LONDON -February 8 - As many as 10,000 non-combatant civilian deaths during 2003 have been reliably reported so far as a result of the US/UK-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, according to Iraq Body Count (IBC), an independent group of US and UK researchers. These reports provide figures which range between a minimum of 8,235 and a maximum of 10,079 as of Saturday 7th February 2004. IBC's experience of data-gathering throughout the preceding year shows that reports of additional deaths often continue to emerge many months after the event. Many civilian deaths are almost certainly, as yet, unreported, and even the current IBC maximum cannot be considered to approach a complete and final toll of innocent deaths.
Calls for an official reckoning are mounting. In today's "Independent on Sunday" Labour MP Bob Marshall Andrews added his support to IBC's call for an official inquiry into the human costs of the Iraq War. (http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=489082 )
Based on corroborated media reports, IBC has compiled a data-base of some 300 separate records of civilian deaths. The latest entry (x298) focuses on the hundreds of Iraqi policemen murdered in violent attacks since April 2003. Seen by the occupying authorities and anti-occupation paramilitaries alike as the occupation's front-line defence, Iraqi police have become easy targets compared to heavily-protected US officials and soldiers, and their deaths are just the latest example of how it is the Iraqi people who are paying the heaviest price for the the occupation, just as they paid the major human cost of the war.
In an extensive editorial,(http://www.iraqbodycount.net/editorial_feb0704_print.htm ) the co-founders of IBC show how the official response on both sides of the Atlantic has been characterised by evasive tactics such as:
. repeated professions of ignorance and a denial of any possibility of gaining useful knowledge;
. denial of responsibility, placing this instead on convenient "others" at various points in time - e.g. Saddam during the war, Al Qaida for recent bombings;
. the establishment of narrowly-limited military "self-investigations," the majority of which are never completed or publicly reported;
. official focus limited to US and UK military deaths with wilful ignorance of the price paid by Iraqis;
. deliberate obstruction of Iraqis' own efforts to count their war dead;
. insultingly low token "compensation" payments to a small and arbitrarily-limited number of Iraqi claimants.
At the heart of all these tactics is an implicit double standard, a standard which values the life of a Westerner far above the life of an Arab or an Asian, and which considers lives devastated by our own actions to be unworthy of serious interest and investigation, let alone genuine concern.
Iraq Body Count spokesperson John Sloboda said: "This official disinterest must end. We are now calling for an independent international tribunal to be set up to establish the numbers of dead, the circumstances in which they were killed and an appropriate and just level of compensation for the victims' families."