Conflicting US Casualty Numbers -
Surreal Press Conference

By Dahr Jamail

Yesterday, I reported on an attack upon a US Humvee patrol in Al-Dora, Baghdad, which is in the Al-Rashid district.
However, statements taken from three boys and five men who witnessed the US military clean-up and medical evacuations all reported the same story: The US military flew in medical choppers to air lift 2 wounded soldiers from the scene. They all witnessed at least five bodies loaded into US vehicles and driven from the scene.
These statements were taken from some scene of the incident the day after it occurred, as well as taken from several men from other areas of Al-Dora.
A phone call from the scene of the incident to the Coalition Public Information Center (CPIC) provided information that the US military reported two dead and three wounded soldiers.
This is confirmed by accessing the following information:
According to press release 04-01-03C on 2 January, US Cent Com reports 2 dead, 3 injured Task Force 1st Armored Division Soldiers Killed in Ambush in Al Rashid district at about noon when their convoy was struck by an IED, then the soldiers taking small arms fire after the explosion.
The full press release may be seen here:
The same press release can be found on the Combined Joint Task Force seven website, release #040103g, with the same dead and injured count, here:
Thus, the usual conflict in the number of US soldiers killed and injured rests between the many Iraqis who witnessed the scene during the US cleanup and medical evacuations, and the figures given by CENTCOM and Combined Joint Task Force 7.
The US military in Iraq has been under constant scrutiny for under-reporting US casualty figures from attacks throughout Iraq. The effect of this is to give the impression to both the media and people of Iraq, as well as people in the US that the degree of loss of life by US military personnel in Iraq is lower than it may actually be.
Thus, the sense of urgency the US military is faced with in Iraq isnít being conveyed to the public. For example, I just moments ago returned from a CIPIC press conference by General Kimmit where he stated there are 25 attacks per day on coalition forces.
Nor are people being allowed the opportunity to grasp the seriousness of the mounting US casualties in Iraq as a result of the occupation.
This being an election year in the US only brings more doubt about the actual figures being reported by the military here as compared to the numbers provided by Iraqis witnessing the attacks and/or the medical operations which ensue.
Virtually every investigation Iíve conducted on events of this nature has provided a disparity in the numbers of US dead and wounded between those reported by CPIC and Iraqi witnesses; be they civilians, hospital staff, or figures from the morgue.
This point is further underlined by the incident in Samarra at the end of November when the US military claimed a convoy came under attack by a highly organized group of Fedayeen fighters and responded by killing 54 of them. Upon further investigation by myself and several other journalists to the hospital, morgue, and several interviews in Samarra, the highest Iraqi body count recorded was 8. The US military never adjusted their figures to reflect this, despite the fact that no more than 8 bodies have ever been found as a result of this battle.
Not only has the US casualty rate in Iraq continued unabated since the capture of Saddam Hussein, it has increased.
On a daily basis US soldiers are dying here, as well as being severely wounded. When one looks at a general headline on a news website and reads: 1 US soldier killed, 2 wounded, it is not shown the degree to which these soldiers are wounded. Many have suffered permanent brain damage, loss of feet, legs, hands, arms. There lives are changed forever by permanent disabilities; rather than the impression the mainstream media leaves of injured by cuts and bruises.
The system of information control runs deep in Iraq today. The CPA has recently released a law stating that no public demonstrations are allowed without their approval and consent. If a demonstration occurs without said, the people will be detained promptly.
During the aforementioned press conference this evening, attended not only by media but the additional 15 US soldiers in the room, I paid close attention to the words used by General Kimmit and the very uptight man in the suit standing next to him assisting him in answering questions posed by the media.
After laughing and looking at one another while smiling on two different occasions while giving a press conference while reporting attacks on US troops resulting in them dying and being wounded, the two men at the podium used interesting terms in order to avoid the term 'resistance.'
Resistance fighters are thus referred to as 'anti-coalition fighters', 'anti-coalition suspects' (detainees), and of course the mainstay, 'terrorists.'
We are shown a slick video taken by military personnel of a raid conducted on the Ibn Taimiyah Mosque last Thursday. This raid brought great scrutiny on the CPA for disrespecting the traditions and culture here, due to the fact that US soldiers raided it wearing their combat boots and wielding weapons. They rolled up the pray rugs while looking for tunnels hiding weapons caches, and coming up empty on the tunnels.
While the raid did yield many weapons, TNT, and grenades, the method in which it was conducted may be more detrimental to the occupiers efforts than the fruits it yielded.
They arrested its prayer leader, Shaikh Mahdi Salah al-Sumaidi, a member of the Supreme Council for Religious Guidance, along with 20 of his assistants. General Kimmit went out of his way to point out in the video, how the Sheikh was bound and handled as fairly as all the other detainees.
My Iraqi friend sitting next to me holds her hand to her forehead, holding her head and shaking it slowly while watching the bound Sheikh, as well as the soldiers wearing boots in the mosque, carrying weapons, and rolling up the rugs. She is in disbelief.
While US soldiers may need to conduct raids on mosques, wouldnít a better policy be to let IPís (Iraqi Police) or Iraqi Civil Defense personnel handle this culturally sensitive operation?
In addition, General Kimmit went out of his way to stress that IPís and ICDCís were ëfully integratedí in the force that raided the mosque. If so, why didnít these men conduct the raid? Why were only US soldiers seen in the mosque on the video?
During the rattling off of statistics of numbers of raids, detainees, and weapons caches found, there is never any mention of Iraqi civilian casualties.
Instead, they discuss a ëwhole new groupí of Iraqis stepping forward to help the coalition since the capture of Saddam Hussein. They divide these two groups into the ëHopefulsí (those who want to help now that he is gone) and the ëFearfulsí (those who were too afraid to help while his shadow was still at large).
After the carefully conducted press conference comes to a close, I walk out of the surreal atmosphere of the CPIC in the fancy conference hall, back into the insecure streets of Baghdad to return home. The usual sporadic gunfire from various parts of the city echoes off the buildings as night falls over the land of the 'Hopefuls' and 'Fearfuls.'
Dahr Jamail Columnist DataPage



This Site Served by TheHostPros