Saturday, July 02, 2005

Seeds of Insurgency Part III: Civilian Casualties

Posted by AmishThrasher at 4:27 pm
Shock and Awe:
We won't hit civilians
This is part 3 of an ongoing series I'm running here looking at the factors behind the insurgency in Iraq.

When the US, and its coalition, began the war in Iraq, it was amidst a barrage of promises about "shock and awe". To many, the most important comments were the efforts, as presented by Donald Rumsfeld, to ensure the lowest possible civilian death toll. Here's an example of the comments made in the lead-up to the war:

Pentagon briefing transcript
March 27 2003, 11:58 AM
To the Iraqi people, let me say this: By now you have seen and know that coalition airstrikes are not aimed at you, they are aimed at the regime of Saddam Hussein. We are systematically eliminating the institutions that repress you. As we do so, we are doing everything possible to protect innocent civilians. Humanitarian assistance, food, water and medicine is already being delivered, and more will arrive shortly. A regime that starved its own people so that a dictator could build many, many palaces, will be removed. In its place, you will build a free Iraq with a new government based on democratic principles of political freedom, individual liberty, and the rule of law.


The 'shock and awe' tactics, the public was told, was going to lead to maximum devastation to Hussein's government and his army. Iraq was to be a clean war; a safe war. This view was presented, through the mainstream media, to the general public:

Analysis: US 'shock and awe' tactic
By Steve Schifferes
Friday, 21 March, 2003, 19:03 GMT
The doctrine of "shock and awe" is based on a book by military strategist Harlan Ullman, who is admired by both Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr Ullman wrote that the use of air power to achieve "nearly incomprehensible levels of mass destruction" could achieve "an overwhelming level of shock and awe against an adversary on an immediate basis to paralyse its will to resist".


However, many US supporters of air power have called for precision bombing which would not be aimed directly against civilians but only military and industrial targets.

Mr Ullman argues that with modern precision weapons, a "non-nuclear equivalent" of Hiroshima could be created.

The use of these sophisticated weapons, precisely targeted by global positioning satellites, is designed to maximise their effects while limiting collateral damage, which would make the task of post-war reconstruction more difficult.

Mr Rumsfeld said that there was no comparison between the air war in World War II, where "dumb weapons were widely distributed across large areas," and the precise targeting employed now to ensure that military targets and the leaders of the regime were precisely attacked without harming the Iraqi people.


The problem with this is that even the smartest of bombs is prone to failure; something that should have been apparent to the US (in regards to Iraq) even before the start of combat, during pre-war strikes on Iraq:

Smart bombs 'missed Iraqi targets'
Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 14:21 GMT
Pentagon officials have admitted that most of the bombs dropped by US and British warplanes on Iraq last Friday missed their targets.

A senior defence official in Washington told Associated Press that the strikes - launched in retaliation for alleged attacks on allied air patrols - had been given "about a B minus or a C plus" in terms of accuracy.

Last Friday's attacks sparked protests around the world, and inflamed UN-Iraqi relations, souring the atmosphere ahead of key talks aimed at paving the way for a lifting of the decade-old embargo on Iraq.

The revelations from the Pentagon come amid repeated US accusations that Chinese workers are in Baghdad - in breach of UN sanctions - installing fibre-optic cables to be used in Iraq's air defence.

China denied the allegation again on Thursday, saying it was to divert the outcry against the air strikes.

Weapon limitations
Stories that so-called "smart bombs" have gone off course are not new.

Last August, it emerged that the accuracy rate of bombs dropped by British forces during the 1999 Kosovo conflict was only 40%.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said the missiles fired at Iraq last week had achieved their purpose of "disrupting and degrading" radar systems near Baghdad.

But he also acknowledged the limitations of the strikes: "It isn't perfect. It never is."


As the weeks progressed, it became increasingly apparent that the 'surgical strikes' were failing at 100% accuracy.

List of casualties in Iraq
July 15 2003
One US soldier was killed and six were wounded when a military convoy came under attack with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns in Baghdad yesterday, a US military spokesman said.

Following is a table of US, British and Iraqi casualties in the Iraq war and its aftermath, as announced by US, British and Iraqi authorities or independently confirmed by Reuters correspondents.

The figures in brackets refer to casualties after May 1, when US President George Bush declared hostilities over.

United States 146 (32)
Britain 14 (6)

United States 69 (45)
Britain 29 (4)


Between 6,058 and 7,711*

# = US military estimates relating only to fighting in or near Baghdad. No other figures available.
* = Figure compiled on website, run by academics and peace activists, based on incidents reported by at least two media sources.

NON-COMBAT is defined as accidents, US or British fire killing or wounding their own troops, and other incidents unrelated to fighting.


Civilian deaths continued to mount after 'major combat operations' ended:

No excuses
We must count Iraqi casualties
Mike Rowson and John Sloboda
Thursday December 9, 2004
How many Iraqis will die today? Maybe 10. Maybe 100. We have no way of knowing. Blair and Bush, who invaded and occupied Iraq in order to make the world a safer place, say there is no reliable way to count Iraqi casualties - and so they will not try. Thus they refuse to accord innocent Iraqis the same status as our own dead and injured, whose names we rightly record and honour.

In an open letter to the prime minister yesterday, 46 diplomats, academics, health experts and religious leaders called on him to commission an independent inquiry to count the casualties in Iraq. Blair responded by telling the House of Commons that the Iraqi health ministry has done the "most accurate survey that there is". But these figures - 3,853 dead and 15,517 injured - are not a survey, they are a partial count covering a six-month period from April to October this year. Even Iraqi officials acknowledge it to be an undercount.

Iraq Body Count's ongoing tally of recorded civilian deaths is based on official Iraqi figures, media reports and information from aid organisations. It does not pretend to be a complete count, but stands at between 14,619 and 16,804 deaths.


How many Iraqi's have been killed as a result is a matter up for debate at the moment, but even the most conservative of estimates - presented by the British government - suggests a number in the thousands:

Counting the civilian cost in Iraq
Monday, 6 June, 2005, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Civilian toll estimates at 05/05

• Iraq Body Count: 22-25,000
• The Lancet: 100,000
• UK foreign secretary: >10,000
• People's Kifah >37,000

Where sources report differing figures, a minimum and a maximum are given.

Professor John Sloboda, a co-founder of Iraq Body Count, told the BBC News website: "Everyone can agree that there are good reasons why our count can never be complete, but there is not as much confusion as you think.

"Since the end of hostilities was declared, we are confident in the figures."

The IBC wants to see an independent commission set up in Iraq to give the best estimate of civilian deaths and full details of how each person died.

Prof Sloboda said: "No country could hold its head up high without looking back to investigate the deaths of thousands of its people.

"Imagine the United States not investigating exactly who died on 11 September, it is unthinkable."

"It should be recognised that there is no reliable way of estimating the number of civilian casualties caused during major combat operations"
British defence ministry

Other sources for casualty figures include the Washington-based Brookings Institution, which combines IBC's figures with projections for deaths caused by violent crime in Iraq.

In June 2005, it said that between May 2003 and 30 April 2005 6,598 Iraqi civilians had been killed in acts of war. This number does not include Iraqi civilians killed during what the US military defined as "major combat operations" between 19 March and 30 April 2003.

A study by the British medical journal, the Lancet, estimated in October 2004 that the invasion of Iraq had led to the deaths of 100,000 beyond what might have been expected before the invasion.

In August 2004, an Iraqi group calling itself the People's Kifah said it had documented more than 37,000 civilian deaths from March to October 2003. But there has been no independent scrutiny of these figures.


The question to ask is how the friends and family of the civilians killed at the hands of US (and other invading) soldiers would react to the US afterwards (even if they didn't or don't like Saddam Hussein)? If a foreign country invaded your homeland and, during the process, accidentally killed a close friend or relative (even if you hated the people running your country), how would you feel towards them? Even if you had have greeted the invaders as 'liberators' originally, would you feel the same after someone close to you had died?

Note that not all of the friends or family members of the dead civilians necessarily turn into Insurgency operatives; some may feel more ambivalent towards the invading force. Perhaps less willing to help the invaders, or more willing to lend support to the insurgents?

By the most conservative estimates, there have been 6,598 civilians killed since 'major combat operations' ended, and perhaps 6,000 more during the main combat - over 12,000. The friends and families of these 12,000 - 100,000 (according to The Lancet) - thousands of Iraqi's - are faced with this very dilemma. Add thousands more who have been injured, and you begin to see a huge potential base of support for the insurgency.

When we add in the other factors I've discussed in these posts, like sanctions, we are beginning to see quite a significant potential base for the insurgency in Iraq; amplified by Britain's history in Iraq.