Let’s pretend the 600,000+ number is all wrong and that the minimum is the correct number: nearly 400,000. Is that better? Prior to the war, the Bush administration kept claiming that Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis over 24 years. After this latest report published in The Lancet, 300,000 is looking quite modest and tame. Congratulations Bush et al. ~Riverbend

It’s somehow gratifying to know that Riverbend is still around and blogging, even though it would probably have been better for her in the long run if she had found some way to get out of the country.  Her post on the Lancet study is worth reading.  Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything that Iraqis find the 600,000 figure to be only too plausible, but it surely ought to give us pause before being too quick to ridicule it.

It is important to try to determine whether the Lancet study is accurate, and it would tell us just what kind of damage this war has done to the country that we have tried to “save.”  That might be an important factor in determining what we ought to do: should we try to prevent an even greater bloodletting that some fear might occur if we withdraw (thus probably doing nothing so much as maintaing a relative balance of forces and prolonging the bloodshed even longer), or should we say, “Do no more harm” and get out?  Longtime readers know that my answer is unequivocally the second, but we could stand to know just how badly this war has harmed Iraq.  It is the indifference to this information, the unwillingness to confront consequences of their policy that characterises only too many war supporters. 

It seems to me that the pro-war reaction to the study has been typical of their reaction to every bad development in Iraq (they will say that the bad news is supposedly exaggerated, the media is only reporting the “bad news,” things will get better, we’re turning a corner, etc.).  The same people who feared the remotest chance of the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud (unlikely in any event and, as we now known, simply impossible) are also the people who somehow cannot imagine that three years of violent occupation and insurgency that has spawned sectarian death squads and massive terrorist attacks could kill so many people.  Hyperactive imaginations only work when it comes to exaggerating threats, I suppose, and not in imagining how bad things could be as a result of a war of “liberation.” 

Some of these people (and quite a few of the people who oppose the war today) were up in arms when a couple thousand Albanians had died in Kosovo; genocide was the cry: we must stop genocide in Europe! There was no genocide, but by gum they made sure that NATO made Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia something of a living hell.  When the janjaweed started devastating Darfur and killing tens of thousands and driving hundreds of thousands more into the desert, we heard about the imminent genocide in the Sudan.  One shudders to think what “humanitarian intervention” might do to those poor people. 

So what about some hundred thousand or, at worst, multiple hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis?  Well, the pro-war fellow will tell you as he snaps his suspenders, those numbers are probably inflated, and you can’t trust these studies.  Having been such willing dupes for interventionist propaganda in the past about the extent of a foreign crisis, many of these people are surprisingly unable to consider just how horrific the war may have made conditions in Iraq.