A new AP-Ipsos poll reveals that while Americans generally can enumerate their own country’s combat deaths in Iraq, they are quite off the mark in gauging how many Iraqis have died.
This is, most likely, not surprising.
The Associated Press report cites figures for Iraqi civilian deaths at more than 54,000 with unofficial estimates ranging to 655,000. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq reports more than 34,000 deaths in 2006 alone.
Among Americans polled for the AP survey, however, the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890.
In defense of that figure, the ignorance isn’t totally self-inflicted. The U.S. military command all but brags they “don’t do body counts” and the American news media do not report the estimated Iraqi death counts with anywhere near the same devotion they do to U.S. military deaths.
What seems maddening to most aware American progressives is that thanks to the international Internet news sources, the truth, as Agent Fox Mulder of the X Files famously said, is out there.
But for a surprising majority of Americans, the Internet remains a foreboding, intimidating swamp of danger and intrigue — a medium for con artists, keyboard revolutionaries and “Bush-haters.”
However, the question remains, would knowing the true bloody cost to the people we came to “liberate” make much of a different in public attitudes? The rest of the article seems to indicate it wouldn’t. Like it or not, too many Americans believe Iraqis are hopelessly backward brown-skinned people sitting on our oil in a faraway country of which we know nothing.
What also remains unsaid is whether the now majority negative opinion about the Iraqi war is a result of U.S. casualties, lack of a clear victory, or the “collateral damage” of a nation torn apart.
What most of us would like to see from our fellow Americans is a basic understanding of cause-effect.
What most Americans who still either tacitly or fully support the U.S. war effort will say at first is that if the U.S. hadn’t attacked, Saddam Hussein would still be oppressing the Iraqi people and threatening U.S. “interests” (read: oil profits) in the region.
No one of any intelligence defends Saddam Hussein. But the U.S. and its western allies knew that sanctions would harm the Iraqi people, not the Ba’athist elite. They went ahead with sanctions anyway. Consequently, the sanctions severely weakened the life support systems of Iraqi public life — and our invasion and occupation finished them off.
Cause and effect.
The current Civil War in Iraq which was an inevitable consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation policies (read the CIA and State Department’s own reports) is seen by many Americans as “an Iraqi problem” which the U.S. cannot be blamed for.
Saddam, like many dictators the U.S. has supported for decades (Nicaragua’s Somoza, the Shah of Iran, Chile’s Pinochet, etc. etc.) at least kept the internal situation beneficial to public order and the all-important Western business interests.
Our invasion and occupation directly led, step by step, to the hell on earth that has become day to day living for average Iraqis, many of whom now pine for the days of Saddam.
And the ultimate insult to injury — some Americans blame the Iraqi people for being “ungrateful” for all we have sacrificed for them. These same Americans who see the world through a prism provided by their own corporate media, never understood the political history of Iraq, the cultural history of their people and the underlying social fabric of the Iraqis.
All of which was understood by any State Department functionary with a copy of the government’s country study of Iraq.
What most Americans don’t want to face is — we did this. We pulled the trigger and set in motion a chain of events that has taken a nation, certainly not perfect or democratic by anyone’s definition, to the brink of anarchic chaos.
The bombed out, dazed and mourning citizens of Baghdad whose pictures our media hardly ever show us had hopes, dreams and futures, as incredible as that may seem to many Americans, before we arrived to liberate them. What would the average American tell the average Iraqi to make it all better? We thought your leader had WMD’s?
Cause and effect.
We have potentially destabilized through our government’s actions, the entire Middle East and even now, our leaders seem ready to attack another sovereign nation that has done nothing to us — Iran — and quite possibly touch off a world war while we watch it all on our 40-inch plasma screens.
Even Bush’s poodle, Tony Blair, now desperately tries to distance himself from the proposed attack of Iran, too late to save his place in history.
And yet, generally, Americans spout unease to pollsters but remain publicly quiet overall, perhaps hoping against hope for some kind of miracle, some deus ex machine, that will deliver our soldiers from further harm, tidy up the mess, make everyone love us again and absolve us from actually having to make demands of our government — one most believe themselves powerless to influence.
I have a news bulletin for my fellow Americans: its not going to happen. Further, whether we wish to believe differently, the rest of the world, which we regard as props in our play, will not absolve all of us for what has been or is about to be done in our name.
Remember this also, when the Chinese grow strong enough economically to finally tire of financing our war and consumer debt economy and pull the plug on buying Treasury securities that finance our elephantine national debt, eviscerating the value of the dollar and causing a chain of events that leaves the already tottering U.S. economy in shambles.
Just because most Americans couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks about unchecked U.S. power doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t care about the U.S.
There is always blowback. And may the God to whom so many Americans demand blessings upon their nation, have mercy on us when it happens.