At least 3,240 civilians died in Iraq during the month of war, including 1,896 in Baghdad alone, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. The count is based on records from 60 of Iraq’s 124 hospitals from March 20 to April 20. However, many of the dead were not taken to hospitals, but were buried by their families or lost beneath the rubble of bombed buildings.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Cassella says the U.S. military didn’t try to count civilian casualties. He says, “Our efforts focus on destroying the enemy’s capabilities, so we never target civilians and have no reason to try to count such unintended deaths.” In the 1991 Gulf War, around 2,278 civilians were killed, according to Iraqi civil defense, during seven weeks of bombing and 100 hours of ground war.

While most of the deaths were caused by U.S. and British troops, some were caused by exploding Iraqi ammunition stored in residential neighborhoods, by Iraqi anti-aircraft rounds aimed at U.S. warplanes, or by Iraqi fire missing American troops and hitting civilians instead. The U.S. says our sophisticated weaponry minimized the death toll.

“Did the Americans bomb civilians? Yes. But one should be realistic,” says Dr. Hameed Hussein al-Aaraji, the director of Baghdad’s al-Kindi Hospital. “Saddam ran a dirty war. He put weapons inside schools, inside mosques. What could they do?”

“If they didn’t want to kill civilians, why did they fire into civilian areas?” says Ayad Jassim Ibrahim, whose brother Alaa was killed by shrapnel from a U.S. missile that hit his living room.

Dr. Al-Aaraji says, “It was a war. This is the price of liberty.”

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