The innocent and the guilty
Tim Dunlop links to this report in the Christian Science Monitor providing survey estimates that the number of civilian deaths in the war on Iraq was between 5000 and 10 000. (Thanks also to Jack Strocchi who alerted me to the same piece).
Tim quotes the following claim from Bush
With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.
and implies that these figures may prove him wrong.
My view is that, if serving in the Iraqi army and obeying orders makes you ‘guilty’ then Bush’s claim has been validated. I think it’s clear that the number of Iraqi soldiers killed was many times greater than the number of civilians, and must have been in the tens of thousands. Many of these ‘guilty’ soldiers were conscripts, and all faced the threat of being shot for desertion if they did not fight. And civilians are still dying in large numbers as a result of the chaos produced by the war, including crime and breakdown of basic services.
The decision to overthrow Saddam by force and to impose a government of occupation has imposed a huge moral responsibility on the countries that took that decision. As I’ve argued previously, producing a sustainable Iraqi democracy will take years of effort and cost tens of billions of dollars. The US was prepared to spend the billions on war, but it has budgeted almost nothing for the peace.