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The World at One

when I read yesterday that Fallujah is in ruins I thought, "Dear God. We're doing a Grozny to these people."

NC..One of those who signed was General Sir Hugh Beach, formerly deputy commander in Chief of the Land forces

"Under the Geneva Convention the British Government and American Government are responsible for the Iraqi civilians under their care and it is therefore very important to know that they are not being put to unnecessary levels of casualty death and injury looked after properly and I think from my point of view, perhaps because it is impossible to arrive at a judgement on the rights and wrongs either of the war as a whole or particular operations until you know what the cost is. The Prime Minister in his famous speech in Chicago in 1999 when he set out criteria said that military operations must be sensibly and prudently undertaken. Now a very important part of prudence is how high a cost you are incurring. And I am bound to say that when I read yesterday that Fallujah is in ruins I thought, "Dear God. We're doing a Grozny to these people."

If you go back over time, if a Commission I think or an Inquiry of some sort were set up to try to investigate these matters - if the figure that it came up with was very high, if it was somewhere close to the Lancet figures - the effect on the relations between Coalition forces and the Iraqis could be rather serious couldn't it?

Maybe it could but I think that if that is the truth of the matter it ought to be faced. What is to be gained by concealing these things? It makes it looks very "hole in corner", it makes it look as though we are ashamed of something, it makes it look, worst of all, as though the British and American Governments just don't care.

I don't know to what extent one can come up with figures with any great exactitude but I'm sure it ought to be tried. This is all that we are asking for - that there should be a comprehensive, independent peer-reviewed inquiry to do the best that can be done by someone with no axe to grind."

(Mr Hoon says it is "the Iraqi authorities who are in the best position to monitor the Iraqi casualties...We have indicated our concern about the Lancet figures....I do not accept his criticism. The Iraqi Ministry of health has up to date information....")

See the letter from the 46 concerned people in public life who wrote today (Dec 8 2004) to Mr Blair about the setting up of an independent inquiry into casualty deaths.