From the beginning of its Iraqi adventure, the US has refused to release any figures on the civilian casualties it has caused, with one general infamously declaring "we don't do bodycounts". The reason for this is simple and obvious: Iraqi civilian casualties are bad PR. They undermine the claim that the occupation is being conducted on behalf of the Iraqi people, while also raising ugly questions about the ability - or willingness - of American soldiers to differentiate between friend and foe. Because of this, America has taken extreme measures to prevent the collection of casualty figures, including at one stage banning journalists from hospitals. This has forced a reliance on third-party estimates, such as Iraq Body Count.
However, the Iraqi Ministry of Health has been collecting figures for its own use. Because of their sensitivity, they are normally avaialble only to Iraqi cabinet ministers. Now, someone has leaked them to the BBC - and they pretty much confirm everyone's suspicions about the reason for secrecy:
The data covers the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, and relates to all conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries recorded by Iraqi public hospitals. The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.
The figures reveal that 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence during the period.
Of those deaths, 60% - 2,041 civilians - were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them.
Insurgent attacks claimed 1,233 lives, and wounded 4,115 people, during the same period.
So, Iraq's "protectors" are more dangerous to ordinary Iraqis than the terrorists they are supposed to be protecting them from. And the blame can be laid fairly and squarely on the Americans' indiscriminate use of firepower and their emphasis on "force protection". While claiming that the occupation is conducted for the benefit of Iraqis, American forces offload the risks of military action onto the very people they are supposed to be protecting. Dropping thousand pound bombs in civilian neighbourhoods and responding to snipers with tank shells and heavy machine gun fire is done specifically to reduce the risk to American troops - but at a terrible cost in Iraqi lives. With "protectors" like these, who needs terrorists?
But what's staggering is the sheer scale of death: over 300 a month. Scaled for population, that's the equivalent of the death toll from the September 11th attacks, every single month, from US "collatoral damage" alone! One such incident caused the United States to embark on a crusade against the world - and yet Iraqis are expected to sit back and meekly accept it, month after month after month.
And Americans wonder why Iraqis hate them...