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Why an Iraq Body Count?

When the IBC project was first launched, many expressed surprise, puzzlement, even disapproval. Though less prevalent now, misunderstanding about the project's aims still exists.

These pages explain the reasoning behind our work: why we do what we do.

3. US and UK citizens bear particular responsibility for events in Iraq

3.1 The USA and UK led the attack on Iraq.

The continuing high level of violent death in Iraq since 2003 is a result of the US/UK-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. None of the deaths we record would have happened were it not for the invasion. The USA and the UK are electoral democracies. Voters and tax-payers of these countries share in the responsibility for their governments’ actions. Iraq Body Count team members are all citizens of the USA or UK who believe that it is our continuing responsibility to record every known Iraqi death resulting from the actions of our leaders.

3.2 No official, public record exists.

After several years of war, there is still no official public mechanism that attempts to count, let alone identify, individual victims on an ongoing and comprehensive basis. The IBC project is one (unofficial) contribution to filling that gap.

3.3 Initiatives independent from government are required.

Governments and inter-governmental agencies should as a matter of principle facilitate and support comprehensive and long-term casualty recording. However, whatever level of official support and engagement may eventually be forthcoming, there will always be a role for autonomous groups and individuals to freely participate in data-collection, monitoring, advocacy and innovation, and hold governments to account. Citizen involvement also ensures that projects reflect grassroots priorities. IBC is one such citizens’ initiative, among many others of various kinds focused on the conflict in Iraq. IBC’s independence is tangibly demonstrated through the daily involvement of volunteers in our work, and through small but regular donations made by individuals from all walks of life.

4. Documenting violent civilian deaths is our current focus

4.1 Violent deaths are war’s first and most unambiguous lethal outcome.

Immediate deaths and injuries caused by violence happen at a specific place and time, and such factual circumstances have the potential to be fully documented. These facts provide the basis of a documentary record of the most unambiguous human impact of war. Other war-related outcomes such as disease and malnutrition may cause many further deaths. However, documenting and assigning responsibility for such delayed outcomes requires appropriately postponed studies and commonly entails a depersonalised, purely statistical approach. For these reasons IBC records violent deaths and not deaths from other causes.

4.2 The systematic recording of civilian deaths is neglected, when it should be a priority.

Three primary factors underlie IBC’s decision to focus on civilians. First, there are legal and moral considerations which make non-combatant deaths particularly unacceptable. Despite this, civilians are all too often given scant (or no) attention in official recording. Second, coalition military and contractor deaths are relatively well-recorded by others. And third, with limited human and material resources, the project team has had to concentrate its efforts.