Monday, November 15, 2004

well, this is grimly overdue...

I have almost nothing to say about in the aftermath of the election because i don't think i understand it .

The Evangelical friend whose question spurred me to write 'Why Not Bush' and 'Why Kerry' in this space was polite but unconvinced. This seems to have been the case with a great many people. Except for the politeness.

Another friend, less Evangelical in his convictions but no less conservative in his politics than my first correspondent, sent a fairly tasteless gag map of the new Iraq to me and about 40 of his other closest friends. He knew it was stupid and I knew he knew it was stupid. Then again, when tasteless, stupid jokes just lay out there at the expense of people who did nothing worse than wake up, say, female or Iraqi, I figure some white guy oughta stand up and say 'Hey! That's stupid and tasteless!"

So I did, in that passive agressive way people find so charming. My friend committed the faux pas of including all 40 of our addresses in the CC box (an unruly mob if you ask me and just asking for it), so i hit Reply All and and wrote,

If you think THAT'S funny, wait'll you get a load of THIS!

and attached a pdf of the first report of the Johns Hopkins/Lancet study on civilian casualties in Iraq--which i paste here with attribution and copyright notice and the sincere hope Reuters won't come take my trailer.

Study: 100,000 Excess Civilian Iraqi
Deaths Since War
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed
in violence since the U.S.-led invasion last year, American public
health experts have calculated in a report that estimates there
were 100,000 "excess deaths" in 18 months.

The rise in the death rate was mainly due to violence and much of it
was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns and cities.

"Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess
deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," said
Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.

"The use of air power in areas with lots of civilians appears to be killing
a lot of women and children," Roberts told Reuters.

The report came just days before the U.S. presidential election in which
the Iraq war has been a major issue.

Mortality was already high in Iraq before the war because of United
Nations sanctions blocking food and medical imports but the
researchers described what they found as shocking.

The new figures are based on surveys done by the researchers in Iraq
in September 2004. They compared Iraqi deaths during 14.6 months
before the invasion in March 2003 and the 17.8 months after it by
conducting household surveys in randomly selected neighborhoods.
Previous estimates based on think tank and media sources put the
Iraqi civilian death toll at up to 16,053 and military fatalities as high as

By comparison about 849 U.S. military were killed in combat or attacks
and another 258 died in accidents or incidents not related to fighting,
according to the Pentagon.

The researchers blamed air strikes for many of the deaths.
"What we have evidence of is the use of air power in populated urban
areas and the bad consequences of it," Roberts said.
Gilbert Burnham, who collaborated on the research, said U.S. military
action in Iraq was "very bad for Iraqi civilians."

"We were not expecting the level of deaths from violence that we found
in this study and we hope this will lead to some serious discussions of
how military and political aims can be achieved in a way that is not so
detrimental to civilians populations," he told Reuters in an interview.

The researchers did 33 cluster surveys of 30 households each,
recording the date, circumstances and cause of deaths.

They found that the risk of death from violence in the period after the
invasion was 58 times higher than before the war.

Before the war the major causes of death were heart attacks, chronic
disorders and accidents. That changed after the war.

Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study were reported in Falluja, the
insurgent held city 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad which had been
repeatedly hit by U.S. air strikes.

"Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to
reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes," Roberts added in the

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said the research which was
submitted to the journal earlier this month had been peer-reviewed,
edited and fast-tracked for publication because of its importance in the
evolving security situation in Iraq.

"But these findings also raise questions for those far removed from Iraq
-- in the governments of the countries responsible for launching a preemptive
war," Horton said in an editorial.
10/28/04 14:57

© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained In
this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed
without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.

NOW, the reason i ambushed all my friend's friends with this Reuters report (I feel sure HE sent the silly map in a fit post-election exuberance) was that in that moment i felt genuinely sad about the trend of America's foreign and military policy and the unveiled hubris of the thing from Main Street to Wall Street all the way out to my street. Just to be clear, had the study not been conducted and vetted under the Johns Hopkins umbrella and published by the Lancet, i would hardly have paid attention, let alone passing it along. But…it was, and I did.

So i sent the little email enticement with the clear implication that there might be something funny in the attachment, which of course there was not. What there was was a somewhat hazy report about a complicated statistical study of Iraqi civilian casualties that i pray is wrong but am afraid may be right...

Whatever the grim facts in Iraq, what happened in response to my Reply All was pretty darned interesting. More on that shortly...