Wednesday, August 03, 2005

putting a face on "collateral damage"

(chris hondros/getty images)

Aaand I'm back to my political angry feminazi self.

Judith Coburn at Mother Jones has a fantastic article on how we unceasingly downplay and ignore the massive numbers of dead Iraqis, or "collateral damage." You know, those people across the ocean that we're "liberating."
Because, well, "We don't do body counts." Gen. Tommy Franks

The dead are counted. But they are Americans. The names are named. But they are Americans. The names and numbers of the dead are intoned aloud or their photographs papered on media "walls" and they are always only American.

Publishing or pronouncing the names of the American dead everyday without ever mentioning the names of the Iraqi dead offers a powerful message that only American dying matters.

Of course, I understand why the government doesn't want the Iraqi casualties to be counted or publicized. We're not supposed to humanize "the enemy." You just don't do that in war situations if you want your constituents to support the war effort. (Nevermind that a good portion of America already doesn't support this war.)

It's hardly surprising that the Pentagon is loath to tell us how many innocent Iraqis it has killed. It's a political issue. Early in the war, the Iraqi Health Ministry ordered morgues and hospitals to count the number of war dead and wounded coming in. They reported 1,764 civilians killed in the summer of 2003. But the American occupation's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ordered them to stop counting.

There's finally an "official" Iraqi body count, after the US stopped being quite as douche-y, but it's hardly completely accurate:
Iraqi Interior Ministry reports that 8,175 Iraqi civilians and police officers were killed by insurgents from August 2004 through May 31, rate of more than 800 a month; figures do not include Iraqi soldiers or civilians killed during US military operations; The US has avoided Iraqi body count, but estimates of Iraqi dead range from official estimate of 12,000 in June to 100,000 in widely reported study last year.

And yes, there have been some attempts by American journalists and politicians to recognize and honour the Iraqi casualties. But none of these have really had much of an effect, and have hardly caught the mainstream media's attention. CNN and the NY Times and the like consistently - daily, even - report on the number of American dead. But other than a few token stories of Iraqi casualties and body counts, largely ignore the fact that there are people other than Americans dying in the Middle East.

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