More than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers died in the Persian Gulf war, most of them killed during allied air strikes, a senior military official estimates. The exact war toll on the Iraqi side may never be known, but it stands in stark contrast to the 124 American combat deaths.
Iraq has shown no interest in offering an estimate of its dead. The U.S. command insists it never took a count and thus cannot provide a credible estimate.But a senior allied officer in Riyadh estimated that 60,000 to 80,000 Iraqis were killed by the relentless air strikes before the ground war started, most of them buried alive when their bunkers collapsed atop them. An additional 15,000 to 25,000 Iraqi troops likely were killed in the four days of combined air and ground attacks, said the officer, who had access to battlefield damage and intelligence reports.
"A ballpark figure of 100,000 is about as good as we can do for now," he said.
Officially, the U.S. military is not interested in a body count, a practice in Vietnam that drew criticism and doubt about the reliability of the numbers.
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the Desert Storm commander, was adamant in avoiding body counts during the war. In a briefing just after the 100-hour allied ground blitzkrieg ended, Schwarzkopf refused to offer an estimate of Iraqi dead, saying only that it was a "very, very large number."
A Defense Intelligence Agency official said DIA was asked informally by a senior Defense Department official if it was possible to make a reliable estimate of Iraqi dead and responded that only Schwarzkopf's Central Command could make a tally.
"And I'm not sure we'd trust theirs. The guys in the field just weren't counting. They still aren't," the DIA official said. "They just poured them into common graves and covered them."