How will we know what the civilian casualties in Iraq are?

I’m not trying to start a GD, just solicit opinions on reliable ways to find the truth.

It looks more like war every day. At this point, I think avoiding a war in Iraq would require more brains than Saddam Hussein has, and quite possibly more than George W. Bush has. For purposes of this post, let’s assume there will be a war in February.

Two things I can confidently predict. 1) The Defense and State Departments will stoutly maintain that U.S. forces have committed zero atrocities and few or no accidental killings of civilians. 2) Iraqi state media and al-Jazeera will report that U.S. soldiers are throwing babies into bonfires and causign more civilian casualties than the entire population of Iraq contains, and these reports will be duly echoed by the American left wing. I think these predictions will hold true absolutely regardless of what American soldiers actually do, or how many civilians actually die.

Any thoughts in advance of how to figure out the truth from the conflicting accounts we can reasonably expect to receive? Should we even try to guess what is happening during the war, or will it be an impossible task to guess the actual amount of innocent blood spilled until after the fighting stops?

WAG: There will be some info. on the Internet. But will it be reliable?

Give al-Jazeera more credit than that. It’s a far more legitimate news organization than some would lead you to believe. American media tends to emphasize the fact that they broadcast Usama bin Ladin tapes, while ignoring that al-Jazeera is the only Arab media organization to regularly interview Israeli representatives.

As for civilian casualties, who knows? Saddam has that nasty habit of posting military installations in residential areas so he could blame America for killing Iraqi citizens. But generally we’ve been very good about bombing non-civilian areas; mistakes will be made, but I would say it is more dangerous to be a British or Canadian soldier in Iraq than an Iraqi civilian.

We don’t know how many civilians dies in Gulf War I, mostly because the Govt did not allow honest press coverage of the war.

There is no reason to expect anything different this time around, and it’s a safe assumption that any info released by the Defense Department is for propaganda purposes.

Well, oughtn’t it to be possible to use the figures we are given to at least put brackets around the numbers? That is, the actual civilian deaths and injuries are unlikely to be any less than the U.S. government claims, nor are they likely to be any greater than Iraqi state media claims, right? That should at least give us a ballpark idea of the truth.

What about NGOs? Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, or Amnesty International are names that come to my mind. The Project for Defense Alternatives came up with what looked to me like a decent estimate of civilian casualties in Afghanistan largely by combing the accounts of European journalists affiliated with neither the U.S. nor Afghanistan. Will some of these NGOs have agents on the ground, and which, if any, of them can be trusted to neither inflate nor reduce the actual carnage?

My guess is, they’ll be dead.

Or injured or missing in action.

They’re the best source for sensible people, but by the time Bill O’Reilly and his ilk are done, they’ll be tarred a collaborators. (a la Peter Arnett in '91. I will never forget the surreal experience of watching Bush buddy Sen. Alan :wally Simpson, a man caught on videotape telling Saddam Hussein [after he had murdered Kurds with poison gas] that he was okay, and the American media were just a pain in the ass, questioning Arnett’s motivation. There’s a difference between “gall” and “insanity.” Don King is way past gall. That’s where Simpson resides.)