Wednesday, October 11, 2006

5 Million Deaths

I just read about a war that, had it occurred in the United States, would have resulted in approximately 5,000,000 deaths over the span of a few years. There has never been a time where so many Americans have died as a result of war.

In the US Civil War, there were approximately 185,000 violent deaths. Out of a population of 20 million, this is almost 1% of the population.

One report today out of John's Hopkins estimates 655,000 violent civilian deaths (out of a population of approx 26 million, or ~2.5%) since the invasion of 2003.

Good data out of Iraq is difficult to obtain. Causes could be either a total lack of administrative control of the country, or a desire to obfuscate the data. Neither of these is a good thing.

There are sites which attempt to track the "body count" which range as low as 44,000, but these are sites which only count verifiable deaths reported in the media. The 655,000 figure reported in the Lancet article was developed using statistical polling techniques.

But let's take the numbers reported out of Baghdad, where at least reporters can talk to the local morgues and get a low end count. Baghdad has had an average of 60 reported deaths a day for the past few years (some days higher, some lower - September's rate was actually 88). This number is a little over 1% of the estimated population of between 5 million and 6 million. We can make an assumption that there are rarely fewer deaths than the reported number, and almost always more. So, even using reported numbers, we can reasonably posit that between 1-2.5% of the civilian population has been killed as a result of this war.

If this occurred in the U.S., the equivalent would be over 5,000,000 dead. Given social connection statistics, everyone in the U.S. would know at least 2-4 people they considered close to them who had died. How would you feel if 5 million Americans were killed as a result of a war declared on our country? How would you feel about the instigator, however well intentioned they might be?

There has never been a "clean" war. War brings with it the other three horsemen of Pesilence, Famine, and Death. Always. The ones who suffer the most are the civilians unfortunate enough to live on the battlegrounds. Always.

Which is why war is considered to be an immoral, unconscionable choice unless it is to defend yourself against a clear and present danger of being killed.

It's possible that the invasion of Afghanistan met this ultimate criteria. It's very clear that the invasion of Iraq did not, and does not.

And yet there is still at least a third of our population who support this war. I wonder if they ever ask themselves - what would justify the death of their loved ones if they were in the battlezone?

This might be all the explanation needed behind the numbers behind another recent poll in Iraq, where 47% of Iragis favored attacks on US Troops. Almost 80% wanted US Troops to withdraw within the next year.

According to a recent Zogby poll, an overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately.

So, we are in agreement. Overwhelming majorities of both the Iraqi and the American people feel that the US should withdraw from Iraq within the next year. If the current administration truly feels that democracy is the reason we are at war in the first place, then their marching orders should be clear.

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