Wikileaks unfortunately compromised its own expose of the death toll from the war in Iraq by relying on faulty statistics to begin with. Using the Iraq Body Count which seriously underestimates the number of Iraqis killed during the US war there, the revised death toll from the war against Iraq brings the total civilians deaths to 150,000 based on military field reports. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. From the testimony and descriptions given by soldiers who have been in combat, I accumulated an even more grim picture of “preventive and random killing” of civilians during the war in my book, Unmaking War, Remaking Men.
First, the use of white phosphorus and smart bombs often makes it impossible to identify incinerated victims. Second, U.S. soldiers had difficulty distinguishing between civilians and combatants.
Third, as for the significant number of civilians killed by Iraqis, it was US military practice to blame the killings by US soldiers on Iraqis. Many US soldiers carried drop weapons, which they had confiscated on a previous kill of an insurgent. When they killed a civilian they dropped an insurgent’s weapon on the body to show the victim was killed by an Iraqi.
Fourth, falsification of field reports such as those just released by Wikileaks by soldiers to protect their buddies goes all the way up the chain of command. The incredible bravery of those who made this massive leak of documents possible is undermined if we believe that the military in the field was accurately reporting combat actions. For example, the US Marines 2006 massacre in Haditha was left uninvestigated and reported 15 casualties killed by Iraqis until news reporters followed up eyewitness accounts. It was found that instead of Iraqis killing Iraqis, the US Marines, after an IED explosion had killed one of their own in a truck, massacred 24 women, children and babies as well as several men they executed.
I found that U.S. soldiers engaged in what I call preventive killing, which is killing because “I’m not sure if this person is an insurgent or a civilian,” and random killing. Thought control is used by the military to train recruits to kill without getting hung up on feelings of remorse. They were trained to not fire at persons but at locations, so they will cover wider areas. As a result, for many in combat, killing becomes a game. For others who are worn down by dodging pot shots at them, or who have just seen their buddy killed, it is revenge. Either way, added to the Iraqi loss of life is the soldiers trauma for doing what most would never have considered doing outside of the military.
These, along with the fact that the US never bothered to count Iraqi dead during most of the war, validates the death toll of 655,000 in 2006 reported from the John Hopkins study that involved interviewing Iraqi families to determine how many had lost relatives in the war. As the war continued, that death toll was revised upward to 1.3 million Iraqis.