Liberation Has a Body Count

After their jerry-built justifications – 1. WMD. 2. Saddam and Osama sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G – fell apart, the neoconservatives had a problem. Why, exactly, did we invade Iraq? It seems we invaded not so much for us as for them. The Iraqi people, that is. How very altruistic. Saddam was a killer, and we put paid to him, delivering liberation in his absence. But you can’t make an omelet – or impose democracy on Muslims – without “collateral damage,” and the human toll of America’s invasion has risen so fast it is no surprise many Iraqis want Saddam back, despite the torture chambers George W. Bush never forgets to remind us about.

The neocons are always fighting World War II (although we’re now up to WWIV by Norman Podhoretz’s count) and Saddam, like Slobodan, was accused of “genocide.” Milosevic’s genocide was long ago exposed as another neocon whopper, but this claim served admirably as a pretext for aggression. Saddam is accused of having killed 250,000 or 500,000 or even a million of his own people over 35 years. Evidence to back up these numbers is somewhat lacking, and the numbers are especially suspect if they include those Iraqis that died while engaged in insurrection against Saddam. (Over a million Americans died because Lincoln put down an insurrection in order to preserve the Union. If we hold Lincoln to the same standard the neocons hold Saddam to, then Lincoln must be universally acknowledged as one of history’s greatest war criminals.)

Be that as it may, let us stipulate for the record that Saddam Hussein was a killer, a wicked man indeed. Yet even the invasion’s most avid supporters cannot but agree that Iraq was not a lawless society prior to our merciful faith-based intervention. In fact, it was rather orderly. Whatever one might say about the al-Tawhid and Jihad (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s outfit), the Islamic Army, the Khaled bin al-Waleed corps, the Green Brigade, the Islamic Response, Ansar al-Sunna and the Black Banners – they did not have the run of Iraq. Saddam Hussein did. Saddam was a brutal dictator, but he did provide Iraq with one of the foundations of civilization: order.

As opposed to the chaos that now obtains. Both ideological terrorists and the “Ali Baba” element are running rampant because they can. Saddam Hussein’s monopoly over force might not have been to our liking, but it certainly prevented the rampant murder, robbery and assault that have made liberated Iraq a Hell on Earth – 18 months after “Mission Accomplished.”

If Iraqis have not piped up in protest – if they’ve failed to spread the “good news” about their country – it is because they are busy … busy dying at rates at least as high as those claimed by the Saddam = Hitler crowd.

And I am not referring here merely to the unofficial counts of the numbers of Iraqis killed directly by the invasion and its aftermath.

The Iraq Body Count estimates that between 14,000 and 16,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed; the Brookings Institute says between 10,000 to 27,000. Other reliable sources estimate that as many as 37,000 Iraqis have been killed by coalition forces. (Ah, but their deaths, though unfortunate, were unintentional, the neocons respond. Only idiots, however, could deny that the civilian carnage was inevitable and should have been foreseen well in advance, as it continues to be in the assault on Fallujah.)

The numbers noted above are bad enough, but they don’t tell the full horror story.

To fully put us in the picture (much as Picasso’s Guernica put us in the picture as to what happened in one Spanish town in 1937), we now have a study conducted by scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and published by the Lancet.

In the final days of Saddam’s reign of terror, i.e., in the 15 months preceding the invasion, the primary causes of death in Iraq were natural: “heart attack, stroke and chronic illness.” Since Iraq became another neocon object lesson, the primary cause of death has been violence, according to the report.

Since March 2003, Iraqis have suffered from an excess of deaths, if you will. As Dr. Les Roberts, author of the study, told BBC News, “About 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

According to the study, “The relative risk, the risk of deaths from any cause, [my emphasis] was two-and-a-half times higher for Iraqi civilians after the 2003 invasion than in the preceding 15 months. But “the risk of death by violence [my emphasis] for civilians in Iraq is now 58 times higher than before the U.S.-led invasion.”

To be clear, American forces have not replaced protracted agonizing death by disease with mercifully quick, violent death. If this were the case, no doubt, neoconservatives might be touting the merits of their new Iraqi Health Care Plan.