Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Body Count

A few years ago a study published in the respected medical journal stated the death toll of the Iraq war was one million. E-mails that the BBC was able to procure based on the British Freedom of Information act show that Blair’s advisors were fairly frustrated at first to hear that the Lancet study’s method of investigation was unshakeable. The government finally declared that, even though the method had also been used in other conflict situations, the Lancet numbers were much higher than those provided by statistics from other sources, and that this demonstrated how greatly estimates could vary depending on the method of data collection. From the very small circle of scientists who had initially expressed fierce criticism, after a while the only thing one heard was that “there is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures.” From then on, most of the media would mention the study, if at all, only with the addendum “controversial.” This label, however, is simply untrue. This new study by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – confirm the obscenely high deadly toll of the Iraq war and others since. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. In Afghanistan, the longest war in NATO’s history, Wikipedia  reveals the number of 14,576 domestic and foreign security forces killed, and between 12,500 and 14,700 civilians killed (as of 2012). Searching for the number of Al-Qaida and “Taliban” members, it is stated that no reliable data are possible. This in turn suggests that the other figures indicated are somehow reliable. But in fact, they are not. This is not meant as criticism of the diligent Wikipedia writers, rather as a comment on the general superficiality used to deal with the devastating consequences of the war.

The U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNA) in Iraq, the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF-A), also in Afghanistan, have carefully kept a running total of fatalities they have suffered. However, the military’s only interest has been in counting “their” bodies: 4,804 MNA soldiers have died in Iraq between March 2003 and February 2012, the date when the U.S. body counting stopped. As of early end 2014, 3.485 ISAF and OEF soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan since 2001.

The picture of physically wounded military personnel for both war theatres is incomplete. Only the U.S. military is identified: (a) 32,223 were wounded during the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath, and (b) until November 2014 20.040 were wounded in Afghanistan. No figures are known for mental disorders involving military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Officially ignored are casualties, injured or killed, involving enemy combatants and civilians.  This, of course, comes as no surprise. It is not an oversight but a deliberate omission. The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths. This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs. U.S. journalist Nir Rosen noted, “the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis are not better off, … the children who lost their fathers aren’t better off, … the hundreds and thousands of refugees are not better off.”

The desire of governments to hide the complete picture and costs of military interventions and wars is nothing new. For the United States, the history of the Vietnam war is emblematic. The immense toll on Southeast Asia, including the estimated death of at least two million Vietnamese non-combatant civilians, and the long-term health and environmental impacts of herbicides such as Agent Orange, are still not fully recognized by the majority of the American people. Such historical amnesia can be traced to widespread cover-up by US authorities and their media minions of the crimes against humanity committed in “our” name. Similarly, the Vietnam war’s consequent political destabilization of the region, associated with the rise of the horrific Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, is reminiscent of the recent "post-war" destabilization in Iraq and neighbors that has been conducive to the rise of brutal Caliphate "wannabes" such as ISIS that is now terrorizing the region. The war in Pakistan is therefore a consequence of the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan. It began in 2004 with the massive advance of the Pakistani military against Al-Qaeda hide-outs and “Taliban” in southern Waziristan. The initial hope that this could contain the war has turned into its opposite. The war intensified, terrorist reprisals increased, and the war spread to other areas of Pakistan.

A politically useful option for U.S. political elites has been to attribute the on-going violence to internecine conflicts of various types, including historical religious animosities, as if the resurgence and brutality of such conflicts is unrelated to the destabilization caused by decades of outside military intervention. As such, underreporting of the human toll attributable to ongoing Western interventions, whether deliberate, or through self-censorship, has been key to removing the "fingerprints" of responsibility. Today, permanent acceptance of war and occupation is most easily accomplished by using humanitarian, human rights pretexts for war, such as “reconstruction,” “stabilization,” “securing human rights” or “democratization.” After the so-called “global war on terror” was at first justified as a (pre-emptive) self-defense, even later on the continued occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were likewise explained by those alleged goals. While at the beginning such military interventions were called “humanitarian interventions,” today their proponents try to classify them as part of the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” which Western states try to enshrine as a new norm in international law. According to first estimates, the war in Libya in 2011, where NATO intervened in support of insurrectionary forces, has cost at least 50,000 Libyan lives. Even though the intervention was justified by the claim of “protecting the civilian population.” Unfortunately, the justification of military interventions in order to “fight terror” is still part and parcel of the political debate, even though there is enough evidence that a substantial part of terrorism is engendered by military, intelligence, and economic interventions of the very same countries that consequently make use of the pretext of terror to politically legitimize their military and geo-strategic expeditions.

The total body count in the three main war zones Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism’. comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.

Aside from the number of the victims of a conflict, it is of course also important to know who is responsible for them and to what extent. A priori, of course, those who started the war also carry the main responsibility for all victims. Since the assault on Iraq unequivocally constituted an aggression in violation of international law, the U.S. and its allies are also responsible for all its consequences. United States military forces have killed more innocent foreign civilians than the forces of any other country since the end of World War II, an uncomfortable truth for a nation whose people overwhelmingly consider themselves liberators, even as their government has supported countless brutal dictatorships

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

The Yemen conflict escalates with Saudi Arabia conducting air-raids