In The Nation (and at alternet.org), John Tirman provides some pertinent statistics on the now almost entirely ignored war in Iraq — a “victory” which Barack Obama is now being warned by his generals not to “squander” with his plans for pulling out some troops and leaving behind tens of thousands of others:
The United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis — more than half of them refugees — or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.
The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 “excess deaths” (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside.
…[Thus, based on] much more reliable and sophisticated method[s] for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology…we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million “excess deaths” as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war.
This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity.
The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead — in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis.
Arthur Silber puts these statistics in context, after noting Obama’s lauding of the recent Iraqi elections, which according to the U.S. president showed that America can now “start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis.” To this, Silber replies [see original for links]:
At the time of the initial invasion, Iraq posed no threat of any significance whatsoever to the United States. This blindingly obvious conclusion was clear to millions of people throughout the world — “ordinary” people who examined the publicly available evidence, and who did not rely on “secret” knowledge, which goes by the viciously misnamed designation “intelligence,” which “intelligence” is almost always wrong and which is never the basis for major policy decisions in any event.
The U.S. ruling class also knew that Iraq represented no threat of any consequence. They didn’t care. They had entirely different objectives and concerns: the expansion and consolidation of American global hegemony. The world is the U.S. ruling class’s oyster, and they will devour it. And you, and over a million innocent Iraqis, and whoever else proves troublesome. As a general rule, it is advisable not to place yourself in the path of a dangerously delusional homicidal maniac.
Thus, the United States government and almost all members of the ruling class — with only two or three honorable exceptions — embarked on a lengthy series of brutal, horrifying, profoundly immoral war crimes, and on a world historical genocide. Thus, all those members of the ruling class who have voted to continue and fund these crimes are war criminals. Barack Obama is a war criminal. Don’t bother to argue with me: argue with the Nuremberg Principles.
This is the excellent foppery of our times: to pretend that what we are dealing with in Washington is some variant of “politics as usual” — who’s in, who’s out, the state of play in the political game, the ordinary meshing and thrashing of policy and partisanship in a normal democracy. But all the while, this monstrous crime rages in the background. The blood of a million innocent people killed by the machinations of the America elite flows out of Iraqi soil and permeates every inch of the imperial capital. When our leaders gather in solemn conclave to debate “the issues” — or yuk it up together at sumptuous bipartisan banquets — they tread in this blood, they sit in this blood. Yet it is obvious now that nothing on earth will ever make this blood visible, not only to the ones who have perpetrated or abetted its shedding, but also to the people at large, in whose name it has been shed, and who will bear the long-reverberating brunt of the blowback — financial, political, “asymmetrical” — from this atrocity.
4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead…..