A Question Of Conscience: How Many More?

British Study Concludes That 100,000 Civilian Deaths Have Been
Caused By Iraq War's Violence 

by Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., October 31,2004

"...it is clear that whatever planning did take place was grievously in error.  The invasion of Iraq, the displacement of a cruel dictator, and the attempt to impose a liberal democracy by force have, by themselves, been insufficient to bring peace and security to the civilian population. ... [I]mperialism has resulted in more deaths, not fewer.  This political failure continues to cause scores of casualties among non-combatants. ... The lives of Iraqis are currently being shaped by the policies of the occupying forces and the military insurgents.  For the occupiers, winning the peace now demands a thorough reappraisal of strategy and tactics to prevent further unnecessary casualties.  -Dr. Richard Horton's commentary, "The War In Iraq: Civilian Casualties, Political Responsibilities," in The Lancet, Vol. 364, No. 9445. [1]

At this critical moment of choice, people worldwide have been asking whether the American electorate realizes that Mr. Bush's neocon disdain for international law -- when coupled with his sacralization of all things military, and the Bushites' collective swoons into sociopathic denial -- are evoking frightening images of Nazi Germany?  Furthermore, cosmopolitan globetrotters are reporting that people everywhere have increasingly ceased to admire the USA, but instead have come to fear and loathe the Bush administration, during these past three years!  Why? 

To some, the answer is obvious; for others, a complete answer would necessarily involve a multicausative analysis.  But some of us still have to read all of those complex ballot measures, so here's the latest compelling answer in shorthand.  Britain's foremost medical journal, The Lancet, has just published a peer-reviewed scientific study by five American and Iraqi public-health researchers, entitled "Mortality Before And After The 2003 Invasion Of Iraq: A Cluster Sample Survey."  The research team's stunning conclusion is that approximately 100,000 Iraqi civilians -- of whom about 40,000 were children -- have died violently since Messrs. Bush and Blair commenced their invasion of Iraq in
March of 2003. [1]  Moreover, they found that the Anglo-American coalition's aerial weaponry is responsible for many of these deaths.

The research team's basic methodology was to first establish the "mean mortality rate" (i.e., the average number of deaths) in Iraq during a proportionately equivalent time period (i.e., nineteen months) before Mr. Bush's invasion.  Then it studied the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in excess of the mean mortality rate during the nineteen months after Mr. Bush commenced the invasion.  Stated differently, the researchers found that Mr. Bush's Iraq War has directly caused 100,000 violent civilian deaths in excess of the mean mortality rate.

Readers who find themselves yawning at this possibly bland-sounding statistic should rethink that initial response.  Americans have been grieving mightily because their military has suffered 1,120 deaths in Iraq, and yet that number -- while it isn't small -- certainly pales in comparison to 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths! [2]

By way of comparison, if the USA's population suffered the proportional equivalent of 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, there would be 1,237,500 American civilian deaths. [3] And consider that our historians habitually characterize the American Civil War as a terrible tragedy.  However, a grand total of 620,000 US and Confederate soldiers were killed during those four years of bloody fratricide, whereas 100,000 Iraqis already have lost their lives in only nineteen months -- and that's only counting the civilian deaths.  Hence, it would be accurate to conclude that 100,000 civilian deaths are a catastrophe for Iraq! [4]

To underscore this point, please recall April of 2003, when the story about Pfc. Jessica Lynch was being concocted by our government-media complex.  At that time, the US military was fighting inside the 50-mile "Red Zone" perimeter around Baghdad, and it was destroying the Republican Guard's Hammurabi and Medina Divisions.  Indeed, more than ten thousand Iraqi combatants were killed during that one asymmetrical battle as two brigades were entirely obliterated.   Additionally, military observers estimate that Iraqi combatants have suffered at least 20,000 more deaths in other battles, skirmishes, and incidents.  Thus, the conservative estimate is that 30,000 Iraqi combatant have been killed since March of 2003. 

If one adds 30,000 combatant deaths to 100,000 civilian deaths, it seems to be a safe conclusion that the Iraq War's violence has inflicted approximately 130,000 deaths on Iraqis. 

Perhaps more importantly, if the USA's population suffered the proportional equivalent of 130,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, there would be 1,608,750 American civilian deaths.  What if the entire population of a city the size of San Diego had been slaughtered over nineteen months after some hostile nation invaded US soil?  Americans would regard those 1.6 million deaths as far worse than a tragedy -- it would be a heinous crime!   

Further consider that Americans have suffered a grand total of 1,300,000 casualties in all of the wars that the USA has fought, from the American Revolution through the Iraq War.  That means that, proportionately speaking, Iraq has suffered more war casualties during the last 19 months than the USA has suffered throughout its entire 228-year history! [5] 

Finally, the researchers concluded that the vast majority of the Iraqi civilian deaths that were attributable to the Coalition's forces were inflicted on women and children. [6]  And their point about the disproportionate number of innocent civilian noncombatant deaths certainly isn't moot, because chaotic guerrilla warfare continues to rage in the Sunni triangle and to the west of Baghdad.  And it's widely reported that Mr. Bush believes he can resolve that militarily while the world is distracted by the USA's election results.  Therefore, he's ordered the commencement of an all-out siege against the insurgent strongholds of Fallujah (population = 300,000) and Ramadi (population = 400,000) sometime after Tuesday. [7]  And for the past several days, the American media has been conveniently ignoring the infliction of more civilian casualties on
Fallujah, as the US military's aerial sorties bombard it into rubble in preparation for their ground assault. 

Conclusion: The Killing Of Iraq's Citizens Has Been Indiscriminate And Disproportionate.  Americans suffered only 25,324 casualties during the entire Revolutionary War (1776-1783), and yet the USA's hypermilitarized media doesn't deem our military's "surgically accurate" techno-infliction of 100,000 civilian casualties to be a worthwhile story?  One would think that any halfway-humane journalist's rational inference, upon receiving hard scientific evidence of 100,000 innocent civilians deaths in Iraq, would have to be that the belligerents are inflicting indiscriminate killing on a grossly disproportionate scale. After all, they've caused this enormous number of civilian deaths in just 19 months of warfare, which indicates that they're doing evil at a rate that's far outpacing any good that they possibly could achieve.  

But is this unspeakable horror the butchery of barbaric insurgents?  To the contrary, the researchers facts point directly to the perpetration of a massive number of war crimes inside Iraq: (1) NOT merely by the insurgents, but also by the occupying coalition; and (2) NOT merely by the US military's lower-level grunts on the ground, but also by higher-level commanding officers and civilian planners. 

Hence, a question of conscience arises as to whether Americans: (A) are still capable of thrusting aside the phony cover-story of "unavoidable collateral damage" and vigorously opposing the Bush administration's active participation in the mass slaughter of innocent civilians; or (B) have collectively succumbed to The War Party's relentless brainwashing propaganda and become morally-blind cynics, who will say "It's all good!" so long as it's not Americans who are being killed, and especially if the mass killing of innocent foreigners stimulates enough profits for the military-industrial complex that our economy is temporarily jolted out of its recession doldrums? 

If it's (A), our moral unwillingness to turn a blind eye toward these egregious atrocities begins at the polls on Tuesday.  If it's (B), then haven't we
degenerated into the morally-depraved accomplices of powerful war criminals who've killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and don't we live in a Mafiosi-esque nation that's economically addicted to war? [8]

The Bottom Line: Americans Need A New Leader Who Will Respect International Law.   Americans must come to our senses, and recognize that we can neither win peace nor establish democracy by preemptively invading countries and indiscriminately killing their civilians.  Most Americans know that we can -- and realistically that we must -- do better than "more of the same." 

Most Americans know that our Commander-In-Chief has a profound legal obligation to act in accordance with international law, including the laws regulating land and air warfare.  However, as our Commander-In-Chief, Mr. Bush has obviously betrayed that legal obligation by leading us into an unjust and illegal war of aggression.  The hideously bellicose "strength" of his preemptive-war doctrine looks, from a mature perspective, exactly like machtpolitik (i.e., the scofflaw's politics of "might makes right").

And most Americans know that our Statesman-In-Chief has a profound moral duty to behave justly when conducting international relations.  However, as our Statesman-In-Chief, Mr. Bush has obviously betrayed that moral duty by repeatedly authorizing his subordinates to violate the universal human-rights provisions in some of the world's most important treaties, as if he was somehow an above-the-law "King George."

People worldwide are asking: "How can Mr. Bush reasonably hope to forcibly impose democratic governance under the rule of law upon the peoples of the Middle East, when he is himself behaving like a warlord from some barbarian tribe by openly showing disdain for the rule of law in its international context?" Good question, messieurs et mesdames!

In short, Mr. Bush has repeatedly and conclusively proven himself to be an unfit leader.  Most Americans know that we're going to need a much wiser leader -- someone who can lead us forward into a better nation, and lead the nations forward into a better world.  And that's why most Americans will be voting for distinguished Senator John Kerry on Tuesday! [9 -12]


[1] Download Richard Horton's 10-30-04 The Lancet commentary, "The War In Iraq: Civilian Casualties, Political Responsibilities," at this URL: http://image.thelancet.com/extras/04cmt384web.pdf
Or read Dr. Horton's commentary by signing up, free of charge, at
TheLancet.com:  http://www.thelancet.com/registration

[2] Download The Lancet's 10-30-04 scientific study, "Mortality Before And After The 2003 Invasion Of Iraq: A Cluster Sample Survey," by Drs. Les Roberts, Riyahd Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, and Gilbert Burnham, at this URL: http://image.thelancet.com/extras/04art10342web.pdf
Or read this scientific study by signing up, free of charge, at The Lancet.com: http://www.thelancet.com/registration

[3] As of 10-30-04, the Coalition troops have suffered a total of 1,261 casualties: http://icasualties.org/oif/

[4] Based on the USA's population of 297 million people, and Iraq's population of 24 million people, the USA's population is proportionately 12.375 times larger than Iraq's.  Therefore, 12.357 x 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians = 1,237,500 dead American civilians. 

[5] The US Civil War casualty statistics are from "Demography and War," in The Oxford Companion to American Military History (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999; page 210 ).

[6] The author calculated total American casualties in the USA's wars as follows: (a) 25,324 in the Revolutionary War; (b) 617,528 in the Civil War; (c) 116,708 in WW I; (d) 407,316 in WW II; (e) 54,246 in the Korean War; (f) 58,655 in the Vietnam War; (g) 79 in the Gulf War; and (h) 1,120 (as of 10-30-04) in the Iraq War.  The grand total from wars (a) through (h) is 1,280,976 American casualties.  He excluded US casualty statistics because they weren't unavailable for the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, or the Spanish-American War.

[7] Read Edward Wong's 10-30-04 NYT article, "Provincial Capitol Near Fallujah Is Slipping Into Chaos," at:

[8] Read the author's 9-17-04 essay, "Was The Iraq War Legal, Or Illegal, Under International Law?", at: 

[9] Michael Moore's Cannes Film Festival-winning 2004 documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," suggests that we can change our fate through political action, so the correct answer is (A).  However, Errol Morris' Academy Award-winning 2003 documentary, "The Fog Of War," about 11 lessons controversial former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's  learned from war, suggests that the downside of human nature is fixed, so the correct answer is (B).  Hopefully, we'll know which filmmaker was correct on November 3rd.

[10] Read Paul Harris' 9-16-04 YT article, "Iraq Is Full Of [American] WMD," at:  http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=2080  While it's true that the guerrilla-war insurgents in Iraq have resorted to barbaric tactics like beheadings, and to the use of indiscriminate weapons like car bombs, their atrocities against civilians cannot justify -- and most certainly do not legitimate -- the commission of counter-atrocities by the occupiers' military forces!  Moreover, the Anglo-American invasion was illegal (see #9 above), and respected international human-rights organizations have had to admonish the military occupiers repeatedly for using illegal tactics like torture inside their prisons, and for using deadly illegal weapons like radioactive Depleted-Uranium Munitions ("DUM"), euphemistically-renamed napalm bombs, and child-killing cluster bombs.

[11] Mr. Bush uses phony trickle-down economics to pseudo-justify his policy of giving tax-incentives to wealthy corporations, so they can "outsource" even more US jobs overseas to slave-labor markets, the absurd result of which is that there are ever-fewer American jobs that pay anything close to a living wage!  However, if Mr. Bush is given four more years, he'll have cheap-labor conservative jobs waiting for you, your children, and your grandchildren, in the only growth sector within his pathetically-mismanaged economy.  Preview that new service job now, at:  http://www.enjoythedraft.com/

[12] Finally, enjoy watching Mark Fiore's Halloween-spooky-yet-hilarious 10-27-04  animation, "The Final Days," at: 

Author: Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D.,
is the Executive Director of the
American Center for International Law ("ACIL").


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