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Mark Buehner

Ah, there is a fundamental misunderstanding here. Iraqi deaths are only tragic when Americans are killing them in some way. I thought the body count people put out that memo some time ago.

Maarten Schenk

Come on... 5000 Iraqi zombies aren't magically resurrected every month now the Americans have taken over. Dead is dead. Of course the thing shouldn't be running in reverse.

It should slow down substantially, but just like driving your car in reverse doesn't undo wear and tear to your engine, liberating a dictatorship doesn't bring back the dead... alas!

Eddgra Fallin


No, but since the Iraqis that WOULD HAVE been dying under Saddam are now being spared death, the net effect should cause the body count number to go down. To use your car analogy -- it's like you are putting 20,000 miles per year on one car in a fleet doing work that used to cause three cars to accumulate a total of 50,000 miles per year between them. Yes, you are putting 20,000 miles on the one car, but the net effect on the fleet is a SAVINGS of 30,000 miles per year.

Van der Leun

Methinks Maarten is missing the point here. Could somebody else explain it to him slowly and simply? I just don't do My Weekly Reader any longer.

Van der Leun

Eddgra does God's work.

Todd Bass

Fair point, Maarten. I considered suggesting a second meter alongside the first or a "net lives saved / (lost)" tabulation but decided they didn't have the same rhetorical impact. I guess you could say I used "polemic license" to better illuminate my point. Sorry if you found it off-putting.

Eddgra Fallin

I have a feeling that Maarten finds anything which discredits the fanatical anti-Americanists off-putting.


It must be just a coincidence that the death rate of Iraqi children under 5 took off when the sanctions started. Are we to assume that Saddam's perverse spending priorties didn't exist in the 1980's when the baseline for infant mobidity/mortality were established?


The data at iraqbodycount.net are flawed even by the site's own criteria -- or at least they were when I first happened upon the site several months ago. For instance, the site claims that only deaths that are reported by two independent and reputable (with certain criteria for this) news organizations. But in some of the news items that they cite, the news organizations do not report that X civilians died, but rather that the Iraqi Information Ministry (or whatever) SAID that X civilians died. Big difference. And the site records these X "deaths" in both its minimum and maximum casualty figures.

It's possible that iraqbodycount.net has changed their policy in the months since I looked at their stuff, or perhaps "broadened" their definition of what is a "reputable" news source. But they did not respond to my email at the time.


Ug, typo: please add the words "are included in the count" at the end of the second sentence.

Peter McNaughton

No Eddgra, its not a coincidence that the deaths began to occur when the sanctions were put into place. But it doesn't make the sanctions responsible. Any reasonable person would have given priority to foodstuffs and medical supplies rather than to dozens of palaces and military spending. Saddam had the money to feed his people, but didn't. In this case, as in many, correlation does not prove causation. The Iraqi deaths correlate with the sanctions, but were not caused by them.

Eddgra Fallin

Uh, Peter -- that was dbq's Saddam-defending inanity, not mine.

Eddgra Fallin

As for dbq's asinine argument -- no, it was surely not a coincidence that children started dying after the advent of sanctions. Saddam proved long ago that no amount of cruelty toward the Iraqi people was unjustified in his mind as long as it achieved his aims. Weeks ago, the world officially learned what many had long suspected: Saddam withheld food and medicine from his people to CAUSE suffering which he then paraded in front of his useful idiots among the Western leftists (especially in the media) to put pressure on the U.N. to remove the sanctions. Almost worked, too. Thanks, guys -- your idiocy is so predictable that dictators never hesitate to use it as one of their prime tools of oppression.


"Any reasonable person would have given priority to foodstuffs and medical supplies rather than to dozens of palaces and military spending. Saddam had the money to feed his people, but didn't. In this case, as in many, correlation does not prove causation."

So the UN assumed that Saddam was a "reasonable person" when deciding that the sanctions were a good idea? They assumed that the people would not be harmed because reasonable ol' Saddam would see to it that their needs were met? How is it that Saddam's spending transcends mere correlation and becomes causation? What is the evidence that includes this but excludes the role of the sanctions?

Daniel Calto

In the useful idiots category, it's worth reading John Burns' article
in Editor and Publisher (link via Andrew Sullivan). Burns is a great reporter and one of the few who was indispensable reading during the war. Burns is pretty savage regarding the way so many reporters kissed up to the loathesome Baathists. It's about time to banish the double and triple standards re deaths caused by brutal dictators.

Maarten Schenk


I consider myself to be very pro-American, and the people at Iraq body count as a bunch of loonies. But I don't think the Americans are Jesus, because only that guy reportedly could bring back the dead.

As to Eddgra's argument about the other cars: yes, but the car you would be using would still have 20.000 miles on the odometer, not -10.000. Used up is used up. Dead is dead. U.S. intervention might have saved a bunch of lives (which I absolutely applaud, no argument there), but the people who died are dead and nothing is bringing them back. Period.

Again, a 'lives saved'-o-meter would be nice, but you can't turn back the count of the dead. That would be extremely disrespectful of those who died.

Imagine if the left said: yes, 3000 were killed on 9-11, but Ashcroft's security measures saved 10.000, so it's like the WTC never happened. Would you be upset? I bet you would...


"I can't find that term [thanatometer] in the dictionary so I'm wondering if it's a recent coinage."

I give Instapundit credit for coining that one, but it's legitimate. Thanatos is indeed the Greek god of death. He appears in such words as thantology (study of death), perhaps the only [more or less] common English word, and also in a poem, "Thanatopsis" by Wm. Cullen Bryant (here at bartleby).

Perhaps rather than a count running backwards, somebody could put up a graph of deaths vs time. This chart would show cumulative Iraqi deaths rising steadily (with jumps of 2000 or 3000 every once in a while, accounting for the mass graves that have been found, and with a big jump back when he gassed the Kurds, and again further back when he waged that senseless 8-year war against Iran), then just about leveling off after we punched his ticket.

Eddgra Fallin


Thanks for the clarification; obviously, your intent wasn't as insidious as it originally seemed. Nevertheless, you really need some help in the analogy department. People were dying in Iraq under Saddam, and the coalition invasion stopped that death rate from continuing, albeit at the cost of war casualties. In your analogy, you are arguing that this situation is the same as saying that the 3000 deaths in the WTC don't count because security measures kept 10,000 MORE people from dying. This is obviously not the same thing. The only way your analogy would make any sense is if you were to show that the WTC attacks put an end to a continuous death toll in America which had been ongoing before the attacks.

Maarten Schenk


No, my analogy is good: the bodycount meter doesn't count death-rate, but deaths. The death-rate went down enormously, but deaths that already happened didn't get undone.
Ergo, the bodycount meter shouldn't "run in reverse". The 'death-rate' meter, if such a thing existed, would show a significant drop though.


No matter, all the deaths are American responsibility. Every death in the entire world, since time began, has been the fault of America. I am still trying to determine why America had to kill Jesus. Or Johnny Cash, for that matter. (The government unplugged is respirator.)


The appropriate 9/11 analogy is to what happened on Flight 93. Because of the proactivity of the passengers, the plane crashed and several dozen people died. But had they not acted, who knows how many would have died. So the Flight 93 passengers did save an unknowable number of lives, but we don't talk about the event that way. We talk about the sacrifice that they made, and the memory of those who did die.

You can draw from this analogy whatever moral lessons you like.


Hey, I'd settle for periodic reports of how many people Uday and Qusay _haven't_ killed since they expired. Every day, say, 50 people who would have been raped or killed if Uday and Qusay were still in charge, didn't have that happen. By now the total of people not killed or not raped or not shredded would grow. At what point would the ratio between "those not killed/raped by Uday and Qusay" and US troops killed since "the end of major combat operations" be so great that even the Bush haters would have to shut up? 100 to 1 (probably hit that one already)? 1000 to 1 (hit that one next month or so)? 1,000,000 to one (take maybe five years)? Sigh

Eddgra Fallin


Seriously . . . this isn't a very difficult concept. A "death rate" is simply the number of deaths which occur over a specific period of time. You are making a distinction which does not exist.

Yes, the war killed people and continues to kill a few. But during the SAME TIME PERIOD, other Iraqis who WOULD HAVE DIED had Saddam stayed in power have been able to remain alive. Thus, the NET loss of life since the beginning of the conflict is the number of people killed in military operations MINUS the ones who didn't die due to Saddam's cruelty and neglect. At this point, fewer Iraqis have died due to the war than WOULD HAVE died if Saddam had stayed in power, thus producing a net benefit for the country.

Honestly -- how can you not grasp this?

Donald Sensing

BTW, the Greek God of death and the underworld was Hades. Thanatos is simply the Greek word for "dead."

Very good points!

Eric M

The numbers of people recovered from Saddam's mass graves actually numbers in the low hundreds. So your body count clock is off.

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