Civilian war dead must be counted properly in future – Chilcot

© Ahmed Saad
Britain did not properly assess how many civilians were killed during its invasion and occupation of Iraq and must do so in future, the Chilcot report has found.

Sir John Chilcot, whose seven-year investigation was published on Wednesday, estimated at least 150,000 civilians were killed during the war. This estimate is considered extremely low by other sources.

His damning verdict suggested: British government departments spend more time arguing about who should record deaths than actually recording them; that recording stopped or slowed once hostilities started; and that there was little effort to project the casualty numbers the war would cause.

The inquiry considers that a government has a responsibility to make every reasonable effort to identify and understand the likely and actual effects of its military actions on civilians,” Chilcot said.

That will include not only direct civilian casualties, but also the indirect costs on civilians arising from worsening social, economic and health conditions.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair estimated ahead of the war that deaths would be in the “low hundreds,” telling parliament as he made the case for invasion that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would be “responsible for many, many more deaths even in one year than we will be in any conflict.

Chilcot acknowledged the estimate of deaths was conservative. A different report by John Hopkins University, which was contested in some quarters, put the figure at 600,000 civilian dead as a result of the war.

Chillingly, the Chilcot report appears to suggest concerns about waning domestic support for the war contributed to the neglect of casualty counts.

The government’s consideration of the issue of Iraqi civilian casualties was driven by its concern to rebut accusations that coalition forces were responsible for the deaths of large numbers of civilians, and to sustain domestic support for operations in Iraq,” Chilcot found.