Source – brussellstribunal.org
– The U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNA) in Iraq, the NATO International Securi-ty Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF-A), also in Afghanistan, have carefully kept a running total of fatalities they have suffered. However, the military’s only interest has been in counting “their” bodies: 4,804 MNA soldiers have died in Iraq between March 2003 and February 2012, the date when the U.S. body counting stopped. As of early June 2013, 3,323 ISAF and OEF soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan since 2001.(2)
Since U.S. and other foreign military boots are only intermittently and secretly on the ground in Pakistan, mainly in
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the northern tribal areas, there are no body count statistics for coalition force casualties available for Pakistan.
The picture of physically wounded military personnel for both war theatres is in-complete. Only the U.S. military is identified: (a) 32,223 were wounded during the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath, and (b) until September 2012 17,674 were wounded in Afghanistan.(3)
No figures are known for mental disorders involving military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Officially ignored are casualties, injured or killed, involving enemy combatants and civilians.(4) This, of course, comes as no surprise. It is not an oversight but a deliberate omission. The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths.(5) This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs.(6)
However, facts are indeed stubborn. Governments and civil society know now that on all counts these assertions have proved to be preposterously false. Military battles have been won in Iraq and Afghanistan but at enormous costs to human security and trust among nations. One must not forget the financial costs.(7) The 21st century has seen a loss of innocent civilian life at an unprecedented scale, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody should even dare to ask the question whether it was worth it! As independent U.S. journalist Nir Rosen noted, “the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis are not better off, […] the children who lost their fathers aren’t better off, […] the hundreds and thousands of refu-gees are not better off.”(8)
The IPPNW Body Count publication must be seen as a significant contribution to narrowing the gap between reliable estimates of victims of war, especially civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and tendentious, manipulated or even fraudu-lent accounts. These have in the past blurred the picture of the magnitude of death and destitution in these three countries. Subjective and pre-conceived re-porting certainly is a serious matter. This includes the dissemination of deliberate-ly falsified information. In the context of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there are many examples of manipulated “facts.” The U.S. Department of Defense’s short-lived (2001/02) Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is one stark example of gov-ernment-generated mis- and dis-information meant to influence public opinion in supporting its Iraq policies.(9)
With this publication the public becomes aware of how difficult it has been to grasp the real dimensions of these wars and how rare independent and non-partisan casualty assessments have been. For governments and inter-governmental organizations, the IPPNW review represents a powerful aide mémoire of their legal and moral responsibility to hold perpetrators accountable. What is reflected in the IPPNW study is not for the history books alone, but much more significant it is a plea for justice to prevail.
Without the credible information contained in the IPPNW Body Count publica-tion it would be even more difficult to seek redress and justice. As the picture becomes clearer thanks to organizations such as IPPNW about dead, wounded, traumatized, tortured, poisoned (due to depleted uranium and white phosphorus), dislocated and impoverished civilians, accountability for the crimes committed is more and more within reach. Winning the battle over the integrity of information, it must be stressed, unequivocally constitutes a prerequisite for a dangerously overdue debate. Global leaders in governments and in the United Nations can no longer escape from an open and intensive reflection, together with civil society, on the origins of recent conflicts. The public conscience is not willing to accept further procrastination. People on every continent, especially the young who are the involuntary inheritors of conflict, insist on actions for peace. Nothing less!
IPPNW’s timely Body Count publication is evidence of its unrelenting commit-ment to “ending war and to addressing the causes of armed conflict” and, as such, an important contribution to actions for peace.
Dr. h.c. Hans-C. von Sponeck, UN Assistant Secretary General & UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq (1998-2000); UN Resident Coordinator for Pakistan (1988-94) covering also Afghanistan.