Civilian Casualties


If fewer civilians in Iraq really are dying that's great news, but I don't understand why we're supposed to take the Defense Department's word for it when the Pentagon "refuses to count civilian casualties, argues that civilian casualty counts are irrelevant to an evaluation of war aims, and either ignores or disputes the most sophisticated methodology for counting civilian casualties."

And I don't really mean this as a cheap "gotcha" -- it's a real problem. The US military seems to have weirdly conflicted views on this subject. They recognize that, on some level, reducing civilian casualties is important. On another level, they seem to think that reducing media coverage of civilian casualties is even more important. The latter goal leads them to reject efforts to quantify civilian mortality. But if you don't quantify civilian mortality, you can't effectively reduce. At the same time, however, they want to be seen as minimizing civilian casualties so they genuinely do expend a considerable amount of effort trying to do so. But because they're not measuring anything, nobody knows how well any of these tactics work.

DoD photo by Sgt. Tierney Nowland, U.S. Army