Number of Iraqi civilian deaths disputed

Daily Sundial

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According to the Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count, an organization that gets its information from the United States Department of Defense, 1,510 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and 11,285 U.S. soldiers have been wounded since the Iraq War began in March 2003.

These numbers are far fewer than those of Iraqi casualties.

The Iraqi Body Count Organization is working to provide the number of Iraqi lives lost in the war, primarily by keeping track of numbers given by news media and Iraqi families.

“We do not have an exact number of civilian deaths,” said John Slodoba, media agent for the Iraqi Body Count Organization. “This is why we offer a range. We have a minimum and a maximum.”

According to the organization, between 16,389 and 18,670 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives in the past two years.

A Department of Defense official said this information is fictitious, and soldiers could not have killed so many Iraqi civilians.

“We should not refer to (Iraqi civilians) as ‘casualties,'” said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, spokesperson for the United States Department of Defense. “We should refer to them as ‘claims.'”

According to Hart, Iraqi civilian casualties should only be referred to as claims, since many people claim to have lost family members in Iraq, but many times cannot prove it.

Upon hearing the numbers compiled by the Iraqi Body Count Organization, Hart said the information provided by the organization could not be accurate, because of the way they compile their information.

“Their information is not official,” Hart said. “They look at newspapers for this information. It cannot be accurate. To date, we only have 11 claims filed against the United States Army, claiming death or abuse.”

For Miguel Cruz, 33, a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War is different because there is an “unknown enemy.” Whereas during the Persian Gulf War, the “enemy” was identifiable as members of the military, in the current war, insurgents and other non-military entities are often the ones responsible for bombings and attacks, he said.

The Persian Gulf War began when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and took control of over 24 percent of the world’s oil supplies in just four hours. Saudi Arabia seemed to be Hussein’s next target, and the United States was called in to aid Saudi Arabia in case of an attack.

Cruz said he has a 22-year-old brother in the Army who served in the Iraq war in the Artillery Division from May 2003 to April 2004. Cruz said he believes the war he fought 10 years ago is different from the war his brother had to fight last year.

“It was different 10 years ago,” Cruz said. “We had the help of the United Nations and allies, and the number of casualties were few back then. The numbers today are appalling.”

Cruz said American soldiers often have a hard time distinguishing between an enemy and a peaceful civilian.

“The hardest thing about being a soldier is knowing who your enemy is,” Cruz said.

“That is the biggest difference between the war I fought 10 years ago, and the war my brother fought.”

According to Cruz, in the Persian Gulf War, soldiers knew their targets because they had faces and a location.

“In the war in Iraq, we don’t know our enemy,” Cruz said. “We don’t have a face or a location. There is an issue of, ‘Who do we shoot?’ Should we shoot the 10 year old who is walking down the street and seems innocent, but may have killed a platoon a week before? Who do we trust?”

Cruz also said soldiers are trained to protect and defend their troops. If they see a potential enemy, they will kill them, Cruz said.

“We are the United States military,” Cruz said. “We are not mindless killers, but we will fight.”

Cruz said he was afraid for his brother’s life, but offered him advice on how to stay alive in Iraq.

“I told him, ‘Brother, give it 110 percent. Do what you were trained to do,'” Cruz said. “‘Don’t forget that war is hell, and hell is war.'”