Saturday, October 14, 2006

Deaths in Iraq

This is the grim report from the Lancet.

An extract:

‘In Iraq, as with other conflicts, civilians bear the consequences of warfare. In the Vietnam war, 3 million civilians died; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict has been responsible for 3·8 million deaths; and an estimated 200,000 of a total population of 800,000 died in conflict in East Timor. Recent estimates are that 200,000 people have died in Darfur over the past 31 months. We estimate that almost 655,000 people—2·5% of the population in the study area—have died in Iraq. Although such death rates might be common in times of war, the combination of a long duration and tens of millions of people affected has made this the deadliest international conflict of the 21st century, and should be of grave concern to everyone’.

There is a broad range of error in the Iraq estimates but the sampling methodology seems sound. It does not seem to me a valid criticism to say that the estimate is much greater than other estimates. There is, however, no implication at all, on the basis of these findings alone that the US should withdraw from Iraq (despite the views of one of its authors) – things might well get worse given that 2/3 of the killings have been as a result of sectarian terrorists killing each other - but there it is important to gain an idea of the scale of the overall disaster taking place in Iraq and the need for policies toward Iraq to more adequately address the issue of civilian casualties.

While these arguments do not imply a case for withdrawal there is an increasingly widespread argument even within the military that the Coalition face the prospect of almost no chance of meaningfully winning this war. This increases pressures for a planned withdrawal although a prompt withdrawal, again, could be disastrous. Apart from casualties US military prestige would take propaganda battering from the terrorists in Iraq who are currently inflicting such mayhem. One option is for a phased and gradual withdrawal perhaps preceded by a partition of Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions.


derrida derider said...

Whatever the arguments about waht we should do now, it is perfectly clear that we should not allow the dishonest and incompetent architects of this disaster to continue running things. I'd be a bit more impressed with the "stay the course" trope if it was more like "stay the course with competent leaders".

So come on, Harry, speak up - do you think Bush, Blair and Howard should go because of this?

hc said...

I think the issues of competence and judgement are reasonable ballot box concerns. I don't think John Howard was dishonest.

Actually I am not a simple supporter of 'stay the course'. But I do worry about the level of sectarian deaths which I fear a prompt exit might increase.

I am coming to the view that a Coalition victory seems unlikely. So its how to get out of this thing with minimum cost to Iraqis.

Anonymous said...

Your response to Derrida Derider is not very satisfactory.

DD fairly asks you an academic question touching upon the long-dead notion of Westminster system of accountability -- but which, granted, we wouldn't actually expect a politician of John Howard's acrobatic shiftiness to observe.

So, should he go (in theory) because he was an incompetent leader because of the unravelling of Iraq into a charnel-house?

The question was not, will he have to face the electorate (obviously he and/or his party will, eventually); and is Iraq a legitimate question to put to the electorate?

To comment first on your non-answer: Yes it is, but it will not be the only question put to the electorate.

As Australian troops are warehoused out of harm's way, there is not and there will not be, any fallout as a result of Aussie boys coming home maimed or in a box.

So the electorate will be mainly concerned with rising interest rates and perhaps a bit about global warming (Johnny must be reading the polls again).

And if Howard gets re-elected, I suppose, in your mind, this means that killing thousands of Iraqis as a consequence of a civil war and American military action all meant that it was right to "stay the course"?

Interestingly, you end your non-answer with a non sequitur Freudian slip - "I don't think John Howard was dishonest".

No imputation of dishonesty was put by DD. It was competence, or rather, whether the incompetent should be asked to clear out their desk and return the keys to the executive bathroom, following the general principle of incompetents being removed from "running things".

Of course, as you are well aware, John Howard is thought to be dishonest (by the majority of Australians in well-conducted polls) on a number of issues, including doubt for the reasons he gave for involving Australia in the Iraq war.

Sadly for you, from here on, the problem for John Howard will be out of his hands if there is a big turnaround in US politics, beginning with the GOP getting a hiding in November.

In such a scenario, it will mean that John Howard will have to make realpolitik adjustments to his own stand, as he has done on global warming recently.

With numbers, Democrats will set up committees, which will uncover more than just dishonesty in the current US administration. Electoral fraud? Denial of constitutional rights? Unlawful search and seizure? Lying under oath?

Personally, I am looking forward to it.

If Howard is left high and dry by the receding of the next political tide, you will be even worse off because you merely reacted and tried to put the best spin on events that are entirely out of your control.

hc said...

Jack, I wasn't being evasive. I supported the intervention initially and can hardly criticise John Howard for having done so. As I don't support 'cut-and-run' so I don't oppose current policy. If I could rerun history again I might do things differently - but I cannot. Do you remember learning about 'sunk costs'?

70% of deaths in Iraq now result from Muslims killing Muslims.

Of course I am uncomfortable with current events in Iraq - is anyone not? I would prefer John Howard to be running things given the state of affairs there now so I will vote for his party.

Derrider Derida used the word 'dishonest' line 3 and I rejected that in relation to John Howard. It was no Freudian slip on my part.

I think politiciams should be subject to the law of the land so don't worry about that. Nor am I concerned about being exposed as having made poor judgement. Given the mess in Iraq the moral obligation on us all is to do the best we can for these unfortunate people.

Anonymous said...

I apologise unreservedly, you are right. Derrida Derider did say "dishonest".

This misses the point however because John Howard can hardly be called "an architect" of the war in Iraq, honest or otherwise.

The dishonest and incompetent architect description would fit Paul Wolfowitz like a glove, however.

Dishonest, because as Deputy Secretary of Defense (sic) he claimed in 2003 that Iraq would finance the war and its own postwar reconstruction out of the oil revenues, which he told US Congress would bring between $50 and $100 billion.

This is how he sold the war to the US electorate.

But Wolfowitz lied to Congress about the revenue projection, as he knew that the figure was false. He was briefed by Guy Caruso, head of US Energy Information Administration (and ex-CIA energy spook), who told the BBC in an interview earlier this year that the oil fields were cactus and would first require an investment of around $40 billion, and this would be more than Iraq could produce in 10 years. His "oil numbers man" Robert Ebel, confirmed on the record that Wolfowitz's outrageous claims were a part of the effort to "sell" the war.

Incompetent. Well, it speaks for itself and I do not have to eleborate on this to the horrified onlookers out there in the blogosphere.

As regards the 70 percent of the deaths caused by internecine fighting, we have to ask ourselves, would this fighting have started if either the Yanks had not invaded, or at the very least, handled it differently, more honestly, more competently. Like leaving in place Gen Jay Garner, who was sacked by Rumsfeld two days into his job.

I am afraid Harry, you will have to wear some of the moral responsibility for the carnage, personally, for your proselytising efforts in the past on behalf of this stupid oil-grab war.

hc said...

Jack, I don't disagree with your view that the current fighting would not be occurring had Saddam still been in power.

But that is not the issue now. Liberating him from jail and getting him to lead Iraq again with a corrupt bunch of Sunnis is impractical.

We need to face the world as it is. Sunk-costs are irrelevant. I take it that, as of now, you support cut and run.

That's an arguable position but one I reject. Hopefully the Iraqis can take on a greater military role and eventually handle the insurgency alone. But at present we should support them.

The alternative is likely to be a worsening bloodbath and a situation in Iraq that is inimical to Western interests.

Although I am a humble man I appreciate your abject, grovelling apology. You are foregiven my son. Go in peace and sin not yet once more.

Anonymous said...

Good heavens, Harry, you do love that red herring. The Liberal Party should find you a safe seat. You express yourself just like a politician.

I never mentioned Saddam Hussein, nor his being released from jail, nor leading Iraq again. How did you conclude, on the basis of my response about the palpable dishonesty of the architect(s) of the Iraq fiasco that I suggested that Saddam Hussein should be reinstated as dictator of Iraq?

You should go easy on that plonk before blogtime.

I also assume that you support "cut and run": because you are pondering on the best way to " get out of this thing".

By the way, Harry, are you given a script each week? What is it with the parroting of your masters' phrases? Don't they value a little bit of independent thought and original expression?

hc said...

No plonk Jack just pointing out that you are fixated on 'sunk costs' - but you can't go backwards. You must take the situation as it is.

You are full of regrets poor boy which count for bugger-all.

I don't support 'cut and run'.

I don't have anymaster Jack. I am a free agent.

Stop being a trendie leftie from the 1970s and come down-to-earth. Phillip Adams won't fund your superannuation but John Howard will.

Iraq may have been a mistake with your brilliant ex post wisdom - even the UN thought they had weapons of mass destruction but you, dear Jack, knew better - or looking back imagined you would know better.

My question: Do you support leaving Iraq now?

Anonymous said...

But what about the sectarian deaths now?

I was going to wait until the result of the mid term elections in the US before I answered you but I''ll say what I have to say now.

And I won't rise to your childish jibes except to say that the most rabid left wing trendies of the 60s and 70s are now your fellow travellers now: Windschuttle, Brunton, McGuinness, Pearson, Dave Clark, and others.

You blithely parrot off the script originated by White House spin doctors using the phrase "cut and run". A refrain picked up earlier by Howard and Downer.

What does it mean? It is an Americanism seldom used in Australia and is a sailing term: one cuts the sheet (i.e. rope) holding the mainsail when it looks like a coming storm will capsize the boat. You then make a run for it using smaller jib sails. Byh analogy it means giving up on an original plan (of running to wind on the mainsail) in order to save the boat.

In other words, employing pragmatism and sensible, logical remedy under the circumstances.

In this week's Vanity Fair online you can read why most of the neocons now favour a cut and run, saying the Iraq adventurism was a bad mistake.

I most definitely think the US should cut and run. And by late tomorrow a significant part of the US electorate will signal the same.

And when the US leaves Iraq to its bloody civil war (which it helped to unleash because of its desire to control the oil markets), will you will still be there, insisting on "staying the course"?

PS I am funding my own superannuation through Unisuper and through employer contributions.

hc said...

Gee Jack I am up in Cairns enjoying the sun and the birdwatching but I am still stuck with my mentoring role in relation to the long-lived lefties down south. I cannot escape my responsibilities.

'Cut and run' here I take to me an almost immediate withdrawal. This in my view is likely to be catastrophic for the people or Iraq so I do not support it.

The long list of people you mention grew up. But most are right-wing conservatives now which I am not. I am a muddled liberal who supports social security, opposes tax cuts for the wealthy, supports medicare etc probably much as you do. But I also support markets whereever they are possible and despise sloppy sentimentality as a substitute for thinking about policy.

Anonymous said...

You're in Cairns, allegedly relaxing but you can't relax. Here you are, blogging. When do you actually go birdwatching? This is getting a touch compulsive, don't you think?

I am getting a little worried about you. Not only compulsive, you can't seem to be able to follow a logical train of thought.

At first, I thought that you had simply been given a quick tute by media trainers. You know the routine - that's not the question, Barry, the question is... The interviewee then proceeds to answer the question they they have themselves posed and not the one put. This makes it easier to avoid a discussion where one is on a hiding to nothing. See more on this at Columbia Journalism site.

On the other hand, this type of behaviour is not that removed from a mild form of Asberger's Syndrome. Typical markers include a long-running refrain of reminding interlocutors of a privileged and cosy position as a consequence of being in step with their patrons. Say, current political incumbents, who will look after one in one's retirement. It is like someone saying "that Batman would arrive one day and take him away as his assistant." See Asperger syndrome: a clinical account.

Then there are the "special interests that they pursue with marked enthusiasm. Collecting objects such as stamps, old glass bottles, or railway engine numbers..." I seem to remember a strong involvement with igneous rocks, before this thing with birds took over. (By the way, the blue-fronted fig parrot has been re-discovered in Queensland).

Whatever you understand about "cut and run", it is a simplistic slogan invented for the less sophisticated elements of the US electorate, as Dubya himself admits at a press conference, see here RAW Story.

Indeed, the White House is now running away from the "cut and run" mantra because it has been so discredited. It was replaced by "stay the course", so get with the program, Harry. On the other hand, it may be too late. See Crooks and Liars.

All in all, to draw on the current zeitgeist, you have back the wrong horse. And I, and many of the other avid readers of your fine blog, will watch with interest your eventual climb-down, following your masters' voices at The Australian, in Quadrant and of course, in Canberra.

hc said...

Birdwatching and blogging are competitive pursuits but less so in this era of laptops with remote internet access.

I am glad you are worried about me and appreciate your concern.

Its difficult to answewr honestly when someone is prying into your psyche. Its messy in there Jack and I much prefer to deal with issues than discursive and anecdotal asides.

For the last time: I will live with my guilts. I remind you about sunk costs and encourage you to get out your Samuelson.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't mean to pry.

I guess all those lives lost in the cause of "Iraqi freedom" are also sunk costs.

Although perhaps what we have here is a cost overrun.

But now, after mid term elections they may be... variable costs.

These are the known knowns, Harry.