The Corner

Casualty Bleg: Some Answers

In my bleg the other day, I asked a couple of questions about Iraqi civilian casualties before and since the war. With thanks, as always, to the readers of this Corner, herewith some answers.

1. How many Iraqis were dying early deaths before the war? According to UNICEF, some 36,000 a year, of which 21,000 were children.

Note the use of this statistic by Fareed Zakaria, writing in his Newsweek column in October 2003:

“Those who now oppose the war must recognize that there was no stable status quo on Iraq. The box that Saddam Hussein had been in was collapsing. Saddam’s neighbors, as well as France and Russia, were actively subverting the sanctions against Iraq. And yet, while the regime was building palaces, the restrictions on Iraqi trade had a terrible side effect. UNICEF estimated that the containment of Iraq was killing about 36,000 Iraqis a year, 24,000 of them children under the age of 5. In other words, a month of sanctions was killing far more Iraqis than a week of the war did. This humanitarian catastrophe was being broadcast nightly across the Arab world. Policy on Iraq was broken. We had to move one way or the other. Either we could lift sanctions and welcome Saddam back into the community of nations, or we could rid Iraq and the world of one of the most evil dictatorships of modern times. One of The New York Times’s best war correspondents, John Burns, made this latter point as well as anyone: ‘Terror, totalitarian states and their ways are nothing new to me,’ he said in an interview, ‘but I felt from the start that [Iraq] was in a category by itself.’ Iraq was a threat, but more important, it was an opportunity.”

2. How many Iraqi civilians have died untimely deaths since the war began 14 months ago? A number of readers referred me to a site called “Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.net).” As one reader put it:

“As to the Iraqi war deaths, no official statistics have come out, nor do I think anyone can get very accurate estimates given the state of Iraq’s infrastructure in the lead up and during the recent war. An anti-war group [Iraq Body Count] estimates between 9,000 and 11,000. Keep in mind, however, that Saddam Fedayeen often used local civilians as protection in their fighting with US forces, forcing them to stand by them and hold weapons at gunpoint.”

Food in Iraq is everywhere available, clean water is flowing, electricity is being produced at levels higher than those before the war, hundreds of schools have been rebuilt and some 30,000 teachers trained—and whereas before the war Iraqi civilians were dying untimely deaths at the rate of 36,000 a year, now even an anti-war group estimates that in the last 14 months the number of Iraqi civilians to die unnatural deaths numbers at most about 11,000.

This represents a record of which George W. Bush is supposed to be ashamed?

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