Sunday, October 15, 2006

Behind the Numbers

Dhar Jamail has a report on the Lancet study of excess deaths in Iraq. He is more inclined than Zeyad at Healing Iraq toward the 600,000 plus figure that has been widely reported. Since the study has a margin of error, the excess death estimate ranges from a low of 392,979 to a high of 942,636. Being the conservative researchers that they are, the authors chose the mid-range figure of 654,965 excess deaths due to the US invasion.

Unfortunately for Iraqis, the numbers are an abstraction to most Americans. In America these numbers are debating points, bruited about in the debate about the wisdom and value of the war. As I noted yesterday, I am inclined toward the lower figure, which I should note (now that I have actually looked at the study summary rather than second hand press reports) is closer to 400,000 than the 300,000 figure I have cited previously. But in reality, the bottom line is that many, many Iraqis are dead who would still be alive had BushCheney not brought war and chaos to that nation.

Americans obsess about our 2,763 dead. Each is a tragedy, a life unfulfilled, a family torn apart. Since most of us don't know what losing a family member to war is like, I want to put it in more immediate terms. My parents are both dead, of more or less natural causes (tobacco). I am hardly unusual in that loss. So think about what it it is like to suddenly lose a parent, brother, sister, cousin or friend to what seems to be unremitting violence. Remember, that for each American death in Iraq, AT LEAST 142 Iraqis are dead. In recent years, two couples I know lost infant children. I saw the grief and heartbreak. Imagine the many Iraqi parents who see their sons and daughters die.

I witnessed death in Vietnam. Not much, thankfully, but enough to imagine my own corpse wrapped in a bloody poncho. I lived the terror of thinking each minute could be my last and counted the days until I would be safe back in "The World". I wondered how the Vietnamese could live with this destructive force fighting in their streets, yards and villages. I could not fathom what it would be like to have that happen in my own country. Iraqis live with each day with no real hope of finding safety in their homeland.

So when the politicians and pundits banter about the numbers remember that many Iraqis are dead because of the actions of the United States under BushCheney--far more than he is willing to acknowledge. Quite likely almost 400,000, maybe even higher. Remember, too, that each death, like those of our service men and women, leaves a gaping hole in a family.

That is the democracy that BushCheney brought to Iraq at the point of a bayonet.


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