March 27, 2013

Ministry of Peace

Live Long and Prosper

All Flesh is Grass

I firmly believe, that before many centuries more, science will be the master of Man.
The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control.
Someday science shall have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.

Henry Adams (1838 – 1918), 11 April 1862.

For such is the logic of war.
If people do not display wisdom, they will clash like blind moles.
And then mutual annihilation will commence.

Nikita Khrushchev (1894 – 1971), October 1962.

One by one, the cities blossomed.
The atmosphere rippled over each explosion, as if a giant steel ball had been dropped in a pond.
Over the western limb, beyond the Atlantic, a brighter-than-dawn glow was creeping, now yellow, now purple, now green.
The whole world was being swept by a crown fire, with the flames leaping not from tree to tree, but from city to city, continent to continent.
People were no more substantial than pine needles.

Greg Bear (1951), Eon, 1985, Gollanz, 2002, p 201.

(Hiroshima — The Next Day, 2010)

(Inhuman Kind, Vice, 2016)

(Rushmore DeNooyer, The Bomb, PBS, 2015)

(David Heycock, The Arsenal, Alistair Cooke's America, Episode 12, BBC, 1972)

(Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis, Crossing the Line, 2012)

Daniel Clery:
At around 11.30 on 30th October [1961, a Soviet TU-95V dropped a 50 megaton Teller-Ulam type hydrogen] bomb above the island of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Sea. …
The fireball could be seen 1,000 kilometres away and the mushroom cloud rose to seven times the height of Everest.
A village fifty-five kilometres away was completely destroyed and … windows were broken in Norway and Finland, more than 1,000 kilometres distant …
[It] was the most powerful device of any kind ever built.
To produce such a blast with conventional explosives would require a cube of TNT 312 metres on each side, roughly the height of the Eiffel Tower [—] ten times the total amount of conventional explosives used in World War II.
(A Piece of the Sun, 2004, p 202-3, emphasis added)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
War once had a clear class aspect; it was the common soldier, the son of the peasant or working-class family, who was at risk.
Modern nuclear war is dramatically more democratic; all ranks and all classes equally will be swept away. …
One hopes that this will be recognized — and that the weapons commitment will breed a political movement that crosses all income and class lines.
It is, after all, the affluent who have the most to lose.
(The Affluent Society, 4th Edition, Penguin, 1984, pp xxxvi-vii)

John Kennedy (1917 – 63):
[To] those nations who would make themselves our adversaries, we offer not a pledge but a request:
That both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self destruction …
(Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961)

Chris Matthews:
Kennedy … knew that [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] leaned towards a 'first strike' option, especially in the case of Soviet move on Berlin.
This meant an 'obliterating' nuclear attack on all Communist countries: 3,000 weapons aimed at a thousand targets.
(Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 233)

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970):
So long as national States exist and fight each other, only inefficiency can preserve the human race.
To improve the fighting quality of separate States without having any means of preventing war is the road to universal destruction.
(A History of Western Philosophy, 2nd Edition, 1961, p 541)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 59):
All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam, 2011, p 807)

Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 74):
[Organised warfare,] is not a human instinct.
It is a highly planned and co-operative form of theft.
(The Harvest of the Seasons, The Ascent of Man, Chapter 2, BBC, 1973)

P W Singer (1974):
From 2002 to 2008, [in the aftermath of 9/11, the annual US] defense budget has risen by 74% to $515 billion.
This figure does not include … the cost of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq …
If you include these, the total Pentagon budget is at its highest level in real … terms since 1946 [—] more than the peak spending during the Korean and Vietnam wars …
(p 61)

Michael Shermer (1954):
The United States alone has spent upwards of $6 trillion since 9/11 on two wars and a bloated bureaucracy in response to the loss of 3,000 lives — less than a tenth of the number of people who die annually on American highways.
(The Moral Arc, 2015, p 86)

Neta Crawford: Professor of Political Science, Boston University
The United States borrowed to pay for [the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan —] we didn't tax.
[The] United States has [already] paid $316 billion in interest on the borrowing …
[The US will ultimately] pay $7 trillion in interest alone on a war that has so far cost $4.4 trillion.
(Anti war history, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 22 July 2014)

Niall Ferguson (1964):
Given that the population of the world in 1992 was approximately 5 billion, nuclear weapons gave the superpowers the notional ability to destroy the entire human race 15 times over. …
[The] real cost of a nuclear warhead … is almost certainly lower today than at any time since the Manhattan Project achieved its goal at a cost of $2 billion 1945 dollars.
Converted into prices of 1993, that figure rises tenfold: enough to buy 400 Trident II missiles.
The fact that France could almost double its nuclear arsenal from 222 warheads in 1985 to 436 in 1991 while increasing its defence budget by less than 7% in real terms speaks for itself.
In terms of "bangs per buck" — destructive capability in relation to expenditure — military technology has never been cheaper.
(The Case Nexus, Basic Books, 2001)

The Dogs of War

Cry Havoc!
And let slip the dogs of war.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Julius Caesar, 1599.

Extermination is a long and very tiring business.

Horatio Kitchener (1850 – 1916), Earl of Khartoum.

(P W Singer, Wired For War, Penguin, 2009)

(Inhuman Kind, Vice, 2016)

Greg Bear (1951):
A team of fifty agents from the FBI and the Secret Service had stormed a Muncrow Building in downtown Portland two years previously …
What … brought down nearly all of the team within twenty seconds, cutting them into bloody gobbets had been an Israeli Solem-Schmidt D-7, a self-directed, insect-carriage automated cannon. …
Before it had run into a brick wall, jammed and blown its super-heated barrels into shrapnel, the
D-7 had all by itself killed forty-three agents.
(Quantico, Harper, 2006, pp 64-5)

Nick Turse (1975):
[All] sorts of lethal enhancements [to unmanned vehicles] are in various stages of development to enable American troops to more effectively kick down the doors of the poor in 2025.
(Baghdad 2025: The Pentagon Solution to a Planet of Slums, 7 January 2007)

Samuel Butler (1835 ‒ 1902):
… I cannot think it will ever be safe to repose much trust in the moral sense of any machine.
(Erewhon, 1872)

(Hyper Evolution: Rise Of The Robots, Episode 2, ABC Television, 2018)

Sandy Hook: Sacrificing Children for Guns

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, 15 December 1791.

[The] state of men without civil society …
is nothing else but a mere war of all against all …

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679), Leviathan, 1651.

(Michael Kirk, Trump's Divided States of America, Episode 2, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)

Wayne LaPierre (1949) [Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association]:
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Marcus Luttrell (1975):
I know you're watching, so pay attention.
You hate my freedom, my religion and my country, and I will never, never surrender my rights to your terror.
I'll say what I think, worship according to my beliefs and raise my children how I see fit, and I defend it all with the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
I cower to no one because I am the National Rifle Association of America and I am freedom's safest place.

[The] fact that we can't go to school and feel safe every day when we are supposed to feel safe is a problem.
And fact that our senators are sacrificing us for NRA money is a problem.
Congress has one job and that's to make laws, so make some law.

Brian DeLay [Associate Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley]:
Private arm sales just exploded after 2005 … with the advent of Barack Obama as president.
[The] gun lobby, led most especially by the National Rifle Association, was phenomenally successful in creating [the] illusion that government is the enemy; that what we have is … gun manufacturers who are [simply trying to] satisfy the needs and the desires of freedom-loving Americans, and the government is threatening to … get in between them and to stop them.
[It was] this fear based campaign [that] helped convince millions of Americans in a time of declining crime that they were surrounded by danger and that the only way that they could be safe, and … keep their family safe, [was not simply to become] a gun owner, but a person who is always armed and is always ready and is ever alert for threats.

Josh Harkinson:
[The NRA] polices not only Washington but the gun industry itself.
So in the past when some gun makers like Smith & Wesson for example have attempted to compromise with political forces … and put in place some reasonable controls on preventing sales to criminals … the NRA has targeted them [with] boycotts.
(The American Gun Industry: A billion dollar business, Rear Vision, ABC Radio National, 18 March 2018)

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery:
[For each] time a gun in the home was used [for] self-defense or [a] legally justifiable shooting, there were
  • 4 unintentional shootings,
  • 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and
  • 11 attempted or completed suicides.

Norman Swan:
Last week a confusing set of seven gun measures failed to pass the US Senate [—] some of them, perversely, aimed to make gun ownership easier. …

David Hemenway:
[In America] 5- to 14-year-old children [are …]
  • 13 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than an average child in the other developed countries …
  • 8 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun [and]
  • 10 times more likely to be unintentionally killed with a gun …
[Our] non-gun suicide [and homicide rates for children are] average.
[If] it wasn't for guns we'd be an average country.
(Gun control in the United States, Health Report, ABC Radio National, 22 April 2013)

Daniel Webster & Jon Vernic [Professors in Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University]:
Strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers — defined as have state law that required …
  • licensing of retail firearm sellers,
  • mandatory record keeping by those sellers,
  • law enforcement access to records for inspection,
  • Regular inspections of gun dealers, and
  • [mandatory] reporting of theft or loss of firearms
— was associated with 64% less diversion of guns to criminals …
(Editors, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, 2013)

Love is a Warm Gun

In addition to the 31,672 people killed by guns in 2010, another 73,505 [suffered] nonfatal bullet wounds [for a total of 105,177 gun related casualties.]
Of the 31,672 [killed,] 61% were suicides …
[The] vast majority of the rest were homicides by people who knew one another.

[Of] the 1,082 women and 267 men killed … by their intimate partners, 54% were shot …
[In the last 25 years] guns were involved in a greater number of intimate partner homicides that all other causes combined.
[If] a woman is murdered, it is most likely by her intimate partner with a gun. …
[In] states that prohibit gun ownership by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order [gun-related] homicides of intimate female partners have been reduced by 25%.

…… I owned a Ruger .357 Magnum [for 20 years. …]
[When] I learned about these statistics, I got rid of the gun. …

(Michael Shermer, Gun Science, Scientific American, May 2013, p 69)

Francis Fukuyama (1952)

[Andrew Jackson's (1767 – 1845)] presidency was the foundation [of a] tradition of populism in American politics that continues up to the present day
This tradition has its roots in the the so-called Scotch-Irish settlers who [originated] from
  • northern Ireland,
  • the Scottish lowlands, and
  • the parts of northern England bordering on Scotland.
These regions were the least economically developed in Britain, and it was indeed their high levels of poverty that drove hundreds of thousands [to emigrate to America in the mid-eighteenth century.]
The Scotch-Irish were poor but intensely proud …
[They] came from what had been an extraordinarily violent region, racked by centuries of fighting between local warlords, and between these warlords and the English.
Out of this environment came an intense individualism, as well as a love of guns, which would become the origins of the American gun [and honor] culture.

(Political Order and Political Decay, FSG, 2014, pp 141-2)

Martin Smith:
[21 August 2013: 1,400 men, women and children are killed in a chemical attack by Syrian government forces.]
Sarin is a nerve agent that causes lung muscle paralysis and results in death from suffocation. …

Martin Dempsey [General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]:
Our finger was on the trigger.
We had gone through the targeting plans and targeting solutions.
The crews were alerted and so we had everything in place …
We were just waiting for instructions to proceed.
(Obama At War, PBS Frontline, 26 May 2015)

Blood and Treasure: The Second Thirty Years War

Kate Adams [Policy and Advocacy Manager, War Child UK]:
  • Hundreds of children have been maimed or killed by exploded cluster bomblets since 1991. …
  • There are an estimated 35,000 infant deaths every year in Iraq.
  • One in four children has stunted physical and intellectual development due to under-nutrition. …
  • [Up] to 1 million children have lost one or both parents in the conflict.
  • In 2010 … it was estimated that over a quarter of Iraqi children, or 3 million, suffered varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. …
  • Children have been directly caught up in and targeted by conflict in Iraq, which continues to rage in pockets of the country: children as young as 14 years old have been recruited and used as suicide bombers.
(Mission Unaccomplished: Iraq 10 Years On, 1 May 2013)

David Kilcullen (1967) [Counterinsurgency Expert]:
[If] we hadn't invaded Iraq, there wouldn't be an ISIS. …
[In 2007, about 400] Iraqis were getting killed every [day.]
[Boston Marathon Bombing death toll: 3 civilians, two police officers, and one perpetrator.]

(Islamic State and global terrorism: where to now?, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 1 June 2015)

In the northern summer of 2014, over roughly one hundred days,
  • ISIS launched its blitzkrieg in Iraq,
  • Libya’s government collapsed,
  • civil war engulfed Yemen,
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph,
  • the latest Israel–Palestine peace initiative failed in a welter of violence, and
  • the United States and its allies (including the United Kingdom and Australia) sent aircraft and troops back to Iraq. …

[Twelve times as many foreign] fighters (from the Middle East, Europe, Australia, … Asia, the Americas and … Africa) poured into Syria and Iraq [than] at the height of the American war …
ISIS numbers [swelled to] above 30,000 (for comparison, al-Qaeda, at its peak before 9/11, never had more than 25,000). …
ISIS provinces appeared in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, and extremists in Indonesia and Nigeria swore allegiance to Baghdadi’s new 'caliphate.'
Attacks by ISIS-inspired terrorists hit Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East. …

Thirteen years, thousands of lives, and billions upon billions of dollars after 9/11, any gains against terrorism had seemingly been swept away in a matter of weeks. …

Anyone thinking of joining ISIS needs to understand that the chance of being killed … is extremely high …
Rates of return for foreign fighters have been less than 10% …
(p 73)

ISIS has already inspired rivals to adopt its tactics, increasing the threat from all extremist groups.
This suggests that [hopes that the competing strains of] Salafi-jihadist terrorism might neutralise one another ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend") are unrealistic.
Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is simply another enemy.
(Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State, Quarterly Essay 58, Black Inc, May 2015, p 77)

Mesopotamia (2003)

[Peace is] the necessary rational end of rational men.

John Kennedy (1917 – 63), Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961.

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
    The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
    Shall they come with years and honour to the grave? …

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide
    Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
    Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour:
    When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
    By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936), Mesopotamia, 1917.

(Bruce Goodison & David Belton, 10 Days to War, BBC Two, 2008)

(Errol Morris, The Unknown Known, 2013)

Robert McNamara (1916 – 2009) [Secretary of Defense, 1961-68]:
In [a] single night, we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo. …
How much evil must we do in order to do good?

Errol Morris (1948):
  1. Empathize with your enemy.
  2. Rationality alone will not save us.
  3. There’s something beyond one’s self.
  4. Maximize efficiency.
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  6. Get the data.
  7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
  8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
  10. Never say never.
  11. You can’t change human nature.
(The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara, 2003)

Behaving Rationally

Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson:
The scientific method consists of the use of procedures designed to show not that our predictions and hypotheses are right, but that they might be wrong.
Scientific reasoning is useful … because it makes us face the possibility, even the dire reality, that we were mistaken.
It forces us to confront our self-justifications and put them on public display for others to puncture.
[Science serves as] a form of arrogance control.
(Mistakes Were Made — But Not by Me, Chapter 4, 2007)


Donald Rumsfeld (1932)

US Secretary of Defense (2001–6)

There are known knowns.
There are known unknowns.
There are unknown unknowns.
But there are also unknown knowns [—] things that you think you know, that it turns out, you did not.
[Alternatively: things that you know, that you don't know that you know.]
(4 February 2004)

What in the world [were the Iraqi leadership] thinking?
What else might the United States have done to … get them to behave rationally? …

We know they have weapons of mass destruction.
We know they have active weapons programs.
There isn't any debate about it.
(26 September 2002)

I picked up a newspaper today, and I couldn't believe it.
I read eight headlines that talked about:
And it was just:
Henny Penny, the sky is falling!
I've never seen anything like it.
And here is a country that is being liberated.
(11 April 2003)

I don't do quagmires.
(24 July 2003)

(Errol Morris, The Unknown Known, 2013)

Losing the Peace

Deborah Nelson [Captain, US Army]:
Mr Secretary, none of us wants to win the war and lose the peace:
How can we create a stable transitional government in Iraq, should Saddam be replaced, that would improve world peace and not foster chaos and terrorism? …

Donald Rumsfeld:
That is a tough question and we're spending a lot of time on it.
Let me assure you, we've spent two long sessions in the last week on looking at the management of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
(February 2003)

Paul Bremer:
Shortly I will issue an order on measures to extirpate Ba'athists and Ba'athism from Iraq forever.
We have and will aggressively move to seek to identify these people and remove them from office.
We have hunted down and will continue to deal with those members of the old regime who are sabotaging the country and the coalition's efforts.
(May 2003)

(Ramadi: Strategy? There is no strategy, Rear Vision, ABC Radio National, 7 June 2015)

Casualties of War and Peace

11 September 2001: 2,996 killed (2,922 civilians, 55 military personnel and 19 hijackers) and 6,000+ wounded.
US Gun Related Casualties in 2010: 105,177 (31,672 killed, 73,505 wounded) ie 3,000+ deaths every 5 weeks.
Population of the United States: 313,933,954.

Estimates of Afghan civilian deaths [during the 1979-89 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan] vary from 850,000 to 1,500,000.
(Wikipedia, 8 February 2013)

2001 US invasion of Afghanistan: 12,500+ civilians (2001-2011) and 14,449+ combatants killed.

Population of Afghanistan: 31,108,077.

For the period from 1994 to 2003 … the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society set the conservative estimate of death toll … at about 150,000 [to] 200,000 civilians, 20,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers, and possibly the same amount of Chechen rebels.
(Wikipedia, 18 December 2011)


Tom Switzer: Playing Nuclear Roulette

Graham Greene: The Slide Into Barbarism

All Flesh is Grass

The Dogs of War

Sandy Hook

A Responsibility to Protect



No Quarter

A War Against Evil

American Justice

The Honored Dead

Death of the Frontier

The Right to Personal Security

Global Military Expenditure and the Arms Trade Treaty

An Unnecessary War

The Rush to War

The Best Liars (are those who deceive themselves)

Sri Lanka

War Is Peace

  • Howard ignored advice and went to war in Iraq, The Age 12 April 2013.
    Margaret Swieringa: Former Secretary, Intelligence Committee or ASIO, ASIS / Defence Signals Directorate Committee (2002-2007).

    The reason there was so much argument about the existence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. …
    John Howard:
    I couldn't justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime.
    I've never advocated that.
    Central to the threat is Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability. …
    [At] the time, Howard said:
    Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents …
    Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons.
    All key aspects — research and development, production and weaponisation — of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War in 1991.
    None of these [assertions were based on fact. …]

    The parliamentary inquiry, Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction [was conducted by the Intelligence Committee on the basis of information gathered] from Australia's two analytical intelligence organisations — the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessment — from March 2001 until March 2003.
    The inquiry found:

    1. The scale of threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier.
    2. Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq's military capability remained limited and the country's infrastructure was still in decline.
    3. The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced.
      Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.
    4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US.
      Most if not all of the few SCUDS that were hidden away were likely to be in poor condition.
    5. There was no known chemical weapons production.
    6. There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.
    7. There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.
    8. There was no known Iraq offensive research since 1991.
    9. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons.
    10. There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for Al Samoud or other ballistic missiles had been developed.
    11. No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction. …

    [There was evidence of] a limited stockpile of chemical weapon agents, possibly stored in dual-use or industrial facilities.
    [But none to indicate that] Iraq had the capacity to restart its chemical weapons program in weeks [or] to manufacture in months.

    The committee concluded
    [The] case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq's WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations.
    This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the committee by Australia's two analytical agencies. …
    Howard would claim, no doubt, that he took his views from overseas dossiers. …
    However, all that intelligence was considered by Australian agencies when forming their views. …

    [The] so-called "surge of new intelligence" after September 2002 relied almost exclusively on one or two entirely unreliable and self-serving individuals.
    … Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who had defected in 1995, had told Western agencies that the nuclear program in Iraq had failed, that chemical and biological programs had been dismantled and weapons destroyed, largely as a result of the UNSCOM weapons inspections.

  • Civilian Death and Injury in Iraq, 2003-2011, Costs of War Project, September 2011.
    Neta Crawford: Professor of Political Science, Boston University.

    We know the number of US soldiers killed in the war in Iraq.
    We know their names and how they died. …

    The US military … did not make a systematic account of Iraqi casualties in the early weeks of the war …
    [Nor] did it make public many estimates or detailed accounts of civilian death unless in response to an undeniable tragedy such as the US bombing of Iraqi markets early in the war.
    Iraq's Ministry of Health's statistics department was [reportedly] ordered to [abandon a survey of] civilian dead in late 2003 [— at a time when it was subject to] the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    {Iraq's population has been estimated at 31 million people …}
    [At] least 126,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a direct consequence of the war's violence.
    This is an extremely conservative estimate based on what has been documented by public sources.
    To understand the complete toll of the Iraq War, to this estimate of civilian killed from 2003, one must add:
    • the … approximately 10,000 Iraqi military killed at the outset of the war,
    • the approximately 19,000 insurgents killed from June 2003-September 2007,
    • the more than 10,100 Iraqi military and police killed since June 2003 and
    • the nearly 6,300 US and allied soldiers and US contractors killed in the war.
    Total direct violent deaths are thus 171,000:
    • about 165,000 Iraqis and
    • 6,300 US and allied soldiers and contractors.

    Many thousands more Iraqis have been wounded by bombs, bullets, and the fire that is often triggered by bombing.
    Some additional number of people have also died due to the war's effect on Iraqi infrastructure and economy, in particular on the systems that provide health care and clean drinking water.
    (p 1)

    Why have we argued so much and so long about the human toll in Iraq?

    The first reason that the numbers killed in Iraq have been so contested is politics.
    The United States was at great pains to underscore its commitment to avoid harming civilians in Iraq during the invasion in 2003 and the subsequent occupation.
    Before the invasion, the Pentagon invited reporters to hear how civilian casualties would be minimized in the air war. …
    The use of precision weapons was emphasized, and when civilians were killed, the US military spokespersons tended to emphasize the great care that had been taken to minimize effects on civilians.
    When violence grew in 2006, the United States emphasized that it was reducing civilian casualties by changing rules of engagement. …

    Some years into the Iraq war, the RAND Corporation was asked by the US DOD to assess the questions and controversies related to counting casualties.
    (p 2)
    Katherine Hall & Dale Stahl:
    [It was not clear that] anyone in the US military or Coalition is systematically collecting and analyzing [data on Iraqi civilian fatalities. …]
    Had there been a more robust effort to collect accurate information on Iraqi civilians, military strategists and political leaders might have acted more determinedly to secure the civilian population prior to the carnage of 2006. …
    (An Argument for Documenting Casualties: Violence Against Iraqi Civilians 2006, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, 2008)
    The second reason for the contentious debate about the death and injury toll in Iraq is that the way one counts the dead …
    [The] ostensible differences often appear larger than they are because those who have been observing and measuring death and injury in Iraq have been counting different, though sometimes overlapping, events.

    Trends in Direct War Related Civilian Death

    [There] have been four main causes of civilian death due to the war:

    1. death due to injuries directly caused by combat;
    2. lawlessness, namely targeted killings, executions, or military atrocity;
    3. indirect death due to increased vulnerability; and
    4. an unknown number possibly killed due to the long term environmental effects of the war.

    I do not attempt to estimate the latter two categories. …

    [Based on] Iraq Body Count records … for the first year of the war …
    • Coalition force accounted for about 52% of recorded violent deaths [— 60%] due to air attack.
    • Unknown perpetrators accounted for 41% [and]
    • anti-coalition forces accounted for about 4% …
    (p 4)

    In the first five years of war in Iraq, more than 92,000 people were killed by armed violence.
    [By] the end of the first five years of fighting in March 2008,
    • unknown perpetrators had caused the most (74%) of all violent deaths …
    • [about] 12% … could be attributed solely to US coalition forces [and]
    • [anti-coalition] forces accounted for almost 11% …

    Unknown perpetrators executed their victims or tortured them and then executed them.
    These [included of] revenge killings, and clashes between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish groups escalated.
    Iraqi soldiers and American soldiers killed some number as well. …
    When Anti-coalition forces killed civilians it was primarily by suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and roadside bombs. …
    (p 6)


    By one estimate, perhaps about as many who have been killed by war have been wounded in various ways.
    The US National Couterterrorism Center, which focuses only on "terrorist" events counted about 110,000 wounded Iraqis from 2004 through 2010.
    (p 8)

    According to a 2010 report by Handicap International, 13,000 cluster munitions, containing 1.8 to 2 million submunitions were used by the United States and Britain in 2003 in the first weeks of combat and Iraq remains one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world.
    (p 9)
    Haider Maliki:
    28% of Iraqi children [ie more than 3 million] suffer some degree of PTSD, and their numbers are steadily rising.
    (Central Pediatric Teaching Hospital, Baghdad, 2010)
    Acute malnutrition among children in Iraq doubled in the months after the US invasion and remains a serious problem.
    In 2006 more about 1 in 4 children under five was classified as "stunted" by the World Health Organization.
    (p 10)

    Indirect Death

    Acute malnutrition among children in Iraq doubled in the months after the U.S. invasion and remains a serious problem.
    In 2006 more about 1 in 4 children under five was classified as "stunted" by the World Health Organization.

    Media and Humanitarian Worker Deaths

    … 22 United Nations staff [died in the Baghdad attack of] August 2003 [— 100] were injured …
    [More] than 94 relief workers had been killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2007 and 248 were injured.

    … 226 journalists and other media workers have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.
    Of those, 53 were killed in crossfire, 93 were murdered and three were killed while on dangerous assignments.

    When Soldiers "Snap"

    Intentionally killing non-combatants is considered an atrocity for which actors are morally responsible and legally culpable.
    These are war crimes. …

    In the early morning of 19 November 2005 a twenty year old Marine, Lance Corporal TJ Miguel Terrazas, was killed by a roadside bomb.
    In retaliation, over the course of about four hours, a group of US Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha including children aged 14, 10, 5, 4, 3 and 1 over the course of about four hours as members of a thirteen man unit, the 1st Squad of Marine Company K, Third Battalion Marines, attacked people in three houses and a taxi carrying four college students.
    (p 11)

    Of the eight Marines charged for various offenses related to the killings, most charges, including those of unpremeditated murder, were dropped for all but one Marine, Frank Wuterich.
    (p 12)

    Fallujah, Iraq 2004

    Fallujah, Iraq, a city of approximately 300,000 people before the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, was easily occupied in April 2003 by the United States military. …
    (p 13)

    On 31 March 2004, four private military contractors, working for Blackwater USA, driving through the city were killed by gunmen.
    A crowd gathered, gasoline was poured into one of the vehicles, and it was set ablaze.
    The charred and dismembered remains of two of the men were then hung over a bridge. …

    President Bush ordered an assault on Fallujah, despite the fact that the Marine Commander of the area, Major General Mattis was not in favor of the attack. …
    During a briefing by the US commander in Iraq, General Sanchez, Bush told Sanchez to "Kick ass!" in Fallujah.

    The battle turned into a bloody stalemate and a public relations fiasco for the American forces.
    After the bombing of a mosque and other incidents that were politically sensitive, the offensive was halted and control of the city was given to Iraqi forces on 28 April on the understanding that insurgents would be kept out of the city.
    But insurgents remained and a decision was made to attack again.
    (p 14)

    In the days prior to the assault, the city was surrounded by US and other coalition forces and residents were told by the Marines to leave through checkpoints, or if they remained, to stay inside their homes.
    At these checkpoints males between the ages 15 and 45 were turned back in to the city or detained.
    The United Nations coordinated Emergency Working Group estimated on 11 November that approximately 200,000 people left Fallujah and were dispersed throughout Iraq while approximately 50,000 civilians remained in the city
    (p 16)

    [The] "shaping" of the battlefield began in the summer months …
    The second assault by US and Iraqi forces on Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury, officially began on 7 November 2004.
    The assumption was that anyone who remained in the city was an insurgent.
    (p 17)

    The fighting in Fallujah was intense both day and night, moving house to house over the course of four weeks
    [The] city was opened for the return of its residents on 23 December. …
    (p 18)

    Marine Corporal Michael Leduc described his briefing on the rules of engagement for Fallujah in 2004 …
    [Battlion JAG Officer:]
    You see an individual, who although may not be actually carrying anything or displaying any specific hostile action or intent running from, say, one building to another, running across the street or even running away from you …
    [Assume] that he is maneuvering against you and kill him.

    You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it's a trick and kill him. …

    Burhan Fasa’a [Journalist, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation]:
    There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for the Americans …
    I saw so many civilians shot by them. …

    Americans did not have interpreters with them …
    They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because they didn’t obey their orders …
    [The] people couldn’t understand a word of English.
    95% of the people killed in the houses that I saw were killed because they couldn’t speak English.

    I saw cluster bombs everywhere, and so many bodies that were burned, dead with no bullets in them.
    So they definitely used fire weapons …
    I saw an American sniper in a minaret of a mosque shooting everyone that moved. …
    (p 19)
    Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable [Pentagon Spokesperson]:
    White phosphorus is a conventional munition.
    It is not a chemical weapon.
    They are not outlawed or illegal.
    We use them primarily … for smokescreens or target marking in some cases.
    However it is an incendiary weapon and may be used against enemy combatants. …
    When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on … one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round into the position …
    [The] combined effects of the fire and smoke … will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives.
    (p 20)

    [An] NBC news video of a US soldier killing an unarmed prisoner in a Mosque on 13 November, raised questions about whether the practice of "dead checking" — where the wounded are killed — was widespread …
    The Marine Corp investigated but chose not to prosecute …
    (p 21)

    Iraq Body Count recorded 1,874 civilian deaths in Fallujah for the period of 19 March 2003 to 19 March 2005.
    [Hospital] workers had recovered 700 bodies from 9 of 27 neighborhoods in Fallujah [of which] 550 were women and children.
    Many others had already been buried …
    In November [there] were 540 air strikes and 14,000 artillery and mortar shells fired, as well as 2,500 main tank gun rounds.
    Eighteen thousand of Fallujah's 39,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
    (p 22)

    In the November attack 70 Americans were killed and 609 wounded.
    (p 23)

    Documenting and Counting

    Because the official estimates were for a long time lacking and are incomplete, for example, because they do not cover the entire period of the Iraq war, scholars concerned to understand the human toll of the war were left to use media accounts of individual incidents, occasionally supplemented by official statements.
    Later, public health experts conducted sample surveys in Iraq and estimated the numbers killed by violence and the number of "excess deaths" by using sophisticated statistical methods. …

    [Two] cluster sampling surveys, published in the Lancet [have been] highly criticized.
    (p 25)

    [The 2006 study] estimated about 655,000 excess deaths, of which … 601,000 were due to violent causes. [1] …
    [Given] the problems associated with random sample surveys in a war zone [this study may be] the best that could be done given the extreme violence in Iraq at the time.

    [Most importantly,] survey research and cluster sampling suggests that reliance on media reports of death undercount the true number of dead. …
    … Iraq Body Count enumerates each incident of civilian killing, using publicly available data. …
    John Tirman [Executive Director, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]:
    IBC’s count … is accumulated by scanning mainly English-language news media reports.
    It’s a crude method, given that not all deaths are reported in the news media, the number of reporters and their interests change over time, and most of the press was stuck in Baghdad during the most severe violence in 2004-07.
    IBC itself acknowledges that they are probably low by a factor of two, meaning their count should be 200,000 and the new data [from WikiLeaks] would make that at least 215,000.
    Even then, IBC does not count “insurgents” or security forces, or non-violent deaths that are attributable to the war.
    (Wikileaks docs Underestimate Iraqi Dead, Global Research, 1 November 2010)
    (p 26, italics added)

    The Brookings Institution makes estimates based on the Iraq Body Count, but adjusts them to reflect figures released by the Iraqi and US governments.
    [We separately studied the crime rate in Iraq for the period May 2003 to December 2005, and estimated that 23,000 murders occurred throughout the country.]

    [However,] Iraqi officials at the Ministry of Health may have been systematically encouraged to under-report deaths.
    One person who works at the Baghdad central morgue statistics office [was reported as saying:]
    By orders of the minister's office, we cannot talk about the real numbers of deaths.
    This has been the case since 2004. …
    I would go home and look at the news.
    The minister would say 10 people got killed all over Iraq, while I had received in that day more then 50 dead bodies just in Baghdad.
    It's always been like that — they would say one thing, but the reality was much worse.
    Despite the potential for undercounting, the Iraq Body Count dataset is still the most transparent and comprehensive recording available of civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003.

    Even less likely to be accurate is the count of the number of "insurgents" killed in the Iraq war.
    (p 27)


    1. Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy, and Les Roberts, "Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A cross-sectional Cluster Sample Survey," Lancet, vol 368 no. 9545, (2006) 1421-1428.

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