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Collateral damage’ unacceptable

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The war in Iraq has had a devastating human toll. The collection of boots currently on display on South Quad dramatically shows the scale of the tragic loss of U.S. soldiers. These deaths are in themselves tragic. However, what the news media, and certainly in the U.S. government, fail to point out is that for every American life that is lost in Iraq, more than 13 Iraqi civilians – men, women and children – are killed as a direct result of the conflict. This adds up to more than ten times the number of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some of these civilians are killed by roadside bombs. Many are killed in the crossfire between coalition troops and insurgents. Still others die when a coalition mortar hits the wrong target – or when the United States deems a target valuable enough to justify incurring “collateral damage.” As of March 2005, an estimated 37 percent of civilians, nearly 10,000 people, were killed by coalition forces alone.

The common factor in Iraq has been the view by the insurgency, the coalition and the American public of Iraqi civilians as expendable. In response to a question about civilian casualties, General Tommy Franks simply replied, “We don’t do body counts.”

We should.

Whether for or against the war, we must all agree that the civilian deaths should be included in the moral calculus, with a weight equal to that given American fatalities. We must educate ourselves and others about the tremendous toll the war has had on ordinary Iraqis. Finally, we must put pressure on the government to start taking civilian casualties seriously. Only when an Iraqi person is seen as equal to an American can our country make a sound moral decision about its involvement in Iraq.

Dan HougendoblerjuniorSt. Edward’s HallFeb. 20