However, the exact number of civilians killed in those strikes is strongly disputed by the Marines
More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians, including women and children, have
died in Iraq since the war was launched in March 2003, mostly as a result of
airstrikes by the occupation forces, according Iraqi and U.S. public health
And recently Iraqi townspeople and the U.S. military stated that innocent civilians
are being targeted by the U.S. airstrikes in Iraqi residential neighborhoods
along the Euphrates River in far western Iraq, and not what the U.S. Army claims
to be “insurgents, an editorial on the Washington Post stated.
The exact number of civilians killed in those strikes is strongly disputed
by the Marines, the article stated, but townspeople, tribal leaders, as well
as medical officials and witnesses’ accounts assert that scores of noncombatants
were killed in the U.S. military’s last month operations, including airstrikes
carried out ahead of the U.S. 17-day offensive in Anbar province.
"These people died silently, complaining to God of a guilt they did not
commit," said Zahid Mohammed Rawi, a physician in the town of Husaybah,
According to Rawi, 97 civilians were killed while only 38 fighters died in
the first week of the Operation Steel Curtain, which began on Nov. 5.
"I dare any organization, committee or the American Army to deny these
numbers," Rawi said.
But on the other hand, Col. Michael Denning, the top air officer for the 2nd
Marine Division, claim that "the vast majority of civilians are killed
by the insurgency," particularly by improvised bombs.
During an interview at a Marine base at Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital,
Denning admitted that Ramadi was "a very, very difficult place to fight",
however, claimed that "insurgents will kill civilians and try to blame
it on us."
The U.S. military’s continuous refusal to record and admit civilian casualties
analyzing so-called collateral damage is still one of the most serious failures
of the U.S. war in Iraq, said Sarah Sewall, deputy assistant secretary of defense
from 1993 to 1996 and now program director for the Carr Center for Human Rights
Policy at Harvard.
"It's almost impossible to fight a war in which engagements occur in urban
areas [and] to avoid civilian casualties," Sewall said in a telephone interview.
"In a conflict like Iraq, where civilian perceptions are as important
as the number of weapons caches destroyed, assessing the civilian harm must
become a part of the battle damage assessment process if you're going to fight
a smart war," she said.
Operation Steel Curtain, which involved 2,500 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors
and about 1,000 soldiers of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army, only represent a series
of offensives in western Anbar that began in late April and described by Brig.
Gen. James L. Williams of the 2nd Marine Division as a town-by-town campaign
to drive fighter and establish a permanent Iraqi army presence in the heavily
Sunni Arab region.
During the operation, the U.S. military issued a statement saying that airstrikes
“unwittingly” hit buildings where civilians were later found to
have been present.
Arkan Isawi, on of Husaybah residents, who along with a groups of Iraqis assessed
the damage caused by the U.S. operations there, said "I personally pulled
out a family of three children and parents".
"Anyone who gives you a number is lying, because the city was a mess,
and people buried bodies in backyards and parking lots," with other bodies
still under rubble, Isawi said.
American commanders maintain that Army personnel try hard to avoid civilian
casualties, but overall, Denning said, "I think it would be very difficult
to prosecute this insurgency" without airstrikes.
The precision-guided munitions used in all airstrikes in Anbar "have miss
rates smaller than the size of this table," Denning said, adding that officers
at Ramadi and at the Marines' "lessons learned" center in Quantico
coordinate each attack using the best intelligence available. "I have to
sell it to about two or three different chains of command: 'What are you doing
to make sure there are no civilian casualties?' “Denning said.
Such indiscriminate killing has also resulted in creating more animosity against
the U.S. government and Americans in general.
"In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased,"
Seymour Hersh reported in the Dec. 5 edition of The New Yorker. "Most of
the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that
surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border."
Hersh added: "As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a
significant discussion or debate about the air war."
Avoiding the mentioning and admitting of crimes committed by the U.S. Army
in Iraq needs to change, especially after recent talk in Washington about reducing
the number of American troops deployed in Iraq- people need to get the full
picture and know the reality of the military’s attitude in the war-torn