November 1, 2004
The Guardian

The War on Iraq Has Made Moral Cowards of Us All

More than 100,000 Iraqis have died - and where is our shame and rage?

by Scott Ritter

The full scale of the human cost already paid for the war on Iraq is only now becoming clear. Last week's estimate by investigators, using credible methodology, that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians - most of them women and children - have died since the US-led invasion is a profound moral indictment of our countries. The US and British governments quickly moved to cast doubt on the Lancet medical journal findings, citing other studies. These mainly media-based reports put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at about 15,000 - although the basis for such an endorsement is unclear, since neither the US nor the UK admits to collecting data on Iraqi civilian casualties.

Civilian deaths have always been a tragic reality of modern war. But the conflict in Iraq was supposed to be different - US and British forces were dispatched to liberate the Iraqi people, not impose their own tyranny of violence.

Reading accounts of the US-led invasion, one is struck by the constant, almost casual, reference to civilian deaths. . . .

The fact that most bombing missions in Iraq today are pre-planned, with targets allegedly carefully vetted, further indicts those who wage this war in the name of freedom. If these targets are so precise, then those selecting them cannot escape the fact that they are deliberately targeting innocent civilians at the same time as they seek to destroy their intended foe. . . .

But we all are moral cowards when it comes to Iraq. Our collective inability to summon the requisite shame and rage when confronted by an estimate of 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not only condemns us, but adds credibility to those who oppose us. The fact that a criminal such as Osama bin Laden can broadcast a videotape on the eve of the US presidential election in which his message is viewed by many around the world as a sober argument in support of his cause is the harshest indictment of the failure of the US and Britain to implement sound policy in the aftermath of 9/11. The death of 3,000 civilians on that horrible day represented a tragedy of huge proportions. Our continued indifference to a war that has slaughtered so many Iraqi civilians, and will continue to kill more, is in many ways an even greater tragedy: not only in terms of scale, but also because these deaths were inflicted by our own hand in the course of an action that has no defence.


[Scott Ritter was a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and is the author of Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America]

"Iraq Civilian Body Count Passes 6,000," Reuters, July 9, 2003

Denis Halliday, "The UN Failed the Iraqi People," Socialist Worker Online, September 5, 2003

[. . . the researchers reported in a paper released early by the Lancet, a British medical journal.--Rob Stein, "100,000 Civilian Deaths Estimated in Iraq," Washington Post, October 29, 2004]

Naomi Klein, "In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead," Guardian, December 4, 2004

Rory McCarthy, "Blair rejects call for count of Iraqi deaths: Scale of killing obscured by refusal to collect data," Guardian, December 9, 2004

Scott Ritter, "Criminals the lot of us," Guardian, January 27, 2005

[The truth is that you cannot even begin to make a justification for the war unless you take into account the lives of innocent Iraqis lost as a result of it.--Gary Younge, "Two years on, the occupiers justify the war by embracing the irrelevant and ignoring the inconvenient," Guardian, March 21, 2005]

[Unlike the respectful applause granted the Congolese study, this one, published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, generated a hail of abusive criticism. The general outrage may have been prompted by the unsettling possibility that Iraq's liberators had already killed a third as many Iraqis as the reported 300,000 murdered by Saddam Hussein in his decades of tyranny. . . .

Sprey calculates that deaths inflicted to date as a direct result of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq could be, at best estimate, 183,000, with an upper 95 per cent confidence boundary of 511,000.--Andrew Cockburn, "How Many Iraqis Have Died Since the US Invasion in 2003?," CounterPunch, January 9, 2006]

[However, the report notes, this is a conservative estimate, and the total number killed in the three countries "could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely."

Furthermore, the researchers do not look at other countries targeted by U.S.-led war, including Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and beyond.--Sarah Lazare, "Body Count Report Reveals At Least 1.3 Million Lives Lost to US-Led War on Terror,", March 26, 2015]

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