Tallying Up the Casualties in the Face of Indifference

Since late October, Marc Herold has been spending
close to 12 hours a day methodically monitoring a
number of Internet websites, tracking reports of
civilian casualties caused by the U.S. bombing of
Afghanistan. Herold’s study is remarkable as an
undertaking by one dedicated individual. That none
of America’s huge media organizations have bothered to take on this work is disgraceful.


Since late October, Marc Herold has been spending
close to 12 hours a day methodically monitoring a
number of Internet websites, tracking reports of
civilian casualties caused by the U.S. bombing of

Herold, a professor of economics and women’s
studies at the University of New Hampshire, told
WorkingForChange that he was disturbed by the U.S.
media’s lack of interest in and its quick
dismissal of reports of large number of civilian

If the U.S. government refuses to count them, the
mainstream media won’t investigate or report on
them, and if Americans aren’t told or just don’t
care, does it mean that the thousands of civilian
casualties caused by the bombing of Afghanistan
haven’t happened?

Herold’s study (
), which systematically tracks
civilian deaths in Afghanistan caused by U.S.
bombing raids, is remarkable as an undertaking by
one dedicated individual. That none of America’s
huge media organizations have bothered to take on
this work is disgraceful.

Unveiled in early December, and updated regularly
since then, Herold’s study has been well-received
by alternative media organizations, groups
concerned about Bush’s war on terrorism, a number
of mainstream international media outlets in
Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and by
thousands of Internet users around the world. The
media of denial — the U.S. media — largely
ignored the study at first.

Now that the report is garnering some attention,
it has been criticized or labeled “controversial” in mainstream media

No news is good news

The U.S. government has avoided the question of
civilian casualties. It’s a messy subject — a
diversion and a waste of time and energy.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prefers to
put a positive spin on the U.S.’s conduct in the
war: “There probably has never in the history
of the world been a conflict that has been done as
carefully, and with such measure, and care, and
with such minimal collateral damage to buildings
and infrastructure, and with such small numbers of
unintended civilian casualties.”

Two questions are worth asking: Is the study an
accurate accounting of civilian casualties? Does
anyone in the U.S. care?

Tracking the data

Herold’s “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of
United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A
Comprehensive Accounting,” is a meticulous
compilation of reports from dozens of sources.

In his conclusion to the study he speaks directly to
the accuracy question: “Naturally, some might
seek to dismiss parts or all of the report by
attacking the sources employed.

“But, to do so would mean having to accuse news agencies from many countries, reporters from many countries, and newspapers from many countries of lying. We have sought to cite whenever possible multiple sources. The specific, detailed stories provided by victims, on-lookers, and refugees lend credibility.”

Among the sources Herold scours regularly are
British, Canadian, Australian and Indian
newspapers, including The Times of India; three
Pakistani dailies; the Singapore News; Afghan
Islamic Press; Agence France Press; Pakistan News
Service; Reuters; BBC News Online; Al Jazeera; and
a variety of other sources, including the United
Nations and other relief agencies.

Herold reported that 3,767 civilians were killed
from October 7 to December 6; the updated numbers
now stand at 4,000 to 4,100 deaths. (For the full
report, see
An Average Day: 65 Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S. Bombs on December 20th –
— and for a complete accounting of civilian
casualties, see
Appendix 4: Daily Casualty Count of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombing Attacks, October 7 Until Present Day – http://www.cursor.org/stories/casualty_count.htm

“I think this [the numbers] really flies in
the face of the message directed to the American
public, which was that we had these
precision-guided munitions and there would be some
collateral damage, but we shouldn’t worry too much
about it because we have these precision-guided
weapons,” Herold has said.

Herold told WorkingForChange that if anything, he errs on the side of being conservative about his estimates of the number killed.

Negligent and derelict

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Dr.
Herold’s report received extensive coverage in the
European media but almost no mention in the
American press, which has struggled with defining
a role in this conflict that is patriotic but
still objective.”

And those pundits who do comment are often caught
up in “war is hell” clichés. Michael
Barone, longtime conservative commentator,
columnist and Fox News pundit expressed this most
clearly: “Civilian casualties are not news.
The fact is that they accompany wars.”

What will it take for the American people to care
about the number of Afghan civilian casualties?

“If at some point the International Red Cross
or the United Nations starts raising a fuss over
the numbers of dead civilians, then things might
change,” Herold said. “A half-a-dozen
more incidents might cause the administration

Herold says he will continue collecting and
disseminating the data until the bombing of
civilians ends:

“I will keep adding to the site on a regular basis, and I hope that it does become a major story.

“There are such gross cases of the violation of the rules of war — little villages are getting destroyed, wiped off the face of the earth. The U.S. is bombing places over and over again that might at one time have had al Qaeda camps, but are now completely destroyed.”

And as the war on terrorism shifts to other countries, you can count on there being more civilian casualties.

[ also see related items:

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U.S. is Dropping World’s Biggest Non-Nuclear bomb in Afghanistan – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1553

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Channel 4 News Special Reports: Oil Rush – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1537

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Bush’s [May 2001] Faustian Deal With the Taliban – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1491

Remembering the Last U.S. Retaliation Against Terror – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1482 ]

Author: Bill Berkowitz

News Service: WorkingForChange

URL: http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemId=12694