Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Good grief: what about the Iraqi dead?

In my recent post about how poorly our own Civil War had been going for the North even as late as the spring of 1864, I mentioned the incredibly high casualties in that war compared to what we've suffered so far in Iraq.

A commenter named Global Citizen wrote:

Good grief, what about the Iraqi dead?

A timely observation; Global's comment was written on Monday, and it was on Tuesday (yesterday) that two pieces of news came through the wires almost simultaneously: an especially blood-curdling bombing that killed at least sixty people at a university in Baghdad (yes, a graphic demonstration of how the terrorists eat their own young); and the announcement by the UN that, by their calculations, more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in violence last year.

The UN figures are disputed by the Iraqi government:

Death tolls in Iraq are controversial because they vary so widely and because there is no uniform, transparent system of tabulating killings throughout the country. The 2006 civilian death toll of 34,452 provided by the UN -- drawn from the Health Ministry, hospital reports and the Medico-Legal Institute of Baghdad -- exceeded official government figures.

Iraq's ministries of defense, health, and interior said in early January that there were 13,896 violent deaths of civilians, police officers, and soldiers last year. An Interior Ministry spokesman, Abdul Kareem al-Kinani, said yesterday's UN figures were "incorrect, unsuccessful, and very exaggerated."

The truth is we don't know the truth, and probably will never know. Both the Iraqi government and the UN are suspect as reporters, and those giving them the data on which any such figures would be based probably have agendas, as well. The expression "the fog of war" covers civilian casualties in a chaotic and violent country in which many sides have a powerful motivation to distort the truth.

But one thing I do know: the murderers are relying on our reporting of the carnage to help their cause by inflaming US public opinion against our mission there.

So, what's the MSM to do? Ignore such a big story? Of course not.

And the killers know that. They also know if they kill enough innocent people with a big enough bang, it will become ever more likely that America will get fed up with our intervention there and leave them alone to do the rest of their dirty work in peace (ironic word, that).

And therein lies the rub for people such as Global--if, that is, they bother to think about what would happen after we leave. I'm afraid that, to many who espouse such an argument, the only Iraqi deaths that really matter are the ones that take place on our watch.

The truth is that Iraq has been a bloody killing field for decades. Back in the years when Saddam and his boys were murdering and torturing Iraqis for fun and profit, did we see the daily death toll printed on the front pages of our newspapers? No, of course not; those deaths slid into the general background noise, the hum of all the other third-world deaths perpetrated by murderous dictators against their own people. Non-Western killers against non-Western victims? For the most part, to the MSM--not our problem, not our news. Relegated to the back pages.

And now, every tally of Iraqi deaths that's published would do well to include a comparison to the deaths under Saddam (which would most likely have continued, unabated, had we not invaded)--or the deaths that are predicted to occur if we leave prematurely. But, of course, they don't. And the left doesn't talk much about these things, either.

It's a bit like the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The suffering perpetrated on the South by the North during that lengthy conflict; the re-education camps and with torture and murder afterwards; and the boat people, so many of whom died in their efforts to escape the regime after we abandoned them--there was hardly so much as a whisper of sorrow from the Left on that score.

Global uses the phrase "good grief" to begin his comment. He/she means it merely as an exclamation of astonishment. But it seemed an apt one to me. Because, to much of the Left, the only good grief to feel is about casualties caused by the US.

The deaths caused by regimes the US is trying to topple? The grief over them isn't nearly as good. And the deaths caused by our abandonment, at the urging of the Left, of a country we had pledged to defend? That's really un-good grief.

In the present conflict in Iraq, the US military has cared more about the number of dead civilians, and tried harder to avoid causing any such deaths, than any fighting force ever has before. And the "surge" policy is meant to flush out and kill the killers of such people.

That, of course, is not enough for the Left. Their remedy for the murders going on now is to leave. And, were we to listen to them, and the aftermath was a huge increase in the number of dead, would the Left ever take any responsibility for that particular bloodbath?

[NOTE: I'm well aware that the far Left often ascribes all casualties, before or after US intervention, as being caused by the US and/or the West in general. According to the Left, damaged third-world countries with murderous dictators are really the result of Western colonialism. Saddam's crimes are on our hands since we supported him now and then because of realpolitik (against the greater threat of Iran, for example). And of course any killings after we leave are our fault as well, because we shouldn't have gone there in the first place.

There is always at least a kernel of truth in these accusations, although they are simplistic and ridiculously reductionist. The US, like all nations, is an imperfect player in an imperfect world. Most of the time we face, as I've written before, "choices among crazinesses."

The validity of the causes for our intervention in Iraq has been rehashed ad nauseum: in a nutshell, I still consider them valid, although our execution has been faulty. The topic of this post, however, is how the MSM shortsightedly picks and chooses which casualties in Iraq to pay attention to, and how the Left uses that information to suggest actions likely to cause more of those innocent Iraqi casualties it purports to care so much about.]

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