Iraq’s unknown and unseen dead

Rising American casualties in occupied Iraq dominate the daily news. Extensive coverage of American combat deaths monopolize headlines, causing a PR nightmare for the White House and providing political capital for the American opposition.

Missing from the picture is the fate of the common Iraqi. Little is said of the thousands of Iraqis killed and maimed during the American invasion or of those suffering daily under the heavy hand of a foreign army and Iraq’s spiralling lawlessness.

Human Rights Watch reports that over 100 Iraqi civilians have been shot dead by United States forces since the beginning of the occupation in Baghdad alone. Hundreds of Iraqis lie dead in Baghdad morgues whose deaths are yet to be explained. Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said, "It’s a tragedy U.S. soldiers have killed so many civilians in Baghdad. But it’s really incredible that the U.S. military does not even count these deaths."

Trigger-happy American soldiers have recklessly gunned down Iraqis who fail to slow down at army checkpoints. Soldiers, indifferent to Iraqi customs and the Arabic language, resort to lethal force terrifyingly quickly during vicious house raids. Entire families have been slaughtered at checkpoints throughout Iraq because of the belligerence and indifferent cruelty of American forces.

As the famed veteran British journalist Robert Fisk wrote in a recent article, "American soldiers have been given a license to kill, not a single soldier has been disciplined for shooting civilians."

While American actions cannot be compared to the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime, their actions are a far cry from those of the "liberators" they purport to be. Life under occupation has become a daily tragedy for Iraqis forced to protect themselves from both American soldiers and Iraqi thugs and rapists. Seldom is the human catastrophe reported in the western media.

The world was also quick to forget about the "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign as soon as Saddam’s regime was finished. But the victims of the initial blitzkrieg of American forces still remain. Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.net) has recorded around 9,500 Iraqi civilians killed during the American bombings. Other sources put the figure as high as 15,000.

While the taking of innocent Iraqi lives is tragic, another more pressing tragedy goes unnoticed: the thousands of Iraqis maimed and seriously wounded by American bombing. Iraq Body Count has estimated approximately 20,000 Iraqis have been seriously wounded, some still in hospital as you read this.

Remember Ali Abbas? He’s the young boy who lost his entire family and both arms before being airlifted to Kuwait for medical treatment. Thousands of Iraqis have suffered similar fates but are brushed aside by both the media and American authorities.

American military leaders also ruled out any compensation for those injured by American bombs. It is estimated paying compensation for 20,000 injured Iraqis would cost $200 million–the price of just two days of occupation.

This human tragedy in Iraq speaks volumes. One can make many political arguments against the invasion of Iraq, but this is the most damning indictment. A force truly intent on "liberation" and winning the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis would not hesitate to launch inquiries into misconduct of soldiers or pay negligible compensation to injured Iraqis. Neither action is expensive or costly in political terms, and can only help America’s image among Iraqis. Yet the American government has indeed refused to do either.

Why?

There is really only one reasonable explanation: they don’t care. Never did, never will. And until we start to, innocent Iraqis will remain the forgotten victims of an unjust war.

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