'Iraqi Freedom'
The Human Costs of Occupation
by Mike Ewens
June 27, 2003

Back to the "Casualties in Iraq" Page

In a recent Pentagon briefing, Sec. Rumsfeld attempts to assuage concerns about the increased hostilities in Iraq. He states that the recent deaths of American and British soldiers "show the world is still engaged in a dangerous war against terrorism." This subtle play of semantics reveals the trouble the administration is in. Indeed, it demonstrates the neocons' surprise at the outward hostility towards American occupation. Rather then call it this, Rumsfeld labels the problem one of "terrorism" and thus puts it in the "irrational acts of American-hating Arabs" category. Unfortunately, Rumsfeld et. al. ignore the possibility that this armed resistance is part of a general Iraqi sentiment centered on the anger of being occupied by foreign forces. A BBC article that covers the deaths of British soldiers indicates that this "terrorism" may in fact be regular Iraqis fighting for their rights, in this case demanding a right to bear arms:

It is unclear what happened, although local residents said the killing was by civilians unhappy with the way homes were being searched for weapons.

Such events suggest that further bureaucratic meddling and management of Iraqi society will only foment hostility and make "nation-building" that much more dangerous for American and British troops.

The Washingtion Post reports that half of America believes that the number of dead in Iraq is "acceptable":

Support for a military solution in Iran came despite rising concern about the growing number of casualties among U.S. military personnel in neighboring Iraq. About half said the current level of U.S. dead and wounded is "acceptable" -- down from two-thirds in early April.

The administration seems less concerned with loss of life in Iraq:

It is a subject that makes administration officials uneasy. They know that American military deaths in Iraq could sap public support for the US role there, and eventually precipitate an early withdrawal. The question, for a White House as sensitive as any to public opinion, is how long the drip, drip, drip of US casualties can continue without major erosion of support for US policy.

The waning "public support" emphasis suggests there exists some "casualty count threshold" that changes policy, rather than the reality of the lost lives of young Americans.

Counting the Dead

During the months (and even years) of the buildup to war, Antiwar.com argued "nation-building" was the costliest aspect of the neocons' quest for Imperium. The numbers and news stories confirmed and continue to confirm our worries. We also contended that Iraqi civilians would feel the brunt of the chaos that comes with Empire, while American soldiers would patrol a deadly and hostile environment. Nearly two months after the hostilities ended with President Bush's showy flight to the USS Lincoln, over sixty US soldiers have died in accidents or combat. This is compounded with the daily stories of innocent Iraqis dying from unexploded ordnance or a stray US bullet. Given the quoted poll numbers and the state of the mainstream media, documentation and reporting is required.

Therefore, this page will become a permanent place for recording the casualties in Iraq since the war began on March 21st, 2003. These charts are a graphical representation of the trend of hostility American troops are facing. Sadly, the charts do a disservice to those who died, for they make their deaths into mere numbers and lines. Nonetheless, these resources may lead to a more educated perspective on what Empire has brought to American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and hopefully help bring the "acceptable" number of dead to zero.

American Count

Dates and sources of Americans killed in Iraq are documented in this file. Admittedly the file is incomplete, for the Department of Defense does not maintain old records. All data was compiled from http://www.defenselink.mil and numbers before May 1st were gathered from a paper version of the New York Times article appearing June 10th ("Deadly Attacks on G.I. Rise") and The Washington Post. Please note these are totals, and therefore include combat related deaths, accidents and the unexplained. If something is amiss in the data collection, please contact Mike Ewens.

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Iraqi Civilian Count

We have not set up a database for these numbers, rather we direct you to other sources. Below are three important news pieces that summarize the plight of Iraqi civilians.

AP Tallies 3,240 Civilian Deaths in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At least 3,240 civilians died across Iraq during a month of war, including 1,896 in Baghdad, according to a five-week Associated Press investigation.

The count is still fragmentary, and the complete toll - if it is ever tallied - is sure to be significantly higher.

Several surveys have looked at civilian casualties within Baghdad, but the AP tally is the first attempt to gauge the scale of such deaths from one end of the country to the other, from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south. More.

Also, see Why AP Counted Civilian Deaths in Iraq.

Finally, the Guardian's "War may have killed 10,000 civilians, researchers say":

At least 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion of Iraq, an independent research group has claimed. As more evidence is collated, it says, the figure could reach 10,000.

Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and US academics and researchers, compiled statistics on civilian casualties from media reports and estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 civilians died in the conflict. More.

Preemptive Response

After nearly a year of writing periodic articles for Antiwar.com, I have gained some prescience about the incoming email responses I will receive. I predict that some readers are going to claim that 197 is "small" while 3240 Iraqis is less than what Saddam would have killed without intervention. First, the latter calculation assumes that one has a right to say who dies (in this case, Iraqis today) and who gets to live (presumably, future Iraqis). As Jacob Hornberger writes:

"Consider the plight of Saad and Sindous Abbas, 34 and 30 years old, who lost three daughters in the war. What moral right do we have to say to them, 'The loss of your daughters was worth it because you and other Iraqis are now free'?"

Finally, in regards to the "small" number of American casualties . . . call me idealistic, but I think one American dying in an unjustified war for the likes of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld is one too many.

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Mike Ewens is Associate Editor of Antiwar.com and an economics and mathematics major at Washington University in St. Louis. Visit his archives or his blog.