Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Blair Rules Out Iraq Civilian Death Toll Probe

British Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected a call Wednesday for an independent inquiry into the civilian death toll in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The call came in an open letter to the premier made available to Reuters and signed by over 40 diplomats, peers, scientists and churchmen.

Any totaling of the Iraqi civilian war dead could embarrass Blair ahead of a general election expected next May in a country that mostly opposed the U.S.-led war.

Britain and the United States have suffered around 1,070 military losses in the war since it began in March 2003 but the countrywide casualty count is not known.

Blair, however, said he saw no need for an inquiry.

"Figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health, which are a survey from the hospitals there, are in our view the most accurate survey there is," he told parliament.
The signatories urged Blair to commission an urgent probe and keep counting so long as British soldiers were in Iraq.

"Your government is obliged under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population during military operations in Iraq, and you have consistently promised to do so," they wrote in the letter.

"However, without counting the dead and injured, no one can know whether Britain and its coalition partners are meeting these obligations."

Signatories included Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden, who spent 32 years in the military; Sir Stephen Egerton, a former British ambassador to Iraq; human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger and the Bishop of Oxford Richard Harris.

In a report released in October by the Lancet medical journal, days before the U.S. election that returned President Bush (news - web sites) to power, a group of American scientists put civilian deaths at 100,000.

PM Blair (with hands clenched tightly over his ears): "LA LA LA ... I can't HEAR you..."


Blogger PSoTD said...

He's a Prime Minister, not an accountant!

6:38 AM  

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