The Toll of the Ongoing War in Iraq

January 4, 2004

Near the end of last year, the UK-based charity "Medact" released an independent survey on the toll of the U.S. war against Iraq.

The report, entitled "Continuing Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq" was written and researched by an international team of health professionals between March and October, 2003.

The report estimates that the number Iraqis killed was between 21,000 to 55,000 and that the number of wounded is about three times as high (close to 3,000 civilians were killed by U.S. troops between May 1, when Bush formally declared an "end" to the war, and October 1) .

The Medact report includes detailed statistics on the use of illegal weapons, including depleted uranium (DU), napalm and cluster weapons, by U. S. and British forces:

- - 2,200 tons of DU shells and bullets were used (about 7 times the amount used in the first Gulf war). DU ammunition releases chemical toxins and radiation which poisons people and pollutes the atmosphere, soil and water supplies. Studies of areas in Iraq and Yugoslavia where DU ordinance was used show dramatic increases in cancer rates and birth defects.

- - more than 3,600 cluster bombs, which were used against several civilian targets and have injured at least 1,000 children since the official "end" of the war.

The report cites numerous incidents in which these weapons resulted in civilian massacres such as on March 22, when F-16 fighter planes dropped cluster bombs on the outskirts of Basra killing 80 civilians. On March 30, cluster bombs dropped near al-Hillah resulted in 61 dead and 200 wounded (80% civilians). Also, "dozens of napalm bombs," were dropped on the civilian infrastructure such as bridges and canals, as well as on homes, markets and farms. As to the claims by U.S. military officials that they used "precision weapons," the report states "The war showed that deployment of laser/satellite-guided weapons does not necessarily reduce 'collateral damage', because coalition troops also used older types of weapons or used precision weapons in built-up areas."

The report also provides a detailed assessment of the destruction inflicted on Iraq's economic and social infrastructure. The U.S.-British bombing destroyed homes, markets, farms, roads, railroads, schools, hospitals, as well as electrical generation facilities, water and sanitation works, industrial plants, etc., etc. In and around Baghdad, for example, about 40% of the water and sewer systems were destroyed. The country's food supply has been disrupted and the health care infrastructure crippled. For example, at least 200,000 newborns have had no immunizations as a result of destruction to hospitals, storage facilities, laboratories, etc.

The impact of the war on the Iraqi environment is also documented. Medact concludes that "extensive pollution of land, sea, rivers and the atmosphere" have resulted from the war.

"Oil well fires created oil spills and toxic smoke. Troop movements destroyed fragile desert ecology. Explosive remnants of war and land mines killed and maimed people and animals and polluted the landscape. Bombardment destroyed topsoil and arable/grazing land as well as the physical infrastructure of buildings, roads, railways, power stations, sewage plants and telecommunications."

Such are the methods and toll of the U.S. government's war against Iraq.

The full report can be accessed on-line at