War Drums

The war is over, but all these people keep dying anyway …


Casualties? Who's Counting?

Is it only our imagination, or has the mainstream U.S. press declared the war in Iraq is over? Ever since the laughable handover of "sovereignty" to a hand-picked Iraqi regime led by former Hussein-terrorist and then CIA-terrorist Iyad Allawi, the daily war coverage has moved steadily toward the back pages, where it joins similar yawning dispatches from Afghanistan: suicide bombings, rocket assaults, daily desperation on a nationwide scale that surely has nothing to do with a U.S. invasion and occupation that has "accomplished its mission." Sunday's bombings of five Christian churches in Baghdad and Mosul burst through the lethargy, although the targets themselves may have fed the furor: one more "religious" war to consign to incomprehensibility.

In case you've lost track, more than 900 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq (in combat and from other causes), and current estimates put the toll of Iraqi civilian, noncombatant casualties at more than 10,000. How many more is not clear: Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.net), which relies conservatively on confirmed published reports of casualties, earlier this week listed a "minimum" of 11,382 civilian deaths and a maximum of 13,351. And in calculating the "blood-spattered balanced sheet" of the "war on terror," the IBC notes the following: "So far, in the 'war on terror' initiated since 9/11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000 civilian deaths – not only the 10,000+ in Iraq, but also 3,000+ civilian deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the world's attention has moved on. Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide. Adding the official 9/11 death toll [brings that] total to just under 3,500."

Another occupation story that has largely dropped off the official radar screen is the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and it too is due for an update. Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker writer who has followed the scandal in detail, says he will soon add flesh and bone to the vague reports of "more and worse" coming from U.S. government sources. In a talk to the ACLU in San Francisco July 15, Hersh said he has learned the Pentagon has videotapes of torture from Abu Ghraib, including the torture of children. Said Hersh, "And basically what happened is ... young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has, and they're in total terror it's going to come out." Hersh's entire talk, not widely reported, is worth reading; a transcript is available at www.pastpeak.com/archives/2004/07/post_1.htm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

War Drums, Iraq, Iraq Body Count, Abu Ghraib, Seymour Hersh, New Yorker

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