Monday, October 23, 2006

Riverbend and The Lancet

And with one post, any remaining doubts I had on the "600,000 dead" figure on Iraq from a Lancet study gets knocked away.


The latest horror is the study published in the Lancet Journal concluding that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war. Reading about it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded like a reasonable figure. It wasn't at all surprising. On the other hand, I so wanted it to be wrong. But... who to believe? Who to believe....? American politicians... or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?

The responses were typical- war supporters said the number was nonsense because, of course, who would want to admit that an action they so heartily supported led to the deaths of 600,000 people (even if they were just crazy Iraqis…)? Admitting a number like that would be the equivalent of admitting they had endorsed, say, a tsunami, or an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, or the occupation of a developing country by a ruthless superpower… oh wait- that one actually happened. Is the number really that preposterous? Thousands of Iraqis are dying every month- that is undeniable. And yes, they are dying as a direct result of the war and occupation (very few of them are actually dying of bliss, as war-supporters and Puppets would have you believe).

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.
I thought that the objections to the original Lancet study (the 100,000 one) were fishy, borne out of the twin desires to minimize the damage and ignore any research that doesn't follow a specific Platonic Form of structure and design in a situation where that is impossible. I can understand both instincts, but at some point you have to face up to the truth, and the truth is that America (and, more specifically, the Republican party and its sympathizers and agents) has been directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people over the course of about 4 and a half years. That's 200 9/11s, based on the only metric of casualties that the Usual Suspects seem to care about.

Billmon asks "what more should I have done."

I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans...

...It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.

But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were.

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.

But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.
I understand this sentiment, but let's be honest here- self-flagellation is counterproductive, because those who actually are responsible for the creation and continuation of this travesty are precisely those who deny that they've even done anything wrong, let alone are culpable for mistakes.

Yelling "I could have done more" doesn't make sense, because he really couldn't have done more. Getting himself arrested by trying to put his "body" into it wouldn't have changed a damned thing. In fact, it would have empowered the supporters, who are the ones letting this travesty go on and started it in the first place.

If you want someone to blame, look towards them. Whether in the media, in government, or in the "heartland", look towards them. Look towards the conservative "movement", its horrifying track record, and the damaged little cultists that it's raising in those creepy "conservative leadership training retreats" that were in this month's Harpers. Look towards the "reasonable Liberals" that enable it, too, and remind them of what they sat back and let happen, for no electoral gain whatsoever, because they let the Republicans' tools and enablers convince them that they had to be trembling cowards in the face of Republican talking points.

But most of all, look towards the President, because shit flows uphill and he's at the top of the pyramid for a reason.

There will be no insurrection; no violent revolution. Change has to happen within the system. Throw your body into that.

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