Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Trading With Iraqi Civilians' Lives

The number of people killed in Iraq is estimated at tens of thousands, some studies last year estimated the number at 100,000, and other reports last month estimated the number at 39,000. No one can tell the exact number because of the chaos in occupied Iraq, and because many people’s bodies are being buried without paperwork.

Yet, even these big numbers are not enough to stimulate the western media poets and the occupation governments’ spokesmen to write about the “tragic death of civilians” and the “value of human lives”. When it comes to our casualties: fake principles and hollow values are more important than the scores of dead bodies. Our casualties are numbers without faces, numbers that can vary some 50,000 plus or minus.

When I started working with Marla Ruzicka some two years ago, one of our most important goals was putting names and faces on the casualties in Iraq. Our goal was putting the names of our friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and co-workers in the lists of the fallen. Sadly, Marla’s name was added to the very list she used to work on: the list of those who lost their lives as a result of the illegal US invasion.

The Iraqi civilians’ blood is being used as a tool of manipulation by the occupation supporters to discredit the Iraqi resistance as “murderers of women and children”. Most of the mainstream media lectures us for days about Iraqi civilians who were attacked by non-coalition forces.

Targeting Iraqis must be condemned wherever and whenever it happens. Targeting Iraqis by other Iraqis is unacceptable under any circumstances. Yet, the right of Iraqis to fight against their occupiers is supported by the international humanitarian law (IHL).

The US-led coalition is ethically and legally responsible for all the civilian deaths in Iraq. All of those innocent people wouldn't have lost rheir lives if the bush adminstration didn't lie to the world about the WMD.

Dealing with the issue of Iraqi civilian victims goes beyond calculating mere numbers, as usual. Even if the number of people killed directly by the US-led armies doesn't turn out to be the highest, they're still responsible for all the violance and the unrest in Iraq under the occupation authorities according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But let's for a moment adopt the immoral pragmatic logic of people who just look at numbers and say things like "Iraqi resistance are the ones killing more Iraqis". If abstract numbers and not principles are what matter, let's look at the breakdown of the statistics as reported by Iraq Body Count. IBC has been collecting media information concerning Iraqis killed and injured in the last 28 months. The total numbers of casualties are relatively low because the IBC project depends on media reports, which are not very accurate and don't cover the entire country. Still, their work can be considered as a good representative sample of the full number of casualties in Iraq. The report concludes the following numbers in response to the question of "Who did the killing?"

• U.S.-led forces killed 37% of civilian victims.
• Anti-occupation forces/insurgents killed 9% of civilian victims.
• Post-invasion criminal violence accounted for 36% of all deaths.

I think these numbers are more than enough to shut the mouths of the war supporters who accuse Iraqis of targeting each other.


Still waiting for news from Iraq about my detained brother.