In some ways, the Chilcot Inquiry was a success for the anti-war crowd, as it confirmed everything we already knew about the war in Iraq. In other ways, it was a complete disappointment because it failed to dig into the fundamental problems underlying the U.S. and U.K.’s pursuit of this horrific, illegal war.
As the U.S. presence in Iraq continues to increase thirteen years after the initial U.S.-U.K. led invasion, it is time to ask at least one hard question the Chilcot Inquiry failed to ask.
How many civilians in Iraq have lost their lives because of the 2003 invasion?
Unfortunately, this is something the Chilcot Inquiry refused to investigate. Section 17 of the Chilcot Inquiry Report stated:
It is beyond the scope and abilities of this Inquiry to establish independently the number of fatalities caused by conflict in Iraq, or the broader human cost of the conflict to the Iraqi people.
How the number of fatalities in Iraq is outside the scope of a report that contains a roughly 40-page section entitled “Civilian Casualties” is unclear, especially given that John Chilcot previously identified the scope of the Inquiry as “broad.”
Unfortunately, the United Kingdom has shown no real interest in recording Iraqi casualties. The U.S. establishment also has a long history of refusing to perform body counts. As Gen. Tommy R. Franks stated in response to reports that U.S. bombs had killed 1,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Afghanistan campaign of 2001-2002, “You know, we don’t do body counts.”
This is not an accident.
In May 2013, university researchers from the U.S., Canada, and Iraq put together a study using randomized surveys of 2,000 households. They found approximately 461,000 people had died in Iraq in the years of 2003-2011. Sixty percent of these deaths were directly attributable to violence, both by coalition forces and as a result of the sectarian violence the war produced.
“We think it is roughly around half a million people dead. And that is likely a low estimate,” said public health expert Amy Hagopian, leader of the survey.
The chaos created by the 2003 invasion has displaced over a million people, meaning acquiring the full statistics would be almost impossible. This is one of the reasons why experts deem the estimate of the survey to be conservative.
Leslie Roberts of Columbia University, who has previously led wartime mortality surveys in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Iraq, said the study was “serious” and “credible.”
However, a John Hopkins’ University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health report estimated that by 2006, the number of Iraqis who had lost their lives had already risen to 650,000. The introduction of the report stated:
When Johns Hopkins epidemiologists set out to study the war in Iraq, they did not anticipate that their findings would be so disturbing, or so controversial.
In 2015, a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimated the death toll had already passed one million. This is a number regularly thrown around, as argued by former despot Muammar Gaddafi when he questioned the reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq and the death of one million Iraqis.
So how many Iraqis have lost their lives because of the U.S.-U.K. invasion? We still don’t know.
Either way one looks at it, the conservative estimates alone suggest the death toll is immense. America’s most openly bloody and aggressive war prior to the Iraq war was, of course, the Vietnam invasion; some estimates put the death toll as high as three million. However, the fact remains that with Iraq, like Vietnam, we still don’t know the exact number of people who lost their lives following the forcible invasion of a sovereign nation, paid for by our tax dollars.
Combined with the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children that resulted from U.S. sanctions on the Iraqi regime following the first Gulf invasion of 1991, it should be clear to even the most racist, xenophobic war hawk that U.S.-U.K. policies towards Iraq have been brutally unjust.
This is likely why the U.S.-U.K. establishment never wants this number to come to light and refuses to keep records. With perpetual urgings that former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair should face prosecution for his role in the war, the less truth that comes out, the more convenient it will be for his current lifestyle.
The sadly hypocritical element of the debacle is that U.S. officials still refuse to acknowledge civilian casualties and deaths in Iraq caused by their own actions—yet they seem confident enough to accuse Bashar al-Assad of killing scores of civilians in Syria based on the information provided by one man who owns a clothes shop in England.
If one bullet was shot towards them [US coalition forces] they would open fire at everyone, Iraqis were dying every day…One day after the fall of Baghdad we discovered the truth – that they did not come to save Iraq, they were destroying it…We knew they had an agenda, and that agenda was oil.
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