A discussion has been proceeding for the last month in the Ozaukee News-Graphic regarding the continuing occupation of Iraq. This column continues that important discussion, and asks that you contribute to it, as well.
Three readers (comments 5, 6, and 7 in this preceding discussion) recently criticized my March 20 Ozaukee Farmstead column on the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq “Coming Home When It’s Over, Over There” with some personal attacks, and misinformation and distractions that cloud the issue.
Warren Stumpe on March 27 perceived a “light at the end of that tunnel”. That’s a light that even General Petraeus, in his latest testimony before Congress, explicitly denied anyone has yet seen. Colonel Stumpe dismissed the figures I cited about the human and financial costs of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The dollar cost I quoted from the National Priorities Project (now 512 billion dollars) includes only tax dollars that are in the federal budget to date. Nobel prize winning and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes new study calculates that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will cost us at minimum three trillion dollars (one trillion is a thousand billion). And the spending is all “on the cuff”. Col. Stumpe didn’t mention what he thought the war and occupation will cost.
Stumpe asserted, “…the 700,000 civilian Iraqis killed statistic is an out-and-out falsehood.” But Stumpe misquoted me, besides falsely associating me with individuals, politicians, groups, and attitudes of which he personally disapproves.
My statement was that 700,000 Iraqis were killed. Not “just” civilians. Iraqis killed include all Iraqi people who have died as a consequence of the invasion and occupation. I have previously cited a peer reviewed 20 Nov 2004 study, and a 21 Oct 2006 follow-up, performed by Johns-Hopkins University School of Public Health (Baltimore) and the Al Mustansiriya University School of Medicine (Baghdad), in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies (Cambridge), published in Lancet, the official journal of the British Medical Association. It estimated 655,000 total excess deaths attributable to the conflict as of June 2006 (almost 2 years ago). See “The Human Cost of the War in Iraq – A Mortality Study, 2002-2006”.
Stumpe cited the Iraq Body Count study. The IBC only counted deaths that were reported in English language media. It only counts people who were reported to be non-combatants who were killed violently by combat forces. A whole lot of other people have died as a direct result of this war and protracted military occupation. For example, soldiers and insurgents died fighting the invasion and occupation. It is not unlikely that some people killed were incorrectly reported to be combatants. And the rate of infant mortality in Iraq has doubled since the invasion.
So there is bound to be a big difference between the numbers reported by the Johns Hopkins scientific Lancet study and by the media’s Iraq Body Count tabulation. We have little else to go on, though, because the U.S. Department of Defense, in direct and blatant violation of the Geneva Accords, has made no attempt to count Iraqi deaths.
Stumpe called the IBC group a “neutral source”. He recommended that you check “… this reliable group’s approach … for yourself”. Well, let’s check it together.
The IBC says, in an official statement it issued in April 2006:
“… Our media-derived database cannot be a complete record of civilians killed in violence, and (we) have called for properly supported counts since the beginning of our own project. What IBC continues to provide is an irrefutable baseline of certain and undeniable deaths … The most unacceptable and irreversible cost of the US-led invasion and continuing military occupation of Iraq is its vast and growing toll in human life… The documentation of this toll is an inescapable moral responsibility which falls particularly heavily on the US and British people. It is our representatives who took the decisions that led to these deaths, funded by our taxes…”
The IBC cites the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), which stated in 2005: “As the death toll in Iraq continues to grow, one question haunting the debate … is the scale of this loss. Supporters of the continuing war seek to confuse and obfuscate the issue by presenting existing estimates as in conflict with each other. However, when we examine the best-known Iraq mortality estimates, we find that they tend to support rather than contradict each other… They all indicate the number of ‘excess deaths’ (deaths that would not have occurred if not for the war) is staggeringly high.”
Colonel Stumpe instructed us to “…remember, about 95 percent of the civilian Iraqis killed resulted from insurgent action, not coalition action.” What does the IBC say about this? In “Speculation is no substitute: a defense of Iraq Body Count”, IBC states, “In sum, when properly analyzed, IBC and Lancet show broadly comparable proportions of deaths attributable to coalition forces, of between 40 and 50 percent, and in both cases the majority of killings by US-led forces were caused by or involved air strikes.”
Dr. Byron Bloemer’s poignant April 10 “Can You Relate” column in the Ozaukee News-Graphic related a story of one human casualty of this invasion and occupation. His column humanized the impact and brought it home to us. Multiply that by whatever number you want, to sense the scale of the tragedy, if you please. But we have no moral or legal or spiritual right to ignore the deaths and injuries suffered by the people of Iraq.
Lee Jost stated (twice) in his April 3 guest Ozaukee Commentary column that I made “untrue accusations”. But he provided no rebuttal of anything I wrote. I provided links to references and sources for the assertions that I made in the text of the essay, which is archived in this blog. I stand by its accuracy.
Jost’s column cited events all of which occurred more than ten years ago, and quotations, all of which came from officials in the Democratic Party. Reminder: the invasion of Iraq happened 5 years ago, and, for what it’s worth, there were no Democrats in the Administration that unleashed it. And my column is a brief essay with length limitations. It isn’t a book.
Regardless of whom they are, or to which political party (if any) they belong, we owe respect and thanks to those very few in the mass media and in government (and to those millions of “just people like us”) who publicly challenged the rush to invade Iraq before it happened. And we need to condemn those of any Party who failed their responsibility and pretended they didn’t see. But even if the invasion of Iraq was precipitated by simply a series of “intelligence mistakes” that does not alter the fact that the invasion was completely unjustified. The invasion was a military victory, and the war was won within a few months in 2003. But the invasion order issued by “the decider” was unjustified (not to mention illegal and immoral), and so is the deadly and terribly costly occupation that followed and continues today.
Guy Thompto observed correctly on March 27 that I did not anticipate the consequences that he fears of the US ending the occupation of Iraq now. Thompto asks, “What, pray tell, do you think will happen?” This question challenges anyone’s power of prophesy and invites me to exceed both my expertise and my column length. I honestly don’t presume to know precisely what will happen if the US ends the military occupation now, and I also don’t presume to know what will happen if we don’t end it now. And those who hid the truth, or were gullible enough to swallow the nonsense five years ago that Iraq was complicit in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and that Iraq was a clear and immediate threat to the USA with weapons of mass destruction, certainly don’t know, either. But I’ll answer as follows:
The aftermath of the invasion includes the MILLIONS of casualties and refugees; the destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure; the understandable insurrection (wouldn’t you be an insurrectionist if your country was militarily invaded without justification?); and the horrible civil war. Those who rushed into an unjustified preemptive invasion cannot, with justice, just “cut and run” from their responsibility. I do not, however, think the US has any moral or legal right to be in charge of the aftermath or to set conditions on Iraq or on the people of Iraq who are the victims of this unjustified war of aggression against a nation and people who did NOT attack us, and who did NOT present a threat to the USA.
Imagine if somebody trespassed and broke into your home, trashing it, terrorizing and perhaps killing members of your family – a family that was innocent of having done them any harm. (I don’t care who they are or why they say they did it. Say the trespasser claims it was a mistake. Or say they try to rationalize their actions afterwards, by claiming someone else just did something terrible to them and that you look like them or have a similar religion. Suppose they intentionally and falsely identify the people who are justifiably opposing their invasion as the same people who actually attacked them almost seven years earlier. Say they change their story and claim that they are now there to help you do things the way they think you should be doing them in your own home.) Do you think they should be in charge of you and your grief and your future, and of cleaning up the awful mess? Should they stay for as long as they please, and order you around at gunpoint, until they decide the mess is all cleaned up just as they see fit? Think about it.
Outrageous, isn’t it? That’s why I say we must end the occupation of Iraq now, as we support the troops by honoring them for having won the war they were sent to fight, and for continuing to courageously follow exceedingly difficult orders, and by standing up for disabled vets.