More than 1,000 dead American soldiers in Iraq? Hell, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of dead Iraqis:
“When I heard on television that the Americans had lost 1,000 military killed in Iraq, I asked myself, what about our side? What is the number of Iraqis who have died?” said Dr Amer al-Khuzaie, an Iraqi deputy health minister.
The US army does not count the number of Iraqis killed since the invasion in March 2003. The most conservative figure for the number dead is 10,000 as calculated by private groups. It is rising every day. The US military claimed that on Tuesday alone it killed “100 militants” in air strikes on Fallujah on top of a further 33 people killed in fighting in Sadr City in Baghdad.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, proudly claimed on Tuesday that US forces had, last month, killed between 1,500 and 2,500 Iraqi insurgents. He did not note an ominous trend that, for the first time, more Americans were probably killed by Shia fighters than by Sunni guerrillas. For the US, it is now a war on two fronts.
Iraqis suspect that in any case many of those who died were civilians.
Dr Khuzaie admits that poor communications make it impossible to get a complete picture but he estimates that “in Najaf 400 civilians were killed and 2,500 wounded in the fighting last month.”
People in Baghdad have learned caution. Often there are long traffic jams because cars do not want to go near a slowly moving American convoy, a possible target of a massive bomb buried beside the road or a rocket-propelled grenade. The Americans also have a much-feared practice of spraying fire in all directions when they come under attack.
Iraq is not just a dangerous place to live because of political violence. Unicef estimated in the 1990s that 500,000 children had died because of the collapse of health standards. Infant mortality rose from 40 per 1,000 in 1990, before the 1991 Gulf War, to 108, 13 years later according to the World Health Organisation.
Public health has not improved since the invasion last year. A main reason is unclean water. Dr Bashar, a senior house surgeon at al-Kindi, said: “Look around you. Baghdad is the dirtiest city in the world.”