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5 Million Iraqis Killed, Maimed, Tortured, Displaced -- Think That Bothers War Boosters Like Christopher Hitchens?

The immensity of Iraqi civilian suffering is incomprehensible. How can war's cheerleaders claim to fight on behalf of the people whose lives they helped destroy?

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-- Hundreds of thousands dead and wounded: Estimates of dead civilians range from 100,000 documented cases by Iraq Body Count, which acknowledged in October 2004 that our own total is certain to be an underestimate of the true position, because of gaps in reporting or recording” to over one million by a John Hopkins University group. A basic rule of thumb in war is that for every person killed, two have been wounded.

-- Tens of thousands of innocents imprisoned, many tortured: In an article headlined " In Iraq, A Prison Full of Innocent Men, " the Washington Post reported that "100,000 prisoners have passed through the American-run detention system in Iraq," that Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi says that " most of the people they detain are innocent,” but that prisoners are not permitted to prove their innocence. Conditions have been even worse in the secret torture chambers run for five years by General Stanley McChrystal, from which all outside observers including the Red Cross have been excluded. Salon's Glenn Greenwald recently reported that "72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process -- after years of being in a cage without charges -- have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained." Countless innocent Iraqis have been regularly tortured.

-- Millions more who lack jobs, electricity, water and health care:Reuters reported on June 6 that "according to government statistics cited by the ICRC (the Red Cross), one in four of Iraq's people does not have access to safe drinking water." The unofficial unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 30 percent, security is shaky, the entire non-oil economy decimated. "As recently as the 1980s, Iraq was self-sufficient in producing wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, and sheep and poultry products. Its industrial sector exported textiles and leather goods, including purses and shoes, as well as steel and cement. But wars, sanctions, poor management, international competition and disinvestment have left each industry a shadow of its former self," the N.Y. Times has reported. It also reported on June 20 that “(Basra’s) poorer neighborhoods, by far the majority, often have just one hour of electricity a day, a situation not uncommon in Baghdad and other regions. The temperature in Basra on Saturday was 113 degrees.


War advocates are correct, of course, that much of the responsibility for this suffering rests with Iraqi and Al-Qaeda extremists who have no compunction about inflicting civilian casualties. But this in no way absolves them and the U.S. of their own responsibility for Iraqi civilian suffering, both directly from U.S. war-making and indirectly by the U.S. failing to meet its legal responsibilities as an occupying power to provide security for the civilian population.

Nonhumanity, Not Inhumanity

U.S. leaders killed large numbers of civilians during World War II, of course, in an earlier age of "inhumanity" marked by the depredations of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. But they did so relatively openly. They did not claim, for example, that only “enemy insurgents” were killed at Dresden, and Americans relatively soon learned what had happened at Hiroshima.

It was only as U.S. leaders constructed America's first global empire after 1945 -- increasingly waging secret, massive, illegal and unconstitutional bombing campaigns in countries like Laos and Cambodia, refusing to even acknowledge the countless civilian deaths they caused throughout Indochina, failing to help rebuild it after the war, and supporting savage local dictators and policies destroying local economies around the world -- that they created a new age of "nonhumanity." By now U.S. leaders’ Third World victims -- whom they have neither acknowledged nor made amends for -- number in the tens of millions.  

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