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Pentagon Says It Won’t Tally Civilian Casualties of Iraq War

By Bradley Graham and Dan Morgan

The Pentagon said Monday that it has no plans to determine how many Iraqi civilians may have been killed or injured or suffered property damage as a result of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

The statement followed passage Saturday of a congressional measure calling on the Bush administration to identify and provide “appropriate assistance” to Iraqi civilians for war losses.

The congressional action stopped short of requiring military forces to conduct a formal assessment of all individuals who may have suffered from the war, as some human rights activists have sought. But it made clear that Congress supports compensating innocent Iraqis to buttress U.S. claims that the war wasn’t directed against the Iraqi people and that U.S. forces tried to avoid civilian deaths and destruction of civilian property.

The measure was contained in the final version of the $78.5 billion emergency spending bill to cover war-related expenses. The money for compensating civilians is to come out of a $2.5 billion relief and reconstruction fund that also is intended to pay for food, water, health care, transportation and other needs.

In language from a Senate-House conference agreement, lawmakers explained their intention that the State Department and the Agency for International Development, coordinating with the Pentagon and non-governmental organizations, “seek to identify families of noncombatant Iraqis who were killed or injured or whose homes were damaged during recent military operations, and to provide appropriate assistance.”

The provision was inserted in the bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in the final day of negotiations, according to congressional sources. Similar language was included in a 2002 supplemental spending bill covering Afghan war costs and again in the 2003 omnibus appropriations law passed earlier this year.