Blind Iraqi womanBy Robert Silvey

On Memorial Day, we remember those who perished in war. All the victims—the guilty and the innocent, the powerful and the downtrodden, the soldiers and the civilians. Especially, this year, we remember those who have died in Iraq:

  • approximately 800,000 Iraqis, who continue to perish at a rate of about 3,700 per week
  • 3,454 American military personnel, dying recently at a rate of more than 30 per week
  • 276 other coalition military personnel, about 2 per week
  • 916 coalition contractors, about 9 per week
  • at least 132 journalists, an average of 1 per week

Since the first flash of shock and awe in March 2003, the firestorm in Iraq has continued for 1,529 days, consuming hundreds of thousands of people. On Saturday, two US soldiers were killed by roadside bombs, one in Diyala province north of Baghdad and the second in the west of the capital; they have not yet been identified. On Sunday, two earlier American casualties were named:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died May 23 in Al Nahrawan, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

They were assigned to 3d Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Benning, Ga.

Killed were:

Cpl. Victor H. Toledo Pulido, 22, of Hanford, Calif.

Cpl. Jonathan D. Winterbottom, 21, of Falls Church, Va.

Let us remember Victor and Jonathan.

Yesterday morning, 44 bodies were found in Baghdad, all apparent victims of sectarian violence. One other Iraqi civilian was identified by name:

Gunmen dragged noted calligrapher Khalil al-Zahawi from a car near his house in the mostly Shi’ite New Baghdad district and killed him, police said. Condemning the killing, the Sunni Muslim Scholars’ Association called him the “sheikh” of Iraqi calligraphers.

Let us remember Khalil.

Too many people have died in Iraq. Too many continue to die every day. It is time for George Bush to order the troops home now.

Note: The vast majority of casualties are Iraqis, almost all innocent civilians. A thorough cluster sample survey published last year in The Lancet estimated that by July 2006 about 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war; the carnage has worsened since that time, and I estimate that the total is now likely to be about 800,000. The military data are precise, and information about journalists is a good estimate; both sets are drawn from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. Contractor deaths are counted by the US Labor Department, as reported recently by CNN.

[Cross-posted at Rubicon]

4 replies »

  1. God. 800,000. I don’t think anyone really realizes the depth of bloodshed this war has immersed itself in, because we hear of casualties exclusively for our side, and while 3,454 is too many, it’s a number we can get our heads around. We can deal with it.

    But here you are talking about nearly one million Iraqis. They can’t all be enemy combatants, after all–so on whose head does the responsibility fall? Why did so many die, and why are they still dying?

    Given that we, as a nation, cannot effectively answer why we’re there in the first place without succumbing to lies and distortions, I expect no answers for this either. And I don’t expect the friends and families of those 800,000 dead will get any answers that will satisfy them–and indeed, what could?

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful and shocking piece, Robert. I’m like Martin – 804,778 – it’s an almost dumbfounding number, and when one looks at the percentages and sees that 99.4% of those casualties are Iraqi – even though we know some of those are enemy combatants – what percentage would “enemy combatants” make? And what long term hatreds has such carnage likely, if not instigated, provided fuel for?

    What about the number of journalists killed? This seems high compared to other conflicts (correct me if I’m wrong). Is this a result of journalists being targeted? Is this a result of the “embedding” practice? How many were killed during combat operations? How many have died during occupation since “mission accomplished”?

    One other number here causes me concern – if we add 3454 and 916 to get 4370 – one can note that over 1 in 5 of those killed on our side are “coalition” contractors. I wonder how that will be spun as a way of enjoining our countrymen to buy into allowing Blackwater military bases to spring up in every state – and especially at every port?

    And I wonder what kind of memorial all this will turn out to be to those who died bravely believing they were defending our country – and to those who died – innocent of wrongdoing – because they were born in what became harm’s way?

  3. The scope of this catastrophe is too little known. More Iraqis die in a week than the number of American soldiers who have died in four years. About 3 percent of all Iraqis have died as a result of the war since March 2003