Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Ignoring our own crimes

Here's a story from the Independent that you rarely see:

One year and 16 days after President George Bush declared the end to major hostilities in Iraq, the toll of American and British casualties continues to rise. Since the start of the invasion, 566 members of the American military and 211 US civilians have died. The British figures are 59 and 8.

But at the same time thousands of others ­ men, women, the elderly and the very young ­ have been killed or maimed with far less fanfare. No one knows how many. They are Iraqi civilians, and the Americans and the British do not bother to keep count of the people they have "liberated" and then killed.

This is not usual in modern warfare. In most past conflicts, attempts were made to keep a tally of civilian losses. Legal experts say that, particularly in the case of Iraq, it is the duty of occupying powers to do so under the Geneva Conventions.

The Pentagon says it is not helpful to keep a "body count". Yet, there is no hesitation in giving numbers of Iraqi fighters, described as "Saddam loyalists" and "al-Qa'ida elements" who have supposedly been eliminated by the Allies.

Unofficial estimates of civilian casualties are available. The pressure group Iraq Body Count presents a daily update. It puts the maximum number of killed Iraqi civilians at 11,005, and the minimum at 9,148. But this does not include about 800 reportedly killed recently in Fallujah and 235 in Baghdad, or about 20 reported to have died in the British-controlled Basra region.
I've said it many times before: the cries of "liberation" sound awfully hollow when invaders pay no attention to the destructive consequences of their own actions.