Friday, February 25, 2011

Playing God in the Middle East

Accounting for the Human Toll in Iraq

By MICHAEL BRENNER, Counterpunch, Feb 24, 2011

We are now in the 10th year of the first decade of the ‘war on terror.’ So the inevitable anniversary assessments are beginning to appear.  Iraq reappraisals specifically are back in vogue.  They favor the drawing of balance sheets.  Most will be skewed in an alchemic attempt to put the face of success on an unmitigated disaster.  Even a more tempered approach at calculating cost/benefits, though, leaves something missing – something of paramount importance.  It is the effects on Iraqis themselves.  Not Iraqis in the abstract, not as figures in a statistical tabulation of sects.  Rather, as flesh and blood and feeling persons.  Frankly, most of the discourse about Iraq from day one has had a disengaged quality to it.  That is the norm for dominant powers on the world stage, and for the seminar strategist.  That was not always the norm by which Americans referenced war and violence abroad in the 20th century when we truly believed in our proclaimed ideals.

To illuminate the point, here are some too readily slighted facts.  100,000 – 150,000 Iraqis are dead as the consequence of our invasion and occupation.  That is the conservative estimate.  Untold thousands are maimed and orphaned.  2 million are uprooted refugees in neighboring lands.  Another 2 million are displaced persons internally.  The availability of potable water and electricity is somewhat less than it was in February 2003.  The comparable numbers for the United States would be 1.1 – 1.6 million dead; an equal number infirmed; 22 million refugees eking out a precarious existence in Mexico and Canada; 22 million displaced persons within the country.  We did not do all the killing and maiming; we did most of the destruction of infrastructure.  To all these tragedies we are accessories before and during the fact.

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