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Having appeared in early 2004, what remains most important about this detailed analysis from IBC is that, while some of it is now outdated, most of it remains as pertinent today as then, particularly in regard to official disinterest and (perhaps a little less so) media priorities.

The sad milestone of 10,000 civilian deaths, as recorded by IBC, was cited across the political spectrum (though not necessarily with attribution).

As predicted, this milestone proved to be all too transitory.

3. Evasion, obstruction and racist double standards

The tactics by which the US and UK authorities have so far tried to contain and deflect concerns about casualties in Iraq are six-fold, which we examine in detail further below:

  • repeated professions of ignorance and a denial of any possibility of gaining useful knowledge;
  • denial of responsibility, placing this instead on convenient ‘others’ at various points in time – e.g. Saddam during the war, Al Qaida for recent bombings;
  • the establishment of narrowly-limited military ‘self-investigations,’ the majority of which are never completed or publicly reported;
  • official focus limited to US and UK military deaths with wilful ignorance of the price paid by Iraqis;
  • deliberate obstruction of Iraqis’ own efforts to count their war dead;
  • insultingly low token ‘compensation’ payments to a small and arbitrarily-limited number of Iraqi claimants.

At the heart of all these tactics is an implicit double standard which values the life of a Westerner – whose death is always worth recording and investigating – far above the life of an Arab or Asian, whose death is of scant interest or concern.

We argue for two main conclusions:

None of these tactics are defensible. There is detailed and accurate knowledge available to the Coalition about many of the victims, and more can be found through entirely feasible investigations. International law and natural justice makes the USA and the UK responsible for the vast majority of the deaths that have occurred. There is a clear moral obligation for heavy compensation to the families of Iraqi victims, on the same scale to those paid out by Germany after the Second World War, as the aggressor nation.

Even if none of the moral and legal arguments are accepted, the tactics currently being adopted are not in the pragmatic self-interest of the USA and the UK. They are counterproductive in that they inflame long-term anti-US and anti-UK feeling among the Iraqi population and Arab nations, reducing the likelihood of a quick end to the conflict, and putting UK and US citizens at greater risk from paramilitary, political, and economic reprisals.