The Significance of the Iraqi Death Toll

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

I am showing prominently a copy of the Just Foreign Policy estimate of the the number of extra Iraq’s that have died since 2003 (relative to the pre-2003 mortality rates), based on the John Hopkins study published in The Lancet. [N.B. Though it says ‘U.S. invasion’, it should say Anglo-U.S invasion. Although militarily speaking we Brits played a minor roll, we played an essential political roll, have never apologised or expressed any regret for our actions, and must take full joint responsibility for what has happened.] The researchers estimated that 31% of the mortality was directly due to Coalition Forces, and Chris Hedges’ report in the Nation last year gives some insight into this. These figures aren’t accepted by everyone but they can’t be dismissed too lightly either–see the Media Lens’s excellent explanation of why their dismissal is wishful thinking and the researcher’s recent defence of the study.

Needless to say estimating mortality rates in war zones is not an exact science and these estimates may be high (or low) but these are the best estimates we have and they are based on the same methods routinely used to estimate mortality rates in war zones around the world. An ORB survey in 2007 estimated 1.2 million people had died as a result of the 2003 invasion.

Why are we so fixated on what leads some militant Muslims to resort to terror rather than worry about why we are doing this kind of thing (see for example this recent Observer article) whose sensible and expert author was recently advocating many more years of NATO liberating Afghans from their worldly cares (but Seumas Milne, among many, expresses a growing concern that this is probably futile). What threat are these small number of militants to the West–how have they impacted our mortality rate? Iraq was supposed to be the start of a Neoconservative rampage through Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, returning to Iran in five years (no wonder Donald Rumsfeld’s testy relationship with his chief of staff, with his stubborn request for several hundred thousand troops for Operation Iraqi Liberation). What leads us to do and to tolerate this kind of thing? This is why the Iraq death toll is shown prominently.

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