New Iraqi death tally flies under media radar

Last Friday, the Associated Press released probably the most accurate, non-biased tabulation of civilian deaths due to violent acts in the nation of Iraq since March 2003:

Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by the AP, the figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The number is a minimum count of violent deaths. The official who provided the data to the AP, on condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity, estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.

The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them – along with hospital and morgue figures – to release casualty counts. But by early 2007, when sectarian violence was putting political pressure on the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the Iraqi numbers disappeared. The United Nations “repeatedly asked for that cooperation” to resume but never received a response, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday.

The data obtained by the AP measure only violent deaths – people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings that have ravaged Iraq. It excluded indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that caused thousands more to die.

So why wasn’t this more widely reported? Perhaps the reason is quite simple — the AP numbers are a long way from the hysterical estimates of 600,000 to over a million deaths touted by anti-war groups and heavily publicized by the US news media during the past four years.

Michael Medved also notes some facts that should have been included in the AP’s official news story that reported the tally:

1) More than 90% of the deaths counted by the AP occurred at the hands of Al Qaeda and other violent sectarian terrorist forces

2) Nearly all US combat deaths were the result of efforts by the US military to stop those various terrorist forces, and thus save as many Iraqi civilian lives as possible

3) The Iran/Iraq war of 1980-1988 claimed well over 200,000 Iraqi lives, and over 1,000,000 Iranian lives

4) Other regional conflicts have also had much higher death tolls: Algerian civil war (1991-present) — 150,000 – 200,000 dead; Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) — 250,000 dead

When it is presented in its proper context, there is no way to honestly claim that US military operations in Iraq represented an unusual, catastrophic, or ultra-violent use of force against a helpless civilian population. The same thing cannot be said of Al Qaeda, Saddam loyalists, or other regional insurgent groups who perpetrated numerous acts of terror and mass-murder against the Iraqi people. That’s the story the press should be reporting.

I originally neglected to mention the humanitarian disaster resulting from the UN sanctions against Iraq, during the period of 1991-2003. An estimated half-million children died both as a direct result of those policies, and Saddam Hussein’s responses to them.

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