Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The civilian death toll keeps rising in Iraq. Is anyone paying attention?

By Nancy Jane Moore

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a report this week saying that 5,818 civilians were killed during May and June. About the same number were injured.

There were over 3,000 deaths in June alone and there have been 14,338 killed since January. These are the official figures from the Ministry of Health and the Medico-Legal Institute, which is apparently the morgue.

The official guess is that over 50,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US invaded. Most everyone thinks that number is low.

My first thought, on seeing the June numbers, was that more Iraqi civilians died in June than US soldiers have died during the entire war. And I've found the deaths of our soldiers very depressing.

You may have missed this report -- Iraqi news is being pushed off the front pages by the situation in Lebanon. More death and destruction, more suffering, more people learning to hate. The thing that is weighing on my mind is the fact that everyone involved -- Israelis, Palestinians, Hizbullah, and even ordinary Lebanese -- talk about the other side as if they weren't human. That leaves very little ground for constructive dialogue.

The worst thing about the UN report on Iraqi deaths is not the numbers, bad as they are. No, the worst thing is that the UN Report presents no real suggestions on how to solve this problem. They talk about consultations, meetings, the establishment of a "thematic working group on human rights, a few grants to non-governmental organizations. But no big plans to fix the problem.

I don't really fault them for that -- I don't have any solutions myself. My best idea requires the use of a time machine: Go back to 2003 and have the US not invade Iraq. I don't suppose that's practical.

If you care about what's going in Iraq, read the report. It's a pdf, but it doesn't take long to load, even on dial-up. Not only does it give the horrible death count, but it discusses the widespread kidnappings, the repression of women, the ill-treatment of minorities and gays, the horrible risks to those who are trying to take care of everyone else -- police, soldiers, doctors, judges.

People are suffering. The least we can do is pay attention.

No comments: