Than 34,000 Iraqi
Civilian Deaths In 2006
By Kate Randall
19 January, 2007
United Nations reported Tuesday that 34,452 Iraqi civilians died in
2006 as a result of bombings, extra-judicial executions and other forms
Iraq’s population is
27 million. If violent deaths occurred at the same rate in the US, with
a population of 300 million, the toll would surpass 370,000. This would
be equivalent in terms of numbers to the annihilation of an entire city
the size of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The UN report, which acknowledges
that its tally underestimates the actual number of Iraqis killed last
year, paints a horrific picture of a society wracked by military and
sectarian violence and a collapse in the basic conditions of life. It
is a social catastrophe with few parallels in modern history, and a
direct consequence of the US invasion and occupation of the country.
The UN Assistance Mission
for Iraq compiled the study by hand-counting individual deaths for the
entire year, using reports from hospitals, morgues and other municipal
authorities across Iraq. The first attempt at such a body count, the
figure obtained was nearly three times higher than an estimate for the
year compiled by the Associated Press from Iraqi ministry tallies. The
AP figure was 12,347.
The US government refuses
to release any figures on Iraqi civilian casualties. This expression
of indifference and contempt for Iraqi life is mirrored by the attitude
of the US-backed government in Baghdad.
An Iraqi government spokesman
described the UN count as “exaggerated” and told the New
York Times that the report had been compiled from “incorrect sources.”
The spokesman went on to say, according to the Times, that the government
did not “have a system in place for compiling a comprehensive
figure” on the violent deaths of its own people.
The UN’s 34,000-plus
figure, while itself staggering, is vastly lower than the results of
a nationwide household survey conducted in Iraq by the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health. That study, released last October,
estimated that more than 650,000 Iraqis, or 7 percent of the prewar
population, died between the onset of the US invasion in March of 2003
and July of 2006 as a result of the war and occupation. Based on that
study’s estimates, 200,000 more Iraqis are dying each year than
would have died if the invasion had not taken place.
The day the UN issued its
report was one of the deadliest in two months, with another 142 Iraqis
killed or found dead, the result of bomb attacks on buses outside Al-Mustansiriya
University and other targeted killings.
The report came less than
a week after George Bush’s January 11 announcement of a major
escalation of the war, involving the dispatch of 21,500 additional American
combat troops. Bush made clear in his televised address that there would
be even greater bloodshed, affecting American troops as well as Iraqis,
in the weeks and months ahead.
This escalation of military
violence is cynically portrayed by the administration as well as the
media as an effort to protect the Iraqi people from the widening spiral
of Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing. In fact, a
large majority of Iraqis killed and wounded since the invasion have
died as a result of US military attacks, and the eruption of sectarian
violence is itself a result of the US occupation, which deliberately
inflamed sectarian passions and installed a Shiite fundamentalist government
in line with the standard colonialist policy of divide and rule.
The new effort to “secure
the population” of Iraq marks an intensification of military violence
and terror aimed at drowning the Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation
For their part, Congressional
Democrats have made clear that they will not act to block Bush’s
“surge” plan by cutting off funds for the escalation, let
alone taking action to end the war as a whole and withdraw American
troops from the country.
The United Nations report
paints a chilling portrait of conditions in the occupied country, where
an average of 94 people were killed or found dead every day in 2006.
About half the deaths occurred
in the capital, the majority having died from gunshot wounds in execution-style
Among the findings of the
UN report cited in the Times account are the following:
* “The number of deaths,
at least at the Baghdad morgue, is running at double their number in
* “The violence has
expanded to the point of leaving hospitals and morgues overflowing with
bodies. The report described the discovery of several recent mass graves.”
* “The kidnappings
have completely redrawn the composition of neighborhoods. Sinek, a wholesale
market in the heart of Baghdad, once thoroughly mixed, is slowly emptying
“The result described
by the report,” the newspaper concluded, “is a society in
By the UN study’s estimates,
from January through December of last year 34,452 civilians died violently
and 36,685 were wounded. The wounded included 2,222 women and 777 children.
Since February 2006, another
470,094 people have been internally displaced—becoming refugees
in their own county. The highest number of displaced Iraqis was in Anbar
province, where 10,105 families had fled.
Anbar, a largely Sunni region,
is a center of resistance to the US occupation. The massive displacement
of civilians there cannot be attributed to sectarian violence. It is
the direct result of American bombs, missiles and machines guns, US
military attacks on civilian populations and the wholesale arrest and
torture of alleged insurgents.
In Baghdad, unidentified
bodies killed execution-style are found daily in large numbers. Frightened
relatives of the victims are often reluctant to claim the bodies from
the six Medico-Legal Institutes around the country for fear of reprisals,
many believing that the presiding police officers could be responsible
for the killings.
The report describes a pervading
atmosphere of terror throughout the country: “No religious and
ethnic groups, including women and children, have been spared from the
widespread cycle of violence which creates panic and disrupts the daily
life of many Iraqi families, prompting parents to stop sending their
children to school and severely limiting normal movement around the
capital and outside.”
A particularly appalling
aspect of life in Iraq as described in the report is the condition of
women, particularly in the northern provinces, who are increasingly
forced to conform to strict, arbitrarily imposed moral codes of behavior
rarely enforced before the US invasion.
The UN report notes that
239 women had burned themselves in the first eight months of 2006. Though
most of these cases have been investigated as “accidents”
or “attempted suicides,” the majority of them are most likely
attempted “honor killings.” The report states, “Most
victims of suspected honor crimes suffer horrific injuries which are
unlikely to have been accidentally caused whilst cooking of refueling
Widows of Iraqi violence
struggle to provide for the families under conditions where jobs are
scarce and projects to provide jobs for women were abandoned when international
NGOs fled en masse at the end of 2005 because of the sectarian violence.
Children are also increasingly
vulnerable, with many having lost multiple family members. Some desperate
parents engage in trafficking of their children outside Iraq to work
as sex slaves or child laborers, or offer them for unlawful adoption.
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