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[casi] Article entitled ' For Omar' on Iraqi deaths

For Omar
by Karen Kwiatkowski

Jude Wanniski reports the number of Iraqi civilians dead, long past rigor
mortis and rotting, as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in mid-March
2003. The body count, conducted by the Iraqi Freedom Party, covers 14
governorates in Iraq and provides data up to mid-June 2003. The number is
around 37,000. 37,000 dead civilians, that is.

Itąs about .15% of the whole Iraqi population (24 million souls) and you
need to know what it doesnąt count. It doesnąt count soldiers, Fedayeen,
militia or para-military ­ just the dead civilians. It doesnąt count those
civilians injured, maimed or psychologically damaged. It doesnąt count the
governorates in Iraqi Kurdistan. It just counts the dead among people like
you and me, our kids, our neighbors and their kids, and the people we see
down at the Wal-mart and the local bank.

In Vietnam, most of the civilians we killed were country peasants with
little or no education, farmers really. Iraq, like a lot of places in the
world today, is both urban and literate. Less than 10% of the economy is
agricultural. If you believe the CIAąs 2003 Factbook, slightly more than 40%
of the population can read and write, or you can choose UNICEFąs 2000
literacy rate of 58%. Given the stellar performance of the CIA to date on
Iraq, call me crazy but Iąm going with the UNICEF numbers.

In fact ­ if you want to see who we are killing, PBS put together a useful
statistical overview of the Iraq that was, as of November 2002.

.15% of a national population is just a small number, a tiny token really,
just one civilian dead for every 666 Iraqis. Certainly in any invasion aimed
at "liberating," heads will roll. Neocons like Richard Perle and Paul
Wolfowitz understand this well, having learned all about it in their shared
avocation of Soviet studies during the Late Cold War. The USSR conducted
several model uninvited liberations of sovereign nations, countries that had
stood for something they wanted, and wanted to prove. Richard and Paul,
Jerry Bremer too, seem to have learned well the Soviet technique, right down
to post-haste increases of prison capacity and emplacement of hand-picked
collaborators in the new government while retaining veto power on all
decisions. Brezhnev must be so proud!

The .15% doesnąt include the numbers from the Kurdish region, a population
comprising almost 20% of the total. So if we consider known civilian deaths
in proportion to the population of interest (God forbid the U.S. government
gets interested in you!) we get a slightly different percentage, a nice
little .2% of the population. I know you all get this perfectly, but for the
Dubyas in the crowd, this means that U.S. forces and U.S. military actions
have already unintentionally killed one in every 500 civilians in Iraq
between mid-March and mid-June 2003.

Just to put it in perspective, if the .2% were applied in this country of
290 million, it would equate to 580,000 deaths in three months, for a
projected rate of 2.3 million annually. This "annual" rate, for comparison,
exceeds our American annual losses of citizens to tobacco, alcohol, assorted
drugs, suicide, murder, as well all deaths in this country each year due to
traffic accidents. Now, when people drink, smoke, take dangerous drugs,
donąt follow their doctorąs advice, live and drive recklessly, the rest of
us accept and understand that we are human, and people die for different
reasons. If this destruction of innocent life were, however, the direct
result of a single cause, a single invading and occupying army, a single
government ­ and if the invasion were the result of a single decision
visited as it were unilaterally ­ well, it would tend to be seen as a
something of a problem by the surviving friends and neighbors. Heck ­ in
this country, it would be seen as a major overwhelming national crisis.
Polls and politicians and mothers and fathers would scream "Somebody needs
to do something!"

For Iraq, 37,000 civilian deaths in three months is simply amazing, given
that we consciously try to avoid civilian deaths!! Now I understand why
Rummy was so adamant that U.S. Army General Shinseki was wrong and we didnąt
need "several hundred thousand troops." Even though an illuminating and
logical explanation of the real troop requirements for various types of
stability operations was published in the U.S. Armyąs Parameters in 1995, I
have to believe old Rummy knew what he was doing in keeping the troop
numbers low. For Peteąs sake, with the 150,000 or so troops we have
deployed, we have made 1 in 500 civilians go away in only three months time
without even trying! On an annual basis, if this bonus kill-rate were to be
sustained, we could make 4 in 500 go away every year! In other words, we
currently have the military ability to eliminate one of every 125 civilians
who once lived in a country called Iraq by March 2004. All by accident, just
collateral damage! Unless we are planning on decimating the place, who needs
more troops?

And while the neoconservative visionaries may want all the oil, all sold in
dollars, all of the major contracts for the "rebuilding" project to replace
Ba-ath socialism with Bush-crony socialism, and several long-term military
bases so we can do the will of Sharon without having to kiss up to the
Saudis anymore, we are indeed nothing if not benevolent occupiers. We have
recently reduced civilian casualties, unclutched the iron fist, and all
that. Why this past week, the only cause for complaint might have been the
death of young 11-year-old Omar Jassim killed Tuesday in Anbar, northwest of
Baghdad. According to an Iraqi blogger in Baghdad, "He was killed during an
American raid ­ no one knows why."

George W. Bush recently out on a long stump (or was it a short plank?) said
to anyone still listening that "This progress [he is referring to the grand
and glorious liberation of Iraq now in its fifth grand and glorious month]
makes the remaining terrorists even more desperate and willing to lash out
against symbols of order and hope, like coalition forces and U.N. personnel
[thanks for clarifying exactly what those symbols of order and hope were,
sir! Very helpful!]. The world will not be intimidated. A violent few will
not determine the future of Iraq."

The violent few, in this case, terrorists because we and the international
community are on the receiving end, should not be allowed to determine the
future of Iraq. Just as we should not have concocted an "imminent threat"
scenario in order to pursue a narrow Washington agenda to put our own man in
Baghdad. Things that happen when they shouldnąt cause angst. Like the angst
a former Navy officer, who served in Vietnam, describes in a current Newsday
article. James Larocca asks if we have forgotten "anger in the eyes" and how
it is created, this "white-hot hatred that will take a thousand years to
extinguish." Fighters and resisters and saboteurs are not only created, but
energized by a faded torn photograph of a dead parent or child, or a single
piece of jewelry once worn by a loved one, or a burning memory of
powerlessness scarred into their hearts.

The violent few will not determine the future of Iraq. But the dead few ­
the close relatives and friends of every Iraqi, one degree separated now
from the living, sleeping the long sleep prematurely and unjustly, due to
accident, carelessness, confusion, fear, panic, poor judgment, and the
extremely deadly weaponry of the U.S. servicemen who thought they were just
going to help liberate a country and then go home ­ the dead few might
indeed determine the future of Iraq.

August 25, 2003

Karen Kwiatkowski is a recently retired USAF lieutenant
colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the
Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah

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