Wednesday, April 20, 2005

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Why Numbers Matter

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Why Numbers Matter: "Just before her death, Marla Ruzicka wrote about the importance of recording and publicly releasing Iraqi civilian casualty numbers.

BAGHDAD --The writer, a 28-year-old humanitarian aid worker from California, was killed Saturday in Baghdad when a suicide bomber aiming for a convoy of contractors pulled alongside her vehicle and detonated his explosives. Her longtime driver and translator, Faiz Ali Salim, also died. She filed this piece from Baghdad a week before her death.

In my two years in Iraq, the one question I am asked the most is: 'How many Iraqi civilians have been killed by American forces?' The American public has a right to know how many Iraqis have lost their lives since the start of the war and as hostilities continue.

In a news conference at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in March 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks said, 'We don't do body counts.' His words outraged the Arab world and damaged the U.S. claim that its forces go to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties.

During the Iraq war, as U.S. troops pushed toward Baghdad, counting civilian casualties was not a priority for the military. However, since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations over and the U.S. military moved into a phase referred to as 'stability operations,' most units began to keep track of Iraqi civilians killed at checkpoints or during foot patrols by U.S. soldiers."

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