Tag: civilian deaths

Where’d you hide the body?

Bloggers on the right have been trumpeting the apparent decline in Iraqi civilian deaths as a clear sign that the surge is working. Apparently, we do body counts now that we like the numbers.

However, I’ve been arguing since September that civilian deaths may well be down because Iraqis feel insecure and have simply fled their homes. Such self-segregation is a classic response to ethnic war and there’s new evidence suggesting this viewpoint is correct. From the AP’s Lauren Frayer on November 5:

Deadly rivalries have forced Shiite and Sunni Muslims to flee once diverse neighborhoods across Iraq’s capital, leaving the city with clear boundaries between sects. More than 60 percent of those forced to flee were in Baghdad, the report said… In some places like Shiite-dominated Hurriyah in northwest Baghdad, fighting has subsided because there are literally no more Sunnis left to kill.

Representative David Obey of Wisconsin: Insurgents “are running out of people to kill.” Even General Petraeus acknowledges that this is part of the explanation for the reduction in the death rate.

The Iraqi Red Crescent reports that nearly 2.3 million people fled their homes but remained in Iraq, up from less than 500,000 at the beginning of the year. These “internally displaced persons” now outnumber refugees who have crossed state borders for Jordan or Syria. The AP again:

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, some 2 million Iraqis have fled their country. Of these, 1.2 million are in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon, 10,000 in Turkey and 200,000 in various Persian Gulf countries.

Altogether, adding the IDPs and the refugees means that nearly 4.5 million Iraqis are no longer living in their former homes.

Make that 5 million counting the war dead — or nearly 20% of the July 2007 estimated population.

More bodies: the U.S. military has already suffered more dead soldiers in 2007 than in any other year of the war.

Post title inspired by James McMurtry.

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UNAMI Report on Iraq: Dire, Grave Crises

On October 11, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued its 11th report (warning: pdf) on the human rights situation in Iraq.

The report is filled with bad news — and not much good news.

For example, the “dire” situation in Iraq poses “devastating consequences for the civilian population….

Daily life for the average Iraqi civilian remains extremely precarious. The violence remains in large part indiscriminate…. UNAMI’s findings, based on its monitoring and research activities, suggest that the human rights situation in Iraq remains grave.”

New insurgent-related violence is exploding in Kurdistan and millions of Iraqis have fled the country:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that some 2.2 million Iraqis are currently refugees abroad, around half of whom are in Syria.

Even more are internally displaced:

Inside Iraq, the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, Cluster F (Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Durable Solutions) estimates the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to be over one million, in addition to more than 1.2 million remaining displaced or transferred before 2006. Taking into account the many families that failed or were unable to register as IDPs with the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society or UN agencies through their local partners, the overall extent of displacement is likely to have been underestimated.

There’s still more bad news.

For instance, the Iraqi and US governments come under attack for their secrecy.

UNAMI regrets that for this reporting period, it was again unable to persuade the Government of Iraq to release data on casualties compiled by the Ministry of Health and its other institutions. UNAMI continues to maintain that making such data public is in the public interest.

…US authorities still do not see fit to allow public monitoring of MNF detention facilities by independent human rights monitors, including those of UNAMI.

…UNAMI sought on several occasions to obtain overall mortality figures from Iraqi official sources, notably the Ministry of Health and its related institutions. UNAMI also urged the reversal of the ban imposed in February 2007 by Government of Iraq representatives on the release of this data.

On the “hearts and minds” issue, UNAMI reported scores of documented cases of US military attacks killing innocent civilian bystanders. The US military just released files about 100s of such attacks.

Moreover, a substantial part of the report is about the status of the very large number of detainees held in Iraq by various authorities. The report explores various judicial rights — and even the death penalty.

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