'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fallujah Civilian Casualty Numbers 

No one seems to know much yet ... mainly because of the near impossibility of covering Fallujah due to the instability and dangerousness of war-ravaged Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz essentially refused to offer an estimate at a briefing yesterday, saying that the US military has "seen very few civilian casualties." Metz also refused to give a specific number of US casualties leading to this somewhat amusing exchange in which the general argues that he shouldn't offer a number because the number "may go up and fluctuate over time" -- I kid you not:

Q Excuse me. Just to press this, I don't understand how you can not tell the American people how many troops have been killed in this. I mean, I don't see how you can just say a round figure, a dozen, sir. You can't give us any specific figures at all, minimum figures?

GEN. METZ: I would like not to give you a particular number. That number changes. I take updates periodically through the day, and they flow up from the chain of command. There are different periods of day we reconcile those numbers to ensure that we have accurate counts and that the casualty notification process is going according to the regulations that we abide by. And so I'd like to keep it at a figure that is low, and I don't want to state a particular number because that number would not have been the number six hours ago, and it may not be the number six hours from now. So things may go up and fluctuate over time, but I would not like to be pinned down to a particular number at this time.

Of course, none of the reporters present felt the need to press the issue regarding civilian casualties. Damn that liberal media...

Anyway, Reuter's reports that the citizens of Fallujah claim scores are dead, many dying because hospitals are inaccessible:

Mohammed Abboud says he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death at their Falluja home, unable to take him to hospital as fighting raged in the streets and bombs rained down on the Iraqi city.

In the midst of a U.S. onslaught and hemmed in by a round-the-clock curfew, he said he had little choice but to bury his eldest son, Ghaith, in the garden.

"My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment," said Abboud, a teacher. "We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out. We did not know how long the fighting would last."

Residents say scores of civilians have been killed or wounded in 24 hours of fighting since U.S.-led forces pushed deep into the rebel-held city on Monday evening.

Doctors said people brought in at least 15 dead civilians at the main clinic in Falluja on Monday. By Tuesday, there were no clinics open, residents said, and no way to count casualties.

U.S. and Iraqi forces seized control of the city's main hospital, across the Euphrates river from Falluja proper, hours before the onslaught began.

Overnight U.S. bombardments hit a clinic inside the Sunni Muslim city, killing staff and patients, residents said. U.S. military authorities denied the reports.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Monday troops detained 38 insurgents entrenched at Falluja Hospital and accused doctors there of exaggerating civilian casualties.

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