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Friday, April 06, 2007


Unreported deaths in Iraq

I wrote something last October which today's news prompts me to write about again. I was out all day, and by the time I'm actually writing about it, it's become even more relevant, since Lenin's Tomb once again takes on the subject of the IBC "count" vs the Johns Hopkins estimate, and what I'm about to say bears directly on that.

Here's the sentence in the news which caught my eye:

At least 38 Iraqis also were found slain Thursday in bombings, shellings, gunfire and execution-style killings.
So why is that noteworthy? Because, just like every other time such news appears, what you don't see is a phrase like this: "Eight more people died in Iraqi hospitals as a result of wounds inflicted in yesterday's car bombing/last week's IED explosion/last month's market bombing." I don't know about you readers, but I can say honestly I have never seen such a statement in the news, which means that Iraq Body Count, which tallies news reports, can't possibly include such deaths.

And are these significant? Even without the benefit of the Johns Hopkins study giving us an estimate of the actual totals, we would know it is just from first principles. Take a look at American military deaths vs. injuries, with a ratio of something like 1:10. Everyone says that in previous wars, many if not the majority of those Americans would have died. But surely, the treatment of Iraqi civilians who are injured in attacks is no better, and likely much, much worse, than American soldiers received in Vietnam. So it's quite possible that for every Iraqi we read about in the papers who has died, as in the story cited above, another one, two, five, maybe even ten, died in hospitals the next day, the next week, the next month. And, of course, that's just people dying in the hospitals from earlier violence; it doesn't include people dying in the hospitals from lack of basic medical care, lack of medicine, etc. - people who, were the Iraqi medical system what it was before the West began an all-out assault on Iraq starting the first Gulf War, would never have died.

There's one other sentence in today's news which deserves highlighting, although it has nothing to do with the subject above:

British forces, whose bases are shelled almost daily, were pressing ahead with plans to hand over security control of Basra to Iraqi forces.
Note that these aren't soldiers out on patrol who are being attacked every day. These are the British bases which are being shelled almost daily. Certainly not something you read about very often.

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