34,452 Iraqi Civilians Killed in 2006, Three Times Previous Estimates

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The U.N. envoy to Iraq has revealed that the correct number of Iraqi civilians killed in 2006 is 34,452.

The figure is nearly three times higher than calculations previously made on the basis of Iraqi interior ministry statistics for 2006.

Accurate figures are difficult to acquire, and previous UN estimates have been rejected outright by Baghdad.

Mr Magazzeni said his figures were compiled from data collected by the Health Ministry, hospitals, mortuaries and other agencies.

It should be no surprise that the Iraqi interior ministry apparently underreports civilian deaths in a substanial way — after all, the Iraqi interior ministry has been accused of being one huge Shiite hit squad, responsible for much of the death ongoing in Baghdad, and they work for and are funded by the Americans, who have been revealed time and again to skew the Iraqi death count.

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.

On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been “significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq.” The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

“The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases,” the report said. “A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count.”

Mother Jones has reported on the Iraqi civilian death count multiple times. In mid 2006, Adam Shemper wrote about Iraq Body Count, the only nonprofit bothering to come up with a realistic guess as to how many civilian Iraqis have been killed in the war.

“It’s a bit like the movie Groundhog Day,” he said, his voice weary. “It just keeps repeating over and over and over. There might be new governments, new parliaments, new democracy in Iraq, but the violence just continues.” Three years ago, Dardagan, now 45, quit his job teaching computing and dedicated his nights and weekends to sifting through reports from more than 150 news sources, from Fox News to Al Jazeera, trying to determine how many innocent Iraqis were dying in the American invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. By his most current count, more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians have died since March 2003.

This tally is updated daily on his website, Iraqbodycount.net, which Dardagan cofounded and runs with a team of 16 volunteers. The site, also known as IBC, has been the only consistent record of the war’s human toll, making it the go-to source for reporters, activists, and even the Bush administration.

The Pentagon does keep a tally of Iraqi civilian casualties based on combat reports, but these figures are incomplete and are not immediately accessible. “We say the only reliable source is the Iraqi Ministry of Health,” Major Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, told Mother Jones. But the ministry stopped readily providing journalists with numbers in the summer of 2004 as civilian casualties started to rise, and it was recently accused of suppressing the numbers of victims executed by Shiite militias. There have been more than a dozen independent surveys of civilian casualties, including a 2004 report in The Lancet that concluded 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, but IBC remains the most-cited source for casualty numbers.

Additionally, in 2005, Judith Coburn, writing for Tom Engelhardt, discussed the how, when, and why of body count reporting and underreporting.

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