General Michael Sullivan says: I have real trouble understanding these extremely high numbers that Phyllis Gardner says scientists have come up with in the study conducted by Johns Hopkins, Columbia and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. My reasons are as follows:
1. After the three weeks of main combat in March - April, 2003, 20 days and nights, when US and Britain flew over a 1,000 sorties per day/night with the majority being air to ground strike sorties hitting Iraqi targets with precision munitions, the statistic I saw posted on a AP news story was that slightly over 6,000 civilians had been killed under all conditions during the fighting.
2. That would imply 94,000 plus civilians had been killed since major combat operations ceased and in the 18 months from the end of April, 2003 to the present.
3. The study says most were killed by US airstrikes. I find that unreasonable, as the majority of US strike aircraft returned to the US in May, 2003. In the case of the Marines, we had over 100 strike fighters in the theater during Iraqi Freedom I, land based or sea based, not including 24 more Hornets on Navy aircraft carriers. Since May, 2003 the Marine have had no strike aircraft in the theater till April of this yea,r when we sent back 20 Harriers and 10 Hornets due to the hostilities developing in Fallujah and Ramadi. There is only one carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the USAF has only a few strike aircraft squadrons in the area to fly strike missions. There is no requirement for a large compliment of strike aircraft.
4. There is no way this many civilians could have been killed by US airstrikes with this few aircraft over 18 months and so few sorties flown up until recently. The Marines sent 24 attack helo back in Jan. 2004, but they don't have the firepower or cause the collateral damage that fixed wing strike aircraft inflict.
5. I attended a briefing last Friday given by the Marine General who commanded the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing which controlled all Marine aviation units in Iraqi Freedom I and II. (Jan, 2003 to Aug, 2004) He described a much different picture than the study saying that it was difficult to find targets for the newly arrived jets in April, 2004 because so much of the fighting was in the cities against the insurgents who were using civilian homes to hide in. They would attack and then disappear into the civilian populace and the strike aircraft would not be allowed to hit those targets sheltering the insurgents due to the known presence of civilians. Also they had to get permission from their Iraqi counterparts.
6. The General stated they have several pictures taken by Marine combat photographers showing insurgents hiding behind women and children and resting their rifles on their shoulders shooting at Marines knowing full well the Marines would not return their fire for fear of hitting the civilians.
7. I'm not denying there has been loss of life but not in those numbers and not primarilly by US airstrike. The insurgents are responsible for killing as many or more civilians than the US forces with their indescriminate IED attacks, mortar attacks, artillery shellings, suicide attacks and street fighting in heavily congested city blocks.
The study's numbers of civilian deaths due to primarily US airstrikes appear to be wildly inflated...
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