Calling on Weekly to print Iraq death tolls, actualize scope of occupation

By Macalester Peace and Justice Committee – Students for a Democratic Society

As the U.S. occupation of Iraq drags into its fifth year, the United States Department of Defense has confirmed the deaths of 3,963 American soldiers and 1,123 contractors. Since the start of the war, the Department of Defense has refused to release or confirm any form of Iraqi death toll.As of today, the organization Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.org) has documented over 80,000 deaths. In thinking about this number, it is very important to realize that in order for a death to be included in the Iraq Body Count, the individual must have been killed in a “violent event” reported by more than one media outlet, issued a valid death certificate and identified by the US military as a “non-combatant.”

Of course, there are many instances of deaths not being reported, death certificates not being issued and civilians being mistakenly (or purposely) mislabeled as “enemy combatants.” In order to produce a more accurate calculation of the total Iraqi deaths, several organizations have conducted surveys in Iraq.

The most recent survey, which was published in January 2008 by the British research company ORB, estimates that between March 2003 and August 2007, 1,033,000 Iraqis were killed as a direct result of the conflict. Due to a margin of error, ORB estimates that the number of civilian deaths for this time period ranges between 946,000 and 1,120,000 people.

These numbers serve as important evidence of the effects of war, and their conspicuous absence from the American media is disturbing. Macalester Students for a Democratic Society (MPJC-SDS) would like to request that The Mac Weekly publish the number of Americans and Iraqis reported dead each week as a result of the current US occupation of Iraq in each edition.

We feel that The Mac Weekly has a unique opportunity to provide the Macalester Community with important information that is pertinent to our understanding of this war. Despite the fact that news of American death in Iraq is severely underreported in the mainstream media, the number of American’s confirmed dead each week is fairly easy to access through governmental and other agencies on the internet.

While there is no way to truly know the number of Iraqi civilians killed each week, we believe that the difficulty of quantifying the exact number of Iraqi civilians is not a justifiable reason to ignore their deaths. There are numerous credible sources that calculate the number of Iraqi civilians reported dead each day.

While we understand, and wish to highlight, that these numbers in no way provide a complete picture of the horrific loss of human life in Iraq, we feel that they do provide tangible evidence of the effects of war. We hope that in publishing the number of reported deaths, Macalester as a community will be enabled to develop a more complete understanding of the actions of our country and the resulting effects in the world.