Friday, June 03, 2005

Dying in Iraq

Juan Cole has an excellent post comparing the death rate in Iraq with Saddam to that since his removal by the U.S. illegal war.:
Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, when questioned about the Iraq war that he helped spearhead, asked, "Would you really prefer to have Saddam Hussein in power?"

But the reason for not having Saddam in power was that he had killed so many people. If not having him means that 8,000 people a year have to die, then what? And what if the number of people dying in Iraq is even higher? What if it is not 8,000 a year, as Jabr maintains, but more like 50,000? Jabr's figures are only for casualties of guerrilla actions. What about all the Iraqis who have died as a result of US bombing raids on civilian quarters of cities? What about all the murders that occur as part of political reprisals?

The Baath Party was in power for about 35 years. If it had killed 8000 civilians per year, that would be 280,000 persons. That is about what is alleged, though it is probably an exaggeration. (The deaths in the Iran-Iraq war cannot all be laid at Saddam's feet, since he began suing for peace in 1982, but was rebuffed by Khomeini, who insisted on dragging the war out until 1988 in hopes of taking Baghdad and putting the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in power there. Likewise, Mr. Rumsfeld's offer of support to Saddam and greenlighting of the use of chemical weapons prolonged the war).

In other words, Bayan Jabr's figures suggest that in US-dominated Iraq, people are dying so far at about the same rate as they did under Baath rule. (If he is underestimating the civilian casualties, then it is possible that many more are dying per year than under Saddam!) In any case, Saddam's killing sprees were largely over with by the late 1990s, so the rate of death in Iraq now is enormously greater than it was in, say, 2001.

Wolfowitz should give up on the propaganda technique of just demonizing his opponents and then asking how anyone could want them in power. The real question is, are Iraqis better off under US auspices? So far, the answer with regard to the death rate is a resounding "No!"

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