Early Iraqi death counts


"One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one."
(Henry Miller)

One of the PR "advantages" for governments which instigate war is that death counts are virtually impossible in the early days. This allows military/political PR to claim minimum "collateral damage" as the war is being fought, with little evidence available for the media to refute it (assuming they're inclined to do so). Thus, for example, rightwing historian Andrew Roberts described the Iraq war as "brilliant" not long after the initial invasion.

Eventually, however, news of a growing mass slaughter emerged, despite the apparent reluctance of many news organisations to focus on it:

• Iraqi doctor, Osama Saleh al-Duleimi, a witness to two previous wars, commented on the situation in Iraq, April 2003: "I've been a doctor for 25 years and this is the worst I've seen in terms of casualty numbers and fatal wounds." (The Independent 7/4/03)

• As the US prepared to attack Baghdad, the Pentagon reported that the 80,000-strong Iraqi Republican Guard outside the city had been "degraded" or rendered "ineffective" by bombardment. Analysts estimated at least 10,000 deaths, probably much more. (Associated Press 8/4/03)

• By mid-April 2003, Iraq Body Count (one of the very few groups analysing Iraqi deaths at this time) had already recorded/corroborated over 1,000 Iraqi civilians as reported killed in the war (http://www.iraqbodycount.org).

• From The Independent, 19/5/03: A tally of Baghdad hospital records published yesterday suggested that at least 1,700 civilians died in the Iraqi capital during the US invasion and another 8,000 were injured [...] As many as 1,000 people are still missing, according to Islamic burial societies and humanitarian groups.

• By June 2003, Iraq Body Count gave a figure of 10,000 Iraqi civilian deaths based on corroborated media reports. (The Guardian, 13/6/2003)

• In November 2003, Medact (an organisation of health professionals) quoted the figure of 55,000 dead as a direct result of the Iraq war. Their number is based on several sources, including the media-reported civilian death count from Iraq Body Count and press reports of Iraqi armed forces deaths.

They also mention the psychological aftermath of war creating "enormous anxiety" and leading to increases in mental disorders, suicide, drug/alcohol abuse and social/domestic violence. (Associated Press, 12/11/03)

For more detail on later death counts, see our body counts section (not yet available – coming soon).

Injured counts

The total number of injured Iraqis was unknown in the early days of hostilities (and is still largely unknown). A possible guideline can be deduced from various sources – eg the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported 2.9 wounded for each person killed in the period from mid-2004 to mid-2006. An almost identical ratio was given in an analysis by Iraq Body Count of media-derived data for the first two years after the invasion.

It was reported in September 2003 that more than 6,000 American servicemen had been evacuated from Iraq for medical reasons since the beginning of the war, including more than 1,500 American soldiers who had been wounded, many seriously. (Observer, 14/9/03)