Beyond American Bravado: Iraqi Suffering Matters
Mirza A. Beg
If destruction was the objective, the United States could have destroyed Iraq in one fell swoop. Destroying Iraq was not the stated objective. Destroying it slowly with a promise to rebuild is proving to be excruciatingly expensive, in American reputation, lives and material. Winning means achieving the objectives of the war.
The aim of removing Saddam from power was achieved, but the reasons for the war -- WMD, imminent threat of nuclear weapons, and collusion between Al Qaida and Saddam -- were false and contrived, as proven by the 9/11 commission and congressional and independent inquiries as well as the CIA. Though Wolfowitz conceded in 2003 that creating democracy would not have been a sufficient reason to invade Iraq, Bush nevertheless, has settled on the war objective of bringing democracy to Iraq and being the "best friend" of Iraqis.
Americans legitimately mourn the deaths of their service personnel and celebrate their sacrifices. American service men and women lay down their lives for their country at the order of the commander-in-chief. They follow orders regardless of the ineptitude of the leadership. The Bush administration cowardly hides behind the sacrifices of the servicemen by falsely equating the criticism of Bush policies to the criticism of the servicemen.
While Iraq is spiraling down into death and destruction, Iraqi doubts of US sincerity are crystallizing into total distrust. Americans are oblivious to the Iraqi casualties. They may not matter to us. They matter enormously to the Iraqis and the rest of the world. The total counts of Iraqi dead and wounded are not even reported, let alone mourned in America. Rumsfeld calls them collateral damage. American media does show the dead children being pulled out of the rubble, but no one bats an eye.
As of September 2004, about 1050 Americans have died and 7,000 have been wounded in Iraq. The ratio of American dead and wounded is about 1 to 7.
Estimates of Iraqi dead range from 20,000 to as much as 60,000. The Iraqi wounded are overwhelmingly civilians caught in our "precision" aerial bombing and terrorist car bombings in congested neighborhoods. Iraqis do not wear flack jackets or travel in armored vehicles. A conservative estimate of the ratio of Iraqi dead and wounded would be 1 to 15. Using the conservative figure of 20,000, means there are about 300,000 Iraqi wounded.
In our own lives we know that if one of us was injured or killed, about 100 to 500 people would know and care enough to hate the perpetrators. Considering the low figure of 100 would result in 30 million Iraqis angry with the US for the death and destruction.
The population of Iraq is only 24 million. Granted many injured may belong to the same family and would have overlapping circles of friends. Still the number is extremely high. Add to that the daily bombings by the insurgents and hostage taking because the US occupation cannot enforce law and order.
Iraqis have experienced more death and destruction from their new "best friend" than the brutal and hated Saddam regime. Suddenly Saddam does not look as bad any more. This is borne out by the Iraqi public opinion surveys. The hatred of America has reached about 80%, which amount to about nineteen million Iraqis.
After proclaiming "mission accomplished," Bush blamed the insurgency on the Saddam loyalist and foreign Al Qaida sympathizers. This is only partly true because no insurgency can survive without the support of the population. The support has gradually grown and in effect Iraqis see it as a guerilla war of liberation against American occupation.
The Bush Administration has banned Al Jazeera, in the US and in Iraq. This only deprives Americans from finding what others see. Iraqis intently watch American news and can see that Bush does not care how many Iraqis die or are maimed. There is no discussion or sadness in America about the Iraqi dead.
Iraqis learn from Bush and his supporters that the war in Iraq is good, as it attracts the "terrorists" to Iraq to be killed so that the US remains safe. This is good propaganda for the US elections, but unfortunately Iraqis believe Bush, and hate us even more. Iraq is their home. They are killed, maimed and destroyed, while Bush is attracting the terrorists to Iraq to fight them there. Could Al Qaida have hoped for a better a propaganda tool?
Stubbornly, Bush insists on "staying the course." On this disastrous course the war objectives cannot be met. If the course is not changed, the war and most certainly the peace is as good as lost.
Mirza A. Beg welcomes comments at: email@example.com