If we listen to the Western mainstream media, the US and the UK and their allies are in Iraq due to their care and compassion for human suffering in Iraq. In fact, this humanitarian argument is the specific argument Michael Ignatieff gave for why he supported the Iraq war during the Liberal leadership debates.
We’ll ignore the vast corpus of literature documenting how the US and the UK and the West didn’t care about Iraqi humanitarian conditions in the 1980s when the Iraqi government was a major recipient of US Foreign Aid and Military Aid. We’ll also ignore the fact that after Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Iranians and largely Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, the US responded by…… resupplying Hussein.
Giving George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume he felt that his former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and his father were wrong in their Iraq policy during the 1980s. Therefore, let’s use only the Bush administration’s behaviour to determine whether they care about Iraqis.
I think the single most damning evidence – damning because both a) its convincing and b) its irrefutable – is the treatment of US dead compared with the treatment of Iraqi dead.
Consider the following:
We know that as of Friday, November 24, 2006 at 10am EST, there were precisely 2,869 American soldiers killed in Iraq (and 2,303 of those were killed in combat) [source: U.S. Department of Defense]. Moreover, we know that there were precisely 9,977 soldiers who were wounded and not returned to duty (which is just slightly higher than the standard formula of ‘wounded = fatalities x 3’). We even, therefore, know the precise wounded-to-fatality ratio of U.S. soldiers as well as the breakdown of fatalities by month.
While we can’t photograph these people, it is clear that the Americans, the British and the West, clearly care about them.
On the other side of the spectrum lay the Iraqis.
How many Iraqis have been killed? Nothing has been published by the US. No serious estimations have been given. And no serious efforts to obtain estimates have been attempted. The closest thing the Bush administration has come to quantifying the Iraqi dead is here:
Anecdotal evidence? I’ll be the first to admit it. That’s why I was so pleased to learn that a team of professional statisticians and medial practitioners had conducted the most thorough investigation of Iraqi war dead since the start of the war. Finally, some hard solid evidence, using sound statistical measurement techniques, to quantify what the American government refuses to quantify. What do you suppose the Bush administration’s reaction to this data was?
Well, take a look for yourself:
If you want a more detailed explanation of why this survey is legitimate, you can watch Les Roberts give a longer lecture on his methodology here:
So, do we really care about Iraqis? If we don’t care enough to count them, can we say that we care enough to develop a system of government for them which actually benefits them rather than us?
If we acknowledge that their entire system of government was designed primarily for our benefit rather than theirs, the next question inevitably becomes: ought we to think that Iraqi ‘democracy’ as it exists now is even a good thing? If it is not, and if Iraqis have no mechanism through which their voices can be heard, is it unreasonable to understand why they would resort to terrorism? If it’s understandable, is it out of order to assume that you might resort to violence were you placed in a similar situation?