The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Back to Iraq

I haven’t posted about Iraq anywhere near as much as I used to, mainly because as the occupation drags on there it seems almost as pointless as blogging about torture in terms of the difference it makes to do so. Nothing that was ever said against the war in Iraq, before or after it started, seemed to make much of a dent anyway. So why waste breath and bandwidth?

But now, the body counts are high enough that more people are starting to wake up to what many of us knew — and said rather loudly — even during the build-up to Iraq. Three years in, a lot more people seem to get it. Yet I find myself conflicted as to how to respond to this change of heart, and whether it comes soon enough to make much of a difference now.

took a pretty huge body count to do what all the words in the world seemed unable to prevent. Something like 650,000 dead Iraqis, actually.

About 655,000 Iraqis have died from the Iraq war, exceeding previous estimates, researchers said on Wednesday, but President George W. Bush called the findings not credible and a top U.S. commander put the toll at 50,000.

U.S. and Iraqi researchers used household interviews rather than body counts to gauge how many more Iraqis have died due to the 3 1/2-year-old war than died annually before it.

Deaths are occurring at more than three times the rate seen before the March 2003 invasion, said researcher Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. The study published in the medical journal The Lancet estimated prewar deaths at 143,000 a year.

Researchers estimated that as a result of the war, about 655,000 people in a country of about 27 million have died above the number expected to have died without war, Burnham said. That means 2.5 percent of the Iraqi population has died because of the invasion and ensuing strife, he said.

And then there’s the news via The Blue State that the war claims something like 500 Iraqis per day. The Blue State also links to the 2004 Lancet study that put the number of Iraqi dead at 100,00, as Todd points out, prior to the spike in violence during 2005 and 2006. (During that time I’ve seen the regular reports of more Iraqis found dead, but at some point I stopped blogging about them for the reasons mentioned above.)

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the Bush administration gives the study “mixed reviews”, because this is the administration that doesn’t do body counts. Or at least doesn’t do them for bodies that dont’ count in the first place. Gen. Casey says the report is “way beyond any number that I have seen,” and claims the count he’s seen is closer to 50,000. Kind of odd coming from an administration that, as a matter of policy, doesn’t do body counts.

The response to the study actually brings up an intersting question. What’s the threshold of acceptable Iraqi deaths? The study gives a range of 392,979 and 942,636, and settles on an estimate somewhere in the middle of that. But even the lower number of that range is still several times bigger than Casey’s estimate. And if the claims that Saddam killed a million Iraqis during his 1979-2003 reigh, then the higher end means that the U.S. war and occupation has killed nearly as many Iraqis as Saddam did and in less time.

That there could be an acceptable number of Iraqi deaths, justifiable or excusabl even, is only slightly more frustrating than the news, coming on the heels of the latest butcher’s bill from Iraq, that a significan number of Americans are changing their minds about the war in Iraq. According to Newsweek, nearly 60% of Americas now believe that Bush misled Americans in making the case for invading Iraq.

So now, as Blue Girl, Red State points out, the scales are falling from the eyes of former war supporters. And Michael over at Gay Orbit is an example of just that.

Iraq is not liberated. People there are more frightened than they ever were before. Just because you can vote in elections doesn’t mean you are free. When you have to worry about the real probability (Note, I didn’t say possibility) of dying while standing in line to vote, you are not free. People are dying by the thousands. All for nothing. I have just read The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rich. I checked almost every fact presented in the book, and I could find no discrepancies. It was all a bill of goods. I’m about to start Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. I expect, sadly, that I will find the same thing.

I am so disappointed in myself. There is no one who can come to me now and present a credible reason that this administration has given for continuing in Iraq. They are making things worse. And it’s getting worse day by day. It’s failed. I am not a defeatist. I am a realist.

Is it too late for a shift like that to make a difference? In addition to the numbers above, there are the anti-gay religious death squads I blogged about earlier, which are now taking their work online. Now Iraq’s death squads are targeting women for crimes like holding a job, expressing an opinion, or defying the strict dress codes declared by Islamic militants. It doesn’t help that the new constitution has transferred authority from family courts to clerics, so some Iraqi women have to fear their husbands too.

And then there’s the matter of what’s going to happen to the country itself. The Kurds are talking about secceding and most likely taking their oil deals with them. And there’s the possibility of splitting Iraq into three countries, as recommended by a Bush-appointed comission. Now, I didnt’ have a blog when the war in Iraq started, but one of the things I predicted was that we’d end up with a despised minority population setting up their own country, nestled among the countries that actively despise them. Add to that scenario that this despised minority population has a coveted resource, and will be sandwiched between two countries that not only hate them but hate each other just as passionately, and tell me this is a scenario for stability in the region.

But this is the best we can do, apparently. Oh well. Iraq is a bell that we can’t “unring.” Fixing it with any degree of effectiveness may not be an option either

What I’m most interested in, and what most interested me after reading Michael’s post, was this question. What would it have taken prior to the invasion of Iraq to convince enough supporters that going to war there was a bad idea?

As someone who was opposed to the war from the beginning, there’s something I want to understand. How can we stop this from happening next time? I guess I’m wondering what would have been the most effective way to reach people like Michael before the war started, since it’s pretty clear that the anti-war movement didn’t reach or convince enough people soon enough.

I think one element we were short on then was time. The build-up to the war was so fast that it was difficult to reach enough people and build a critical mass of public support in time. In

God’s Politics Jim Wallis reprints an opposition statement, which he and other ministers published as an ad in several major papers. They sent it to Blair’s government and met with enthusiastic response, but by the time they got to the White House, the administration had stopped meeting with anyone.(You can read it here. They also have a statement against going to war with Iran.)

Wallis says he thinks their statement might have gotten enough support if they’d had more time. I tend to agree, but I also wonder whether we had

the right message. If there had been more time, what would they have needed to hear then to convince them?

Almost everything that’s been said or written about what’s gone wrong in Iraq, like the book Michael just finised, has pretty much paralleled what many of us opposed to the war said would happen if we went to war in Iraq. Only now that much of it has actually happened, people are starting to take notice. There’s not much pleasure in being vindicated on this, because it just underscores the reality that none of this had to happen but for some reason we couldn’t stop it.

Was it the right message, but without enough time to have an effect? Was it the wrong message? If it was the wrong message, what would the right one have been. If it wasn’t enough time, how soon do people need to start making a case agaisnt going to war?

Asking these questions isn’t going to change what’s happening in Iraq, but maybe it can keep us from doing this again and going “back to Iraq” in the figurative sense if not the literal as well.


  1. Pingback: Feministe » A Statistic

  2. 50,000 is a compelling number too. That’s still A LOT of people.