THE Pentagon suddenly seems to have become interested in how many Iraqis are dying or being injured; it revealed yesterday that the toll has reached 26'000 since the beginning of 2004, although the total is not broken down between deaths and injuries. These are the first figures of Iraqi casualties made available by the United States since the invasion took place in 2003.
It may be recalled that enquries as to the number of local people who had lost their lives or been injured during the invasion and in its aftermath were always blocked with the response that we don't count Iraqi deaths. The change of policy probably coincides with the fact that casualties are now more often the result of action by insurgents than by US forces, although these also continue, and that it is a useful propaganda point for the Pentagon to draw attention to this. Various estimates have been made of Iraq civilian deaths as a direct result of US and British action. The organisation Iraq Body Count, which compiles figures from media reports, believes that the civilian death toll since March 2003 is between 26'700 and 30'100. Research by an American university put the figure at more than 100'000 about a year ago.
Figures in the thousands are difficult to absorb. A different way of putting the Pentagon total is to say that in the first half of 2004 the daily rate was 30 a day and that for most of this year it has been 50 a day but rose to 64 a day in September and seems likely to continue at that level. These belatedly provided official statistics have to be set against the depressing fact that the figure of 2'000 US forces deaths in Iraq has now been passed with no sign that it will stop or slow down in the foreseeable future.
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