Tens of thousands

Responding to the latest inquiry into bogus intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, Bush says

“Our collection and analysis of intelligence will never be perfect, but in an age where our margin for error is getting smaller, in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives,” Bush said.

But in the real world, the threat was overestimated and tens of thousands of innocent lives were lost[1].

fn1. If anyone wants to argue about numbers, they’re probably better off doing so over at Tim Lambert’s blog, but I’ll add just a few. The Iraq body count aggregates media reports of at least 17 000 civilian (including in this context, Iraqi police and troops killed in insurgent attacks) deaths arising from either US military action or insurgent attacks. These are lower-bound estimates, since many deaths have undoubtedly gone unreported. And the ordinary soldiers on both sides who died were also innocent of anything other than obeying the orders of a president who told them they were defending their country against a deadly threat.

7 thoughts on “Tens of thousands

  1. Of course just as Prof Q points out that it would be negligent for those critical of waste in aboriginal affairs, not to net out ‘usual’ expenditure on health and education, then he will be just as comfortable in netting out the lives lost by Saddam and his ‘insurgents’ continuing with business as ‘usual’. Also he will have to nett out the lives lost and misery foregone as the COW’s beacon of light spreads throughout the ME from here on. We have Saddam and Co’s mass graves to estimate the former, but only the intelligence of COW and Iraqi voters to assess the latter.

  2. Netting out Saddam’s business as usual doesn’t change the numbers much. Most estimates suggest that the death toll from Saddam’s regime in its later years was around 2000 per year. Claims about mass graves (at least those postdating the wars of the 1980s when Saddam was viewed with approval by the US) have proved about as reliable as those on WMDs, and have come from the same sources. Here’s Tony Blair for example.

    As regards the beacon of light, we’ll have to wait and see. There have been plenty of false dawns before now.

  3. We also have to nett out the lives taken by foreign fighters (Zarquawi and Co) in the fly paper of Iraq, which might otherwise occur elsewhere. That is of course not an equivalence Iraqis might take much comfort from.

  4. Bush’s words of self-exculpation are risible. His administration got exactly what it asked for in concocting a pretext for invading Iraq.

    As this telling testimony from a participant in the internal coup in the US intelligence community shows, the CIA lost control of the flow of information to the President. And who took control? the Office of Special Plans under the control of Rumsfeld and Cheney.


    This testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the bush Administration corrupted governmental processes.

    And it demonstrates something about how the Bush Administration cocked up the Iraq misadventure so thoroughly.

    Watching idiocy being punished is very pleasurable.

  5. Comment #2 by John Quiggin — 2/4/2005 @ 1:23 pm

    Claims about mass graves (at least those postdating the wars of the 1980s when Saddam was viewed with approval by the US) have proved about as reliable as those on WMDs,

    The UN sanctions on Iraq, cause of much civilian hardship, were mostly nurgatory. Saddams regime was mostly disarmed as a result of Gulf War I’s bombing and the cease fire inspections.
    Even the wars that Saddam waged through the eighties/nineties were partially the result of the US mishandling its client state relationship, viz the US State Departments Green light to Saddam to attack both Iran to restore Iraq sovereignty to the Shata waterways and Kuwait to restore Iraq’s solvency as compensation for war debts.
    The post-1973 history of the US’s involvement in ME is mostly, apart from Camp David & GW I, a story of the bungled and bothched administration. We should leave the “vibrant multicultural” Mesopotamians to their own devices. Racial and confessional conflicts are generally irrational and can only be “solved” by ethnic assmiliation (eg Ireland), ethnic seperatism (eg Czechs) or ethnic cleansing (eg Balkans et al).
    Either way its not a prety sight and we are well out of it.

  6. JS, experience from the ’60s on shows that sanctions usually strengthen the dictator o whoever (remember Idi Amin?).

    The mechanism is partly “he may be a crook but he’s our crook”, which strengthens national feeling, but it’s also because shortages mean a strengthening of patronage powers, since there are enough leaks to meet the needs of an elite but the ruling dictator or clique controls the sanctions busting.

    The Iraq sanctions clearly fitted this pattern, and the mechanisms were widely known even before they were adopted.

  7. Iraq = Beacon Of Light?

    That’s good. Now the’ve got the electicity supply going reliably they can concentrate on sewerage.

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