Wednesday October 29, 2003
As many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed in the first days
of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq,
A study produced by an independent US thinktank said yesterday. Up
to 4,300 of the dead were civilian noncombatants.
The report, by Project on Defence Alternatives, a research institute
from Cambridge, Massachussets, offers the most comprehensive account
so far of how many Iraqis died.
The toll of Iraq's war dead covered by the report is limited to the early
stages of the war, from March 19 when American tanks crossed the Kuwaiti
border, to April 20, when US troops had consolidated their hold on Baghdad.
Researchers drew on hospital records, official US military statistics,
news reports, and survey methodology to arrive at their figures.
They were also able to make use of two earlier studies on Iraq's war
dead from Iraq Body Count, a website which has kept a running total of
those killed, and the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, which
has sought to count the dead and injured of the war in order to pursue
compensation claims for their families.
The new report, which estimates Iraq's war dead at between 10,800 and
15,100, uses a far more rigorous definition of civilian than the other
studies to arrive at a figure of between 3,200 and 4,300 civilian noncombatants.
It breaks down the combat deaths of up to 10,800 Iraqis who fought the
American invasion. The figures include regular Iraqi troops, as well
as members of the Ba'ath party and other militias.
The killing was concentrated - with heavy casualties at the southern
entrances of Baghdad - but as many as 80% of the Iraqi army units survived
the war relatively unscathed, in part because troops deserted.
As many as 5,726 Iraqis were killed in the US assault on Baghdad, when
the streets of the Iraqi capital were strewn with the bodies of people
trying to flee the fighting.
As many as 3,531 - more than half - of the dead in
the assault on the capital were noncombatant civilians, according to the report.
Overall in Iraq, the ratio of civilian to military deaths is almost twice
as high as it was in the last Gulf war in 1991. The overall toll of the
first war was far higher - with estimates of 20,000 Iraqi soldiers and
3,500 civilians killed.
However, Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the US military
calls this year's war, has proved far deadlier to Iraqi civilians both in absolute
numbers, and in the proportion of noncombatant to military deaths.
The findings defy the reasoning that precision-guided weapons spare civilian
lives. According to the author of the study, Carol Conetta, 68% of the
munitions used in this war were precision-guided, compared with 6.5 %
However, he argued yesterday that his report demonstrated that sophisticated
weaponry did not necessarily offer protection to civilians in war zones.
"Many of the recent wars have been fought with the notion of a new type
of warfare that produce very low civilian casualties. What we see here is that
in fact we don't have that magic bullet," he said.
"In this war in particular we see that improved capabilities in
precision attacks have been used to pursue more ambitious objectives
rather than achieve lower numbers of civilian dead."
the Human Cost (March
19- April 20, 2003)
Total war dead (Iraq): Between 10,800 and 15,100, with a midpoint
Combatants killed (Iraq): Between 7,600 and 10,800, with a midpoint of
Noncombatants killed (Iraq): Between 3,200 and 4,300,
with a midpoint of 3,750
War dead (Baghdad): Between 4,376 and 5,726, with a midpoint of 5,051
Combatants killed (Baghdad): Between 2,224 and 3,531, with a midpoint
Noncombatants killed (Baghdad): Between 1,990 and 2,357,
with a midpoint of 2,174
Source: Project on Defence Alternatives research