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The New Socialism and
‘The War Against Terror’


Both American neo-conservatism and Islamist fanaticism see the so-called ‘liberal’ values of bourgeois individualism as a threat to social cohesion – whether the cohesion of the American Nation or that of the Umma or community of believers. Neo-conservatism is a last ditch attempt to save U.S. capitalism from its own inherent contradictions - the devaluation of values that is intrinsic to a culture shaped only by the values of egotistic competition and consumerism. Islamicism is a reactionary attempt to defend against the U.S. led globalisation of this culture. Islam seeks the surrender of individual ego-identity to Allah and to the communal spiritual identity of the Umma, with the aim of establishing global theocracy. Neo-conservatism seeks the surrender of ego-identity to a mythology of U.S. national identity sanctified by the name of Jesus. Both confuse individual ego-identity and personal egotism with the deep individuality of soul. Both share in their lack of spiritual knowledge and respect for the latter. Both throw out the baby of spiritual individuality with the bathwater of ego-identity. And both take recourse to reactionary fundamentalist mythologies of Good versus Evil, whether Christian or Muslim, to justify a global military struggle waged against one another, and at the expense of the entire world. Both offer humanity nothing but the dehumanisation wrought by both consumerism and communalism, militarism and mercantilism, totalitarianism and an ideology of ‘total war’ in which all ends justify the means – whether terrorism or torture. There is of course no military solution to ‘terrorism’, hence the meaningless of the phrase ‘War Against Terror’. Civilian casualties and ‘collateral damage’ are not unfortunate by-products of either subversive anti-state terrorism or of terrorist state ‘counter-terrorism’. Instead they are the very essence of total war as the expression of spiritual terror and despair – and as a military-technological tool of global spiritual suicide.

Peter Wilberg


When you kill a man, you believe that you kill him forever. Murder is a crime that must then be dealt with. Death, however, does not exist in those terms. In the dawn of physical existence, men knew that death was merely a change of form.
There is never any justification for violence. There is no justification for hatred. There is no justification for murder. Those who indulge in violence for whatever reason are themselves changed, and the purity of their purpose adultered.

If you do not like the state of your world, it is you yourselves that must change, individually and en masse. This is the only way that change will be effected.

The responsibility for your life and your world is indeed yours. It has not been forced upon you by some outside agency. You form your own dreams and you form your own physical reality. The world is what you are. It is the physical materialization of the inner selves which you have formed.

It is wrong to curse a flower and wrong to curse a man. It is wrong not to hold any man in honor, and it is wrong to ridicule any man. Your must honor yourselves and see within yourselves the spirit of eternal validity. You must honor all other individuals, because within each is the spark of this validity. When you curse another, you curse yourselves, and the curse
returns to you. When you are violent, the violence returns.

I speak to you because yours is the opportunity to better world conditions and yours is the time. Do not fall into the old ways that will lead you precisely into the world that you fear.

 'Seth: In His Own Words' by Andy Hughes (from Seth Pavillion,

The Blood-Splattered Balance Sheet
 in the "War on Terror"

John Sloboda and Hamit Dardagan - 7th February 2004 (excerpt from


3. Evasion, obstruction and racist double standards

4. What You Don't Know Can't Harm Us: The Official Burial of Information

5. "We don't do bad things": Official denials of responsibility

6. Investigations announced, forgotten, discarded

7. Sole attention to US/UK and Western deaths

8. Toward a Just Conclusion

So far, in the "war on terror" initiated since 9-11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000 civilian deaths, not only the 10,000+ in Iraq, but also 3,000+ civilian deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the world's attention has moved on.

Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide (see Table 1). Adding the official 9-11 death toll (as of October 29th 2003) brings the total to just under 3500:


Paramilitary Attacks on Western Targets resulting in deaths, September 2001 to  November 2003

Date Place Target Numbers killed Numbers injured
September 2001 3 US locations World Trade Center, Pentagon 2976 -
March 2002 Islamabad, Pakistan Worshippers at church in diplomatic compound 5 45
April 2002 Djerba, Tunisia Synagogue 21 24
May 2002 Karachi, Pakistaan French naval technicians 14 23
June 2002 Karachi, Pakistan US Consulate 11 45
October 2002 Philippines US special forces soldier 1 0
October 2002 Yemen Limburg oil tanker 1 0
October 2002 Amman, Jordan US diplomat 1 0
October 2002 Bali, Indonesia Sari Nightclub 202 300
November 2002 Kikambala, Kenya Paradise Hotel 11 50
May 2003 Casablanca, Morroco multiple 39 60
May 2003 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Western residential compounds 29 200
August 2003 Djakarta, Indonesia Marriott Hotel 13 149
November 2003 Istanbul, Turkey 2 synagogues 23 300
November 2003 Istanbul, Turkey HSBC Bank, British Consulate 28 400
Total deaths and injuries (9-11 injuries not included) 3375 1596


For each civilian killed by "terrorists" on and since 9-11, the USA and its allies have brought about almost four non-combatant, civilian deaths in return.

The figures above do not include recent civilian deaths in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Latest estimates suggest that the Israeli army has killed 2,750 Palestinian civilians in the last three years. 892 Israeli civilians have died in suicide attacks. This represents a ratio of just over 3:1 in Palestinian deaths as compared to Israeli deaths. The Israeli leadership has repeatedly claimed that their actions against the Palestinians are part and parcel of the same "war on terror" being fought by the USA and the UK.

One might ask how it is possible to claim that the deaths of some 4,500 civilians at the hands of paramilitaries demonstrates "utter contempt for innocent life" when the blood of some 14,000 innocents staining our own hands is considered noble and necessary. Tony Blair provided the following answer on 20th November, standing alongside George W Bush in London:

"This terrorism is the 21st century threat. It is a war that strikes at the heart of all that we hold dear, and there is only one response that is possible or rational: to meet their will to inflict terror with a greater will to defeat it; to confront their philosophy of hate with our own of tolerance and freedom; and to challenge their desire to frighten us, divide us, unnerve us with an unshakeable unity of purpose; to stand side by side with the United States of America and with our other allies in the world, to rid our world of this evil once and for all."

The claim that a strategy which produces 14,000 civilian deaths is the expression of a "philosophy of tolerance and freedom" is a claim which we find incomprehensible. Our incomprehension is shared, we believe, by the majority of the world's people.

3. Evasion, obstruction and racist double standards

The tactics by which the US and UK authorities have so far tried to contain and deflect concerns about casualties in Iraq are six-fold, which we examine in detail further below:

•  repeated professions of ignorance and a denial of any possibility of gaining useful knowledge;

•  denial of responsibility, placing this instead on convenient "others" at various points in time – e.g. Saddam during the war, Al Qaida for recent bombings;

•  the establishment of narrowly-limited military "self-investigations," the majority of which are never completed or publicly reported;

•  official focus limited to US and UK military deaths with wilful ignorance of the price paid by Iraqis;

•  deliberate obstruction of Iraqis' own efforts to count their war dead;

•  insultingly low token "compensation" payments to a small and arbitrarily-limited number of Iraqi claimants.

At the heart of all these tactics is an implicit double standard which values the life of a Westerner – whose death is always worth recording and investigating – far above the life of an Arab or Asian, whose death is of scant interest or concern.

We argue for two main conclusions:

•  None of these tactics are defensible. There is detailed and accurate knowledge available to the Coalition about many of the victims, and more can be found through entirely feasible investigations. International law and natural justice makes the USA and the UK responsible for the vast majority of the deaths that have occurred. There is a clear moral obligation for heavy compensation to the families of Iraqi victims, on the same scale to those paid out by Germany after the Second World War, as the aggressor nation.

•  Even if none of the moral and legal arguments are accepted, the tactics currently being adopted are not in the pragmatic self-interest of the USA and the UK . They are counterproductive in that they inflame long-term anti-US and anti-UK feeling among the Iraqi population and Arab nations, reducing the likelihood of a quick end to the conflict, and putting UK and US citizens at greater risk from paramilitary, political, and economic reprisals.

4. What You Don't Know Can't Harm Us: The Official Burial of Information

(a) The USA : Full Spectrum Ignorance

US political leaders have rarely commented on civilian casualties in Iraq . This is as true of Democrats as it is of Republicans.

Howard Dean, who is dubbed by some commentators as an "anti-war" candidate for the presidency, distinguished himself in a speech in Iowa on November 3rd by saying: "There are now almost 400 people dead who wouldn't be dead if that resolution hadn't been passed and we hadn't gone to war."

The implication of Dean's statement (that only the 400 killed coalition forces are "people", and that therefore the thousands of killed Iraqis are sub-human and not worthy of mention), should bar him from ever holding office in any civilised nation. A recent examination of the web-sites of the democratic candidates for the Presidency revealed that only one of them, Denis Kucinich, makes any reference to civilian casualties in his critique of the Bush war and occupation. Apart from Kucinich, every White House contender is a willing, unforced, colluder with the official downgrading and dismissal of Iraqi deaths.

The official response from the White House and the Pentagon has in fact shifted between different positions, all nonsensical, and inconsistent with one another.


(b) The UK : "Satisfied" to be in the dark

Llew Smith, a UK Labour MP, recently wrote to the UK Defence Minister Adam Ingram, and got the following reply:

"Whilst the Ministry of Defence has accurate data relating to the number of UK service personnel that have been killed or injured during Operation Telic (the invasion of Iraq), we have no way of establishing with any certainty the number of Iraqi casualties."

In a further question, Smith asked the Defence Secretary if he would examine reports of Iraqi deaths from eyewitness correspondents embedded with the military in the invasion of Iraq; request the Coalition provisional authority to make a survey of deaths reported in hospitals in Iraq, from 19 March to 1 May, arising from military conflict; and make the estimating of Iraqi military deaths part of the aim of interrogation of Iraqi military commanders in custody. Mr Ingram's reply stated:

"Any loss of life, particularly civilian, is deeply regrettable, but in a military operation the size of Operation Telic it is also unavoidable. Through very strict rules of engagement, the use of precision munitions and the tactical methods employed to liberate Iraq's major cities, we are satisfied that the coalition did everything possible to avoid unnecessary casualties. We do not, therefore, propose to undertake a formal review of Iraqi casualties sustained from 19 March to 1 May."

Smith goes on to conclude: "Surely this is both an inhumane and unacceptable position. As at least part of our aid to postwar Iraq must be targeted at assistance to families left without breadwinners who have been killed or seriously injured by the invasion, then our planners are going to have to calculate the numbers of families left destitute by their loss." (The Independent, 18 September 2003, page 19).

We would add that, no matter how many times we have examined the "therefore", in "We do not, therefore, propose to undertake a formal review of Iraqi casualties," we cannot see how this sentence follows from the sentence which precedes it. Could one, for instance, imagine a rail company refusing to undertake identification of the people killed in a train crash on the grounds that it had done "everything possible to avoid accidents such as this"? The UK government's position is, literally, senseless.

5. "We don't do bad things": Official denials of responsibility

(a) During the war

Throughout the war, coalition spokespersons constantly tried to deflect responsibility for civilian deaths back onto Saddam Hussein. In this, they were simply continuing the tactics of the previous decade, in which the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused primarily by US/UK sanctions but added to by regular bombing raids were attributed, not to the countries who carried out these acts, but to Saddam Hussein who was accused of "causing " these deaths through his failure to accede to the demands of US Security Council Resolutions. Israel is currently in breach of numerous security council resolutions, yet the USA and the UK rarely attribute any blame to Israel for the thousands of Palestinian deaths (including hundreds of children) caused by the documented actions of Israeli troops. In February 1999, David Bonoir, US House Minority Whip characterised the economic sanctions against Iraq as "infanticide masquerading as policy." This policy was ratcheted to new levels of terror in the war beginning March 20th.

When the coalition bombed areas with high civilian concentrations, causing massive destruction to life and property, their spokespersons were quick to blame the Iraqis for positioning military personnel and installations in highly populated civilian areas. To be sure, such tactics on the part of Iraqis were despicable, but the fact remains that it was the USA and the UK who were the unprovoked aggressors in this war. They were free not to attack Iraq, as almost the entire world urged them to do, but they turned away from that choice. Instead they launched a massive "Shock and Awe" onslaught against Iraq, whose regime, predictably, responded with what primitive military means were at its disposal.

When warring factions engage one another in civilian areas both are to blame for the non-combatant deaths that occur and both are liable for investigation for war crimes, especially if they were aware of the civilian presence. Even civilians deliberately put in harm's way cannot be the sole responsibility of only one side in a conflict because if it takes one side to put up unwilling "human shields," it takes the other to knowingly shoot through them; and "partial blame" is still "blame." Moreover it is a dubious notion indeed that, provided they loudly proclaim the justness of their cause, aggressor nations can launch wars and absolve themselves of any responsibility for the ensuing mayhem, carnage and horror.

That the US/UK "liberation" plumbed the grisliest depths which wars have to offer is scarcely in dispute – though most of it is left to our imagination rather than examined tirelessly in the way that the war's latest gleaming machinery was paraded on our TV screens.

"The horror. The horror," wrote Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times, "And unlike Apocalypse Now, there are real, not fictional images to prove it. But they won't be seen in Western homes." Filmed by cameramen but censored, scenes described by a Red Cross spokesman and others of "severed bodies and scattered limbs," "babies cut in half" and other products of cluster bomb technology on the farming communities in and around Hillah, south of Baghdad, were never shown to the nations directly responsible for these charnel-house horrors. That this plays into the hands of those who wish only to "accentuate the positive" and "look on the bright side" of war hardly needs stating.

Up to 55 civilians died on the day a busy market in the Shula district of Baghdad was hit. MATW doctor Geert Van Moorter was at a nearby hospital a few hours after the incident. He reported: "The hospital was a scene from hell. Complete chaos. Blood was everywhere. Patients were shouting and screaming. Doctors heroically trying to save their patients. In that one small, 200-bed hospital they counted 55 dead, 15 of them children. The pictures I made are too horrifying to send." He added that the market is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Baghdad and that there are no military targets, not even big buildings, within several kilometres."

Both the US and UK governments publicly suggested – or rather, speculated – that the explosion was "probably" caused by an ageing Iraqi anti-aircraft missile. However, according to the Independent newspaper, the remains of the serial number of a missile were found at the scene, identifying it as one manufactured in Texas by Raytheon, the world's biggest producer of "smart armaments", and sold to the US Navy. The missile is believed to have been either a HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) device, or a Paveway laser guided bomb. Although the US authorities acknowledged that one of their jets fired at least one missile in the area that day, an official US source claimed that the shrapnel could have been planted at the scene by Iraqi officials. However, Robert Fisk, a highly-respected journalist who was internationally honoured for his unmasking of US atrocities in Kosovo, reported that "The piece of metal bearing the codings was retrieved only minutes after the missile exploded on Friday evening, by an old man whose home is only 100 yards from the 6ft crater. Even the Iraqi authorities do not know that it exists."

The refusal of the USA to take responsibility for its own behaviour reached another nadir in the case of the slaughter of 7 women and children by US Soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf on March 31 st.

A New York Times story of April 1 headlined "Failing to heed warning, 7 Iraqis die" provides the following account:

In a statement issued on Monday night, the Army said that at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, a civilian vehicle approached a military checkpoint on Route 9 near Najaf. The Army said soldiers at the checkpoint had motioned for the vehicle to stop but were ignored. After warning shots were ignored, the soldiers fired shots into the engine of the vehicle, "but the vehicle kept moving toward the checkpoint," the Army said. "Finally, as a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle," the statement issued by the Army said. Upon further investigation, the Army statement said, it was determined that 13 women and children were in the vehicle, which was said to be a van. Seven of the occupants were killed, two were wounded and four others were unharmed, An officer with the Third Infantry Division, who would not be identified, said this morning, "The soldiers did the right thing."

Note the crude way in which the New York Times story and headline plays into the hands of the aggressors by the suggestion that by failing to heed a warning these women and children brought about their own death. The reversal of responsibility took on even more bizarre form in the headline over the same story covered by the Miami Herald, which ran "Civilian Deaths cast pall over nervous unit." It was as if the newspaper was trying to suggest that "Innocent soldiers suffer distress after Iraqi women and children carelessly cause their own deaths"

However, also on April 1st, The Washington Post quoted US Army 3rd Division Captain Ronny Johnson as shouting over the radio to his men after the shooting:

"You just (expletive) killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough."

It was reported that a US military investigation has been opened. It is hugely telling that in a subsequent story about the attack on the following day, April 2nd, by a different reporter, all claims of US culpability had been excised from the incident, and only the official line was given.

(b) During the occupation

Resolution 1483 of the United Nations Security Council, 18 May 2003, gave the US/UK governments the joint and unified legal status of "Occupying Authority." This resolution calls on the CPA to "promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, in particular working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability.."

It further "calls upon all concerned to comply fully with their obligations under international law including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907." The fourth Geneva Convention is entitled " Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War" and its 158 articles spell out the absolute responsibility of occupying powers to protect the life, health, and property of civilians.

Instead of fully accepting that the lack of security since April 2003 is a direct result of the ill-conceived invasion, poorly planned post-invasion occupation, and ill-judged refusal to internationalise of the occupying force under the authority of the United Nations, the CPA has constantly tried to divert the blame for continued and rising civilian deaths on "Saddam loyalists", "foreign infiltrators" and "Al Qaida." This abnegation of responsibility reached new levels of farce in London on November 20th when Tony Blair said,

"Let us be very clear. America did not attack al-Qaida on September 11, al-Qaida attacked America, and in doing so attacked not just America, but the way of life of all people who believe in tolerance, and freedom, justice and peace."

Let us be very clear in reminding Mr Blair that Saddam Hussein did not attack the UK or the USA on March 19 th 2003, the USA and the UK attacked Iraq, and in doing so assumed full responsibility for all that has then unfolded in that tragic country. If Al Qaida has indeed been operating in Iraq (and concrete evidence of this is remarkably hard to come by) such operations were only made possible by the US/UK military intervention, and only began after the breakdown in security which that intervention brought about.

6. Investigations announced, forgotten, discarded

Here, reproduced in full, is a BBC story from the height of the war.

Doctors at a hospital in central Iraq have told the BBC they have dealt with more than 250 fatalities since the start of the US-led war with Iraq. Officials at the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasariya said all of the deaths were the result of American bombing and most were civilians. Iraqi authorities said at least 55 civilians have been killed by coalition forces in attacks on Baghdad and other cities in the past 24 hours.

At least 33 of the victims are reported to have died when US helicopter gunships strafed a residential neighbourhood in the city of Hilla on Tuesday. Aid agencies say they are increasingly worried about the mounting number of civilian victims of the war. The doctors at Saddam Hussein Hospital said many homes and schools, which were near military targets in the city, had been hit. They said they had treated more than 1000 injuries.

On Tuesday, officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - accompanied by Iraqi colleagues - visited a hospital in Hilla, about 100 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad . ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the team "witnessed a vehicle transporting bodies of men, women and children to the hospital and in the hospital they saw also some 300 injured people and it was very clear that this was the result of heavy fighting and bombings".

The Red Cross said the hospital was completely unable to cope. US Central Command said it was investigating the claims of the deaths in Hilla, but initial inquires had not "turned up any evidence". The BBC's defence analyst Stephen Dalziel says the US-led forces have gone out of their way to try to show that this war is against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not the Iraqi people. He says inevitably, though, there have been civilian casualties and in a war being fought under the constant gaze of television cameras, both sides have realised how crucial the propaganda war is. The United States has admitted shooting dead seven women and children at a checkpoint in Najaf a day earlier, but said "the climate established by the Iraqi regime" had contributed to the incident. The human rights organisation, Amnesty International has called on Washington to conduct an independent investigation into the Najaf killings.

On April 25th, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York announced that it was investigating the Hilla incident among others for potential war crimes.

Extensive media research had brought to light no further public statement on the Najaf killings by the US Authorities. The issue has simply been allowed to die.

This is not an isolated incident. It is a pattern. Investigations have been confidently announced for many killings which have likewise never been followed up, apparently in an effort to delay bad press long enough for attention to move elsewhere.

In 1992 a document reported to have been prepared for the US Army by one Colonel Henderson prescribed how the US army should deal with "bad news". One recommended tactic was to announce that an investigation would be conducted, as a means of delaying the impact of the "bad news" on the public.

Even high-profile events are regularly swept under the carpet of forgetfulness, on the assumption (all too often correct) that media interest will wane to zero after several weeks or at most a month or two. One of the most shocking of these incidents was the night-time massacre of Iraqi civil defence forces, policemen and others near the Jordanian field hospital outside Fallujah in September (IBC incident x154).

An insight into the careless nature of such US military "investigations" was afforded by an unedifying exchange between top US brass and reporters some two weeks later. An Associated Press (AP) reporter's question about the September 12th incident was confused by Gen. Richard Sanchez with another to which it bore no resemblance, on August 9th (most probably IBC incident x131 in Baghdad, wherein two policemen attempting to surrender were shot dead), for which, Sanchez said, US soldiers had been exonerated of any wrongdoing. Stories which ran throughout the US media about "a U.S. military investigation [which] found no misconduct by U.S. soldiers who killed eight Iraqi policemen...near Fallujah" had to be hastily retracted, with AP resorting to a recorded transcript to show that this error was not theirs but Sanchez's.

No attempt was subsequently made to answer the original question, which was serious enough: "General, can you give us an update on the investigation into the killing of Iraqi policemen in Fallujah?" Five months later, we are still waiting for that update.

At other times the military in its wisdom simply rules out investigations into its conduct from the outset. In yet another incident near Fallujah, referred to in the same AP article cited above, involving a multiple-missile attack on a farmhouse that killed three men and wounded two young boys, Sanchez simply decided a priori that his soldiers "had acted within military rules," so that naturally enough "he would not order an investigation".

To some extent, though, such military inquiries are genuinely moot: it is unacceptable to blame soldiers for actions on the ground when those who made the decision to place them there escape all direct investigation. If soldiers are acting "within the rules of engagement" and still killing innocents, including babies and small children, then it is the decision makers who put them in that terrible position whose actions need to be "investigated" most closely.

US and UK attitudes to Iraqi civilian deaths have now mysteriously spread to the higher echelons of the (US-appointed) provisional Iraqi government. Until late last year, an official at the Iraqi Health Ministry, a Dr Nagham Mohsen, was compiling casualty figures from hospital records. But, according to an AP report on December 10th 2003, she was that month ordered by her immediate superior, director of planning Dr Nazar Shabandar, to stop collating this data. "We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it," Dr Mohsen said, adding: "The CPA doesn't want this to be done." This brazen interference in the legitimate gathering of knowledge by and on behalf of the Iraqi people is, if true, little short of disgraceful, and all involved in the decision must be held publicly to account.

In sum, we have a situation where the perpetrator announces that he will undertake investigations into his own potential crimes, gives no information on the nature or time course of the investigation, and then fails to ever make the results of such investigations public. To add insult to many existing injuries the perpetrator then abuses its dominion over the country's officials and prevents them from recording their own war dead. To say that this is an unsatisfactory situation would be a gross understatement. It goes against every single principle of democratic accountability, and is more reminiscent of the totalitarian dictatorships that the US and UK profess to be opposing.

7. Sole attention to US/UK and Western deaths

It is, of course, a sign of a civilised society that deaths should be announced, formally recorded, and memorialised. It is absolutely right and proper that the names and details of all people killed and wounded in a war should be made publicly available, and that no effort should be spared to ensure that the information is both accurate and complete.

But is there some unwritten rule by which the combatants killed – particularly the salaried, non-conscript soldiers of the aggressor nations – deserve more care and attention than those innocents – non-combatant men, women and children – whose lives have also been extinguished? If no such rule exists, why is it that on almost any day, a web search of the world's media will reveal massively more reports and discussion of Western soldiers killed than of Iraqi civilians, even though the reality on almost every day is that far more Iraqi civilians have been killed than Western soldiers?

On 29th October 2003 the official 9-11 death toll was reduced from 2792 to 2752 when 40 potential deaths were eliminated from the count. Here is a telling extract from the New York Times for that day (our emphases):

"Do we grieve less? Are we happy? What does it mean? "The question is, does it make it any less tragic?" said Jonathan Greenspun, the commissioner of the Mayor's Community Assistance Unit. "The answer is, no, it doesn't."

The change in the number … reflects the best in human nature, city officials say, as personified by investigators so intent on determining the true and sacred number of the dead that they properly took their time, even if it meant that a few fraudulent names, or the names of the living, were sprinkled among those of the many dead. Better that, they reasoned, than to exclude the name of one true victim.

The mission to specify the number of victims has been a necessary one: partly for history, partly for the distribution of death benefits — and partly to satisfy a communal desire for a number whose exactness might bring some comprehension to the incomprehensible."

We agree with every word of this quote. We think, however, that every word of it also applies to Iraqi deaths in the current conflict.


8. Toward a Just Conclusion

On one point we can agree with UK Defence Minister Adam Ingram: he is right to say that in a military operation the size of the Iraq invasion, civilian loss of life "is unavoidable." He should only recall that the invasion itself was avoidable, and therefore so too were all of its casualties.

And we must also note here the markedly different meaning given to the concept of "avoiding civilian casualties" when applied to different parts of the world, particularly when it is "us", not "them", who may get in harm's way:

In mid-November the US launched "Operation Iron Hammer" in which the bombing of targets within Iraqi towns and cities was resumed. On the 19th AP reported that:

The U.S. Air Force used some of the largest weapons in its inventory to attack targets in central Iraq in an escalating crackdown on suspected guerrilla strongholds, the military said Wednesday.

A pair of 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs were dropped late Tuesday near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on "camps suspected to have been used for bomb-making," said Maj. Gordon Tate, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, fighter-bombers dropped 1,000-pound bombs on "terrorist targets," he said without elaborating.

It was unclear whether the airstrikes caused any casualties, Tate said.

- while by the 22nd the Washington Post was reporting that "Fighter jets have dropped 500-pound bombs in the cities of Samarra, Ba'iji, Balad and Baqouba."

On the 23rd of November came a report from the BBC of an almost exactly concurrent and little-noticed event in Europe:

"WWII bomb causes Milan evacuation"

Italian police evacuated 55,000 people from the centre of Milan while an army bomb disposal team defused an unexploded World War II bomb.

The unexploded 1,000-pound bomb was dropped by the allies during the bombing of Milan in the war.

Shortly after dawn police began evacuating people living within a radius of one kilometre from the building site.

Traffic at one of Europe's busiest railway terminals nearby came to a halt during the bomb disposal operation and all trains were diverted to other parts of the city.

Elderly people and children were taken to local schools and given meals and hot drinks while an army bomb disposal team defused the bomb.

The bomb was successfully defused after about two hours of work.

It will be transported to an underground quarry on the city outskirts where it will be blown up in a controlled explosion.

The contrast could not be more stark. When the lives of Western European bystanders could be threatened, no effort or expense is spared by Western leaders to prevent a single death, and rightly so. When the lives of Iraqi women and children are at stake, it is a different story. Other priorities suddenly prevail.

Every human death is a tragedy. Every human life snuffed out requires honouring, remembering, grieving, and comforting and supporting the bereaved.

Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by the actions of the US and UK governments, voted for by the elected representatives of these two countries, paid for out of the tax revenues supplied by the citizens of these countries, and undertaken on the back of promises by the political leaders of these two countries that "everything possible" would be done to avoid civilian casualties. These factors place on the people of the USA and the UK an equally sacred duty to record every single resulting Iraqi death, so that none is missed, and none may be forgotten, and the war's true impact may be recognized.

We walked (or were led) blindly into a war for which there was, and still is, no justification. It is time we opened our eyes and discovered the full effect of this terrible mistake on the people of Iraq.

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