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IRAQI DEATHS October 30, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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I have been wondering for some time how many Iraqis have been killed as a result of the invasion and colonial war of occupation. Juan Cole, refering to the British medical journal, The Lancet, quoted by the SMH, has come up with the figure of 100,000. That is, about 100 times more than the number of American soldiers who have lost their lives.

Just to head off at the pass, those who would wish to sanitize murder, I am sure that these figures in the nature of the circumstances are estimates. These estimates are made on the basis of explicit assumptions, which equally are subject to uncertainty, and may need to be revised. However, I rely on Professor Cole’s observation that the methodology used is rigorous, but should be qualifed. His opinion is that:

The methodology of this study is very tight, but it does involve extrapolating from a small number and so could easily be substantially incorrect. But the methodology also is standard in such situations and was used in Bosnia and Kosovo.

I think the results are probably an exaggeration. But they can’t be so radically far off that the 16,000 deaths previously estimated can still be viewed as valid. I’d say we have to now revise the number up to at least many tens of thousand–which anyway makes sense. The 16,000 estimate comes from counting all deaths reported in the Western press, which everyone always knew was only a fraction of the true total. (I see deaths reported in al-Zaman every day that don’t show up in the Western wire services).

Juan Cole takes the position:

The most important finding from my point of view is not the magnitude of civilian deaths, but the method of them. Roberts and Burnham find that US aerial bombardments are killing far more Iraqi civilians than had previously been suspected. This finding is also not a surprise to me. I can remember how, on a single day (August 12), US warplanes bombed the southern Shiite city of Kut, killing 84 persons, mainly civilians, in an attempt to get at Mahdi Army militiamen. These deaths were not widely reported in the US press, especially television. Kut is a small place and has been relatively quiet except when the US has been attacking Muqtada al-Sadr, who is popular among some segments of the population there. The toll in Sadr City or the Shiite slums of East Baghdad, or Najaf, or in al-Anbar province, must be enormous.

I personally believe that these aerial bombardments of civilian city quarters by a military occupier that has already conquered the country are a gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, governing the treatment of populations of occupied territories.

And aside from that, the murder and maiming of so many people, and I include the American and other soldiers in this total number, is not a cheap debating point. But it raises th question: What has it all been for? The so-called “war on terror’, analogous to the Churchill’s stand in the Second World War, must be in substance and expression based on moral principles common to all humanity, otherwise we all lose, and it cannot be a covert attempt to control resources and gain strategic positions cloaked by cheap, mumbling, rhetoric, or clever sound bites, and the absence of rigorous thinking.

The prestige and regard for America in the world has been damaged and diminished by stupidity and arrogance. The light has gone out. America no longer stands for, or holds the torch for, civlized values. These values are not practiced in Iraq nor in Quantanamo Bay. In failing to live up to these standards, it is its leaders who are the most profoundly anti-Americans for the first modern country, a child of the enlightenment, conceived in liberty and the rule of law.

Postscript:
The Lancet references are here and here, but require regristration.

UPDATE: 30/10/2004

I have just noticed the photo of the American coffins at Barista. As human beings we can identify with the pain and loss of the Americans, as we must with the Iraqis, whose numbers are shrouded in the mist of statistical speculation, but no less real for each individual and their families.

Just to repeat myself, the question here is: How far has all of thisunnecessary killing promoted the cause of a decent world?

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