Dahr Jamail from IPS News reports that Iraqi gravediggers are at “100% full employment.” They are so busy, in fact, that they have had little time to keep accurate records of the dead.

“Most of the dead were never logged by anyone,” Ali said, “because we didn’t check death certificates, we just tried to get the bodies into the ground as quickly as possible.”

An Iraqi Army checkpoint was set up outside the vast cemetery a year ago.

“We opened this checkpoint because people were burying the dead and no information was being given to anyone,” a soldier, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told IPS.

“Most of this (lack of reporting the dead), we found, happened during 2006,” the soldier added. “Anyone could be buried here, and nobody would know about it.”

Not far, in the Al-Adhamiya area of Baghdad, what used to be a park is now a cemetery with more than 5,000 graves. According to the manager, most of the dead are never counted.

Jamail goes on to explain how this lends greater credibility to the Lancet study so widely pooh-poohed by the BushAdmin and the corporate media, as opposed to Iraq Body Count, which lies solely on published records. Or as IBC puts it:

IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violent events leading to the death of civilians, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures.

No mean feat, that. But it’s important to consider that record-keeping has been a disaster in Iraq since the invasion (keeping in mind that prior record-keeping was in the hands of the Hussein Regime, hardly a pillar of transparency or credibility); that the Pentagon has simply refused to count the Iraqi dead, soldier or civilian; and that the Lancet study sought to compensate by doing research even more painstaking than the IBC’s.

In other words, counting the dead in Iraq will be an ongoing argument for historians, for Iraqis, and for any American or Westerner who cares. But it is the only way we the living can give them voice.

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