Iraq, Civilian Fatalities, and American Power I

Ever since Ahmed Janabi’s report first surfaced on english.aljazeera.net that an “Iraqi political group,” indeed, an expatriate Iraqi political group based in Britain, contends reports that approximately “37,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and October 2003″ (That’s already

ten months ago), I have been watching and waiting to see which English-language medium in the States, the U.K., Canada or Australia was going to mention the fact that somebody, somewhere, had produced such an estimate. If only to denounce the estimate as uncorroborated fabrication, for Christ’s sake. Or to allow one of the State Department or Pentagon spokespersons to disavow any knowledge of such irrelevancies. (“Iraqi group claims over 37,000 civilian toll,” July 31.—For a copy, also see below.)

Remember: Janabi’s report first appeared 16 days ago. With the greatly intensified killing delivered upon the city of Najaf in the month of August, questions about body counts and civilian death tolls would hardly seem inappropriate, even for the most bought-and-sold establishment reporters.

Regardless. I can attest, here and now, that as of this date in mid-August, 2004, I have yet to find a single follow-up mention of any of this. Not the size of the estimate (some 37,000 through October, 2003—exclusive of the Kurdish-controlled northern territories, note well, where such research wasn’t taken too kindly). Not the name of the group that assumed the responsibility for producing the estimate (the People’s Kifah, or Struggle Against Hegemony). Nor the name of the gentleman credited with a leadership role in carrying out the research (one Muhammad al-Ubaidi, a “UK-based physiology professor,” Janabi reports). Instead, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

But since the day I first started running searches for mentions of any of these words, on Saturday, July 31, the findings remain chillingly unchanged: No English-language news media source based in the United States, Britain, Canada or Australia that I’ve been able to search has so much as mentioned anything like the information contained in Al Jazeera’s “Iraqi group claims over 37,000 civilian toll.”

As a matter of fact, the only thing I did discover was that the name Al-Ubaidi is fairly common in Iraq. That is to say, a considerable number of individuals named Al-Ubaidi turn up in the products of the English-language news media—and absolutely none of them is the Muhammad al-Ubaidi reported by Al Jazeera. But aside from false matches of this kind, nothing on the estimates of Iraqi civilian fatalities.

Of course, I can always keep checking……. But the bottom-line, I think, is this: The English-language news media in the major occupying powers of the United States and Britain have reported nothing comparable to what Al Jazeera reported. As the pile of dead bodies of the untold thousands of Iraqi civilians whose lives have been wiped out by the occupiers edges higher, how long will official denials of interest in the actual body count satisfy a news media that, to date, has served the occupiers well—and on all questions, this one in particular?

FYA (“For your archives”): Am depositing here a copy of Ahmed Janabi’s report on the estimates by the People’s Kifah (“Struggle Against Hegemony”). (Wish I also could drop copies here of the images that Al-Jazeera published with the report. But, another time. Perhaps.)

Iraqi group claims over 37,000 civilian toll
by Ahmed Janabi
Saturday 31 July 2004 12:31 PM GMT

The human toll is all too evident in daily scenes such as this

An Iraqi political group says more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 and October 2003.

The People’s Kifah, or Struggle Against Hegemony, movement said in a statement that it carried out a detailed survey of Iraqi civilian fatalities during September and October 2003.

Its calculation was based on deaths among the Iraqi civilian population only, and did not count losses sustained by the Iraqi military and paramilitary forces.

The deputy general secretary and spokesperson of the movement told Aljazeera.net he could vouch for the accuracy of the figure.

“We are 100% sure that 37,000 civilian deaths is a correct estimate. Our study is the result of two months of hard work which involved hundreds of Iraqi activists and academics. Of course there may be deaths that were not reported to us, but the toll in any case could not be lower than our finding,” said Muhammad al-Ubaidi.

The planning ministry is due to

hold a census in January 2005

“For the collation of our statistics we visited the most remote villages, spoke and coordinated with grave-diggers across Iraq, obtained information from hospitals, and spoke to thousands of witnesses who saw incidents in which Iraqi civilians were killed by US fire,” he said.

Detailed figures

Al-Ubaidi, a UK-based physiology professor, provided a detailed breakdown of the 37,000 civilian deaths for each governorate (excluding the Kurdish areas) relating to the period between March and October 2003:

Baghdad: 6103

Mosul: 2009

Basra: 6734

Nasiriya: 3581

Diwania: 1567

Wasit: 2494

Babil: 3552

Karbala and Najaf: 2263

Muthana: 659

Misan: 2741

Anbar: 2172

Kirkuk: 861

Salah al-Din: 1797.

The People’s Kifah said the process of data gathering stopped after one of the group’s workers was arrested by Kurdish militias and handed over to US forces in October 2003. The fate of the worker remains unclear.

Missing worker

“I am taking this opportunity of talking to Aljazeera.net to request that the US occupation authorities reveal the whereabouts of the worker, who was arrested and then went missing. We are afraid he is being tortured the way Abu Ghraib prisoners were tortured,” al-Ubaidi said.

“His name is Ramzi Musa Ahmad. He is a 32-year-old Iraqi engineer who was on his way to the Iraqi Kurdish governorate al-Sulaimania last October to fax me the information to Britain, because telephone services had not been restored in Baghdad.”

According to al-Ubaidi: “The minibus in which Ahmad was travelling was stopped at a Kurdish checkpoint. He was arrested and handed over to US army.”

Banned statement

As of now, there are no reliable estimates of total Iraqi civilian fatalities. The interim Iraqi government has not made available any statistics, while US occupation authorities in Iraq reportedly issued orders to the forensic medicine department not to talk to the media about the number of bodies it receives.

Liqa Makki, a political analyst, said it is widely known in Baghdad that Iraqi officials are prohibited from releasing any information about body count.

“I am seizing the opportunity of talking to Aljazeera.net to request that the US occupation authorities reveal the destiny of our worker, who was arrested and then disappeared”

Muhammad al-Ubaidi,

Deputy General-Secretary,

Al-Kifah movement

“The director of forensic medicine department said publicly some months ago that his department was receiving 70 bodies a day. But he was reprimanded and a statement was published in the Iraqi press prohibiting the announcement of any kind of body count,” Makki said.

The only serious independent attempt to collate war statistics is the Iraq Body Count Project, which involves both US and British academics. The project’s website currently places Iraq’s civilian toll at between 11,000 and 13,000.

The website has been criticised in some quarters for its tardiness in updating its figures. But Iraq Body Count Project says it is not a news portal and puts accuracy ahead of speed.

According to the Arab and western media, between 15,000 and 20,000 Iraqi civilians have perished since the launch of the invasion.

But some cast doubt on the figures, saying the number of Iraqi civilians who have died at the hands of the US army may never be known.

Census due

Iraq’s interim government is preparing the first post-Saddam census in Iraq. It hopes that an accurate census will unearth long-buried facts about Iraq’s wars.

The Planning Ministry issued instructions to Iraqis not to leave their homes on 12 October when 150,000 workers will be engaged in conducting the census.

The interim government says the census will be the last step before the general election scheduled for January 2005.

According to the last official census – conducted in 1997 – Iraq had a population of 24 million.

Aljazeera + Agencies
By Ahmed Janabi

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