avatar
Iraq, Civilian Fatalities, and American Power II


To repeat a couple of questions first asked in these ZNet Blogs back on September 13: Within American-occupied Iraqi territory:

1) How many American deaths are too many?
2) How many Iraqi deaths are too many?


I bother with these questions, first, because in my honest opinion, even to ask them is to play God.—What? Do you mean to suggest that there really is an appropriate number for both categories—if only we could figure it out? I always wonder, therefore, what kind of moral monster it takes to mouth questions such as these. But let’s move on.

A second reason that I bother asking these questions is that, to date, the closest the current American presidential campaign has come to posing either of them is Question 1—and this only from within the ranks of the more vocal “critics” (so called) of the American war over Iraq. Never the Republican or Democratic candidates themselves. Or the phalanx of fundraisers, advisers, spokespersons, consultants, pollsters, and allies that form the broader face of the two candidates before the media and the public.

(I should add that, like the Republican and Democratic campaign strategists and the mainstream American news media which follow suit, I am excluding the American public, a majority of which no doubt would want Questions 1 and 2 asked—and answered—no beating around the bush, either—but whose interests and beliefs about such issues are strictly Verboten within the reigning political culture, as some of the major recent opinion surveys have shown. (Two in particular come to mind: Global Views 2004 (Sept. 28), and The Hall of Mirrors (Oct. 1), both jointly by the CCFR and PIPA.))

Last, I bother with these questions, right here, right now, because some time within the next 24 hours or so, the British medical journal The Lancet will post to its website (unless it already has, and I simply missed it) the findings of a just-completed survey that compares mortality rates within Iraqi national territory (i.e., “excess” or “extra” deaths, as the study’s authors put it) across two distinct periods of time:

(A) the 14.6 months prior to the American invasion; and
(B) the 17.8 months between the date the Americans launched their invasion and the survey was completed (i.e., the period after the Americans started the war on March 19, 2003).

Sincerest apologies for not yet being able to quote the actual findings from the forthcoming Lancet report. But a wire service report already in circulation tells us that (“100,000 civilians have died in Iraq War and aftermath: Lancet,” Agence France Presse):

“Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” the authors said.

“Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”

Moreover, according to a report by Associated Press’s medical writer, Emma Ross, “Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children,” the researchers behind the report state. (“Household Survey Sees 100,000 Iraqi Deaths,” Oct. 28.)

Ross also reports that the lead researcher, Les Roberts of the Center for International Emergency, Disaster, and Refugee Studies at Johns Hopkins University, states quite frankly that the timing of the article, its release via The Lancet‘s website just before the American presidential election, was deliberate.

“My motive in doing that was not to skew the election,” Roberts told Ross. “My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq. I was opposed to the war and I still think that the war was a bad idea, but I think that our science has transcended our perspectives. As an American, I am really, really sorry to be reporting this.”

Magnificent of Roberts and his colleagues. And pretty rare in these parts, I must say.

Reuters quotes another Johns Hopkins researcher (in fact, the head of the Center), Gilbert Burnham, who explained to Reuters that “U.S. military action in Iraq was ‘very bad for Iraqi civilians’.”

Burnham continued (“Study: 100,000 Excess Civilian Iraqi Deaths Since War,” Oct. 28):

We were not expecting the level of deaths from violence that we found in this study and we hope this will lead to some serious discussions of how military and political aims can be achieved in a way that is not so detrimental to civilians populations.

Reuters adds that in an accompanying editorial, The Lancet itself raises a fundamental question “for those far removed from Iraq—in the governments of the countries responsible for launching a pre-emptive war.”

Here, the modifier ‘pre-emptive‘ simply means an aggressive, criminal war. In closing, then, I’d like to repeat two additional questions first raised in these Blogs back on September 13.

Given the absolutely damning scale of the findings these researchers have produced (indeed, even if the researchers overestimated the total by 100 percent, the number of Iraqis killed still would be 50,000—off the charts of anything anybody else has been reporting, and enough to put the serving American President and his most-senior staff behind bars for life, given the basis of these deaths in a criminal war against the peace and in clear violation of the UN Charter), two final questions come to mind:

3) How many American deaths will the Americans continue to tolerate?
4) But more important, how many Iraqi deaths will the Americans continue to tolerate?

Postscript. Copies of “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey” (Les Roberts et al., The Lancet) did not become available online until roughly midnight or shortly thereafter, October 29. (I happen to live in the Chicago area, incidentally.)

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” Les Roberts et al., The Lancet, posted online October 29, 2004.
The war in Iraq: civilian casualties, political responsibilities” (Editorial), Richard Horton, The Lancet, posted online October 29, 2004
Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion,” Press Release, Center for International Emergency, Disaster, and Refugee Studies (accessed Oct. 28, 2004)

Charity: Iraq War Killed 21,000-55,000 Iraqis,” Jim Lobe, www.Antiwar.com, November 13, 2003
Iraq Group Claims Over 37,000 Civilian Toll,” Ahmed Janabi, Al Jazeera, July 31, 2004 (Numbers purported to cover March 2003 through October 2003)

100,000 civilians have died in Iraq War and aftermath: Lancet,” Agence France Presse (Daily Times, October 29, 2004)
Household Survey Sees 100,000 Iraqi Deaths,” Emma Ross, Associated Press, October 28, 2004
Iraqi deaths count to 100,000—survey,” China Daily, October 29, 2004
War has cost 100,000 Iraqi lives: Lancet study,” New Zealand Herald, October 29, 2004
Study: 100,000 Excess Civilian Iraqi Deaths Since War,” Patricia Reaney, Reuters, October 28, 2004
Death toll of Iraqi civilians tops 100,000, study says,” Jenny Booth, The Times Online, October 28, 2004

Iraq Coalition Casualties
Iraq Body Count Project
Iraq Occupation Watch

Iraq, Civilian Fatalities, and American Power I, ZNet Blogs, August 15, 2004
How Many Deaths Are Too Many? ZNet Blogs, September 13, 2004

Postscript (January 9, 2006): For one subject that the Great Emancipators back in the States and the U.K. don’t like to touch—and, therefore, we ought to:

How Many Iraqis Have Died Since the US Invasion in 2003?” Andrew Cockburn, CounterPunch, January 9, 2006
A Formula for Slaughter: The American Rules of Engagement from the Air,” Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch.com, January 10, 2006

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” Les Roberts et al., The Lancet, posted online October 29, 2004. (This copy of the document is made available by the U.K.-based Count the Casualties organization.)
Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion,” Press Release, Center for International Emergency, Disaster, and Refugee Studies, October 28, 2004
100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?” Stephen Soldz, ZNet, November 3, 2004

Leave a comment