There is indeed a mind-blowing story about collateral damage that needs to be told, but that story is one in which we honor the extraordinary achievement of the United States military: two years of combat since the fall of Baghdad, much of it urban warfare, with less than 1,000 civilians killed as a result of U.S. action.
What is the source for these numbers? The most comprehensive study of civilian casualties is available from a group opposed to the Coalition intervention in Iraq called Iraq Body Count. This summer, the Iraq Body Count project published an analysis of casualties in the Iraq War that must be admired for its meticulous documentation.
This study reports 24,865 civilian deaths in the first two years of the Iraq War, an apparent ringing endorsement of the "Iraq in chaos" position. But a curious statistical anomaly jumps right off page one: over 81% of the civilian casualties are men. Even stranger, over 90% of civilian casualties are adults in a country with a disproportionate percentage of the population under 18 (44.5%). This contradicts a basic tenet of the civilian casualty argument, namely that we are describing collateral damage during a time of war. Collateral damage does not differentiate between male and female, between child and adult. A defective smart bomb falling in a marketplace, stray bullets ripping through bedroom walls, city warfare in Fallujah – all these activities should produce casualties that reflect the ratio of men to women or adults to children that prevail in Iraq as a whole.
This question is particularly relevant when one side in the conflict does not wear uniforms, is predominantly adult and of one gender, and engages in a practice of concealing its combatants within the civilian population. The statistics are further distorted if the Iraqi security forces – essentially the free Iraqi military on the side of the U.S. coalition – are classified as civilians, as they are in this study.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
& Iraqi Civilian Casualties
I usually try to limit my news items to technical ones, but this was just so surprising I had to share it with you guys (assuming, of course, that there's anyone actually reading this blog):