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78,000 Iraqis Killed by Air Strikes

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An estimated 78,000 Iraqis were killed by U.S. and Coalition air strikes from the start of the war through June of last year, an article in “The Nation” magazine says.

The estimate is based on the supposition that 13 percent of the 601,000 Iraqis who met violent deaths reported by The Lancet study released last October “had been killed by bomb, missile, rocket or cannon up to last June,” author Nick Turse writes in the June 11th issue of the weekly magazine.

“There are indications that the air war has taken an especially grievous toll on Iraqi children,” Turse said.
“Figures provided by the Lancet study suggest that 50 percent of all violent deaths of Iraqi children under 15 in that same period (March 2003 through June 2006) were due to coalition airstrikes.”

Since April, 2003, Turse reports, the U.S. has dropped at least 59,787 pounds of cluster bombs in Iraq, a type of weapon Human Rights Watch(HRW) termed “the single greatest risk civilians face with regard to a current weapon that is in use.”

The author notes cluster bombs have “a high failure rate” so that unexploded bomblets that fall to ground become, in fact, landmines which, Marc Garlasco of HRW points out, are “already banned by most nations.”

Garlasco, the HRW senior military analyst, says, “I don’t see how any use of the current U.S. cluster-bomb arsenal in proximity to civilian objects can be defended in any way as being legal or legitimate.”

At a time when many nations are moving toward banning cluster munitions, the U.S. China, Israel, Pakistan and Russia are opposing new limits of any kind. At a conference in Oslo last February, 46 of 48 governments supported an international ban on cluster bombs by 2008.

The cluster bomb bursts above ground and releases hundreds of smaller “bomblets” that create a kill radius about the size of a football field, shredding virtually every object in the zone.

Aside from these deadly devices, Air Force officials acknowledge Coalition aircraft dropped at least 111,000 pounds of other types of bombs in Iraq last year as part of 10,519 “close air support missions,” author Turse said.

According to Les Roberts, co-author of two surveys of mortality in Iraq published in the British medical journal The Lancet, “Rocket and cannon fire could account for most coalition-attributed civilian deaths.” The magazine quotes him further as stating, “I find it disturbing that they (Pentagon) will not release this (figure), but even more disturbing that they have not released such information to Congressmen who have requested it.”

Turse’s article is titled, “The Secret Air War in Iraq,” and alleges “The devastation from U.S. bombing is underreported---and may be increasing.”  He writes, “That an occupying power regularly conducts airstrikes in or near dense population centers should have raised serious concerns in the mainstream media, unfortunately, reports on the air war are sparse and mostly confined to regurgitations of military announcements.”

“..Until reporters begin bypassing official U.S. military pronouncements and locating Iraqi sources, we will remain largely in the dark regarding the secret and deadly U.S. air war in Iraq,” Turse concludes.


(Sherwood Ross is a Florida-based writer who covers military and political topics. Reach him at

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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