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.

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.

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.

“Orwell watch”

Scott Rosenberg has an interesting take on the Saddam Hussein trial verdict: Saddam trial Orwell watch.

I have other thoughts on the verdict (something about the fact that many other crimes will go untried, truth will not be found, the death penalty should not be celebrated etc.) but not the time, nor the energy to expand.

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.

Zarqawi assassination

Zarqawi death good news for BushOlmert congratulates Bush for killing of al-ZarqawiZarqawi’s demise is a psychological boost.

Zarqawi has a horrid history and deserved strong justice (strong justice does not necessarily equate to death, mind you).

(I’m sure some people will disagree with what I’m about to say, but I feel it necessary.)

We should remember all this crowing and cheering that we’re doing next time we see reports from Al Jazeera or BBC about Arabs cheering in the streets as a result of al Qaeda or other success against “the west”.

Iraq Body Count reports that between 38,254 and 42,646 Iraqi’s have been killed as a result of the attack on and occupation of Iraq. Yes, you read that right, around forty thousand people killed as a result of military action launched by Bush, Blair and Howard. The perception is that this war was launched with our (the citezenship’s) support.

Now, for a thought experiment, flip those headlines around: “Bush death good news for bin Laden”, “Hamad congratulates bin Laden for killing of Bush”, “Bush’s demise a psychological boost”. That is probably how we are being seen by a great many in the Arab world. Even if we don’t agree with Bush’s policies (as many in the Arab world probably didn’t agree with Zarqawi), we’d still think it was an outrage if an event like that was celebrated so openly.

I also note no mention of civilian casualties from the air strikes (don’t kid yourself into thinking there were none – if there’s one thing I learnt from Robert Fisk is that air strikes are never as precise as claimed).

Why are we so eager to celebrate death?

Update: In fact, I was just thinking about one of those articles again – “:Zarqawi death good for Bush”. I’ve heard (through an email group that I’m part of) that six civilians were killed in the attacks. Looked at from another perspective, that headline reads: six people dying is good for Bush – because it helps him “revive sagging public support for the war in Iraq”…

EPBC Act and the orange-bellied parrot

David Jeffery at Oikos recently penned two pieces on the “orange-bellied parrot” incident that stopped a wind farm going ahead in Victoria. An Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act primer: Part 1, Part 2.

I personally suspected that something was amiss with the decision, and David’s posts make a good case in that regard. It also highlights some interesting things about the EPBC that I didn’t know.

Disclosure: I work for WWF-Australia which, via the discontinued EPBC Project, has played a key role in education, advising and facilitating the EPBC Act. The views expressed here are my own.