Better Off Under Saddam

From Holden:

The Times pries some civilian casualty statistics out of Iraq.

Iraqi civilians and police officers died at a rate of more than 800 a month between August and May, according to figures released in June by the Interior Ministry.


The figures, released by e-mail through an American official after multiple requests, are a significant milestone, for while the Iraqi government tallies Iraqi deaths, figures on the overall totals have been tightly guarded. But the numbers do not account for civilian deaths caused by American and Iraqi soldiers in military offensives, at checkpoints or on raids.

“It’s an important number, it’s a big deal,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch in New York. “It shows the toll Iraqi civilians are paying for their freedoms.”

Obtaining tallies of Iraqi dead has always been difficult, in part because they have not always been compiled systematically. For some time after the 2003 invasion, the Health Ministry released daily counts that were cobbled together mostly from figures provided by hospitals. But last year, when the numbers began to rise, the ministry stopped releasing even those tallies publicly, and provided classified copies to the government.


Deaths at the hands of Americans are statistically fewer, but far from uncommon. On June 25, a 21-year-old engineering student was shot dead during a house raid by marines in Anbar Province. The student, Muhammad Summaidai, answered the door and was excited to practice his English, according to an account by his cousin, Samir Summaidai, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. The marines took him to a back room to see the family’s weapons. A short time later he was dead, shot through the neck in what his family says was a murder by the marines.

[“The Americans have to be smarter – to hide and lay traps for the insurgents,” Mr. Summaidai said by telephone in early July. “Not just to terrorize the community. That will not work.”]

The marines said in a statement shortly after the incident that they were investigating.

One day earlier Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi employee of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, was shot and killed by an American sniper while he was on his way to a gas station, Knight Ridder said. That death is also under investigation.