Thursday, August 18, 2005
Secrets of the Morgue
Robert Fisk has written on his experiences at the Baghdad morgue. He writes:
While Saddam's regime visited death by official execution upon its opponents, the scale of anarchy now existing in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and other cities is unprecedented. "The July figures are the largest ever recorded in the history of the Baghdad Medical Institute," a senior member of the management told The Independent.
It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city - yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details. The writing of the new constitution - or the failure to complete it - now occupies the time of Western diplomats and journalists. The dead, it seems, do not count.
But they should. Most are between 15 and 44 - the youth of Iraq - and, if extrapolated across the country, Baghdad's 1,100 dead of last month must bring Iraq's minimum monthly casualty toll in July alone to 3,000 - perhaps 4,000. Over a year, this must reach a minimum of 36,000, a figure which puts the supposedly controversial statistic of 100,000 dead since the invasion into a much more realistic perspective.
There is no way of distinguishing the reasons for these thousands of violent deaths. Some men and women were shot at US checkpoints, others murdered, no doubt, by insurgents or thieves. A few listed as killed by "blunt instruments" might have been the dead of traffic accidents. Some of the women were probably the victims of "honour" killings - because male relatives suspected them of having illicit relations with the wrong man. Still others may have been murdered as collaborators. Doctors have been told that bodies brought to the mortuary by US forces should not be given post-mortem examinations (on the odd ground that the Americans will have already performed this function).