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Can We Call It Genocide Now?
When does "collateral damage" so dwarf combatant deaths that war becomes genocide?
Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq has cost 655,000 Iraqis their lives. That is the conclusion of a study financed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies and conducted by physicians under the direction of Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists. These are deaths over and above the pre-invasion mortality rate. Bush's illegal invasion raised Iraq's mortality rate from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people per year to 13.3 deaths per 1,000 people per year. The study is published by the distinguished British medical journal, The Lancet, and is available on the journal's online site (http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/journals/lancet/s0140673606694919.pdf October 11).
The study uses a scientific method known as "cluster sampling." In 87% of the deaths, the researchers requested death certificates, and more than 90% of the surveyed households produced the death certificates. Violence accounted for 601,000 deaths and disease and destruction of civilian infrastructure accounted for 54,000 deaths. The violent deaths are attributed to gunshot wounds, coalition air strikes, and car bombs.
Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Gilbert Burnham says, "We're very confident with the results." Columbia University epidemiologist Ronald Waldman says the survey method used is "tried and true" and that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."
When asked about the report, President Bush stated: "I don't consider it a credible report." Bush, of course, is not reality-based, and he knows that any unfavorable news is "enemy propaganda." That's what the neocons who pull his strings tell him, and that is what he believes.
What percentage of these 655,000 deaths were insurgents or "terrorists"? Probably 1% and no more than 2%. Bush's "war on terror" is, in fact, a war on Iraqi civilians.
Bush's invasion has also spawned sectarian conflict or civil war, although the Bush regime denies it. Even Bush is smart enough to know that "bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq" is not compatible with setting off a civil war in Iraq. Since Bush, the faith-based, believes that he is bringing "freedom and democracy to Iraq," he cannot accept the fact that he has started a civil war.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are not the only innocent victims of Bush's illegal aggression. The New York Times (October 11) reports that Department of Veterans Affairs documents show that about one in five US soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have suffered at least partial disability.
To date more than 100,000 US troops who are veterans of these wars have been granted disability compensation. Although the US cannot put on the ground in Iraq more than 150,000 troops at one time, 1.5 million troops have served so far and 567,000 have been discharged of which 100,000 are receiving disability payments.
No one knows exactly how many Iraqi civilians have died from the war's violence since the invasion of their country. The new study from public health researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimates that the number of those deaths is around 601,000, while saying the actual total could be somewhere between 426,369 and 793,663. Such wartime figures can't be precise, but the meaning is clear: The invasion of Iraq has led to ongoing carnage on a massive scale.
While we stare at numbers that do nothing to convey the suffering and anguish of the war in Iraq, we might want to ask: How could we correlate the horrific realities with the evasive discussions that proliferated in U.S. news media during the lead-up to the invasion?
In mid-November 2002 -- four months before the invasion began -- a report surfaced from health professionals with the Medact organization and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. "The avowed U.S. aim of regime change means any new conflict will be much more intense and destructive than the  Gulf War," they warned, "and will involve more deadly weapons developed in the interim."
At the time, journalists routinely gave short shrift to that report -- treating it as alarmist and unworthy of much attention. The report found that "credible estimates of the total possible deaths on all sides during the conflict and the following three months range from 48,000 to over 260,000. Civil war within Iraq could add another 20,000 deaths. Additional later deaths from postwar adverse health effects would reach 200,000. ... In all scenarios the majority of casualties will be civilians."
During a live TV debate on Dec. 3, 2002, I cited the report's estimates of the bloodshed ahead and then asked: "What kind of message is that from the Bush administration against terrorism and against violence for political ends?"
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer turned to the other guest: "Jonah Goldberg, do you accept that assumption in that report on these huge casualties, including a lot of children, if there were an effort to go forward with so-called regime change in Baghdad?"
Goldberg, a pundit with National Review Online, replied: "Frankly, I don't. I mean, I haven't looked at the exact report, and I think that there are a lot of groups out there that inflate a lot of these numbers precisely because they're against the war no matter what. We certainly heard a lot of that around on the table last time. Before the Gulf War, we were told there were going to be tens of thousands of casualties."
He was playing off a common U.S. media pretense that the bombardment of Iraq in early 1991 had minimal negative effects. Yet a fleeting Associated Press story reported on March 22, 1991, that the six-week war had killed an estimated 100,000 Iraqi people -- a figure that came from official U.S. military sources.
American news outlets tend to be rather cavalier about the suffering at the other end of the Pentagon's missiles, bombs and bullets. And there's a strong tendency to brand documented concerns as unfounded speculation -- a media reflex that suits war-crazed presidents just fine.
In his major speech on March 17, 2003, just before the invasion, President Bush used boilerplate rhetoric: "Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you."