Lots of Ghosts in Iraq

British medical journal estimates more than 100,000 civilians killed so far, most by our air strikes

Hurry up and get the voting over with, Americans, so we can go ahead and bomb the shit out of Fallujah. A major attempt to "pacify" the city is scheduled, but not until after Tuesday. Wouldn't look good for the Bush regime to launch Operation Fuck 'Em All until after the polls close.

But now that we may have broken the magic six-figure barrier, maybe this war thing will get a little easier. The Lancet, a big-time British medical journal, just published a peer-reviewed article estimating that more than 100,000 civilians have been killed, most by air strikes. The Independent (U.K.) says The Lancet piece is "the first scientific study of the human cost of the Iraq war." The authors of the article used detailed on-the-ground interviewing and then extrapolated from "cluster samples." Their closing "interpretation":

Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths, and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.

How many Iraqis will die in the next big assault on rebellious Fallujah may never be known. Right from the start of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, American authorities contemptuously dismissed even the idea of putting numbers and names to the corpses, and that includes those of women and children.

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General Tommy Franks was widely quoted as saying early on, "We don't do body counts." But others are. Over at Iraq Body Count, the latest estimate is that 14,000 to 16,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion.

Why the disparity in figures? It's a big, dangerous country, enveloped in chaos, and the occupation authorities and their puppet regime that nominally has stepped in aren't interested in counting the corpses.

But the numbers may be even higher. Adding further confusion is that The Lancet study bases its six-figure estimate without considering Fallujah, because it's the most dangerous and deadly area and would thus skew the "cluster samples" upon which the figures are based.

By the way, "violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces," and "most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children."

Reuters reports today that "U.S. planes have launched almost daily air strikes on what the military says are safe houses used by a network of Iraqi and foreign fighters led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." The latest raid killed three Iraqi men, and three more civilians were wounded.

"A full-scale U.S.-led offensive," Reuters's Michael Georgy wrote, "could be as devastating as a Marine attack in April that Washington called off after a world outcry over civilian casualties in Fallujah. Local doctors reported more than 600 dead in the fighting."

Hey, that ain't nothing. Brigadier General Dennis Hejlik told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters, "We are gearing up for a major operation. If we do so, it will be decisive and we will whack them."

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