Logic Times

The Civilian Casualty Fable II: What Haditha Reveals

Commentary by Aslan, 6/26/06, 6:10pm. Comments (2)


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Haditha does not reveal what anti-war liberals want it to reveal: the savagery of an unwelcome and fatigued U.S. military and a war out of control. Oddly enough, they are entirely unaware that their obsession with Haditha is in fact an admission that the civilian casualty figures tossed around these last three years are, and have always been, propaganda.


This civilian casualty fable began with the Lancet study in the fall of 2004, which claimed 100,000 civilian dead and painted a picture of indiscriminate U.S. military destruction: "Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100 000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths."


The Iraq Body Count (IBC) project, well-known for its running tally of civilian dead, added to the fable with its Dossier of Civilian Casualties in the summer of 2005, which prominently featured this quote: "An old man approached, disoriented and alone, faltering forward with his cane after three warning shots. Finally, U.S. weapons fired a burst and he fell dead." Anti-war liberals, electric with excitement that the evidence of U.S. brutality was mounting, failed to notice that the IBC study, with vastly fewer casualties and a disproportionate number of men, contradicted the Lancet study, which claimed that half of the 100,000 casualties were women and children.

In other words, the Lancet study calculated 50,000 dead women and children over 18 months, while IBC actually counted less than 6,000 women and children over a longer period of time (of which the 18 months in the Lancet study are a subset).


While the more reliable IBC study unintentionally debunks the Lancet study, Logic Times demonstrated in the Civilian Casualty Fable that the majority of dead people counted by IBC represent not innocent bystanders, but terrorists and Iraqi security forces. And when, after the fall of Baghdad, IBC identified actual civilian casualties, there was a 5 out of 6 chance they were killed by terrorists.*  


These facts, of course, escaped the mainstream media, allowing the conventional wisdom that dominates today to take shape: the coalition intervention in Iraq, whatever your position on the war, has been wreaking havoc on the civilian population as never before. One of the most important planks in the anti-war platform was now in place, sanctimoniously hinted at in the Lancet conclusion: "In the interim, civility and enlightened self-interest demand a re-evaluation of the consequences of weaponry now used by coalition forces in populated areas."  Apparently the "enlightened" Lancet authors are unaware that IEDs and car bombs – the primary cause of civilian casualties – are not "weaponry now used by the coalition."


The simple truth is that hundreds of thousands of heavily armed American soldiers fighting non-uniformed terrorists scattered throughout 26 million Iraqi civilians have killed less than one in five thousand of those civilians while winning the war and securing their freedom.  How ironic that this unprecedented military achievement has been cast in its opposite light.


It is also important to understand the problem with these casualty studies, which is their use as anti-war propaganda. No one disputes that the Iraq War has caused civilian casualties (far less than claimed, but still several thousand) or that these casualties are tragic. But civilian casualties were an anonymous fact of life in Iraq from 1979 to 2003 and are currently in stark decline. The position that current casualty levels as a result of a U.S. initiated war are more egregious than the higher rate of casualties during the Saddam years reveals the convoluted logic of these anti-war groups.  That they have inflated those casualty numbers to try and suffocate the weakness of their argument with dead bodies is criminal. And now Haditha provides further evidence of their duplicity beyond the statistics in the Civilian Casualty Fable.


What does Haditha reveal? The casualty distortions detailed above demonstrate the lengths to which anti-war liberals will go to invalidate the humanitarian success of the coalition intervention.  They will sample small areas to come up with a big 100,000 number (please ignore that their statistical methods require a range of 8,000 – 194,000), they will classify dead terrorists as civilian casualties, they will compare a minor prison incident to Nazi death camps, they will disregard the hundreds of thousands of civilians that Saddam murdered, and they will happily, eagerly, take the word of the enemy that Marines are slaughtering civilians. Anything to promote opposition to the Iraq War.


But wait a minute.  If these anti-war opportunists who have embraced Haditha are correct about the civilian casualty counts, then where are the other Hadithas? According to their own numbers…



…there are between 34 to 187 civilians dying each day from collateral damage. Who thinks that these anti-war leftists, masters at creating atrocities out of whole cloth (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Haditha), would have or could have sat quietly on the sidelines as U.S. urban warfare tactics spat out an average of 110 bodies each and every day? Even if we halve that number to account for the increased civilian casualties during the invasion, there are plenty of bodies to go around. And if those who trumpeted Abu Ghraib had ten times the body count we see in Haditha on a regular basis, the war would have been aborted long ago. With that kind of raw material to work with, raw material in need of only a few "eyewitnesses" and an Al Jazeera camera, do you think they would have been silent these many months?  


The reality is that Haditha is rare and represented a unique opportunity for the US anti-war left to follow the Vietnam script, to make a reach for the Iraqi equivalent of My Lai, something they have desperately wanted since before Abu Ghraib.  Unfortunately for their aims, collateral damage as a result of US action is the exception – as their long silence revealed.


The overwhelming majority of Iraqi civilian casualties have been at the hands of the terrorists, but such stories do not advance the anti-U.S. cause.  The overwhelming majority of stories the Iraqi people have to tell about U.S. soldiers are ones of admiration and gratitude, but these stories do not interest Time Magazine – much "too heroic."  In other wars throughout the years, Haditha would be common and expected, but not in this war and not with these troops.  The fact is that Haditha confirms in every way the Civilian Casualty Fable.


Like a child counting down the endless days leading up to Christmas morning, Al Jazeera has been waiting to unwrap a Middle Eastern My Lai. If the Lancet and IBC casualty story were true, every week would be Christmas for Al Jezeera – for Time Magazine, Jack Murtha and al-Zawahiri, too. Why then has Christmas been so long in coming? Because the U.S. military does not leave presents under that tree.



*During the initial invasion, the coalition advance caused significant civilian casualties; in fact, over 70% of the total casualties caused by the coalition happened in the first three weeks. However, the target of the casualty propaganda was not the invasion of Iraq, but the post-invasion period, where claims are made that the U.S. has not liberated 26 million people, but plunged the country into an unlivable chaos.


Copyright ©  2006 Dan Hallagan. All Rights Reserved.



1: EvntProdcr

June 26, 2006 10:31pm EST

Sadly, you still miss the salient notion about what war and death are. You have not gone to war, nor have I so it seems pointless to measure, weigh and parse one report against another always trying to winnow out some kernel which supports "your count." The point is that this kind of destructive non dialogue has gone on for millennia and still nothing is solved. One imagined wrong worthy of wholesale destruction of ones own species by other members of the species should suffice to point out the futility of war, not glorify the process of how to measure the destruction. You would have made a good village butcher because you lack the capacity to appreciate the texture or color of the sheep's wool; you merely size it up for how many pounds of carded wool and the edible portion of meat of the animal after slitting its throat. Who cares about which side is lying more or lying less, the question is about the process, not the product.


{Aslan: The essay does not deal with larger issue of war and death, but the use of propaganda hidden beneath the skirts of “statistics.”  The rest of what you say is, to put it gently, hippie nonsense.}


2: Barrett Schake

July 20, 2006 5:25am EST

And check this out - the IAEA chief is throwing around the 100,000 number still.  Months after it was debunked.  This just goes to show that the UN is more concerned with hating the US than with objectivity.


{Aslan: Just goes to show the value of Nobel prizes.}