Some Numbers - Iraq. Sanctions, and War

It wasn’t too long ago that human rights groups and organizations everywhere were assailing the UN sanctions against Iraq because of their toll on the civilian population. Skirting the issue of whether Saddam, for not complying with the sanctions regime, or the UN and US for willingly acknowledging and ignoring the punishment inflicted upon the civilian population, I’d like to know just how hurtful the UN sanctions were to the Iraqi populace? How many innocent Iraqis reportedly perished from malnutrition, infant mortality, ect, and whatever adverse effects did these sanctions cause?

Secondly, how do the number of deaths related to the UN sanctions compare to those civilian deaths caused by the Gulf War?

And bearing in mind the higher percentage of smart weapons likely to be used should we soon invade Iraq and the desire to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties and long-term damage to the country and its infrastructure (after all, we are planning on rebuilding it), how do the sanctions related deaths compare to projected casualty estimates for this second Gulf War?

Basically, I’d like to know if over a decade of sanctions to contain Saddam would likely be more costly to the Iraqi population than the war we currently seem intent to wage?

I’m especially curious as our more reluctant European allies, such as France and Germany, would be perfectly comfortable with containing Saddam in his newly strengthened sanctions box – an outcome that would unavoidably punish the Iraqi people. Guess I’m looking to see which is really the lesser of two evils here.

Thanks for any insight you might offer.

A week or two ago I tried asking a similar question on SDMB - grayenight has put it all much better than I did.

It seems to me that this is a very important question: would war with Iraq spare more lives than it would cost? I suspect that the answer is yes, but like grayenight I would like to see some numbers.

Whatever the answer, I don’t think it could of itself be the deciding factor as to wheter a second gulf war would be justified, but is is surely a very important consideration.

Damned if you do.
Damned if you don’t.

The question is valid for GQ, but I’m afraid the conversation will leap off into the netherworld of GD. :slight_smile:

AI seems to think there is concern (but then, AI thinks there is concern about everything)…\IRAQ

OTOH, it hasn’t phased the ICRC…

… in their reports on developing water-treatment plants. In their estimation:

So we have a situation where the people are being hurt by the sanctions, but largely because Iraq’s government is inept and neglects human rights pretty much entirely, and doesn’t pay much attention to public health.

For the record, I am a card-carrying member of both AI and the Red Cross… and yes, I am put between a rock and a hard place by Saddam. But generally, I agree with AI that lifting the sanctions would open up more possibility for humanitarian measures in Iraq, but I agree more with ICRC that the Iraqi regime is negligent anyway, and lifting sanctions would not lead to significant change in the situation.

It is very tragic, because Saddam is letting his people suffer horribly, and engineered it so that it looks like our sanctions are the cause (and in fact, they partly are). But hell, look at friggin’ Cuba.

As a humanitarian, pacifist, Amnesty and RC member, all around hippie type, but with an open mind and enough sense to know that revolution like this can’t be accomplished with signs, Saddam has got to go, hopefully through the most efficient fashion our military can manage. The big question with this issue is how quickly and effectively the regime that replaces Saddam’s will deal with the health care crises in the country… frankly, it can’t do much worse. I just don’t like Bush walking around installing governments whenever he feels like, and who those governments are and how stable they will be. But that’s another thread.

(The “main clause” and any other typos in the ICRC quote above are mind. It is a PDF file and I was copying the text over by hand)

This web site quotes UNICEF as saying sanctions cause about 90,000 death each year. So 10 years would mean 900,000 lives.
This web sites gives estimate as high 50,000 deaths for the new war and 13,000 in the first gulf war and 70,000 in the year following the gulf war.

Looking at the figures supplied by puddleglum in a cold statistical light: for the hypothetical average Iraqi, a war to get rid of Saddam is no worse than living under Saddam for 6-12 months. On the other hand, no war and no other changes simply means that the suffering is drawn out indefinitly.

Or to continue that logic in the same cold statistical light - not having a war now causes the equivalent amount of Iraqi civilian deaths as 1-2 wars per year or 10-20 wars if Saddam stays around for only another decade.

And considering the lack of political will to remove sanctions without removing Saddam, I think I’ll take the war.

grayenight: It seems that Tony Blair agrees with you.

I’m looking, what about it?

I contest those UN figures, though I stress that IANAE. In fact, all I’m doing is channeling Kenneth Pollack.

  1. Unless the figures are the result of some investigation, they should be taken with a grain of salt. Pollack (p. 138) cites Cockburn and Cockburn ( ) and Hiro (2001) as noting that the WHO, UNICEF and the UN FAO repeat or arbitrarily modify the Iraqi government’s made-up estimates of fatalities.

  2. Made up estimates: The fatality claims don’t square with Iraq’s census estimates.

  3. Richard Garfield of Columbia University has done the most thorough analysis of the issue. According to his study, about 135,000 to 150,000 Iraqi children died in the first seven years after the Gulf war.

  4. To that, we assume that children under the age of five made up roughly 2/3 of all deaths.

  5. Result: 200,000 - 225,000 premature Iraqi deaths during those seven years.

  1. flowbark: …which averages to 28,000 - 32,000 deaths per year under the first 7 years of sanctions, about 1/3 of puddleglum’s estimates.

  2. Under, G. Cornelius’s framework, a war to get rid of Saddam is no worse than living under Saddam for 1.5 - 3 years.

I also discussed some of this in G. Cornelius’ GD thread: Iraq War: likely to relieve more suffering that it causes?