Morning Report 3/11/05
Bomber Kills 50 in Mosul, But Who's Counting?
And how many have we killed? U.S. won't go out on that limb.
Proud as peacocks is the way The Economist imagined U.S. neocons yesterday, saying, "Times are very good for America's least-loved foreign-policy makers."
Unlike the jingoistic U.S. press, the mainstream British mag is realistic, adding, "But their apotheosis may not last."
The neocons' feathers may be a little singed this morning, in the wake of the suicide bombing in Mosul that killed at least 50 mourners at a funeral. As the Sydney Morning Herald notes, with the perspective and detachment that most of the U.S. press can't muster:
- The attacks come at a time of political flux, with a lame-duck Iraqi interim government and rising public frustration over protracted negotiations to form a new coalition government nearly six weeks after landmark elections on January 30.
After this morning's Mosul massacre, U.S. Army officials offered estimates of casualties. What a joke. Ever since the unwarranted invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials will gladly talk about the number of people killed by insurgents, but they have steadfastly refused to offer any casualty figures for the number of Iraqis we have killed.
The pressure is growing, however. This morning, the British Medical Journal launched yet another effort to get Western governments to start adding up all the carnage, saying:
An international group of public health experts has called on the U.S. and U.K. governments to commission an independent inquiry into Iraqi war related casualties.
"We believe that the joint U.S.-U.K. failure to make any effort to monitor Iraqi casualties is, from a public health perspective, wholly irresponsible," says the public statement, signed by 23 experts in public health and epidemiology from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Spain, and Australia. "We have waited too long for this information."
Elsewhere in the journal, epidemiologist Klim McPherson notes:
Counting the dead is intrinsic to civilized society. Understanding the causes of death is a core public health responsibility. . . .
This is well recognized, and yet neither the public nor public health professionals are able to obtain reliable and officially endorsed information about the extent of civilian deaths attributable to the allied invasion of Iraq. Estimates vary between tens and hundreds of thousands.
The latter estimate, first forwarded by The Lancet, has been derided, but the fact is that nobody knows. And the death toll is surely in the tens of thousands, most of them civilians, not wild-eyed insurgents, and most of them killed by U.S. bombers and soldiers. McPherson mounts a reasoned case, one that the U.S. press for the most part ignores:
- Counting casualties accurately can help to save lives both currently and in the future. Understanding the burden of death, injury, disease, and trauma that the population is currently suffering enables proper planning of war, and health, and in assessing local responses appropriately. In the future this should help government and military planners to assess the likely humanitarian implications of conflict.
But it's hard to remain calm. He adds this:
The plain fact is that an estimate of 100,000 excess deaths attributable to the invasion of Iraq is alarming. This is already half the death toll of Hiroshima. Apart from the practical arguments, the principled ones stand and will always stand.
Have we not learnt any lessons from the history of sweeping alarming numbers of deaths under the carpet? This is not something about which there can be any political discretion 60 years after Auschwitz. The U.K. government, acting on our behalf, ought to offer reasoned criticism of the existing estimates. It should pursue their public health responsibilities to count the casualties by using modern methods. Democracy requires this, as does proper responsibility under the Geneva Conventions.
Seriously, there are plenty of Iraqi civilians who aren't dead (see photo above). Plenty of them have lived through U.S. missile attacks to tell about it. Here's one account, gleaned by the U.N.'s IRIN news service back in July 2003:
Farmer Hamza Abdullah was driving home in his pickup with three of his children sitting on a load of hay in the back, when they were struck by a missile. "Just as we were getting to my home, I saw the American troops, but I did not take much notice because there was no fighting," he told IRIN. "Suddenly I heard a missile coming straight at us."
His children took the force of the blast. They were rushed to hospital with serious shrapnel wounds and each had one of their legs amputated. Now they are patients at Baghdad's Institute of Medical Technologythe only place in the city where they can be fitted with artificial limbs.
Abdullah's daughter, five-year-old Elaf, sits in the waiting room, the stump of her left leg encased in a bandage. Her 13-year-old sister Sabrina and 10-year-old brother Abbas have already been measured for their new limbs.
But we haven't been able to measure the impact of the U.S. invasion on the Iraqi populace. Iraqi deaths? Iraqi kids' legs blown off? The Bush regime won't even allow coverage of the coffin after coffin of U.S. soldiers arriving at Dover, Delaware. Take a look for yourself, courtesy of the excellent National Security Archive, and read about former CNN journalist Ralph Begleiter's fight for that information (which I wrote about here.
The whiff of "democracy" in the Middle East that's earning such good press for the Bush regime carries the stench of burnt flesh. How much flesh? We still don't know.
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