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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Body Counts in the Bush II War - The Price of Freedom, of Anarchy, or of Bush I/ Clinton Inaction?

97.jpg_39522739_site-afp-203body.jpg Of course we in the press must resist the lurid temptation to count bodies. After all, as Thomas L. Friedman (NYT, 10/30/03 editorial) and many other defenders of this miserable venture now feel compelled to insist (see our related "Short Story"in the right column), after all, gentlemen, "This is not (I repeat, Not!) Vietnam!"
But the numbers do tell an interesting story.

As of November 6, 2003, the best estimate for the total number of Iraqi civilians killed since the commencement of the Second Iraq War on March 20, 2003, is 7832 to 9657, only about 4300 of whom died during the war's first month. The number of Iraqi civilians wounded exceeds 20,000, so the total number of civilian casualties is now approaching 30,000.

This still compares quite favorably with the estimated 35,000 to 100,000 Kurds and Shiite civilians who were slaughtered by Saddam's troops in the wake of the hasty Allied withdrawal after the First Iraq War in February 1991. But from another perspective all these civilian casualty numbers should really be added together, making the total cost of President George H.W. Bush's (e.g., Bush the Elder's) failurefig. 9.13. George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.JPG
to complete the job and remove Saddam back in 1991 at least 65,000 Iraqi direct civilian casualties. In addition, there are also the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi infants who appear to have succumbed to the health effects of the otherwise-fruitless international embargo that the UN and the Clinton Adminstration imposed on Saddam's Iraq during the rest of the 1990s. clintonap.jpg At the time, this shameful story went almost completely untold by the mainstream US press -- in the finest Walter Duranty tradition. a>

Meanwhile, Iraqi combatant fatalities in the Second Bush War numbered at least 7700 to 10700 during the war's first month.. At least that many have been killed since then, and several times as many have been wounded, so the total number of Iraqi combatant casualties is fast approaching 40,000. While estimates vary widely, this is probably about the same number of combatant casualties as Iraqi suffered during the First Gulf War.

Lest we celebrate too quickly, most of these "combatant" casualties were not Saddam loyalists, but ordinary Iraqis who were either dragooned into military service or driven there by the country's failing economy -- a product, in turn, of international sanctions and, before those, of Iraq's $120 billion war debt and its costly war with Iran during the 1980s. Most of this debt is still owed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that Saddam successfully defended them against Khomeini's Iran during the 1980-88 War. As thanks for his efforts, these two oil sheikdoms conspired to cut oil prices from 1986 on, driving him into bankruptcy even while he was battling Khomeini to a bloody draw. So much for Arab solidarity.

In any case, given this horrific week, including Sunday's disastrous helicopter assault the total number of Allied killed to date is now at least441, and the total number of US wounded is at least 2195. The grand total of Allied killed or wounded is now at least 2900, -- an average of more than 13 per day, and already more than the direct casualties suffered by Allied forces during the First Gulf War.

This comparison ignores the more than 200,000 (out of 700,000) veterans of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield who have filed disability claims, including many thousands who claim to have the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome." But who knows what ailments the 1,000,000+ veterans-to-be of the Second Bush War will bring home with them?

(c) James S. Henry, October 2003. Not for reproduction or other use without express consent of the author.

October 30, 2003 at 10:42 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Great piece! Nice to know we've had such a constructive influence on our neighbors. 'Bodes well for the new democracy strategy in the Middle East.

Posted by: Robin at Nov 8, 2003 3:34:29 AM