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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 28, 2003
12:01 AM
CONTACT: Project on Defense Alternatives 
Carl Conetta 301-320-6676
New Study Finds: 11,000 to 15,000 Killed in Iraq War; 30 Percent are Non-combatants; Death Toll Hurts Postwar Stability Efforts, Damages US Image Abroad
 
WASHINGTON - October 28 - An independent review of US combat data, battlefield press reports, and Iraqi hospital surveys has found that approximately 13,000 Iraqis (plus or minus 16.5 percent or 2,150) were killed during the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The report covers the period from 19 March to the end of April. Among the Iraqi dead were between 3,200 and 4,300 noncombatants -- that is, civilians who did not take up arms.

The report, produced by the Project on Defense Alternatives at Commonwealth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), is the first to attempt a rigorous estimate of Iraqi military fatalities. It finds that 9,200 (plus or minus 1,600) Iraqi combatants were killed during the main combat phase of the war. This number it derives from operational statistics and the observations of embedded journalists and military personnel on both sides.

To estimate civilian noncombatant fatalities the report drew on three hospital surveys conducted by US media organizations as well as data from aid organizations and dozens of newspaper reports on individual casualty incidents. It is unique in attempting to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants among the civilian dead, using age and gender data as a guide.

Comparing the 2003 conflict with the 1991 Gulf War the report turns up a surprising result: both the absolute number of non-combatants killed and their proportion among total fatalities was greater in 2003 than in 1991. By contrast, the number of British, American, and Iraqi combatant fatalities were less in 2003 than in 1991. Still, relative to the number of troops who engaged in the two wars, the proportion of combatant fatalities also increased. (The report estimates the 1991 Iraqi death toll as including more than 3,500 non-combatants and between 20,000 and 26,000 military personnel.)

"The proportion of precision-guided weapons used was much greater in 2003 than in 1991 -- about 68 percent versus 6.5 percent," according to Carl Conetta, author of the report. "But this did not reduce the number of noncombatant deaths, nor did it reduce the percentage of combatant deaths among all the combatants engaged," observes Conetta. The report attributes this outcome to the fact that Operation Iraqi Freedom pursued a much more ambitious goal than Desert Storm: regime change. "Regime change required that coalition forces get in among the Iraqi people and corner the Iraqi combatants, who fought more desperately than expected," Conetta concludes.

"We won the war easily," says Conetta, "but we are losing the peace." The report attributes this partly to the war’s death toll. "All told, more than 40,000 Iraqis were killed or injured," observes Conetta. "This has energized anti-American sentiment inside Iraq and elsewhere as well."

See below for links to 'The Wages of War: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 Conflict'. Project on Defense Alternatives Research Monograph #8.

HTML: http://www.comw.org/pda/0310rm8.html

PDF: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0310rm8.pdf

Executive Summary HTML: http://www.comw.org/pda/0310rm8exsum.html

PDF: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0310rm8exsum.pdf

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