Iraq: The Unaccounted Cost

The wingnut defenders of the Bushian legacy seem eager these days to claim that the recent decline in violence in Iraq somehow means we've obtained "victory" there. Most of the time they point to the relatively few American lives lost in the conflict as evidence somehow that it was worth it.

A few weeks ago I was part of a pre-election panel at my daughter's school along with a couple of local Republicans, each of us giving our view of the issues before voters this year. One of the students asked if we thought the Iraq war was worth it, and the Republicans presented their hopes that in the long run we would indeed see it as worthwhile.

I responded that it clearly had not been worth it, especially in terms of achieving our goals of fighting terrorism and spreading democracy. And the chief fact I pointed to was the magnitude of civilian losses in Iraq -- which brings in the moral component of the equation as well.

When the baseline of civilian casualties in Iraq is 100,000 innocent people dead -- and the actual count may reach as high as a million -- in a war that we provoked under false pretenses, then exactly what kind of victory is that?

And as I pointed out to those students, the "freedom" we've supposedly brought to the Iraqi people is meaningless to all those men, women, and children who have died. And it is irrevocably tainted for the families and friends left behind. Moreover, if you want to discover the real roots of terrorism, they are firmly planted in grotesque injustices such as this.

Yet that accounting has not taken place yet with the American public. Brad Jacobson at Media Bloodhound noticed an AP story the other day that deliberately obscured the reality of the massive civilian casualties we have inflicted on the Iraqi people:

The war has claimed more than 4,200 American lives and killed a far greater, untold number of Iraqis, consumed huge reserves of money and resources and eroded the global stature of the United States, even among its closest allies.

Jacobson goes on to detail:

As MediaBloodhound reported last April, when Opinion Research Business (ORB), a well-regarded non-partisan British polling agency that has conducted studies for the BBC and the British Conservative Party, released its January 2008 follow-up report estimating over 1 million Iraqi deaths since the US invasion -- which both reconfirmed its September 2007 estimate as well as supported prior findings of the 2006 John Hopkins study published in the British medical journal Lancet (650,000 deaths) -- a LexisNexis search showed no US mainstream news outlet carried the story.

MediaBloodhound also pointed out at the time that, writing in FAIR's newsletter Extra!, Patrick McElwee cited an "Associated Press poll in February (2/24/07) that asked Americans how many Iraqis have died received a median response of less than 10,000."

Americans bear a direct moral responsibility for these deaths, especially in light of the eventual realization that the invasion occurred under false pretenses. Our accounting so far has only included the American dead, as if those were the only lives that mattered.

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