Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Who's killing whom?

One assurance that has remained constant, even with those who criticize the war in Iraq, is the belief that the civilian deaths that have occurred are the result of those fighting the occupation; the insurgents to some, the resistance to others. The unfortunates in all this, the noncombatants, are the victims of the bombing attacks. So it has been reported, so it has been believed.

But if a report by the BBC is correct, even this statement may soon join the others that have characterized this war, including the false claims of WMD, Saddam's nuclear and bioweapon arsenal, and his aiding and abetting the 9/11 attacks. Plainly speaking, the BBC claims that most of the civilian casualties in Iraq have been caused not by rebel attacks, but by the American and British forces.
Official figures, compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, break down deaths according to insurgent and coalition activity. They are usually available only to Iraqi cabinet ministers.

The data covers the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, and relates to all conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries recorded by Iraqi public hospitals. The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.

The figures reveal that 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence during the period.

Of those deaths, 60% - 2,041 civilians - were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them.
The violence is not expected -- even by the staunchest supporters of the Bush administration -- to abate anytime soon. And policymakers clearly have decided that American forces will stay in the country for the foreseeable future. According to the Guardian of London:
The army has said it will need 120,000 soldiers for the next two years at least, and the Pentagon is building a string of permanent bases at a cost of billions of dollars. The new bases, critics of the administration argue, add weight to accusations that the US plans a permanent presence.

A Pentagon spokesman said yesterday that "half a dozen" "enduring bases" were being constructed, but added they were intended for use by the new Iraqi army.

But an independent research group, GlobalSecurity.org, which tracks Pentagon contracts and military movements, claims there are about 12 of the bases under construction. "They are suggestive that the American presence is going to dominate for years not months," said John Pike, the head of the organisation. He added that the bases were not the only evidence that US troops planned a long stay.
And what is that evidence? Pike added:
"How many fighter jets does the new Iraqi army have? None. How many tanks? None. What do you call a country with no jets and no fighter planes? It's called a protectorate."
Does the U.S. plan to stay forever? Here in the wilderness, we have no idea. But a nagging question about the veracity of our supposed ignorance was piqued by a recent article in USA Today, one of the few newspapers where you can find real reporting about the war.

The gist of the article, by Barbara Slavin in Tehran, was that Iranian leaders would welcome an Iraq ruled by Shi'as, as is Iran. Even though Iran and Iraq fought a devasatating war in the Eighties, the prospect of having a secure and stable Shia neighbor is enticing to the ayatollahs.
A Shiite-dominated government in Iraq would reassure Iranians still deeply scarred by the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. Most older Iranians knew or were related to someone who died in that bitter struggle, and their main concern is that Iraq never threaten their country again.
But there's a downside to Iran as well.
Iraq's elections and the promise of a new government provide "a mixture of benefits and threats," says Hossein Moussavian, who heads the foreign policy committee of Iran's National Security Council. "Everything depends on American policy in this region. Are they really going to leave Iraq after the election, or are they going to expand their domination? If the Americans are going to be our new neighbors, this will be a threat to the national security of Iran."
Ever since the fall of the Shah and the taking of American hostages in 1979, U.S. policy in the Middle East has been to squelch Iran. Jimmy Carter did it; Ronald Reagan did it; George H.W. Bush did it and Bill Clinton did it. The only problem was, how to do this up close and personal?

Now, we have an answer: a neighbor -- Iraq -- bristling with American troops and aircraft and missiles within easy striking distance. No, we're not leaving Iraq anytime soon.

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