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Monday, March 09, 2009


Death in Darfur (and Iraq)

In conjunction with the ICC indictment of Sudanese President Bashir, we keep hearing about the ongoing genocide (even if the ICC decided it could only charge "war crimes" and not "genocide") in Darfur. But here's a curious fact. News reports routinely report "300,000 dead" in Darfur. But that's exactly what they were reporting a year ago: "300,000" dead. The media don't seem to have noticed that, according to their reports, there hasn't been a single "excess death" in Darfur in the last year.

And where did that 300,000 number come from? As I wrote then:

Egeland, the former U.N. humanitarian chief, estimated in 2006 that 200,000 people had lost their lives because of the conflict, from violence, disease and malnutrition. He said this was based on an independent mortality survey released in March 2005 by the U.N. World Health Organization.

"That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again," Holmes said Tuesday.
So we start with an "estimate," then add on top of that another guess and the whole number barely qualifies as a "guesstimate." Yet none of that keeps the number from being reported in news report after news report as simple fact.

Needless to say, the number "one million" dead in Iraq, a number which has far more scientific basis than the "300,000" in Darfur, is a number you will never, and I do mean never, hear in the corporate media, much less hear reported as simple fact. Instead, you'll hear the "Holocaust denial*" number of 99,000 (courtesy of Iraq Body Count) on the rare occasions when that total number is actually mentioned (I've heard in once in the last three months, I believe). And, as I have before, I must point out the difference between these numbers. The Iraq Body Count number refers to "documented civilians killed by violence." The one million number in Iraq refers to all Iraqis who have died from other than "natural causes," i.e., the "excess deaths" caused by the U.S. invasion. And the "300,000 dead" in Darfur, sometimes (though not always) incorrectly labeled as the number "killed," actually refers to people who have died from "violence, disease and malnutrition." That is, if there were a scientific basis for that number, it would be comparable to the one million number from Iraq, and not to the "99,000" number.

*And why do I call "99,000" a "Holocaust denial" number? Because, believe me, if someone says they think that only 600,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis, you better believe they'll be called a "Holocaust denier."

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