A horrifying chart and map on the opinion page of Sunday’s New York Times graphically displays the carnage caused by the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq. Over a 14-day period during the first two weeks of the new year, Brookings Institution senior research assistant Adriana Lins de Albuquerque shows that 202 people died “as a result of the insurgency.”
But the chart is deceptive, leaving out at least as much as it puts in.
First of all, and most importantly, as Lins de Albuquerque notes in her brief explanation, the chart doesn’t give any information about the number of Iraqi insurgents killed by U.S. forces over the same period, nor does it give figures for Iraqi civilians “accidentally killed by coalition forces.”
As she explains, “because of the limits placed on reporters,” such information is not available (she fails to mention that also left out are the numbers of people killed by Iraqi troops and police).
In fact, we know from reports by the U.S.-backed government in Iraq that the U.S. has been “accidentally” killing Iraqi civilians at a prodigious rate–a rate both higher than the rate they are being killed by insurgents and higher than the rate that the U.S. forces have been killing insurgents. If that report, released late last fall, is correct, then a chart displaying the victims of U.S.-led forces would be larger even than the one developed by Ms. Lins de Albuquerque.
If those ratios are correct, the U.S. is probably also killing more civilians on average than the 38 percent or total deaths (76 civilians in the first two weeks of January) caused by the insurgency. For all the media focus on the viciousness of the insurgents, it would appear that they are being much more effective and selective in their attacks–killing primarily Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, and U.S. and “coalition” troops–than is the U.S.
Of course, most of the civilians killed by U.S. and “coalition” forces are killed “accidentally” only by the most strained definition of the term. The truth is that American aircraft are dropping bombs, including anti-personnel weapons and, reportedly, napalm, as well as 500 and 1000 lb. explosives once known in the trade as “block busters,” on urban targets all the time. Occasionally one of these weapons will be reported as having hit the wrong target, but even when they hit the right target, it”s safe to say that the so-called “collateral damage” is widespread and horrific.
In addition, there are the helicopter and fixed-wing gunships, which are designed to completely saturate wide areas with deadly fire, killing every living thing in those “dead zones” with projectiles that penetrate even concrete walls. When civilians die at the hands of these genuine weapons of mass destruction, their demise can hardly be termed “accidental.”
Little wonder that the Iraqi government report found that a third of U.S.-caused casualties are children under the age of 14.
Finally, U.S. ground troops themselves are popping off civilians at a scandalous rate, thanks to a “spray and pray” policy of firing off everything they’ve got in a 360-degree radius whenever they come under enemy fire. Little wonder that reporters in Iraq are at least as afraid of being killed “accidentally” by American forces as they are of being attacked by insurgents or of hitting an errant roadside bomb.
Little wonder also that U.S. military authorities have a policy of not reporting civilian or insurgent death totals. The grisly details of their campaign of slaughter would not be popular either in the Middle East or here at home.
Or at the New York Times, where printing such a chart would have taken up not just the entire opinion page, but the whole editorial page, too.
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