Schramm noted here that there have been no hard Iraqi casualty numbers coming out of Fallujah. It has been the general policy of the Coalition not to comment on non-Coalition casualties. This policy has not only applied to Iraqi deaths, but when a non-U.S. non-combatant is killed, for example, the Coaltion generally directs all inquiries to the relevant embassy. While this policy is understandable, it does lead to wildly discrepant figures, as we have witnessed in Fallujah. To address this, the Coalition is attempting to get the Ministry of Health (which has already transitioned to Iraqi control) to compile official numbers. My understanding is that this effort is currently underway in Fallujah.
That said, General Kimmitt did offer his first estimates. He stated that since April 1, Coalition forces have suffered approximately 70 casualties. He estimated that insurgent casualties were probably around 10 times that number. While some of the Arab press sources have received quotes from locals stating that most of the Iraqi dead are women and children, Marine sources have vehemently disputed that assertion. While I’m sure there was some collateral damage, given my knowledge of the engagement, I would be willing to bet that the Marines are correct. They are operating under very strict rules of engagement. They are not permitted to fire unless they have a clear shot, and after the unilateral cease fire, they are not permitted to fire unless fired upon. The entire women and children myth appears to have been spread by anti-Coalition press elements such as Al Jazeera, which have stated that the Coalition is collectively punishing the innocent civilians of Fallujah for the killing of the four contractors.
I will say now what the Coaltion cannot. If you want proof that this is not collective punishment, look to the fact that the city still exists. We have employed very little heavy artillery. We have used very limited airpower. If ours were a military that indulged in collective punishment, I can assure you that the death toll would not be hundreds but tens of thousands. But we do not do such things. We risk the lives of our young men in order to be precise in our attacks: that is, in an attempt to kill or detain only those who mean to do us or the Iraqis harm. We cannot avoid all civilian casualties--this would be impossible. But we keep them to a minimum, and in so doing subscribe to an ethic unknown by our attackers. This is in the best tradition of Augustine just war theory. But this places the military in something of a catch-22. The opposition knows this, and tries to exploit it. They conduct attacks on Coalition forces from mosques and schools in an attempt to create collateral damage and bad press. They do not care if Iraqis die, but they know our military, and the people in American and Europe, do care. And perhaps most difficult for us to understand is the fact that they do not respect our restraint. They respect strength, and it seems that they view limited attacks as weakness. For these barbarians, the brutish hammer that destroys the just and unjust alike is power. Our military understands that lesser powers can accomplish mass destruction--it takes genuine power to be precise.