Dead, Disabled, Displaced or Destroyed – Democracy Delivered

Freda endless warBy Graham Vanbergen

Six months ago, the Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study over the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks. It was largely ignored by the world’s press.

The 97-page report accompanied by hundreds of studies, reports and investigations by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctors’ group is the first to tally up the total number of civilian casualties from US-UK led interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This article uses much of the content from that report called the IPPNW Body Count publication.

A poll carried out by the Associated Press (AP) two years ago found that, on average, U.S. citizens believe that only 9,900 Iraqis were killed during the 2003-2011 occupation of Iraq by the US, UK and allied forces.

Random spot checks have suggested that more than two-thirds of all violent deaths that occurred in Baghdad between 2003 and 2007 did not appear in the media, and were therefore not included in official statistics distributed by the Iraq Body Count (IBC). The IBC has a media-centered approach to counting and documenting the deaths and is considered very unreliable as a result but is much quoted by the establishment and mainstream press the world over.

For instance, evidence of the 27,000 bombs that were dropped in just the first year during the invasion of Iraqi cities is practically non-existent in the IBC database.

In many cases, the occupying powers explicitly blocked journalists from investigating instances where the British or American forces were accused of mass killings. Numerous journalists in Iraq who tried to report on the activities of the occupation troops and their consequences were killed or arrested.

In Iraq itself, only a small number of casualties made it to the central hospitals or morgues where they could be registered. That proportion decreased the more intense the military battles were and the more the violence between various sections of the population escalated. Since Islam requires a funeral within one day, relatives generally had no choice but to bury their dead directly – either in their yards or close to their homes.

Moreover, the occupying power often forbade the hospitals and morgues from making their numbers public.

The fate of Iraqi physicians is one area that is very well documented. According to data from the independent Iraqi Medical Association, of the 34,000 registered physicians, almost 2,000 were killed and 20,000 left the country. In its database, IBC lists only 70 Iraqi physicians. Even though this may in part be due to a lack of data on the profession of the victims, this piece of evidence alone suggests very large gaps in IBC’s calculations.

According to the Najaf governorate’s spokesperson Ahmed Di’aibil (member of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq), in this city alone, which has a population of close to 600,000, 40,000 non-identified corpses were buried since the start of the war. The IBC database documents only 1,354 victims in Najaf, barely 3% of the actual.

In a September 2009 speech, Samir Sumaidaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. installed by the occupation power, talked about 500,000 newly widowed persons in Iraq. A February 2007 BBC poll in the region came to the conclusion that 17% of all Iraqi households have lost at least one member through violence since 2003. Given the total population at the time of some 27 million, this too suggests that more than 500,000 Iraqis fell victim to the war and its consequences just in the first four years.

By 2008, the number of refugees from Iraq in foreign countries and internally displaced persons had risen to 5 million.

Such a high number of victims – reaching genocidal dimensions – represented a massive indictment of the U.S. administration, British government and its allies that they simply could not allow to stand. Hence, the findings of this study was furiously criticized. Even though nearly all the experts in the field, including the scientists of the British administration, confirmed the accuracy of the study, it was slandered by governments and main stream establishment media.

Dr. h.c. Hans-C. von Sponeck, UN Assistant Secretary General & UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1998-2000); UN Resident Coordinator for Pakistan (1988- 94) covering also Afghanistan said in his report:

The U.S.-led Multinational Force have carefully kept a running total of fatalities they have suffered. However, the military’s only interest has been in counting ‘their’ bodies.

Since U.S. and other foreign military boots are only intermittently and secretly on the ground in Pakistan, mainly in the northern tribal areas, there are no body count statistics for coalition force casualties available for Pakistan. The picture of physically wounded military personnel for both war theatres is in- complete. Only the U.S. military is identified: (a) 32,223 were wounded during the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath, and (b) until November 2014 20,040 were wounded in Afghanistan.

No figures are known for mental disorders involving military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan but US veteran soldiers are still committing suicide at the rate of 22 per day.

Officially ignored are casualties, injured or killed, involving enemy combatants and civilians together. This, of course, comes as no surprise. It is not an oversight but a deliberate omission. The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths. This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs.

The IPPNW Body Count publication must be seen as a significant contribution to narrowing the gap between reliable estimates of victims of war, especially civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and tendentious, manipulated or even fraudulent accounts.

After 58,000 dead US soldiers and 2 million civilian deaths in Vietnam, the Reagan Administration sought to resolve the negative public opinion problem by utilizing obeisant client states or surrogate forces, epitomized by the “Contra” armies and death squads deployed in Central America and Southern Africa instead of using its own attacking forces. With the end of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers triumphantly pronounced the end of the “Vietnam Syndrome,” and ushered in a new era of American “boots on the ground” that led ultimately to the debacle in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

This investigation and report comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could easily be in excess of 2 million.

For some degree of context – should the number of Iraqis killed from the 2003 U.S. invasion until 2012 actually be around one million, this would represent 5% of the total population of Iraq. By contrast, during World War II Germany lost around 10% of its population.

In Iraq, results from statistical surveys conducted by the Johns Hopkins University, published in 2004 and 2006 in the medical journal The Lancet, (The basis of the Lancet study, which was executed by a U.S.-Iraqi team led by renowned scientists was a survey of a representative selection of 1,850 Iraqi households across Iraq) as well as by the British polling institute Opinion Research Business (ORB) in 2007 suggest that already by 2008 over one million Iraqis had died as a result of war, occupation and their indirect consequences. many more have died since.

Moreover, and in addition to the appalling numbers, according to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), between 250,000 and one million persons are missing in Iraq, presumed dead.

For an estimate of the current casualty numbers, one has to interpolate. The U.S. NGO Just Foreign Policy does exactly this with its Iraqi Death Estimator, where it multiplies the number of victims of violence determined by the Lancet study as of June 2006 by the increase in the number since then as provided by IBC. From the relation between the current number given by IBC and the one given for the end of June 2006 (43,394), it concludes that the number of Iraqis killed up to September 2011 is at around 1.46 million.

One development of the scale of bombing was that the health care system largely collapsed. Diseases spread because of the lack of access to drinking water and the contamination of rivers. Almost three million people became internal refugees; as a consequence, large parts of once reasonably affluent cities turned into slums.

The long-term consequences through the poisoning of the environment brought about by the war must also be taken into consideration. Many areas of Iraq that were subjected to furious attacks by the occupying forces show a dramatic increase in the number of diseases. In many areas, the number of occurrences of various forms of cancer, of miscarriages and abnormal and deformed babies multiplied. A major reason for this is likely to be the massive use of ammunition containing depleted uranium.

According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), since 2003, U.S. and UK troops have used around 13,000 cluster bombs in Iraq. Iraq is littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination. These have disseminated their sub-ammunition – almost 2 million bomblets – widely in and around the fought-over cities. In addition, the 20 million bomblets from the 61,000 cluster bombs dropped in 1991 have also still not all been cleared. This makes Iraq one of the countries with the highest contamination of highly explosive unexploded ordnance in the world.

Evidence of this can be seen in child mortality that multiplied in the following years, the number of occurrences of cancer quadrupled, and the number of cases of leukemia increased by a factor of 40.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

There have so far been no representative studies on the number of victims from the ongoing UN-mandated NATO war in Afghanistan. The few investigations that exist on deaths as a result of that war are all based on passive observation.

In Pakistan, the number of killed civilians and combatants is much harder to determine than in Afghanistan. Even data based on passive observation are barely existent. Taking all sources and factors into account, a total number of 300,000 war deaths in the AfPak War-Theatre until 2013 seems realistic.


Estimates of deaths in the fall of Libya as a result of US/UK/NATO bombing and subsequent civil war between March 2 and October 2, 2011 vary. An exact figure is hard to ascertain, partly due to a media clamp-down by the Libyan government. Some conservative estimates have been released of around 25,000. NATO holds itself to no standard of measurement whatsoever in this regard. If Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by this number could easily be over 100,000.  Some of the killing “may amount to crimes against humanity” according to the United Nations Security Council and as of March 2011, is under investigation by the International Criminal Court.

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It is impossible to calculate the death, destruction and decay incurred by the people of these countries. It is fair to say two million are dead, another one million presumed dead with many more deaths as a result of disease, lack of medical care, child birth, birth defects, cancer care and the like. One should not forget, these countries continue to feel the after effects of current governance and a lack of control over security that culminates in many bombings, shooting, kidnapping, murders and suicides.

The current death toll in Syria is reported at 250,000 and counting with 6.5 million displaced.

Finally, as the FT reported in February “In all, more than 100,000 people, perhaps a third or more civilians, died violently in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and the Gaza Strip in 2014, making it one of the bloodiest years in the Middle East’s history”. Death continues at a horrific rate.

Read the full IPPNW report HERE

Image Credit: Anthony Freda “Endless War”

You can read more from Graham Vanbergen at his site

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1 Comment on "Dead, Disabled, Displaced or Destroyed – Democracy Delivered"

  1. And all thanks to the military industrial complex and their lobbyists! You have to love the “defense” industry.

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