Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So Many Iraqi Casualties, So Little Coverage

23 October 2006

This item was sent in by Chris Doyle:

Arab Media Watch and the Council for Arab-British Understanding commend the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Mail for their extensive coverage of the Lancet's report of 655,000 Iraqi dead since the 2003 invasion.

However, given the magnitude of the figure and the credibility of the source, both organisations are deeply concerned at the relative lack of coverage in the other national newspapers.

In particular, there was no coverage whatsoever in the Sun (the highest-circulation newspaper in Britain) and the Daily Star. The former did not reply to several requests for an explanation as to why this was the case, and the Star said there was no space in the newspaper. This is
reminiscent of the failure of both newspapers to report the Haditha and Ishaqi massacres of Iraqi civilians by US troops, which was widely reported elsewhere earlier this year.

"It is puzzling and distressing that the deaths of so many innocents should receive little or no coverage in much of the British print media. This only compounds the tragedy," said Arab Media Watch chairman Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi and CAABU director Chris Doyle. "The Iraqi people, who have suffered so many injustices in the last few decades, deserve better than this, regardless of one's political views."

For those who doubt the study's high death toll, it was subjected to a thorough peer-review by specialists in the field of epidemiology. Paul Bolton, associate professor of international health at Boston University School of Public Heath, said it "uses the standard methodology that we
use all over the world."

Furthermore, "the Lancet study is superb science" which "followed a strict, widely accepted methodology to arrive at its sobering conclusion," said Dr Curren Warf, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Keck-USC School of Medicine, who sits on the national board of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation Physicians for Social Responsibility. "The study is being attacked not on scientific grounds, but for ideological reasons...The investigators followed the
same methodology in Iraq that has had been used in estimating death and disease in other conflicts such as the Congo -- where the Bush administration uncritically accepted their results...It is the best estimate that we have to date of the human tragedy in Iraq."

It is worth noting that the latest death toll is but the tip of a massive iceberg. Around 500,000 Iraqis were killed during the war with Iran in the 1980s (both sides armed by the US); the BBC quotes about 50,000 killed and 100,000 wounded from the US-led 1991 war; and up to
1.6 million died due to subsequent sanctions, whose duration was prolonged by the US and Britain. Denis Halliday resigned as UN assistant secretary-general, after 34 years with the organisation, "because the policy of economic sanctions is...destroying an entire society," and
"satisfies the definition of genocide."

This amounts to a total Iraqi death toll over the last quarter-century of almost 3 million, almost 12% of a current population of around 26 million. "This unacceptable slaughter is not over, and deserves maximum attention from the media, politicians, human rights groups and the public," said Nashashibi and Doyle.

For example, attention should also focus on a report in French newspaper Le Monde on 20 October 2006 that the Iraqi government has told medical authorities not to reveal to the UN the true extent of civilian casualties in the country's conflict. The daily quoted a telegram sent
by the head of the UN mission in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, to headquarters in New York, in which he said: "This development risks damaging the capacity of the UN's Assistance Mission to report the number of civilians killed or injured."

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