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A State of Ignorance: The UK government’s efforts to assess civilians’ deaths in the Iraq war

A State of Ignorance critically examines attempts by the UK to assess the number of civilian deaths resulting from the 2003 Iraq war and the violence that followed. Using documents released under the UK Freedom of Information (FoI) Act over several years, it outlines the internal deliberations within government and Whitehall about Iraqi deaths. It concludes that the effort was fundamentally inadequate.

The report argues that the UK government actively sought to maintain a position of ignorance regarding measurements of death, injury and deprivation resulting from violence in Iraq. This preference for ignorance stood in the face of appeals by senior former diplomats, military commanders, public health professionals and others who argued in a public letter that “without counting the dead and injured, no one can know whether Britain and its Coalition partners are meeting [their legal] obligations.”

To read the full report and recommendations, please download: A State of Ignorance, July 2010