It's about three years since I predicted that the Iraq occupation would slide into a genocidal civil war in this blog, and I really wish I'd been wrong.
It's also been about that length of time since I decided to try and keep politics out of my blog. After all, arguing politics in a weblog probably doesn't do much good; it alienates some readers, attracts others, and if I'm going to be brutally honest, part of the reason I maintain this toe-hold on the web is to seduce readers (who will, I hope, want to read my fictions rather than my opinions).
Still, I can't keep quiet all the time.
The Lancet isn't just any medical journal, it's one of the big three that you used to — and probably still do — find in common rooms in hospitals all over the UK (along with the British Medical Journal and sometimes the New England Journal of Medicine). It is not noted for publishing random speculation, agitprop, and crank letters — it's the top journal of record in its field. Getting an article into The Lancet is like getting one in Nature, or Science: it's a big one.
So when it turns out that tomorrow's issue is carrying a detailed epidemiological study that indicates 655,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion in 2003 (Full PDF of the article here) I had to sit up and take notice.
This is an epidemiological study of surplus mortality, because the occupiers are refusing to keep records of civilian deaths. (Which, I should note, is strictly illegal and a breach of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions, but let it slide — one more indignity among many). As such, it can't nail the precise death toll — but it points in the general direction. Mortality has risen from 5.5 per 1,000 per year prior to the invasion to 13.3 per thousand (and most recently, to 19.8 per thousand between June 2005 and June 2006).
Quadrupling the death rate in a country isn't something that you can write off as statistically insignificant. It correlates very clearly with the invasion and subsequent occupation, and the detailed breakdown ascribes 31% of the death toll to military action by the occupiers (with the remainder due to other causes including gunshot wounds and bombs).
The spin machine is, of course, already trying to play down the news. As this biased AP wire article puts it
A controversial new study contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war, suggesting a far higher death toll than other estimates.
(Way to go! Start by pinning the "controversial" adjective on a piece that's been peer-reviewed four times for the most authoritative medical journal on the planet. Let me just point out that's why I felt like pinning the "biased" adjective right back on the author.)
Rather than examining the statistical basis of the report, the propaganda continues:
one respected group puts its rough estimate at closer to 50,000. And at least one expert was skeptical of the new findings. "They're almost certainly way too high," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election.
While the CSIS is officially bipartisan, its executive is dominated by Republicans
, with a particular leaning toward Defense Department officials, Wall Street investment bankers and oil company executives. And if you can't figure out what kind of spin they
would like to put on the Iraq occupation in the run-up to an election their friends and donors are running in, you're too bloody stupid to read my lips.
In case you think the Iraq business is all in the past and it's time to move on, let me remind you that as of September 30th, the USS Eisenhower and Expeditionary Strike Group 5 are en route to the Persian gulf, and the rhetoric for an attack on Iran has been hotting up since January. Think it won't happen? The Eisenhower (and another carrier group) are due to arrive in the gulf on October 21st. Now who's planning something convenient in time for the election?
No less an analyst than Bob Woodward warns that Bush invaded Iraq in the first place to secure the last mid-term elections. Now it looks very much like he's doing it again.
"This is not analysis, this is politics," Cordesman [of the CSIS] said.
Dead right (and as a denizen of a Republican think tank he should know). Bush's analysis is that if he attacks Iran in the two weeks leading up to the mid-term, he can roll the swing vote. So he's getting ready to do it all over again (hey, it worked last time!), despite the body count.
Now I've said enough, and I'm going to get back to my job (which is finishing the current novel I'm working on before I get stuck into the next one).
Your job, if you're voting in the upcoming election, is to decide whether you want to let a politician who cold-bloodedly ordered 655,000 murders in order to win his last mid-term election get away with the same trick twice, on behalf of his page-buggering, bribe-taking buddies.
But don't mind me. I'm just a foreigner, and my opinions don't count.