A just released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in the current issue of the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, reports that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has led to the deaths of between 426,000 and 794,000 Iraqis. This is a substantial increase over the 100,000 dead that the same research group found through 2004, based upon a smaller survey, and it represents an astonishing 2.5 percent of the country's total population.
The grim if controversial news was widely--though not universally--reported in the U.S. media, but many news organizations failed to report the most disturbing finding of the study, which was that 31 percent of those killed were acatually slain by U.S. and "coalition" forces (actually by U.S. forces, since most of the other foreign forces working with the U.S., with the exception of the British, have not played combat roles, and even the British have largely operated in the south where fighting has been much less severe.
That means, if the Lancet study's figures are accurate, that U.S. forces have, since the March 19, 2003 invasion, killed between 132,000 and 246,000 Iraqis. It should be recalled that the Pentagon has estimated that the insurgency numbers perhaps 20-40,000 individuals, and they have only succeeded in killing a fraction of them. Assuming generously that the military has succeeded in killing maybe a quarter of the enemy fighters, that would be 10,000 people at most, leaving the U.S. civilian death toll at 122,000-236,000. The Christian Science Monitor, no radical rag, once did a survey and found that U.S. forces were killing civilians in Iraq at a rate of 30 for every enemy fighter slain. At that rate, it would appear, if the peer-reviewed Lancet study is correct, that the U.S. invasion and occupation forces have killed between 127,000 and 238,000 civilians. At least a third and perhaps a half of those killed, various studies of Iraqi casualties have made clear, have been children.
This is the grand war of liberation and democracy that our bloodstained president hails as his legacy!
This is the war that we are told is making America safer.
Just to put things in a little perspective, the Iraqis killed at the hands of our "heroes" in uniform on orders of this great commander in chief, according to the Lancet would represent about one percent of the Iraqi population of 24 million. If a comparable number of Americans were being killed in a war, it would be as if we had lost between 1 million and 1.9 million people! Imagine Americans referring to any army that did such a thing as a "liberator"! Anyone who thinks that we are making friends this way in Iraq has to be an idiot.
Even granting that the methodology of the study can be challenged, it boggles my mind how the U.S. share of this alleged slaughter could have been kept out of the report offered in the New York Times or USA Today. (The Times did run some small pie charts that showed in a dark shade the share of deaths caused by U.S. forces, but because no numbers or percentages were provided, and because no such figures appeared in the accompanying story, the impact was greatly diminished.) Even NPR, in its 10/11 story on the Lancet figures, tiptoed around the issue of how many of the dead died at the hands of American forces, and the 31 percent figure in the study never made it onto the air, not did any totals. Somehow the idea that a lot of people have died in the wake of the U.S. invasion is okay, but not the idea that people were actually shot dead, bombed, burned or run over by our guys. A notable exception to this apparently politically-motivated squeamishness was the Washington Post, which did mention the 31-percent figure in its piece on the study, though well down in the story.
What made the Times article, which ran on an inside page, particularly offensive, was a page-one story that ran on the same day, headlined "3rd Iraq Death Has One town Shaken to Core." This piece looked in detail about how the deaths in Iraq of three servicemen from the New York hamlet of Highland, had caused such widespread grief and anguish in a small American town. How on earth could editors give that story--excellent and poignant as it was in its own right--such prominence while burying a report about the wholesale slaughter of a people by U.S. forces? Don't the editors realize that every one of those Iraqi deaths was producing the same kind of grief and anger in towns and villages across Iraq?
Americans still haven't grasped the horror that American troops are inflicting upon the Iraqi people, and hiding these numbers--and the American military's direct responsibility for nearly a third of them--is an example of why.
The Bush administration has carefully seen to it that Americans will not see the evidence of American deaths and injuries. Coffins are flown in to Dover Airbase, a closed military compound in Delaware, at night. The administration has also blacked out Iraqi deaths by refusing to provide body counts from U.S. military actions, and by preventing reporters from operating in Iraq unescorted.
The Lancet study has burst that veil of secrecy, at least partially, though the U.S. media continues to cooperate for the most part, it appears, in keeping the ugliest truth--the U.S. civilian casualty rate in Iraq--out of their reports. If you want that kind of information, you have to go to the Lancet report itself or to the British newspapers, like The Guardian, which have it stated clearly.
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