Saturday, February 24, 2007

... and counting ...

(Occasional sobering thought.) Americans know how many of their own have died so far in Iraq. They can recite names and hometowns of the fallen. Yet Americans haven't a clue about the war's toll on Iraqis, finds a new AP-Ipsos poll. With this occasional feature IntLawGrrls intends to put that to rights.
The Lancet, England's premier medical journal, set the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the 1st 18 months of conflict at more than 100,000, but that number hasn't been corroborated. We'll rely on Iraq Body Count; it reports that as of Feb. 21, 2007, between 56,880 and 62,613 Iraqi women, children, and men had died. (The absence of firmer numbers speaks volumes about the state of civil society in Iraq.)
For numbers close to home, we rely on the U.S. Department of Defense. Confirmed American servicemember fatalities, through Feb. 22, 2007: 3,151 persons. Total coalition fatalities: 3,410 persons. Total U.S. wounded: 23,417 persons. Total casualties in Afghanistan conflict: 370 Americans and 164 other coalition servicemembers killed, 5,994 American servicemembers wounded.
The AP article quotes a political scientist that knowing numbers doesn't matter, because "[p]eople in democracies generally don't shy away from inflicting civilian casualties." Laying the numbers out for people to read will test that contestable assumption.

3 comments:

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

I really do doubt, alas, that most Americans care at all about the civilian casualty numbers in Iraq, any more than they cared about such figures during the Vietnam War. Despite the globalization rhetoric and in spite of the fact that this is a land of immigrants, our government and its inhabitants remain in many respects a rather provincial and parochial people, a proposition that should not be controversial to those involved in international relations and law. I have heard the civilian body count occasionally on CNN and have read about it in the Los Angeles Times, although, to be sure, not as frequently as the number of American soldiers and noncombatants killed in the conflict.

tekel said...

I think they left something out of that quote:

"[p]eople in democracies generally don't shy away from inflicting civilian casualties [on brown people]."

And not to be pedantic, but the US isn't a democracy, it's a republic... and it's currently being run like a monarchy.

tekel said...

I hate replying to myself, but upon rereading, that first bit just doesn't scan right for me, which means that if you're not me you probably have no idea what I meant.

The point I wanted to make was that Americans in general, and the American mass media in particular, don't care about statistics about hardship, torture, or death, unless the victims are white. Preferably young, pretty, white girls (think Jessica Lynch), but the media will settle for white boys too.

Witness: Bosnia, a fight between white people: we had people on the ground for months. Afghanistan- we don't care if those Arabs stone their women to death. Oh, and Darfur- isn't there a genocide going on there...? But since it's just black africans, who gives a damn?

New York City: cleaned, rebuilt, damn the asbestos in the air, white people need to work in Manhattan. New Orleans: 60% of residents still haven't come back, Slate has run at least one article openly suggesting that NOLA isn't worth rebuilding (because only lazy stupid black people lived there in the first place): http://www.slate.com/id/2125810/

New Orleans' public schools, which are 93 percent black, have failed their citizens. The state of Louisiana rates 47 percent of New Orleans schools as "Academically Unacceptable" and another 26 percent are under "Academic Warning." About 25 percent of adults have no high-school diploma.

Yes, the article is from 2005. It's still up. The public schools of New Orleans failed because there were too many black kids. So why should we care that now there are no public schools at all... oh, wait, all the black kids are gone? Well, maybe this charter school system has a chance at success then.

Witness: We have roughly 500 brown captives in prison in Cuba. Most of them have been there for 4 or 5 years now. And it's still a topic of serious debate whether or not they deserve, you know, basic human rights. Because, you know, those brown people aren't really human when it comes right down to it- they're "enemy combatants." Why isn't the torture that is still being done in our name the subject of continuous CNN news coverage, instead of gratuitous boob-shots of still-dead Anna Nicole? She's dead! We get it! Tomorrow: she will still be dead! Tune in at 9AM for updates on her deadness!

So. Two points in closing. (1) The American people in general may care a great deal about civilian casualties. But you'll never hear anything about it on the news until there are some serious changes in the structure of mass media ownership in the United states. Your original post linked twice to an AP article that ran at MSNBC. NBC is owned by GE. GE makes money by selling jet engines to build fighter planes. GE has a vested interest in this war going on for as long as possible- so everything they publish should be taken with a generous helping of salt. NBC is by no means a disinterested party in this conflict.

(2) I'm planning to vote for Barak Obama for President in 2008. He is currently the clear leader in public opinion polls for the next Presidential election. He's doing what every Democrat in the country should be doing- calling Dick Cheney a joke and suggesting that Big Time is unfit for office.

Obama voted against the war in 2002, he has never wavered in that position, and he's a black man. Americans are ready to vote for a black President- because people hate Hillary, and she hasn't admitted her war vote was a mistake, and even a black President would have to do a better job than the Saudi President we have now.

Expect the mass media to attack Obama vehemently on every front over the next 18 months. The attacks which come might not be direct, but they will attempt to slight his achievements and his abilities simply because he is Not White. If NBC and the Washington Post and Fox News succeed in destroying Obama, expect him to vanish in a way that Kerry and Gore have not- because when you come right down to it, when the game is over, nobody cares what happens to brown people unless they win.