An Argument for Documenting Casualties

Violence Against Iraqi Civilians 2006

by Katharine Hall, Dale Stahl


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Protecting the civilian population is one of the central tenets of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. Until very recently, however, the U.S. military has not had a formal system for documenting the level of violence directed against Iraqi civilians. Therefore, other groups (such as nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, and Iraqi ministries) have filled the vacuum in reporting, relying on media accounts, surveys, death certificates, and other open-source information to generate datasets of varying transparency and quality. The resulting statistics have generated widespread debate over sources, methods, and political biases. This study examines available open-source data on Iraqi civilian fatalities and assesses problems associated with previous collection and analysis efforts. The authors present a more robust RAND Corporation Iraqi civilian violence dataset from which they derive new observations about trends in targeting and weapons in 2006. RAND's dataset reveals that the majority of attacks in the year 2006 against civilians were directed against individuals without any identifiable affiliation, and that most attacks were carried out using firearms (rather than via improvised explosive devices or suicide attacks). These findings lead to a proposed framework for future civilian fatality data-collection efforts in Iraq and beyond.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Counting Iraqi Civilian Deaths

  • Chapter Three

    Detailed Analysis of RAND's Civilian Violence Dataset

  • Chapter Four

    Recent Developments: COIN and the U.S. Military's Data Collection Effort

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations: A Better Collection Framework

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, thedefense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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