(Being a question maybe this is a GQ topic, but given its nature I put it here - if I’m wrong I guess a mod will shift it)
I’ve just been watching a program on ITV here in the UK - I only saw the end, but it raised the question of how many Iraqi civilians died in the war.
I realised that I’ve never seen even a ballpark figure, or a discussion on what the level might be.
The journo presenting the program was John Pilger - definitely a man with an “agenda” (Private Eye even coined the verb “to Pilger” in his honour) so I take his figures with a whole Siberian mine’s worth of salt. He kept referring to a “study that suggested as many as 10,000 civilian deaths”, now that sounded like a “take a big number, and double it” thing, but I missed him saying whose study it was.
Anyway, my question is not just how many did die, but why is there so little interest in it? People seem to get worked up about tigers shot in zoos, or antiques looted from museums, but not the humans. Is it because troops are still dying and our thoughts tend to be with them? Are we starting to get annoyed that the Iraqis are not going along with the script set out by the Pentagon and the Networks - they’re not gushingly grateful, etc? Or more strongly, are we in danger of demonising all Iraqis as inhuman terrorists?
Even easier when it’s “them” getting hurt instead of “us.”
(BTW, I think http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ is a good resource for anyone who does want to know. Looks to be very well researched, cites sources, requires data entered to be varified by multiple sources, and gives a range from the minimum to maximum reported)
The American Government has a very obvious and deliberate policy of not wanting to count or to know or to estimate because large numbers of dead and wounded work against their stated propaganda of “liberating the Iraqi people”. (They didn’t want to be liberated so we had to kill them.) As far as news agencies and media, i think it is a task beyond their means right now givern the danger and disorder in Iraq. Maybe years from now, when the dust settles, they can attempt to estimate but even then the figures will be controversial.
The problem is not only the dead but also the wounded and the general state of affairs there. Iraq has become unsafe and public services are totally unreliable. I know it sounds cold hearted but a few dead would not matter so much if the country was functioning. In the long run and the wide scope of things the general mess is much worse than a few particular dead.
The Associated Press did their own count a few months ago. Their starting point is 3,240, and that the real total is “sure to be significantly higher.” Link.
As far as the U.S. military goes, from an institutional perspective, I don’t see why they would count the number of civilian casualties. I would think that international relief or human rights organizations would be in a better position to estimate the toll of the war on the Iraqi people.
And as far as indignation over human suffering goes, I think the average American – whether in support of or in oppoisition to the war – is at this point far more consumed with the American toll in lives than the Iraqi toll. I do not in any way suggest that people should blinder themselves from the suffering of Iraqis, but I do believe it is quite natural to think of one’s own countrymen first in such circumstances.
The attitude that I thought I saw was that Iraq is a disaster. So I posted a survey of Iraqis, and they don’t seem to agree, as attested to by them overwhelmingly choosing a positive outlook answer.
I don’t believe that people in a war torn country, who have been oppressed for years, have the mentality of “it can’t get worse than this.” I think if they wanted to send a message to the western world that they were pessimistic about what was going on, they would have chosen the clearly pessimistic answer, especially because things could be much worse than they are now.
I’d generally agree with all of the above -
But I’m still surprised as much as anything by my own lack of awareness of civilian casualties - I supported the first gulf war, (despite all the lies about babies thrown out of incubators and such)., but I was much more conscious of the human price paid (the figures may have been inaccurate in some cases - such as the exaggerated casualties on the “road of death” - but they got reported, and I was interested in hearing them). But now there seems to be an odd fatalism - perhaps it’s the seemingly un-solvable nature of the mess in Iraq. It reminds me a bit of N Ireland before the 1st cease fire - people in mainland Britain, or in the rest of Ireland tended to pretend it wasn’t happening, unless something too shocking to ignore occurred.
Actually, what you posted were the answers to a question about the future in Iraq. It was not a question about the current state of Iraq.
“A public opinion survey of Iraqis…shows that more than two-thirds of respondents think their country will be in better shape five years from now.”
Actually, it’s not even necessarily that positive of an outlook. It’s a comparison of the currrent situation and the expected future situation.
Oddly enough, there’re no responses reported for either ‘about the same’ or ‘I don’t know.’
31.7% answered ‘much better’
38% answered ‘somewhat better’
13.2% answered ‘somewhat worse’
7.4% answered ‘a lot worse’
This other 9.7% is presumably divided somehow between ‘about the same’ and I don’t know.
Not listed in your cite is how Iraqis feel about the state of their country now. You go on to make some inferences that you describe as your beliefs and thoughts:
There’s not much to your case, (so far), about the present status of Iraq but your “I don’t believe,” and your “I think .”
“Actually, what you posted were the answers to a question about the future in Iraq. It was not a question about the current state of Iraq.”
“Not listed in your cite is how Iraqis feel about the state of their country now. You go on to make some inferences that you describe as your beliefs and thoughts:”
I’m trying to keep facts and the opinions based on those facts separate – when I say, “I think,” I mean, “because of the facts which are not in dispute, I think”.
From the survey results, I infer that Iraqis feel that positive changes are happening now, because I think that without those positive changes, the Iraqis would not have a reason to be positive about the future.
I can hardly see how you don’t think that’s an overwhelmingly positive outlook, considering that 69.7% of Iraqis are at least slightly positive. I didn’t say that most people are ecstatic; I said that it’s overwhelmingly positive, meaning by far most people think that the situation will improve.
“There’s not much to your case, (so far), about the present status of Iraq but your “I don’t believe,” and your “I think .””
I’ve supported my case. Again, note that when I say, “I think,” it is because I don’t want to confuse what the facts are with my inferences. Raw data is nothing until you draw conclusions from it.
I’m not trying to say that Iraqis think that the US is helping, so why does this hurt my argument? Iraqis can help themselves, can they not? The conclusion I have drawn is that Iraqis feel the net change is positive.
The US has undoubtably handled many things poorly. That doesn’t mean that an overall positive change can’t come of this.
But the question isn’t comparing now to the past. It’s comparing now to the future. It’d be more apt to say that Iraqis feel the net change in the future from how things are now will be positive.
The question is clearly about the expectations of the future state of affairs.
True, it doesn’t. The Pentagon’s report said that the window of opportunity for this to happen was rapidly closing.
I can take no position on this. I would like to know the answer, but upon reflection I cannot imagine a more complex problem.
Consider “Iraqi” civilian casualties. Do non-Iraqis count?
Iraqi “civilian” casualties. Does a civilian shot while shooting at the Americans count? A person who was a member of the old Iraqi military but who deserted?
Iraqi civilian “casualties” the word means people killed and injured. But what about people who died but would not have except for the disruption on the local medical services?
Further we must consider those killed by other Iraqis in the general period of lawlessness set off by the war.
The only thing to do is to some sort of gross comparison of the total population figures “before” and “after.” That way we would get an overall number, although we would still not have a handle on many parts of this question.