July 11, 2007
In the manner of a soulless ghoul without conscience, the United States government dispatches its lethal military to wreak death and destruction across the world. So convinced are we that we embody the Good, we believe we may invade anywhere and everywhere, whenever we declare our "national interests" are imperiled. Our "national interests" are intentionally and infinitely elastic: they enable us to "justify" any military incursion anywhere, at any time. Because we represent the Good, it is inconceivable that we would act in ways that are monstrous and criminal on a scale that defies comprehension.
In the winter and spring of 2002-2003, it was obvious to any basically well-informed lay person that Iraq constituted no serious threat to the United States, or to anyone else. An "ordinary" citizen had no need of "secret information" or government "intelligence" to reach the conclusion that was entirely accurate, a conclusion that over four years of futile, unforgivable havoc and death have proven over and over again to be true. Such "intelligence" is almost always wrong in any case; it is almost never relevant to foreign policy decisions at all.
Our unfounded and indefensible belief in our unquestionable moral purity thus renders us incapable of recognizing the most fundamental fact of the Iraq catastrophe: it is immoral and criminal in each and every respect. Because Iraq was no threat, the crime was committed when the first innocent Iraqi died as the result of the United States' invasion and occupation.
But we refuse to acknowledge the initial crime, the death of that single innocent Iraqi. So we are absolute in our refusal to acknowledge the inconceivable magnitude of what our government has done:
A key question is missing from this debate. How many Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion? The New York Times editorial is silent on this matter.Robert Naiman concludes his article by stating that, as we discuss ending the war, "best estimates of the Iraqi death toll must be part of the debate." Of course, they will not be.
In a scientific study published last fall in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, researchers from Johns Hopkins estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died because of our government's invasion of their country. The survey that produced that estimate was completed in July, 2006. That was a year ago.
Unfortunately, despite the calls of the Lancet authors for other studies, there has been no systematic effort to update these results.
Just Foreign Policy has attempted to update the Lancet estimate in the best way we know. We have extrapolated from the Lancet estimate, using the trend provided by the tally of Iraqi deaths reported in Western media compiled by Iraq Body Count. Our current estimate is that 974,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion. The web counter and fuller explanation are here.
The Iraqi death toll resulting from the U.S. invasion is a key fact. We cannot make intelligent and moral choices about U.S. foreign policy while ignoring such a key fact. It has implications for our choices in Iraq, for our choices in dealing with Iran, for our choices about the size of the U.S. military (for why do our leaders want to expand the U.S. military, except to have the capacity to invade other countries?)
The exact toll will never be known. But this is no reason not to attempt to know what the best estimate is. We also don't know many other key facts with certainty. We don't know how many people live in the U.S. The census department creates an estimate, and this estimate is the basis of policy.
The Johns Hopkins researchers used the methods accepted all over the world to estimate deaths in the wake of war and natural disasters. The United Nations, for example, uses them to plan famine relief. Even the Bush administration relies on them when it accuses Sudan of genocide in Darfur. At present, this represents the best information we have.
They will not be, because our governing class and the foreign policy establishment have not begun to question seriously even one element of the bipartisan policy of American world hegemony. Everyone -- from Bush, to Congressional Democrats, to liberal bloggers -- supports a "bigger military," even when the United States already spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Leading Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are more militant about imposing our arbitrary will on Iran than even Bush and many conservatives are.
We refuse to acknowledge the immorality of the Iraq invasion and occupation: it was a "blunder," it was "incompetently managed." And so Frank Rich describes, in a manner revealing that most liberals continue to share the identical worldview and have surrendered none of their belief in our unchallengeable "Goodness," "the avoidable bungling of Iraq." If only it hadn't been "bungled," murder would not be murder. And so Obama insists, as he simultaneously insists on a still more powerful American military and on our unilateral "right" to use it however we may see fit:
I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.And so, when we attack Iran -- either at the command of Bush, or Clinton, or Obama -- and despite the fact that Iran also is no serious threat to us, we will refuse to see the monstrous nature of what we have done, even as millions of innocent people die and destruction spreads across the globe. We may indeed turn out to be the "last" agent of profound change on Earth -- but whether it will be "best" or represent a "hope" is left as an exercise for the reader. Let your concern and reverence for peace and the value of human life determine your answer.
I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth.
Is there anything to be done? Yes. Almost no one is remotely interested in doing even part of that. Am I saying that the United States has already committed crimes that are identical in principle to those committed by Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia -- and that it might do so again, and in the near future? Yes.
Massive public protest of the kind I have described in some detail might help to prevent it. Impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney, if they were to begin this week, might prevent it. I consider it close to impossible that either of those possibilities will be actualized.
If we continue on our present course, and there is no reason whatsoever to think we won't, this is your future -- and the world's.