Four years later, Iraqi suffering deepens

Today marks four years since the U.S. began bombing Iraq in this latest war. While there's been a great deal of discussion in the U.S. media about the considerable toll the war has taken on American and other coalition soldiers, let us take time today to contemplate the death and suffering the violence has caused for Iraqi civilians:

* An estimated 59,000 to 65,000 civilians -- Iraqi men, women and children -- have been reported killed by the U.S. military intervention and occupation, according to Iraq Body Count.

* Other estimates of the war's toll on Iraqi civilians have been even higher. A study by researchers with Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2006 estimated that there have been 655,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq since March 2003.

* The U.N. High Commission on Refugees estimates that as many as 2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee to other countries -- about 16 percent of the total Iraqi population. To put that in perspective, 16 percent of the population of the United States would be more than 48 million people.

* UNHCR estimates that there are as many as 1.7 million internally displaced people in Iraq -- civilians who've been forced from their homes as a result of violence or threats, and who are unable or unwilling to leave the country. UNHCR predicts that this number may rise above 2.3 million by the end of this year.

* Mental health professionals in Iraq say they are seeing a disturbing spike in mental health disorders, and the problem is compounded by the country's lack of facilities and services, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

* Iraqi women are suffering an explosion in gender-based violence since the war began. According to a study released earlier this month by the human rights group MADRE, "Under US occupation, Iraqi women have endured a wave of gender-based violence, including widespread abductions, public beatings, death threats, sexual assaults, 'honor killings,' domestic abuse, torture in detention, beheadings, shootings, and public hangings. Much of this violence is systematic -- directed by the Islamist militias that mushroomed across Iraq after the US toppled the mostly secular Ba'ath regime."

* The use of depleted uranium weapons by the United States is taking a toll on Iraqis' long-term health. In the wake of the first Gulf War, where DU munitions were also used, cases of lymphoblastic leukemia in Iraq more than quadrupled, according to a study that appeared in The Lancet in February 1998. Other radiation-related cancers also increased at an alarming rate, along with birth defects and diseases of the immune system.

For information on what you can do to promote peace in Iraq, visit the Web site of United for Peace and Justice.