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We know now what our "heroic" troops in Iraq have been up to-and why they are so wildly unpopular there.
Thanks to an investigation by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, we now know that the U.S. military not only kills more civilians than rebels; it also kills more civilians than the rebels do.
According to the report, which was the banner story in Friday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, but didn’t make page one of the New York Times, twice as many Iraqis, most of them civilians, are dying as a result of U.S. military operations and Iraqi police as are being killed by insurgents.
Looking at the period from last April 5 September 19, the ministry identified 3487 Iraqis killed and 13,720 injured. Of the dead, 328, or nearly one in ten, were children under the age of 12.
Examining the deaths more closely for the June 10-Sept. 10 period, the ministry concluded that two thirds of the dead died at the hands of the U.S. and its "coalition allies" and one third at the hands of rebels.
The ministry notes that the total dead could be much higher, since they only reported confirmed bodies and people who were brought to hospitals. They point out that many bodies simply aren’t recovered from bomb sites, and, as well, some families bury their dead without reporting them.
Commenting on this extraordinary civilian carnage, a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, said only "damage will happen" and blamed the insurgents for the high toll of children and non-combatants, saying they operate in residential areas and homes. "As long as they continue to do that, they are putting the residents at risk," he said. "We will go after them."
What Boylen doesn’t address is the manner in which U.S. forces "go after" the insurgents, which is with high-powered explosives-aerial bombardment with 2000-lb bombs and blasts from M-1 Abrams tanks and rockets-none of which make much distinction between enemies and civilians, soldiers and children.
The grisly and unconscionable statistics of death in Iraq make it clear that the number one danger to life and limb in Iraq today is the American military, which explains the widespread desire for the U.S. to leave the country. It also offers a grim foretaste of what is to come if, after the election, the Bush administration were to follow through with its announced plans to "retake" the roughly half of Iraq, mostly urban, that is currently in rebel hands.
To keep American casualties low, the U.S. approach in this war favors bombing and artillery fire, while the heroic army for the most part stays confined to heavily guarded bases, subject only to the occasional mortar barrage.
It’s no wonder that back in December 2003, L. Paul Bremer, then head of the provisional occupation authority, ordered a similar tallying of the dead by the Iraqi Health Ministry halted.
Iraqi’s know they are being slaughtered every day, but it wouldn’t do for Americans to know that their so-called army of liberation is killing children by the dozens every week.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org