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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Civilian casualties in Iraq and responsibility therefor 


Tyler Cowen notices that the World Health Organization's latest estimate of excess civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003 is a fraction of the now thoroughly discredit Johns Hopkins study published in The Lancet just before the 2006 election. Tyler observes that the left brooked no criticism of that earlier study:

This new estimate is probably not the final word, but you will recall that anyone who questioned the older estimate of one million deaths was pilloried at length; there is a lesson here.

The WHO report comes in the same week that the National Journal carpet-bombed the methodology of the now discredited Johns Hopkins study (apparently to some degree duplicated by the WHO).

Now, there will be those who say that the new estimate of 150,000 excess deaths is still too high a price for Iraqis to have paid for the removal of Saddam, even if it is 75% lower than the numbers used to bludgeon the Bush administration just before the 2006 mid-term elections. Big gun lefty blogger Hullabaloo had this to say:
But it remains 150,000 human lives, dead, senselessly, for an unnecessary war of choice. And that only goes up to June 2006, and the authors of the study admitted they were unable to reach certain areas that were "too violent."

Not to mention the 3,900-plus soldiers, including 9 in the last two days. And the numbers of wounded are incalculable.

All to remove a dictator who wasn't nearly as efficient at killing Iraqis.

Read that again, with feeling: "All to remove a dictator who wasn't nearly as efficient at killing Iraqis."

This, I think, reveals the vast gulf between supporters of the war and opponents. The Democrats believe that the United States is responsible for all excess deaths in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. After all, they reason, "but for" the American invasion these deaths would not have occurred. In this vision of the world, al Qaeda's inhuman car-bomb war and the sectarian fighting triggered by its attack on the Golden Mosque are predictable consequences of an American choice. The jihadis are not culpable for those deaths, because they would not have been moved to inflict them if the United States had not invaded in the first place. That is why, according to the left, all the excess deaths in Iraq are the fault of the United States war "to remove a dictator who wasn't nearly as efficient at killing Iraqis."

Apply that reasoning to other wars in history, and you can immediately see how fraudulent it is.

15 Comments:

By OpenID PirateCove, at Thu Jan 10, 09:27:00 AM:

Interesting that the lefties have cows over this, but, remember when they totally ignored the report of the massive Iraqi child deaths under sanctions, and Madelein Albright saying "It was worth it."

Mortality among Iraqi children was about 108 per 1,000 from 1994-1998.

How many people did Saddam and his regime kill?

Of course, liberals turned a blind eye to the slaughter of 850K Rwandans, following in the footsteps of Clinton and the UN.  

By Blogger Dave Schuler, at Thu Jan 10, 10:37:00 AM:

Death rate per 1,000 in Iraq per this new study: 6.01

Death rate per 1,000 in Iraq in 1999 (CIA Factbook): 6.59  

By Blogger Fritz, at Thu Jan 10, 10:42:00 AM:

I think that it's your reasoning that should come under attack as fraudulent here. With the "other wars in history" bit you're implying that Iraq is comparable to WWII or something like that, which it clearly isn't. It's not fair at all to say that leaving Saddam in power would have been at all analogous to leaving Hitler alone.

We don't know how things would have turned out had we not invaded Iraq. What we do know is that by invading Iraq, we opened the floodgates on a civil war that killed 150,000 people. Not that we are directly responsible for their deaths, of course, but our invasion was the catalyst. If there's a jail, and you open the doors to the jail and let the murderers out and they kill people, sure, you're not directly responsible for the deaths but it's perfectly fair to condemn your conduct.

If you believe that a peaceful approach could have accomplished something in Iraq, then it's perfectly legitimate to point out that the chosen course of action has caused excess deaths far out of proportion to any benefit the war has brought. This in no way means that you think Saddam was a good guy, only that there were better ways to accomplish the goal - particularly in view of the egregious mismanagement of the early phases of the war.  

By Blogger SR, at Thu Jan 10, 11:18:00 AM:

Fritz: "Better ways" like what?
Remember the result so far: Saddam gone, vestigial AQI presence.  

By Anonymous Kenneth, at Thu Jan 10, 11:40:00 AM:

Iraqi Body Count has posted an analysis of their data on the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed by violence in 2007.

It should be noted, these figures come from an anti-war organization based in the UK which has been sharply & consistantly critical of the US led war in Iraq. There is no reason to assume their figures have been deliberately slanted to make the US look good. And yet, some very interesting details are to be found in the data.

For background, here are the year-by-year totals:

Year Civilians Killed
2003 10,077 – 12,010
2004 9,741 – 10,573
2005 13,071 – 14,324
2006 25,699 – 27,519
2007 22,586 – 24,159

So we can see that in 2007 the death rate has started to decline. That's good news, if still rather grim. But looking more closely we see:

The most violent 12-month period in Iraq’s recent history extended from July 2006 to June 2007, with 29,625 to 31,852 civilian deaths recorded.
Trends from mid-2007 onwards show monthly violence levels on the decrease.
Since March 2007 every month has seen more civilian deaths outside Baghdad than inside it. This has never happened before.

Looking closer, breaking down the past 2 years into 6 month periods we see this dramatic trend:

Jan-06 to Jun-06: 10,725
Jul-06 to Dec-06: 16,794
Jan-07 to Jun-07: 15,056
Jul-07 to Dec-07: 9,103

In other words, from the very moment the Surge began, the numbers started to fall, and dramatically so.

So who are killing these civilians?

Deaths of non-combatants such as civilian bystanders killed in firefights and other attacks involving US-led Coalition military forces rose from 544–623 in 2006 to 868–1,326 in 2007.

Civilian deaths directly attributable to US forces alone (ie, not involving any other combatants) increased steeply from 394–434 reported in 2006 to 669–756 in 2007.

At most, 1326 civilians were killed by US and/or Coalition forces, out of the 24,159 civilians killed. That's 5.5% ! Which leaves 24,033 civilians killed by terrorists, insurgents, militias or criminals, or 94.5% of all civilian deaths. While the number of civilians killed by the US &/or Coaltion forces increased slightly in 2007, due to the increased kinetic operations by the US, the overall number of civilians killed has dropped significantly. This is clearly due to the fact the Surge is succeeding in protecting the civilians from attacks by the terrorists & militias.  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu Jan 10, 01:24:00 PM:

What's done is done. We won't make the same mistakes anytime soon. It's time to look forward, not backward.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Thu Jan 10, 04:43:00 PM:

We don't know how things would have turned out had we not invaded Iraq....If you believe that a peaceful approach could have accomplished something in Iraq...

One point about the “peaceful approach:” we were NOT at peace with Saddam from 1991-2003. We were in cease-fire, during which time Saddam engaged in numerous, even countless, violations of the cease-fire terms, including firing at our aircraft.

Since you admit we don't know how things would have turned out, then anything you point out as criticism of the path taken to contrast it to the allegedly superior “peaceful approach,” is as you admit, pure speculation. One may as well believe in Creation Design, as give any credence to such speculation.

On the other hand, for the True Believer of any faith…  

By Anonymous Dave in VT, at Thu Jan 10, 08:35:00 PM:

Unwittingly, the author spells out the naked truth. If not for the American invasion, al-Qaida would not be in Iraq.

Is it too much to grasp that those who suffered under Saddam were the very same Islamofascists that we now profess to be after in our military actions in the Middle East? Saddam, ladies and gentleman, was SECULAR. He was not an Islamic radical and had nothing whatsoever to do with al-Qaida, indeed he fought against the Iranian-backed Shiite extremists that we are fighting.

This war in Iraq was built on lies, continued on lies and will continue on lies until Barack Obama is elected. Then finally sanity will return to the White House.

Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11. He presented no threat whatsoever. There was no connection between him and any terrorist act aimed at us. We are in this war because of oil and only oil, and for this at least 150,000 innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered by American killers. 3,000 of our young men and women have died.

For nothing whatsoever.

If you defend this war it is only because you hate the United States and root for its destruction.  

By Anonymous N. O'Brain, at Thu Jan 10, 09:00:00 PM:

Al Queda WAS in Iraq before the invasion. This fact is too firmly established to be diputed.

And the good news?

Saddam continues not to be a threat to our country.

-----

Does anyone know if there is a brakout of the # of dead terrorists in this report, of is every Iraqi pure as the driven snow and would never think of sniping at American troops or planting the odd IED?  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Thu Jan 10, 09:32:00 PM:

Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11. He presented no threat whatsoever
Tell that to the Kurds he gassed and to the Kuwaitis, among others. And the umpteen Security Council resolutions he had violated?
Since he "presented no threat whatsoever," should sanctions have been ended? Certainly Russia and France over last 5 years before 2003 were pushing hard for sanctions to end.
As for Obama, he reminds me of President Wintergreen in Gershwin's musical Of Thee I sing, who ran and won the office on a platform of LOVE.
One less jerk in the ME is gone,and that is a bad thing?  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Thu Jan 10, 09:46:00 PM:

Another point about Saddam. Only FIVE Democratic Senators voted for Gulf War 1. If the country had followed the lead of the Peace Democrats on Gulf War 1, Saddamn would still be in Kuwait and most likely would also have the bomb.

While I did vote for McGovern and Carter, I left the Democratic Party long ago over the blatantly obvious foreign policy failures of the Peace Democrats.  

By Blogger SMGalbraith, at Thu Jan 10, 10:37:00 PM:

If not for the American invasion, al-Qaida would not be in Iraq.

So al-Qaeda was forced to go into Iraq and slaughter the Iraqis by us?

They had no free will? No moral culpability is extended to them?

Al-Qaeda wasn't in Yemen until we established port facilities there. I guess we're to blame for al-Qaeda operating there and for their attacks on the USS Cole and the deaths of the sailors?

Yep, al-Qaeda is completely blameless.

Amazing. Blame America first, second and third.  

By Blogger "Mindles H. Dreck", at Fri Jan 11, 06:13:00 AM:

Dave in VT -
Iraq had plenty to do with the 1993 WTC bombing, particularly after the fact when they took in one of the perpetrators.

They also tried to assassinate an ex-president.

Two of the people who plotted 9/11 had their identities cleansed in Kuwait during the Iraq occupation.

Not enough?  

By Blogger Fritz, at Fri Jan 11, 04:03:00 PM:

MHD: "Not enough?"

Enough to go after Saddam himself, maybe. Enough to open the floodgates on a civil war that kills 150k? No. Starting the war was a terrible mistake.

BT: "Since you admit we don't know how things would have turned out, then anything you point out as criticism of the path taken to contrast it to the allegedly superior “peaceful approach,” is as you admit, pure speculation. One may as well believe in Creation Design, as give any credence to such speculation."

Utterly disingenuous. My hypothesis is that not invading Iraq would have prevented the deaths of 150,000 people. I grant that it's possible, but extremely unlikely, that these people would have died in another way. To say that makes my argument "pure speculation" akin to creationism is rhetoric, not argument.  

By Anonymous Dawnfire82, at Fri Jan 11, 08:08:00 PM:

"Enough to go after Saddam himself, maybe."

Who was the sitting head of state of a military dictatorship. How else would you suggest getting him? A subpoena?

"but extremely unlikely that these people would have died in another way"

You apparently have no idea what life was like under Saddam. You also apparently overlooked the little statistic Dave Schuler supplied above.

http://www.amazon.com/Uncle-Saddam-Qusay-Hussein/dp/B0000897A7

That gives only a taste. It sort of glances over the details of the organized rape, Black&Decker inspired torture, summary executions, and criminal abuse of power that Saddam's circle used and engaged in. But it's a start.

"If you defend this war it is only because you hate the United States and root for its destruction."

Damn, you've found out our terrible secret, that we are part of a vast, secret cabal dedicated to destroying the United States from within. You're a marked man now, Dave. Your days are numbered. After all, how many Daves could there possibly be in Vermont? Make sure to sleep with one eye open from now on. Retard.  

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