Wednesday, November 17, 2004

This article from the Guardian was sent to me by a good friend, and I blieve that it's time to give it a good fisking:

More than 100,000 Iraqis have died - and where is our shame and rage?

Scott Ritter
Monday November 1, 2004
The Guardian

The full scale of the human cost already paid for the war on Iraq is only now becoming clear. Last week's estimate by investigators, using credible methodology, that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians - most of them women and children - have died since the US-led invasion is a profound moral indictment of our countries. The US and British governments quickly moved to cast doubt on the Lancet medical journal findings, citing other studies. These mainly media-based reports put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at about 15,000 - although the basis for such an endorsement is unclear, since neither the US nor the UK admits to collecting data on Iraqi civilian casualties.
Civilian deaths have always been a tragic reality of modern war. But the conflict in Iraq was supposed to be different - US and British forces were dispatched to liberate the Iraqi people, not impose their own tyranny of violence.

Note the fact that he says 100,000 civilians have "died." Not "killed" or "murdered," and certainly no statement on what government(s) or organizations did the killing. Beyond my initial skepticism of a total that high, until I see the data, I must believe that this total includes the thousands that have died at the hands of the insurgence. Not to mention the fact that since the insurgents are not aligned with a government or army and wear no uniforms, they may be lumped in with these civilians.

Reading accounts of the US-led invasion, one is struck by the constant, almost casual, reference to civilian deaths. Soldiers and marines speak of destroying hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles that turned out to be crammed with civilians. US marines acknowledged in the aftermath of the early, bloody battle for Nassiriya that their artillery and air power had pounded civilian areas in a blind effort to suppress insurgents thought to be holed up in the city. The infamous "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad produced hundreds of deaths, as did the 3rd Infantry Division's "Thunder Run", an armoured thrust in Baghdad that slaughtered everyone in its path.

If these are among the bloodiest battles (as far as civilian casualties go), where does the rest of the 100,000 come from? If you buy his numbers, these events took 5,000 lives, tops. There's no way that there have been that many dead since then. At this kind of rate, the major combat operations took maybe 30,000 to 50,000 lives. I don't think American soldiers have been running around shooting artillery and making too many massive tank assaults since then. This total is highly dubious.

It is true that, with only a few exceptions, civilians who died as a result of ground combat were not deliberately targeted, but were caught up in the machinery of modern warfare. But when the same claim is made about civilians killed in aerial attacks (the Lancet study estimates that most of civilian deaths were the result of air attacks), the comparison quickly falls apart. Helicopter engagements apart, most aerial bombardment is deliberate and pre-planned. US and British military officials like to brag about the accuracy of the "precision" munitions used in these strikes, claiming this makes the kind of modern warfare practised by the coalition in Iraq the most humanitarian in history.
But there is nothing humanitarian about explosives once they detonate near civilians, or about a bomb guided to the wrong target. Dozens of civilians were killed during the vain effort to eliminate Saddam Hussein with "pinpoint" air strikes, and hundreds have perished in the campaign to eliminate alleged terrorist targets in Falluja. A "smart bomb" is only as good as the data used to direct it. And the abysmal quality of the intelligence used has made the smartest of bombs just as dumb and indiscriminate as those, for example, dropped during the second world war.

The "alleged terrorists" part lends credence to the idea that he's counting terrorists and insurgents in with the civilians. Changing the definitions will change the numbers... a lot. And what's this about "dumb and indiscriminate as those... dropped during the second world war?" Somebody hasn't done his homework. In WWII they carpet bombed ENTIRE CITIES to eliminate factories. There were as many as a few hundred thousand bombs dropped in one bombing run. This is just ludicrous.

The fact that most bombing missions in Iraq today are pre-planned, with targets allegedly carefully vetted, further indicts those who wage this war in the name of freedom. If these targets are so precise, then those selecting them cannot escape the fact that they are deliberately targeting innocent civilians at the same time as they seek to destroy their intended foe. Some would dismiss these civilians as "collateral damage". But we must keep in mind that the British and US governments made a deliberate decision to enter into a conflict of their choosing, not one that was thrust upon them. We invaded Iraq to free Iraqis from a dictator who, by some accounts, oversaw the killing of about 300,000 of his subjects - although no one has been able to verify more than a small fraction of the figure. If it is correct, it took Saddam decades to reach such a horrific statistic. The US and UK have, it seems, reached a third of that total in just 18 months.

Just because a target is "carefully vetted" does not mean we can guarantee there will be no civilians there when the bomb hits. And yes, collateral damage does exist, however much we may wish otherwise. He didn't just oversee their killing. He singled people out and savored their deaths. He allowed his son to torture the olympic soccer team if they didn't medal. Morally equating the US with Saddam is ridiculous. There is a big difference to dying in a war zone and being hunted down by secret police. Yes people are dying faster now than under Saddam. But this is so they need not fear death from their own government's caprice. Is freeing them from the daily terror they lived under not worth fighting for? You were never outraged when Saddam was murdering in cold blood, but as soon as Iraqis get caught in the crossfire, you go nuts. You make me sick.

Meanwhile, the latest scandal over missing nuclear-related high explosives in Iraq (traced and controlled under the UN inspections regime) only underscores the utter deceitfulness of the Bush-Blair argument for the war. Having claimed the uncertainty surrounding Iraq's WMD capability constituted a threat that could not go unchallenged in a post-9/11 world, one would have expected the two leaders to insist on a military course of action that brought under immediate coalition control any aspect of potential WMD capability, especially relating to any possible nuclear threat. That the US military did not have a dedicated force to locate and neutralise these explosives underscores the fact that both Bush and Blair knew that there was no threat from Iraq, nuclear or otherwise.

What's that? Saddam had "nuclear-related" weaponry? But you say he disarmed! And there is evidence that the US army destroyed the explosives, instead of letting them be stolen. (Go to Powerline and search for "explosives" to find more debunking) And not having a "dedicated force" for it might mean that all of the forces were on the lookout for it. Wow, what a novel idea... instead of only having 2,000 soldiers look, we'll have them ALL keep their eyes peeled!

Of course, the US and Britain have a history of turning a blind eye to Iraqi suffering when it suits their political purposes. During the 1990s, hundreds of thousands are estimated by the UN to have died as a result of sanctions. Throughout that time, the US and the UK maintained the fiction that this was the fault of Saddam Hussein, who refused to give up his WMD. We now know that Saddam had disarmed and those deaths were the responsibility of the US and Britain, which refused to lift sanctions.

Let's let him say that again: "We now know that Saddam had disarmed and those deaths were the responsibility of the US and Britain, which refused to lift sanctions." Bullshit. In case you haven't read the Duelfer report, Saddam's own generals still thought he had WMD. If a man claims to have a gun, acts like he has a gun, and starts waving it around, do you fault the police for shooting him before he hurts someone? The deaths are Saddam's fault. We know now that he had no WMD. But we didn't know then. Saddam had thrown out our inspectors and refused to disclose what had become of the WMD he had at one point. If he had told the UN or US where they were, the sanctions would have been lifted. His fault he wanted to cultivate the illusion, not ours for taking him seriously. Oh, and he was also gaming the Oil-for-Food program to circumvent the sanctions. But only to enrich himself, not feed his people. Oh, and to pay suicide bomber's families.

There are many culpable individuals and organisations history will hold to account for the war - from deceitful politicians and journalists to acquiescent military professionals and silent citizens of the world's democracies. As the evidence has piled up confirming what I and others had reported - that Iraq was already disarmed by the late 1990s - my personal vote for one of the most culpable individuals would go to Hans Blix, who headed the UN weapons inspection team in the run-up to war. He had the power if not to prevent, at least to forestall a war with Iraq. Blix knew that Iraq was disarmed, but in his mealy-mouthed testimony to the UN security council helped provide fodder for war. His failure to stand up to the lies used by Bush and Blair to sell the Iraq war must brand him a moral and intellectual coward.

Yeah... "already disarmed" except for the nuke-related explosives found in Al Qaqaa, right?

But we all are moral cowards when it comes to Iraq. Our collective inability to summon the requisite shame and rage when confronted by an estimate of 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not only condemns us, but adds credibility to those who oppose us. The fact that a criminal such as Osama bin Laden can broadcast a videotape on the eve of the US presidential election in which his message is viewed by many around the world as a sober argument in support of his cause is the harshest indictment of the failure of the US and Britain to implement sound policy in the aftermath of 9/11.

Actually, the Osama tape proved something else entirely: the Global War on Terror is working. This man who shook the foundations of free society on 9/11/2001 was forced into hiding for three years, and has been reduced to a lame rehash of Moore-isms as a statement, where he once would have killed thousands.

The death of 3,000 civilians on that horrible day represented a tragedy of huge proportions. Our continued indifference to a war that has slaughtered so many Iraqi civilians, and will continue to kill more, is in many ways an even greater tragedy: not only in terms of scale, but also because these deaths were inflicted by our own hand in the course of an action that has no defence.

There is no defense for this man's argument. All Iraqi deaths are our fault because we invaded. Iraq was all sweetness and light. They lived in a country with a merderous dictator who attached electrodes to people's genitals for fun. They now have a chance for actual freedom. Elections are coming in January. Not the farces where Saddam got 99.96% of the vote, but an honest election. Kind of like the type that just happened in Afghanistan. Iraq is on its way to freedom, so long as we do not lose our political will to see this through.

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