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War-wounded civilians are the focus of this article. Iraq's health care system, already weakened before the devastating 2003 invasion, now has to cope with a relentless stream of daily bomb blasts and shootings.

Official indifference (by the nations which invaded Iraq) to the welfare of living victims persists.

Adding indifference to injury

At least 20,000 civilians were injured in the Iraq war: Why are the occupiers ignoring their suffering and their needs?

August 7th, 2003


Extraction of media-reported civilian injuries from the Iraq Body Count database and archive of war reports provides evidence of at least 20,000 civilian injuries on top of the maximum reported 7,798 deaths. 8,000 of these injuries were in the Baghdad area alone, suggesting that the full, countrywide picture, as with deaths, is yet to emerge.

1. Introduction

The Iraq Body Count Project has never published a running total of injuries suffered in the war because injuries encompass a scale from the grievous and incapacitating to the light and fully recuperable, and in the absence of information about severity it makes no sense to assign the same unit value to each report of injury. But because injuries are not all comparable does not mean that they can or should be excluded from an accounting of the human costs of the war. On the contrary, the need to investigate and assess them is especially urgent, for many of the injured may still be suffering and their condition may be improved if we act promptly.

The protagonists of the war have repeatedly claimed an inability to provide accurate estimates of civilian deaths. Insofar as some casualties may have been burned beyond recognition, pulverised into dust or buried quickly according to Islamic custom and never officially recorded, there is indeed a possibility that not every death can be accounted for. Injuries are another matter. The injured are alive, perhaps receiving treatment, and the cause, nature and extent of their injuries will appear in medical, official, and informal records.

What follows is Iraq Body Count (IBC)’s attempt to provide an overview of the scale of the problem that needs to be tackled more directly by those who have the means to do so. First we analyse what the IBC data-base can tell us about civilian injuries in Iraq, and include various accounts of injuries suffered during the course of the war to illustrate our general conclusions. We then discuss the potential costs of compensation, and argue that the occupying powers have a moral and humanitarian imperative to meet those costs. It is our hope that they do not entirely lack the will to do so — or if they do, that their citizenry will help them to find it.