Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2006/10/11

The Reign of Cynicism

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have this staggering story on Iraqi civilian deaths:
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country. (
Washington Post)

The figures, of course, are being challenged (here, for example, and here), viewed through the lens of ideology. A small tempest is in the making. What strikes me as surreal about this particular dust-up is whether you're talking about 50 000 or 655 000 casualties, the figure is still monstrous and appalling. Remember we're talking about human beings here, innocent or hard core jihadis, mothers, fathers, brothers sisters, aunt, uncles, grandparents, all of whom were loved and treasured.

I'm not being mawkish. I merely point out two things: first, these dead were as fully human as your own children, and second, having your mother numbered among the dead by insurgents, or as "collateral damage" by U.S. forces, or simply as the victim of petty crime because the chaos is uncontrollable will generate anger and hatred.

Is it any wonder the United States is facing a full-blown insurgency?

Stalin once proposed that one death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic. Strange and ironic some in the West adopt a similarly callous and cynical attitude towards the Iraqi dead. I guess Arabs don't count in the scheme of things. Or don't fit into the "culture of life" so valued by conservatives. Or something.

How many civilian casualties is acceptable? Is it worth 50 000 or 655 000 lives to bring democracy to the Middle East? Are 500 deaths a day a reasonable price for Iraqis to expiate the sin of 9/11? Or to fulfil the hubris of the Bush Administration?

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