‘Iraq attack kills three US troops’ – BBC News Online.
‘Iraq GIs killed’ – The Sun.
Since the end of the US led , British supported war in Iraq, a total of forty seven American service personnel have been killed in attacks by ‘remnants of the old regime’, ‘members of the defunct Ba’ath party’ or ‘guerrilla forces loyal to Saddam Hussein’.
Whilst American and to a lesser extent other allied lives in Iraq are meticulously accounted for, there are no accurate figures for Iraqi, neither military nor indeed civilian, casualties for either the war or the time since.
Mainstream media has been obviously pro-allies, pro-US in the war and post war reporting. The portrayal of the US army as anything other than a liberation force is anathema, a force that went into Iraq from a purely moral standing – to do the right thing and depose a tyrant and his bloody horde. Oil, strategic regional control, imperial objectives and defiance of international law are all non-issues – dreamt up by conspiracy theorists and anarchists to not even be dignified by debate by the very people who we elect to represent our views.
With the shortage of objective international observers on the ground typically present at most international conflicts, those interested in the Iraqi casualty statistics must find them somewhere else. The American and British governments have refused to provide any statistics for Iraqi casualties, infrastructure and property damage, internal displacements or any other yardsticks for measuring the impact of conflict on the Iraqi population. Why is this?
Withholding the truth is often worse than misrepresenting it. Not only does it give the impression of arrogance by those withholding it – as though somehow those demanding it are not able to understand; it raises the spectre of speculation – it means that those demanding the truth can let their imaginations run wild and make up pretty much what they like. But misrepresentation and withholding of truth to shape public opinion – propaganda – is a long recognised military and political strategy. One we have seen no shortage of in the events leading to this war and since.
American forces Central Command press reports sometimes provide a basis for estimating Iraqi military casualties during the war in a purely military raids – most of which have ceased since the official end of the war. More importantly, civilian casualties since the end of the war are not recorded officially, if they are the officials are not providing the information.
The deaths of Iraqi civilians in post war Iraq is hardly, if ever, reported in the mainstream media. This is not because there aren’t any – there are. But true to type, the mainstream media, including the more ‘liberal’ publications are not concerned about these lives. Such news does not sell newspapers. Furthermore, it seems there is an institutional subjugation of press responsibility – something often pointed out by true journalists like Pilger and Fisk – where editors and journalists ‘just know’ what not to cover – they have special radar that tells them what rocks the establishment boat and what does not. There is no need for government pressure on such editors to abandon stories or misrepresent the truth; it seems this is just the way it is taught in journalism school.
So for those interested in the Iraqi civilian costs of the post war occupation, we must turn to our ‘on the ground’ correspondents like Fisk, who report what they see in its entirety, who provide impassioned opinions on the suffering that the Iraqis are going through. Yes there is physical suffering – the hospitals are understaffed, barely equipped; there is shortage of bare essentials; there is barely a civil infrastructure to provide any kind of social service. All of these conditions existed when Saddam was in charge (incidentally, these conditions were caused then, as they are now, by the US and Britain through their mostly unilateral support and enforcement of genocidal sanctions against the people of Iraq). But the Iraqi people have had time and bitter experience to come up with ways to manage the physical suffering. What is far more painful is the occupation by a foreign power that is uninvited and unwelcome. Sure they got rid of Saddam and his henchmen (there is little point here to labour the fact that they sustained, armed and encouraged him in his regime for over 35 years), but they are also running roadblocks, stopping and searching civilians, raiding homes, killing civilians with impunity. The fear of enslavement at the hands of the self styled liberators is something the Iraqis have deeply rooted in their consciousness; unfortunately it is not an unjustified fear. There is nothing the US and Britain can say or do to make this fear go away – mainly because their plan does not involve leaving the Iraqis to independently determine their future, having control of the world’s second largest known oil reserves have seen to that.
Reading an article by Robert Fisk on the alleged killing of Saddam’s two murderous sons, he mentions the shooting at a US roadblock of a car that failed to stop – it was riddled with bullets until it exploded killing its two occupants – both male, both burnt to a crisp. US troops left the scene, with the car burning offering no aid to their victims. Mainstream media would never call it murder – but it is. Those men could have been brothers, they were someone’s sons, maybe someone’s’ fathers and husbands. But we will never know, they were so badly burnt, they could not be identified. They join the unknown but growing number of Iraqi civilian casualties that the world does not want to know or care anything about.
The new US commander in Iraq – General John Abizaid – has acknowledged a guerrilla style resistance to the American led occupation of Iraq. For now it is reported as ‘guerrilla forces loyal to Saddam Hussein’, is it so far fetched that people would actually fight to liberate their country from foreign occupation? Would Americans or Britons not employ every means necessary to eject a foreign occupying force from the streets of New York or London? Would they not fight till the last to preserve their sovereignty and liberty? Yet it seems when it is done by the Iraqis (or Palestinians for that matter) it is categorised (and reported) as terrorism. In this new war on terrorism in which those who oppose are terrorists, no civilian casualties of US aggression will be accounted for. They simply do not matter.
This article was originally written 26 July2003.