The cost of the Iraq war

This isn’t going to be a long post, just a short observation.

Just before Christmas I read with great interest this piece in Time Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq as War Ends about the final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

I’ve been a long time opponent of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, which I believe was launched on false pretences. One of these was that Iraq was somehow involved in the Sept 11 attacks (it clearly wasn’t).

But even if we take that at face value (which I don’t), the final casualty rate from Sept 11 was just under 3,000.

The Time article notes:

The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury.

So the Iraq invasion, the retaliation of sorts, cost 1,000 more lives than the initial attacks, and cost more than the $700 billion bail-out of the US banks during the GFC.

Iraq Body Count estimates that civilian — i.e. non-combatant — casualties alone are greater than 100,000. A 22:1 ratio of Iraqi to American casualties. (I feel it important to note that estimates of civilian deaths while Saddam was in power are higher than this figure.)

As Time notes, “The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.” Indeed.

Disproportionate force

Israel has reportedly lost 8 people in the current conflict, 3 of those civilians. Palestinian casualties amount to over 668 , make that 774, with civilian deaths at around 50% according to the UN.

The recent attacks on a school in Gaza raised the death toll by as many as 42 people, including 13 children.

I have yet to find any details of deaths related to the Hamas rocket attacks that supposedly justify Israel’s massive military offensive (though I’d be interested to learn more if anyone has links).

I was watching the 7:30 Report last night on the ABC and a UN representative responded to the school massacre. He passionately yet eloquently spoke against Israel’s attacks, calling for an immediate cessation to hostilities (on both sides) and called for international humanitarian law to be upheld (i.e. for Israel to cease attacks on civilian-populated areas and Hamas to not use human shields – which it should be added there is scant evidence of outside of IOF statements as far as I can tell). During the interview he used the words “disproportionate use of force”.

Given these statistics, I’d have to say I agree with his conclusion…

Dead in Iraq

This is pretty amazing.

More detail at SMH:

As the game [America’s Army – an interactive project funded by the Pentagon which it uses to enlist recruits] continues around him after he is killed – and usually under a hail of abuse from the other players – DeLappe types in the name, age, service branch and the date of death of each soldier.

Bring Hicks Home

Amnesty International have just launched a very clever site as part of their campaign to Bring David Hicks home.

They have a “cell” – the same as the one David Hicks has been held in for 5 years without trial – that they are touring around the country with. Visitors to the cell are presented with a “passport” explaining David’s situation, and once in the cell, they can leave a video message, which is then presented on the Bring David Hicks home website.

If you have visited the cell, you can find your video by using the search/filter options on the site.

I think the site is very good – helping to bring home the reality of Hicks’ situation and allowing people to connect in a more emotional way with what is often presented as a legal or political issue.

I also love the fact that the site uses YouTube for video hosting – a fantastic use of participant media.

The site was launched yesterday by Digital Eskimo – who also helped WWF build the Future is man made site. Nice work!

Update: GetUp have also just launched a new video as part of their campaign on the same issue.

Spinning in Iraq

The Australian: Saddam sentence sparks clashes.

Police were battling supporters of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last night when clashes broke out in the Iraqi capital immediately after the ousted president was sentenced to death.

Police exchanged machinegun fire with insurgents in the capital’s rebellious northern Azamiyah district, an area dominated by hardliners from among Saddam’s fellow Sunnis.

Sometimes the spin is subtle… In the first para, the author says “supporters of Saddam Hussein”. Second para, they become “insurgents”. The inference – that the “insurgents” in Iraq, responsible for the violence and bombings, are the last of the “supporters of Saddam Hussein”. The logical extension: the death of Saddam will see the insurgents off.

The idea that the remaining insurgents are Saddam supporters has long been discredited – especially by journalists like Robert Fisk who have been on the ground in Iraq. The anti-US sentiment in Iraq, fuelled by the lack of a clear timetable for withdrawal, continues to build support for the insurgents – the resistance (possibly a more appropriate term?) is not going anywhere.

The Bush administration, and the press, will continue to push this idea for some time to come. The inferences will become more subtle, but no less problematic.

Iraq death toll

CNN: Study: War blamed for 655,000 Iraqi death [via Scripting News]

War has wiped out about 655,000 Iraqis or more than 500 people a day since the U.S.-led invasion, a new study reports.

…President Bush slammed the report Wednesday during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden. “I don’t consider it a credible report. Neither does Gen. (George) Casey,” he said, referring to the top ranking U.S. military official in Iraq, “and neither do Iraqi officials.”

“The methodology is pretty well discredited,” he added.

No mention by Bush of why the methodology is discredited. Later:

Last December, Bush said that he estimated about 30,000 people had died since the war began.

…The authors said their method of sampling the population is a “standard tool of epidemiology and is used by the U.S. government and many other agencies.”

Professionals familiar with such research told CNN that the survey’s methodology is sound.

Doesn’t matter which way you cut it – Bush’s accepted figure of 30,000, Iraq Body Count’s figure of between 43,850 nd 48,693 (which relies solely on media-reported deaths), or 655,000 in the new study – Iraqi’s have suffered a huge loss of life. America launched this attack supposedly in response to the loss of life on 11 Sept 2001 – around 3,000 people. At least 10 times that loss of life in Iraq. At least…

What bugs me most about Bush’s statement is that the US military have explicitly stated that they do not track deaths of Iraqis – so how on earth they can support the 30,000 figure I do not know.

Bloggers attempt to bridge the gap

MTV: Israelis, Lebanese Blog To Each Other As War Rages [via Doc Searls]

Both sides of the political fence often claim that the mainstream media misses their side of the story. During conflict we often hear from the political leadership, be it those involved in the conflict or those outside of it. And conflicts are often presented in black-and-white/with-us-or-against-us arguments.

I think the article Doc points to shows how people, having found a voice through weblogs, can bypass the media to some degree and demonstrate that there is an alternative to war.