. Nearly one-fourth of Iraqi children aged between six months and five years are chronically malnourished, meaning they have stunted growth, the report says. Among all Iraqi children, more than one in 10, suffer from general malnutrition, meaning they have a low weight for their age. Another eight percent have acute malnourishment, or low weight for their height.
“In some areas of the country, acute malnourishment reaches 17 percent and stunting reaches 26 percent, the report says. Both infant and child mortality rates appear to have been steadily increasing over the past 15 years. At present, 32 babies out of every 1,000 born alive die before reaching their first birthday.
“In addition, 37 percent of young men with secondary or higher education are unemployed and just 83 percent of boys and 79 percent of school-age girls are enrolled in primary school.
“The infant mortality and malnutrition findings make clear that “the suffering of children due to war and conflict in Iraq is not limited to those directly wounded or killed by military activities,” the report says. For example, researchers found that diarrhea killed two out of every 10 children before the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War against Saddam Hussein and four in 10 after the war.
“Homes also took a major hit from the latest war, the study says.”
I don’t think there is anything much to celebrate in this picture of Iraq. Many of its current problems, though by no means all, are the direct fault of Mr. Wolfowitz. That we “got Saddam” won’t feed Iraq’s children or repair the holes in the roofs of Iraqi homes.