Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Counting the dead. The Iraq Body Count.

It’s worth quoting at length the dossier’s notes on the figures relating to children killed, and by what weaponry:

“If it is assumed that adults, not children,

are the intended targets in war, the

proportion of children to adults killed by

different types of weaponry can be used

as a measure of their indiscriminateness.

'Precision' and high-power, hightechnology

weaponry cause a higher ratio

of child-to-adult deaths than

relatively primitive devices such as handheld

firearms and manually-triggered

roadside bombs. It appears

that whatever their military advantages

and benefit to soldiers, 'stand-off'

weapons which put a substantial

distance between soldiers and their

intended targets are the most likely to

cause unintended harm to bystanders.

Lowest in 'child lethality' were handheld

firearms, which suggests that

clearly-identifiable civilians are more

likely to be spared when combatants

are able to personally control and direct

their fire.”

Children accounted for 42.3% of air strike victims; 6.5% of small

arms victims.


One fact that the dossier does show clearly, in favour of the US led coalition forces, is that the amount of civilians directly killed by coalition troops has declined sharply. “Undoubtedly,” agrees Sloboda. “Since the begining of 2005, there have been tiny numbers killed directly by US forces, and these tend to be by checkpoints etc [Editor’s note: as was the case with Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari]. The vast majority of deaths caused now, are being caused by crime, anti-coalition forces, and unknown forces.”

The breakdown of killings outside of direct US led forces involvement also gives pause for thought. While the lines are often blurred, as pointed out by the LA Times (“In some cases, authorities

say, the motives are so opaque that they

cannot tell whether they are investigating

a crime disguised as an act of war or a

political assassination masquerading

as a violent business dispute.”), according to the IBC insurgent anti-US forces have accounted for between 9 and 15% of all civilian killings, while crime related killings have been responsible for up to 36% of civilian deaths.

Sloboda is a Professor of Psychology, with a particular interest in the psychology of music. He is also an unashamed activist: “I’ve been a lifelong member of what you might call the ‘peace movement’. I’ve always felt that military responses to situations are admissions of failure on the part of humanity, that there’s always a better way”. This background, combined with strongly worded editorials on the IBC site that criticise the decision to go to war has led critics to claim that their figures are biased.

This brings us full circle. If there are problems with the figures collated by the Iraqi Body Count, then who do we have to blame? The US and UK governments have a moral, if not legal, responsibility to collect and present this information to their electorates. Or should we presume that Iraqi civilians don’t count?

Iraq Body Count

Iraq Coalition Casualties

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