According to the United Nations, prior to the invasion of Iraq up to 5,000 Iraqi children were dying of privation each month. Walter Russel Meade highlighted this estimate in an opinion piece prior to the war:
Based on Iraqi government figures, UNICEF estimates that containment kills roughly 5,000 Iraqi babies (children under 5 years of age) every month, or 60,000 per year. Other estimates are lower, but by any reasonable estimate containment kills about as many people every year as the Gulf War -- and almost all the victims of containment are civilian, and two-thirds are children under 5.
Mr. Mead went on to argue that, if an invasion would bring an end to the UN's economic sanctions, it could actually result in a net savings of Iraqi lives. Now there are some including Iraqi doctors who, now free to speak their minds, will tell you that it was Saddam's perverse spending priorities and not the sanctions that were responsible for all of the premature mortality. But even the doctors seem to accept the fact that thousands upon thousands of Iraqis had died.
Since the end of the war the UN's economic sanctions have been lifted and, from what I can tell, Iraqis are no longer dying from privation or any humanitarian crises arising from the war. And since Iraq is crawling with both international and domestic journalists as well as NGO types making assessments, I have little doubt that if Iraqis were continuing to die in such large numbers we'd have heard about it by now. You may recall that there were early reports of a small outbreak of cholera near Basra shortly after the war's end. That crisis in the making was nipped in the bud but the fact that the illnesses (not even deaths) were picked up by the media tells me that they are unlikely to have missed a humanitarian disaster on the scale of what reportedly occurred under Saddam's regime.
So if the UN's estimate was accurate - and if it wasn't where's the outcry that those who opposed the sanctions on humanitarian grounds were lying - and there is no evidence that Iraqis continue to die of privation, then, by my calculations, the war has already resulted in a net savings of well over 15,000 Iraqi lives after accounting for those killed in the war using figures compiled by Iraq Body Count. By rights the odometer-style counters should be running in reverse subtracting 5,000 Iraqi deaths per month.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds, the instapundit, suggests that "thanatometer" - derived from the name of Thanatos, a Greek god of death - would be a more appropriate term to describe a meter tallying the dead. I can't find that term in the dictionary so I'm wondering if it's a recent coinage. This site says that Thantos was "the personification of (non-violent) death and the twin brother of Hypnos (Sleep). Unlike his sisters the Keres, the daimones of violent death, Thanatos came to men gently like his brother Sleep." So maybe there should be two kinds of death guages, a thanatometer for recording non-violent deaths and a keresometer for violent deaths. In any case, thanks for the the "instalanche", Glenn. I hope some of the new vistors to this blog will take a look at some of my other, forlorn posts before moving on.
ANOTHER UPDATE: As some in the comment section have pointed out, there is good reason to be sceptical of the Iraq Body Count tally of war dead. FWIW, the Associated Press' estimate for civilain deaths resulting from the war was *at least* 3,240. But there's good cause for scepticism about the UN figures as well. Here's Margaret Wente's sceptical assessment and a fuller treatment for those interested in the details.