US military death count for Baghdad excluded bombs, mortar and rocket

September 11th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: US military death count for Baghdad excluded bombs, mortar and rocket

Media: The Associated Press
Date: 11 September 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq_The U.S. military did not count people killed by bombs,
mortars, rockets or other mass attacks _ including suicide bombings _ when
it reported a dramatic drop in the number of murders around Baghdad last
month, the U.S. command said Monday.

The decision to include only victims of drive-by shootings and those killed
by torture and execution, usually at the hands of death squads, allowed U.S.
officials to argue that a security crackdown that began in the capital on
Aug. 7 had more than halved the city's murder rate.

But the types of slayings, including suicide bombings, that the U.S.
excluded from the category of "murder" were not made explicit at the time.
That led to considerable confusion after Iraqi Health Ministry figures
showed that 1,536 people had died violently around Baghdad in August, nearly
the same number as in July.

The figures raise serious questions about the success of the security
operation launched by the U.S.-led coalition. When they released the murder
rate figures, U.S. officials and their Iraqi counterparts were eager to show
progress in restoring security in Baghdad, at a time when the country looks
to be on the verge of civil war.

At the end of August, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen.
William B. Caldwell, said violence had dropped significantly because of the
operation. Caldwell said "attacks in Baghdad were well below the monthly
average for July. Since Aug. 7, the murder rate in Baghdad dropped 52
percent from the daily rate for July."

Caldwell, however, did not make the key distiction that the rate he was
referring to excluded a significant part of the relentless daily violence
that tears through Baghdad. On Monday for example, at least 20 of the 26
people who died in the capital were killed in bombings.

"These comments were intended to highlight some specific indicators of
progress and were never stated in relation to broader casualty figures,"
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Monday.

He added that Caldwell "used murders and executions specifically because
they are a key indicator of sectarian-related violence."

Johnson said other types of violence that are recoded by the military as
"indicators for calculating casualties" include roadside bombs called
improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, mortars and rockets, small-arms fire
"such as when used to fire in crowds after an IED attack versus an
individual being murdered," car bombs _ known as VBIED's _ and suicide

Under the military's definition, murders include civilians killed "who are
specifically targeted," in drive-by shootings and stabbing for example, but
do not include executions or "those killed in indirect fire, IED, VBIED, or
suicide attacks, all of which may or may not be related to sectarian

Executions include people who have been held, tortured and then killed and
are considerd to be motivated by ethnic or sectarian reasons _ unless they
are some form of reprisal killing or related to crime.

Johnson would not provide the figures used to calculate the percentages and
said the military would not give detailed information about trends because
it could provide "our enemy information they need to adjust their tactics
and procedures to be more effective against us."

He added that although the military collected its violence data from as many
sources as possible and used a steady methodology, "we do not claim our
information represents every possible victim of violence."

The confusion over numbers underscores the difficulty of obtaining accurate
death tolls in Iraq, which lacks the data reporting and tracking systems of
most modern nations. When top Iraqi political officials cite death numbers,
they often refuse to say where the numbers came from.

The Health Ministry, which tallies civilian deaths, relies on reports from
government hospitals and morgues. The Interior Ministry, which command
Iraqi's police, compiles figures from police stations, while the Defense
Ministry reports deaths only among army soldiers and insurgents killed in

The United Nations keeps its own count, based largely on reports from the
Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry. A U.N. official said it would be
announcing August figures later.

Controversy over civilian death figures in Iraq dates back to the U.S.
invasion and has continued. Some believe that figures are manipulated

In December 2003, the Health Ministry stopped releasing civilian casualty
figures for several months.

Last year, Baghdad morgue director Faik Baker fled to Jordan after he said
he came under pressure to not report deaths _ especially those caused by
death squads.