- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

A United Nations task force charged with coordinating the response of the U.N.'s humanitarian agencies fears that up to 500,000 Iraqis could be killed or wounded, and fully 10 million of Iraq's 26 million people put at risk if there is a second Gulf war.
The UN planners assume war would halt Iraq's oil production, severely degrade its electric power grid, and disrupt the ability of the Iraqi government to distribute food rations. They assume also there will be an outbreak of diseases "of pandemic proportions," due chiefly to contamination of water supplies. They estimate roughly 2 million Iraqis will become refugees.
The report was secret, but an anti-war group got a copy of it and posted it on a Web site.
The report assumes fighting would be protracted, and that about 100,000 Iraqis would be killed or injured as a direct result of combat, with another 400,000 suffering as a result of disruption of services.
Estimating casualties in a war that hasn't happened yet is very difficult to do. As we shall see, estimating casualties in a war that has just ended isn't easy. The U.N.'s track record of prognostication is poor. Some officials of U.N. humanitarian agencies predicted there would tens of thousands of civilian casualties in the Afghan war. A survey by the Associated Press last year found fewer than 600.
Casualty estimates from the Gulf war are, a dozen years later, still a political football. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, got the misinformation ball rolling by fatuously estimating, at a press conference at war's end, that as many as 100,000 Iraqi soldiers had been killed in the fighting.
God knows where "Stormin' Norman" was getting his numbers. The current consensus estimate of military analysts is that between 20,000 and 25,000 Iraqi soldiers, and between 1,000 and 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the fighting. But two who have done some of the most detailed analytical work former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John Heidenrich, and John Mueller, head of the political science department at Ohio State University, think the numbers were much lower.
Basing his calculations on the number of Iraqi bodies actually found (577), and the normal crew strength of the vehicles we destroyed, Mr. Heidenrich estimated the number of Iraqis killed at between 1,500 and 6,000, with the lower number being the more likely. The number of civilian deaths from bombing was less than 1,000, Mr. Heidenrich said. Mr. Mueller, working independently, came to a similar conclusion.
Leftists have made vastly greater claims for the numbers of civilian deaths, but have been undermined by other leftists who inadvertently commit truth:
"Recently I spent four days in Baghdad with a small group of longtime peace activists who'd gone there to document civilian damage caused by U.S. bombing," wrote Erika Munk in the Nation in May 1991. "We expected to find enormous unreported destruction. … Instead, we found a city whose homes and offices were almost entirely intact, where the electricity was coming back and the water was running."
The highest estimate of Iraqi casualties in the Gulf war taken seriously by scholars was from Carnegie Mellon University Professor Beth Daponte, then a researcher at the Commerce Department. She estimated in January 1992 that approximately 205,000 Iraqis died as a result of Desert Storm, the domestic rebellions that followed, and from deprivation and disease.
Miss Daponte's figures are cited often by those who wish to blame Iraqi deaths on the United States. But a large element in them which Miss Daponte estimated at 35,000 were the Iraqis killed by Saddam in his repression of the Kurdish and Shi'ite risings. Others have estimated that death toll at 80,000 to 100,000.
Columbia University public health specialist Richard Garfield estimated last year that 350,000 Iraqi children under age 5 had died since the Gulf war, chiefly as a result of privations caused by U.N. sanctions. Sanctions haven't served to restrain Saddam Hussein, and they have caused misery for tens of thousands of innocent people.
Though I doubt this was their intent, Miss Daponte's research, and Mr. Garfield's indicate the great humanitarian tragedy was not the Gulf war, but the failure to remove Saddam Hussein after it. The suffering of the Iraqi people will not end until he is gone.

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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