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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.

5. Media reports are a vital source of casualty data

5.1 Press and media reports are too rich and valuable a source to be disregarded.

Media coverage of casualty information has been significantly enhanced by recent and emerging developments in technology, as has the ability to integrate this information. The IBC project exploits these developments and points to what may be possible as they evolve further.

5.2 Systematic data collection ensures that as little information as possible is lost.

Comprehensive and systematic monitoring of press and media sources as undertaken by IBC makes it possible to obtain more data than is apparent to the average news consumer who may access only a few major sources. Many smaller incidents are relegated to newswires and back pages and lost to public view. Casualty reports rarely get the prominence they deserve, especially where small numbers are involved. IBC keeps, archives, and gives equal prominence to every incident it finds, no matter how few people were killed.

5.3 Reporting violence and its casualties is a staple activity of journalism.

Press and media organisations are the most consistent gatherers of detailed casualty data worldwide. This is not limited to their own investigations. The media also publish information provided by governments, official agencies, and NGOs. Media sources taken as a whole, and combined in the manner developed by IBC, can thus be used an “aggregator” for all public-domain information on known casualties.

6. Casualty data can be put to use in many different ways

6.1 Collecting incident details allows key trends and patterns to be revealed.

An important benefit of recording specific details for each individual and the circumstances of their death is that otherwise undetectable patterns can be revealed. These include trends over time, the geographical distribution of violence, the age and gender of those killed, and the comparative lethality of different weapons as well as different categories of killers.

IBC's A Dossier on Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-2005 is a substantial application of analytic methods to the detailed data gathered by IBC.

Our Q&A item, How has IBC been used by others? contains some exemplary uses of the project.

6.2 Information empowers people to act.

When reliable information is organised and put into the public domain, it becomes possible for individuals and organisations to put it to multiple uses, whether educational, political, or humanitarian. IBC invites, and where feasible, assists any not-for-profit use of its data, particularly when its purpose is to benefit war’s casualties, actual or potential.

6.3 Multiple uses can be made of casualty information.

IBC places few restrictions on how its data is used. Uses may include: memorialising and honouring the dead, investigating individual deaths and assigning responsibility for them, assisting initiatives to support survivors, and drawing lessons for military-interventionist policy. It is in the spirit of the IBC project that it relies on the humanitarian ideals and initiatives of others to exploit the full value of the data we provide.