U.S. toll in Iraq reaches 4,000
Four American soldiers die in an explosion in south Baghdad on a day when more than 60 Iraqis are also killed.
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer March 24, 2008
BAGHDAD -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed when a bomb hit their vehicle in south Baghdad late Sunday, bringing the number of U.S. service members killed in the Iraq war to 4,000.
The grim milestone came at a time when attacks against the U.S. military are ebbing and officials have claimed significant progress against Iraq's deadly insurgency and sectarian violence. It was reached about 10 p.m. on a day when more than 60 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured in attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital.
The U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad came under heavy mortar or rocket fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties inside the fortified enclave, which houses the U.S. Embassy, government offices and military bases. But Iraqi police said a number of the projectiles missed their apparent target and caused casualties in neighboring districts.
At least 426 of the Americans killed in the war were from California, more than any other state, and 98 of them were women, according to the independent website icasualties.org. Those figures do not include the soldiers killed Sunday, whose identities were withheld pending notification of relatives.
Last year was the deadliest of the 5-year-old war for U.S. troops, with 901 killed, according to the website. U.S. commanders had warned that the number of casualties would increase after President Bush ordered an additional 28,500 U.S. troops deployed in an effort to quell the civil war.
United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
This information is current as of today, Wed Nov 07 2007 22:07:51 GMT+0100.
July 23, 2007
This Travel Warning updates the current security situation and reiterates the dangers of the use of civilian aircraft and road travel within Iraq. This supersedes the Travel Warning of August 28, 2006.
The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous. Remnants of the former Ba'ath regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or "Green") Zone. Targets include convoys en-route to venues, hotels, restaurants, police stations, checkpoints, foreign diplomatic missions, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. Several U.S. citizens subsequently were murdered by terrorists. U.S. citizens and other foreigners are targeted by insurgent groups and criminals for kidnapping and murder. Military operations continue. There are daily attacks against Multinational Forces - Iraq (MNF-I) and Iraqi Security Forces throughout the country.
2007 is deadliest year for US in Iraq
Tuesday November 6, 2007
The Pentagon today reported five US troops and a sailor killed in Iraq on Monday, making this year the deadliest since the 2003 invasion.
The five troops were killed in two incidents in Kirkuk province, and the sailor in Saluddin province, bringing the US death toll for this year to 854. The figure, with two months still to go, outstrips the previous worst, 849 in 2004, when the US took heavy casualties in an attack on Falluja.
The Pentagon attributes the high toll to an initial increase in combat operations, and higher visibility of US troops on the streets earlier this year as part of President George Bush's "surge" strategy, which saw an extra 30,000 troops sent to Iraq.
But after that intial rise in casualties, the numbers killed have been on a downward trend since May; last month's figure was the lowest since early last year.
DO NOT TRAVEL
* We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq because of the extremely dangerous security situation and very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Iraq and are concerned for your safety, you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to stay should ensure they have appropriate personal security protection measures in place.
* Terrorist attacks can occur at any time, anywhere in Iraq. We continue to receive a stream of reporting indicating that terrorists and anti-government forces are in the advanced stages of planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
* Terrorist attacks, including those against civilians using roadside bombs, suicide vests and car bombs, are directed at destabilising the Iraqi government and forcing the withdrawal of Coalition forces and are likely to continue. Rocket and mortar attacks, including in the International Zone in Baghdad, occur without warning.
* Kidnappings and hostage taking are common in Iraq and may be fatal. A significant number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped and killed. Recent reports indicate that a number of foreign nationals, including Australians, working in Iraq continue to be at risk of being kidnapped or assassinated. On 29 May 2007, five foreigners were kidnapped from a government building in central Baghdad. The kidnapping of an Australian in April 2005 underlines this very high risk to foreigners.
Study: 1 Out of 4 Homeless Are Veterans
Thursday November 8, 2007 10:31 AM
By KIMBERLY HEFLING Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.
And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.
In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.
Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
Economy -- Iraq
Economy - overview:
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the regime hurt the economy, implementation of the UN's oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996, helped improve conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts. In December 1999, the UN Security Council authorized Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. The military victory of the US-led coalition in March-April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic administrative structure. Although a comparatively small amount of capital plant was damaged during the hostilities, looting, insurgent attacks, and sabotage have undermined efforts to rebuild the economy. Attacks on key economic facilities - especially oil pipelines and infrastructure - have prevented Iraq from reaching projected export volumes, but total government revenues have been higher than anticipated due to high oil prices. Despite political uncertainty, Iraq is making some progress in building the institutions needed to implement economic policy and has negotiated a debt reduction agreement with the Paris Club and a Standby Arrangement with the IMF. An International Compact with Iraq is being established to integrate Iraq into the regional and global economy, while recognizing the need to resolve destabilizing security and political conflicts. Additionally, the Iraqi government is seeking to pass laws to strengthen the economy; this legislation includes a hydrocarbon law to encourage contracting with foreign investors and a revenue sharing law to equitably divide oil revenues within the nation. Controlling inflation, reducing corruption, and implementing structural reforms such as bank restructuring and developing the private sector, will be key to Iraq's economic prospects.
Disputes - international:
coalition forces assist Iraqis in monitoring internal and cross-border security; approximately two million Iraqis have fled the conflict in Iraq, with the majority taking refuge in Syria and Jordan, and lesser numbers to Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey; Iraq's lack of a maritime boundary with Iran prompts jurisdiction disputes beyond the mouth of the Shatt al Arab in the Persian Gulf; Turkey has expressed concern over the autonomous status of Kurds in Iraq
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 15,000 (Palestinian Territories), 11,960 (Iran), 16,110 (Turkey)
IDPs: 1.9 million (ongoing US-led war and Kurds' subsequent return) (2007)
17-04-2007 Official Statement Iraq: civilians bear the brunt of violence
Address by Angelo Gnaedinger, ICRC Director-General at the International Conference on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq and in Neighbouring Countries, Geneva, 17-18 April, 2007
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees for convening this important conference. This is a timely initiative as with each passing day the Iraqi population is plunged into ever deeper deprivation.
We are indeed confronted with a grave failure to ensure respect and protection for the lives and dignity of millions of civilians not taking part in the ongoing violence.
The ICRC therefore appeals first and foremost to all the parties concerned to comply fully with international humanitarian law in Iraq.
Since 2003, the ICRC, working in close partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, has been one of the few international humanitarian organizations with a permanent operational presence in Iraq.
In the course of their daily field activities, our colleagues bear witness to the terrible plight of the entire population, with civilians enduring the brunt of the relentless violence.
Indeed, bombings, suicide attacks, shootings, abductions, murders, the destruction of civilian property and forced displacements are a daily reality for millions of Iraqis. In this dreadful situation, and after years of violence, one wonders if a single Iraqi family has been spared human and material loss and their accompanying physical and psychological scars.
As we speak, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are internally displaced or have fled their country, leaving a home, a job, a plot of land, or even close relatives behind. The precarious situation of the internally displaced must be understood in the context of heightened insecurity and decaying infrastructures. Food insecurity and the vastly inadequate water, sewage and electrical power infrastructure exacerbate the hardship of the population and represent a public health hazard.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Client state is one of several terms used to describe the subordination of one state to a more powerful state in international affairs. It is the least specific of these terms and may be treated as a broad category which includes satellite state, puppet state, neo-colony, protectorate, vassal state and tributary state. (See also unequal treaty.) The idea that there might be a hierarchy of states, some more or less dependent on others, contradicts the doctrine of Westphalian sovereignty which holds that each state is a distinct, separate and sovereign entity.
Definition of a client state
During the build up to the IRAQ invasion, the small band of art activists, the Societe August Fivaz, created this installation to air their disconent with the invasion. The installation was published in the local Neuchatel (Switzerland) newpaper and ran for weeks until the device finally wore out and could not be repaired.
Renewal in Iraq - Iraq Benchmark Assessment Report
On September 14, 2007, the National Security Council reported on progress for the way forward in Iraq. Success in Iraq remains critical to our national security and to the success in the War on Terror.
Fact Sheet: The Way Forward in Iraq: Successes and Challenges
President Bush Says "Return On Success" Plan Is Putting Us On The Right Track To Win In Iraq
On November 2, 2007, President Bush gave an update to soldiers at Fort Jackson, S.C., on his September "Return on Success" speech and discussed some of the results of America's new strategy to win the fight in Iraq. Our new strategy in Iraq, including a surge in U.S. forces, has been fully operational for four months. This new strategy emphasizes securing the Iraqi population as the foundation for all other progress in the country; recognizes that once Iraqis feel safe they can begin to create jobs and opportunities; and builds on the idea that improvements in security will help the Iraqis achieve national reconciliation.
The President discussed challenges and successes we are seeing in each of these areas.
* Our strategy in Iraq is guided by the principle of "return on success" - and as we are seeing more success in Iraq, we are slowly beginning to bring some of our forces home.
* By taking the fight to the enemy in Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists there so we do not have to face them here at home. In Iraq, a democratic ally has been fighting for its survival. In addition, our enemies have sought to build safe havens there to plot attacks against our people.
Upbeat US military claims it has forced al-Qaida out of Iraqi capital
· Number of murders cut by 80%, commander says
· European analysts cast doubt on assessment
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Friday November 9, 2007
The US military has painted its most upbeat assessment yet of security in the Iraqi capital, claiming it has forced the most extreme of the insurgent groups, Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, out of every neighbourhood in Baghdad, and has cut the number of murders by 80%.
In a move described as over-optimistic by some observers, Major-General Joseph Fil, commander of the US forces in Baghdad, told reporters that the clear-out of extremists would make it easier for the US military to reduce its presence in the city from next year.
Speaking to reporters in the Iraqi capital, Gen Fil said "there's just no question" that violence had declined since a rise in June. He said: "Murder victims are down 80% from where they were at the peak." He added: "The Iraqi people have decided that they've had it up to here with violence."
The US has been providing arms to militia groups in Baghdad and elsewhere to take on al-Qaida. Gen Fil's comments are in line with recent US assessments that there have been improvements in security, albeit often marginal. But European defence analysts cautioned against rushing to premature judgments. One, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Gen Fil's assessment as "wildly optimistic" and warned that there was a danger of his words "coming back to bite him".
Two years ago the US declared the road between the centre of Baghdad and the international airport to be safe, only to be followed a few weeks later by a series of attacks.
Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group buttressed with foreign jihadists, has been behind some of the biggest suicide bombings in Iraq. Its attacks on Shia civilians have alienated many Iraqis.
Gen Fil's assessment about improved security was immediately undermined by an announcement by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that he had given up trying to bring the country's largest Sunni Muslim political block back into his coalition government. The Accordance Front withdrew its six ministers from the cabinet in August. The US military and Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that peace cannot be achieved by military means alone and that a political settlement is crucial.
The Pentagon is also privately worried about the British withdrawal from the streets of Basra, allowing Shia militia groups to fight it out for control of the province. The US command's assessment is that armour is needed to impose order and Iraqi forces who have taken responsibility for security do not have it.
The number of US troops in Iraq and Kuwait stands at 154,000, up by 30,000 as a result of a troop surge ordered by President George Bush in January. The US military expects to begin withdrawing next spring. Gen Fil said: "I think there is going to come a day when certainly we will need [fewer] coalition troops in Baghdad."
The death toll for American troops this year is already the worst since the invasion, but the Pentagon attributes this to increased confrontation with insurgents in the spring as part of the surge strategy, and the trend during the past five months has been downwards.
Among various factors contributing to US optimism is that hundreds, possibly thousands, of Iraqis have abandoned safe havens in Syria to return home. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital.
However, in contrast to the US optimism, the Iraqi Red Crescent said the number of internally displaced people in Iraq had more than quadrupled during the past year, reaching 2.3 million by the end of September
U.S. releases 500 Iraqi prisoners
BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. authorities freed 500 Iraqi prisoners Thursday in an ongoing push to empty American jails of detainees no longer deemed a threat.
But the military says it's still holding 25,800 Iraqis under lock and key, none of whom it has charged or tried.
Thursday's release provided small relief to a detention system strained to the limit by thousands of new suspects captured in recent campaigns to secure Baghdad and its surrounding belts. The military could not give a figure for the number of people taken into custody in 2007, but it said some 6,300 detainees were released since January.
The ceremony - held behind concrete blast walls at Camp Victory, a sprawling U.S. base that includes the country's main airport and several of Saddam Hussein's former palaces and where the U.S. command now resides - was intended to highlight progress in regaining control of former extremist strongholds since the arrival of 30,000 additional U.S. troops earlier this year.
U.S. officials worry the overcrowded detention camps are sapping resources and will overwhelm Iraq's struggling justice system. Sunni leaders also claim members of their sect make up the vast majority in both U.S. and Iraqi custody.
Iraqi fighters 'grilled for evidence on Iran'
Interrogator says US military seeks evidence incriminating Tehran
David Smith in Baghdad
Sunday November 11, 2007
US military officials are putting huge pressure on interrogators who question Iraqi insurgents to find incriminating evidence pointing to Iran, it was claimed last night.
Micah Brose, a privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, near the Iranian border, told The Observer that information on Iran is 'gold'. The claim comes after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran last month, citing both its nuclear ambitions and its Revolutionary Guards' alleged support of Shia insurgents in Iraq. Last week the US military freed nine Iranians held in Iraq, including two it had accused of links to the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force.
Murder trial sniper says US used 'bait' for suspect Iraqis
David Smith in Baghdad
Sunday November 11, 2007
A trial opening in Baghdad today will shed new light on a secret Pentagon programme in which US snipers allegedly planted fake weapons as 'bait' to lure their Iraqi enemies to their deaths.
Sergeant Evan Vela is accused of murdering an unarmed Iraqi man and an attempted cover-up. He has admitted that he fired two bullets at point-blank range into a detainee's head but said he was following a direct order.
His court martial comes after those of two fellow snipers in an embarrassing saga which has blown the cover of an alleged classified 'baiting' programme in which snipers scatter ammunition, detonation cords or other items, then lie in wait to shoot insurgents who pick them up.
Packed classes hint at peace in battered Iraq
The pupils who had been too scared to attend class are now returning. It's one small sign that Iraqis are eager for a return to normality - and that the 'tipping point' might not be far away
David Smith in Baghdad
Sunday November 11, 2007
It begins and ends with the children. They stayed away from the al- Gazaly school in southern Baghdad when the streets were murderous - their parents moved out and their PE teacher was shot dead during the mundane act of having a haircut. Now, one by one, cautiously, determinedly, noisily, they are returning to their desks, bringing the school back from the brink. Their hopeful faces reflect, perhaps, the new and fragile optimism dawning in Iraq.
It began as a whisper, but every day the voices grow louder, daring to believe that a country which threatened to tear itself apart is coming together. American deaths are down; Iraqi deaths are reported to be down. Refugees are returning home; shops and businesses are reopening. US generals, whose army was said to be 'broken', now give upbeat assessments that they are nearing a 'tipping point' - not merely the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end. Could America be about to turn around a disaster?
It is important to keep a sense of perspective. The deaths of five US soldiers and one sailor last Monday took this year's total to 853, the worst annual toll since 2003. The independent website Iraq Body Count says 79 Iraqis were killed last Sunday, 28 on Monday, 32 on Tuesday, 29 on Wednesday, 40 on Thursday and 23 on Friday. Sceptics say the killing may have slowed only because Shia and Sunni Muslims are now so segregated and it is too soon to regard the lull as anything but that.
And yet, touring one of Baghdad's most violent districts last week, The Observer found ordinary Iraqis making a stand against the insurgents and death squads. Exhausted by grief, they appeared to have made the pragmatic choice that, however unwelcome the American occupiers might be, they still offer the least worst option when compared with suicide bombers and nihilism. In hot and dusty streets of relative calm, people spoke of concerns for everyday living - electricity, water, sewerage - as much as fear of death.
Many want soldiers to come home
By Chris Roberts / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 11/11/2007 12:00:00 AM MST
More than two-thirds of El Pasoans polled in a recent El Paso Times/News Channel 9 poll disapproved of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war and believe the administration should begin withdrawing troops or pull them out completely.
The results come as about 4,000 Fort Bliss cavalry soldiers prepare to return to El Paso after serving a 15-month tour in Iraq.
In the poll, which queried 361 likely voters between Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, 66.8 percent disapproved of the way Bush is handling the war and 27.7 approved. The rest were undecided.
Support for Bush had remained steady at about 31 percent since 2005, but the recent numbers show a "war weariness," said University of Texas at El Paso political science Professor Charles Boehmer.
Although signs were that the "surge" of troops earlier this year was having some positive effects, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq this year is the highest since the war started, Boehmer said.
"It's more time passing without a drastic improvement," Boehmer said. "It's not surprising to see there has been a small dip" in support.
He said that -- as an election year approaches -- even some evangelical Christians and traditional conservatives who support fiscal and military restraint have expressed unhappiness with the directions the administration has taken.
"That core of support is eroding," he said.
When it comes to the question of what to do with U.S. military forces in Iraq, the largest category of respondents -- 36.8 percent were in favor of a partial withdrawal. The second-largest category, 30.2 percent, supported an immediate withdrawal of all the troops. Ten percent supported increasing troop levels and 16.3 percent said the administration should keep troops at their current levels. The rest were undecided.
Bush has said he will maintain troop levels.
The El Paso Times requires a fee to view their archived articles, we removed the link to their website.
US Military Reversing Iraq Troop Surge
Monday November 12, 2007 8:01 PM
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The first big test of security gains linked to the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is at hand.
The military has started to reverse the 30,000-strong troop increase and commanders are hoping the drop in insurgent and sectarian violence in recent months - achieved at the cost of hundreds of lives - won't prove fleeting.
The current total of 20 combat brigades is shrinking to 19 as the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, operating in volatile Diyala province, leaves. The U.S. command in Baghdad announced on Saturday that the brigade had begun heading home to Fort Hood, Texas, and that its battle space will be taken by another brigade already operating in Iraq.
Between January and July - on a schedule not yet made public - the force is to shrink further to 15 brigades. The total number of U.S. troops will likely go from 167,000 now to 140,000-145,000 by July, six months before President Bush leaves office and a new commander in chief enters the White House.
As the U.S. troop reductions proceed, it should become clear whether the so-called ``surge'' strategy that increased the U.S. troop presence in and around Baghdad resulted in any lasting gains against sectarianism. Critics note that the divided government in Baghdad has made few, if any, strides toward political reconciliation that the Americans have said is crucial to stabilizing the country.
The acceleration of the U.S. mission away from direct combat to more of a support role will put greater pressure on Iraqi security forces to bear more of the load. And it will test the durability of new U.S. alliances with neighborhood watch groups springing up with surprising speed.
Casualties of War
A graphical representation of the casualties of the war in Iraq, N.Y. Times
Bush commits troops to Iraq for the long term
· Deal to provide mandate for military beyond 2008
· US oil companies likely to benefit from proposals
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian Tuesday November 27, 2007
The Bush administration formally committed America yesterday to a long-term military presence in Iraq, pledging to protect the government in Baghdad from internal coup plots and foreign enemies.
Many miles, no breakthroughs
For all the bullish talk, President Bush will end his whirlwind Middle East tour in little doubt that US policies in the region are failing, writes Ian Black
Wednesday January 16, 2008
Bush, many Arabs argue, has been the architect of his own undoing since 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most would probably have preferred it if he had stayed at home.
As Mubarak put it slyly, in an unmistakable reference to Iraq: "We have in our region and elsewhere examples of societies that faced instability and chaos as a result of uncalculated and sudden transformation." The US president probably got the message.
3 More Soldiers Die in Iraq
By RYAN LENZ, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 11:37 PDT BAGHDAD, (AP) --
Three American soldiers were killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Wednesday, bringing to 12 the number of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq over the past three days.
Iraq war: Five years after
Los Angeles Times pages with various stories from the Iraq invasion in March 2003.
Bush says 'America can and must win' Iraq war
The president, speaking on the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, insists the conflict is key to fighting global terrorism.
By Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune March 20, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Five years into a costly war in Iraq that has lost the support of the majority of Americans, President Bush insisted Wednesday that "this is a fight America can and must win."
The president, speaking on the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, contended as he has before that the Iraq conflict remained central to a broader "global war on terror." Bush also said that the "surge" of U.S. troops he ordered last year was working -- with violence and casualties curtailed.
Although he praised the return of some of those troops as "a return on our success in Iraq," Bush said he would not permit any further withdrawals that could jeopardize security gains there.
After a loss of 3,992 American military men and women in Iraq and more than $500 billion committed to fighting in the war-racked country, the president's critics in Congress, including two Democratic candidates for president, are calling for the start of a troop withdrawal. But Bush says such calls are tantamount to retreat.
"War critics can no longer credibly argue that we're losing in Iraq -- so now they argue the war costs too much," he said. "No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure. But those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies."
Doctor laments brush-off of Iraqi war dead
Tom Paulson, Hearst Newspapers
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Dr. Les Roberts risked his life a few years ago to get some numbers that some people fiercely attack as inaccurate or misleading and that many, many more probably pay little or no attention to.
Roberts, a physician and prominent public health scientist at Columbia University, believes there is solid evidence that something like half a million people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Iraq war. His statistics are about 10 times higher than the estimates put forth by the Bush administration and Pentagon.
But a much bigger problem than the numerical disparity, Roberts said, is the simple fact that so few even ask.
"I think it's important that every American understand the true magnitude of this tragedy," said Roberts. Unfortunately, he added, few in the media or in government appear to want to draw attention to the deaths that have so severely altered the life of nearly every Iraqi.
In 2004, Roberts and colleagues sneaked into Iraq with dyed beards and dressed in robes to conduct a series of mortality "cluster point" surveys in various communities while the war raged on. His team initially estimated the civilian death toll as at least 100,000 (two to three times the official estimate) but later analysis caused him to raise the estimate to be 95 percent certain to be in the range of 400,000 to 950,000 - or a mean of about 650,000 deaths. The findings were reported in the British medical journal the Lancet in 2006.
"To help people understand this, given the population of Iraq, this would be like New York City having two 9/11 attacks every week over a period of three years," Roberts said. Things have gotten less violent in Iraq, he said, but nobody should be lulled into thinking that things are good.
Another report, issued in January, estimated that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence between March 2003 and June 2006. The estimate was based on projections by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization.
"Gen. (David) Petraeus testified earlier this year about how few deaths we're seeing in Iraq, but his numbers suggested that life in Baltimore was more violent than in Iraq," he said. He said he wrote e-mails before the hearing to ask members of Congress to challenge the statistics, but nobody spoke up. No reporters he contacted challenged Petraeus' statistics either, he added with evident frustration.
"Everybody wants to believe things are getting better because Republicans want to declare victory and Democrats want an excuse to get out," Roberts said. Meanwhile, he said, the media continue to ignore the issue.
"My professional life and purpose is based on the belief that valid data, most of the time, lead toward truth and that truth can lead toward justice," Roberts said.