Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Reality Seeps In

You can definitely tell that the GOP Congressional Caucus, smarting from last month, is starting to back away from Bush a touch. One bit of evidence: They not only actually allowed Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul to hold a truly fair and bipartisan hearing on the methology used to determine Iraqi deaths caused by the US invasion and occupation, but called on Juan Cole to speak at it, along with other experts. Reality was actually allowed to seep into not just the halls of Congress, but at least a small portion of our national media. Go grab a beer from the fridge, sit down and put your feet up, because this is going to take a while. Here's Dr. Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins, one of the authors of the study that found 650,000 Iraqi deaths attributable to the US invasion and occupation:

Now, as I mentioned earlier on, we did a survey in the year 2004, a smaller survey. But it gave us an opportunity to compare the results from this survey with the results from the survey in 2004, which covered that same period of time from the invasion up until 2004. And we found almost exactly the same results. These were different households, different communities, different neighborhoods, different cities, and we had virtually exactly the same results. So we're very confident in this. So if we could summarize what the numbers are saying that we collected, we're saying that the vast majority of deaths are due to violent causes, and we could say this -- these violent deaths are spread across the country. Now, most of the information we see on television and in the print comes from Baghdad. That's the most accessible area. We found that Baghdad was not by any means the most violent area. So we found also that, as I say, violence has spread right across the country.
Did you catch why I bolded certain parts of that passage? Here's why: One of the tighty-righty Bush apologists' favorite sayings is that "It's only Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle that's really bad, the rest of Iraq is much better, and everything will be just peachy if we just take care of Baghdad." But Dr. Burnham has now shown that the rest of Iraq is every bit as violent as Baghdad. A whole bunch of assumptions that undergird the alleged case for continued occupation have just collapsed. But wait, there's more! Here's Dr. Les Roberts, Associate Professor of Clinical Public Health at Columbia University, commenting on Dr. Burnham's remarks:
What if what Gil Burnham just described is correct; that is, what if 600,000 Iraqis have died because of this preemptive venture? Would Congress have approved this had they known in advance?
Probably, but only if they could have kept US casualties down below a hundred. (Sorry to be cynical, but too many people see Middle Easterners are evil brown-skinned folk sitting atop oil that God created for Americans to use.) But I digress.
Can the press pretend they've done even a credible job of reporting in Iraq, if they have consistently downplayed the number of deaths by a factor of 10? Can we in academia and in those think tanks around Washington pretend that we add value to discourse in society if something almost identical in magnitude to the Rwandan genocide could go more or less unnoticed by our society?
No and no, but that doesn't mean they won't keep trying. The Beltway punditatti just can't admit that they are wrong on anything, much less on their slavish devotion to the GOP in general and Bush in particular. So of course they can't openly admit that they neglected their oversight duties in favor of cuddling up to the Shrubbery. But Dr. Roberts is by no means finished:
Unfortunately, I'm here today to tell you that there is a lot of evidence from Iraq that our estimate is correct. For example, if Iraq was one of the healthiest countries in the world, had a mortality rate like we measured -- like the U.S. Census estimates to be, there'd have to be 140,000 deaths from natural causes a year -- people dying of old age, birth defects. That means about half a million deaths since the occupation began. Our report is saying that over this period, actually a slight majority of all deaths have been from violence. If the most commonly cited source in the media, the Iraqi body count estimate, or if the Brookings Institution, or of the U.N. is correct, there would only be about 10 percent of all deaths in Iraq from violence. And every newspaper report I see, the data from the Baghdad morgue, a couple of Iraqi physicians I've spoken to from a village near Abu Ghraib and from Basra, all tell me in their areas the vast majority of deaths are from violence. This alone means the number must be more than half a million since the occupation began. If our Lancet report is correct, we're saying that right now there's maybe three times as many bodies coming into graveyards and morgues across Iraq as there were back in 2002. And if Iraqi body count and Brookings are correct, it would only be about 10 percent more than there were back in 2002. Again, every report, including an article last Wednesday in The New York Times talking about how over- stressed ambulance drives are, sort of confirms that it's not just 10 percent more deaths than used to occur in 2002. Interestingly, the Iraqi minister of Health had been supporting this 40,000 to 50,000 death estimate until our study came out, and he changed it to perhaps 100,000 to 150,000 the week our study came out. And since then, he's been quoted by AP as saying more like 150,000, not the 600,000 reported in the Lancet. He tripled his estimate as a result of our study coming out. Can anyone pretend the Iraqi minister of health really knows? According to the United Nations, the Iraqi government surveillance network reported exactly zero violent deaths from Anbar province in the month of July, in spite of all the contradictory evidence we saw if we watched CNN. The most widely cited sources -- IBC, the United Nations, Brookings -- report about 80 percent of all violent deaths coming from Baghdad. And as Dr. Burnham mentioned, Baghdad actually is only about as violent as the nation on average. So here it is -- one-fifth of the country reporting four-fifths of all violent deaths, and we know their rate of violent deaths isn't any higher than the rest. Something is wrong with those sources. Similar incompleteness has been noted by the coalition surveillance activities. The Baker-Hamilton report of last week on page 95 said, and I quote, "For example, on one day of July in 2006, there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported, yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 violent acts." [...] You know, we're the society that eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth primarily by setting up surveillance networks, including during really violent conflicts in East Pakistan and Somalia and Biafra. We're the society that produced most of the medical developments that are taught in medical schools around the world. We gave the world the Internet. As a nation of information excellence it is, I think, beneath our dignity and, I hope, not in keeping with the compassion of the American people to have U.S. government officials consistently downplaying the number of dead in Iraq by a factor of 10 and 15.
Go read the whole thing, or watch and listen to it on C-Span. It's amazing.

If I were a member of the GOP currently in Office I would not touch George W. Bush with a 10 foot pole.

Instead I would watch his Administration fail under its own hubris.

If the GOP was smart they would look to the future and move away from the the NEO-CON ideals of Bush 43.
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