Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Numbers game

Those epidemiologists are at it again.

Before the United States invaded Iraq, the death toll was 5.5 per 1000 per year; after, the death toll went to 13.3 per 1000 per year.

That translates to 655,000 civilian deaths, the number the scientists are reporting.

According to this death figure, that's 220 9/11 attacks, or about 1 per week.

On the other hand, if Iraq were the size of America, the number of deaths would be about 7.5 million. Roughly, this is like killing every last person inside the city limits of Los Angeles, Houston, and Philadelphia (the metro areas are obviously larger). Or it's like the number of casualties the United States suffered in Vietnam, 100 times.

But these are only numbers. They're huge, and there's a human life behind every tally mark, but they just don't convey what is going on in Iraq, what we hath wrought. So here's a journalist in Iraq explaining where we are now.

Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

I'm more puzzled by comments that the violence isn't any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?

Almost unimaginable
Day-to-day life here for Iraqis is so far removed from the comfortable existence we live in the United States that it is almost literally unimaginable.

It's almost impossible to describe what it feels like being stalled in traffic, your heart pounding, wondering if the vehicle in front of you is one of the three or four car bombs that will go off that day. Or seeing your husband show up at the door covered in blood after he was kidnapped and beaten.

I don't know a single family here that hasn't had a relative, neighbor or friend die violently. In places where there's been all-out fighting going on, I've interviewed parents who buried their dead child in the yard because it was too dangerous to go to the morgue.

Imagine the worst day you've ever had in your life, add a regular dose of terror and you'll begin to get an idea of what it's like every day for a lot of people here.

So what do we do? Well, the executive is committed to a failed policy. Bush has said that he won't leave Iraq even if the only people supporting him are his wife and his dog. The strategic vision is over. The Republican Congress refuses to hold the President accountable, for lying to us about the reasons for going to war, screwing up the post-war occupation completely, putting our soldiers into the meat grinder without adequate safeguards, and finally for spinning and covering up for all the failures and their consequent violence.

So it's time for a Congress that will hold Bush accountable. Make sure you're registered, and vote in November.

You have lots of excuses if the Iraq war doesn't suit you: an obvious cover-up by the Republican House leadership of a child sex predator in order to retain political power, the atrocious Medicare Part D, the sale of Iraq war reconstruction to private companies, the bill codifying the President's right to torture prisoners and suspend habeas corpus, the illegal wiretapping of American citizens by the NSA, the foreign policy failure that is the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the signing statements that purport to allow the executive to ignore laws, the anemic response to Hurricane Katrina and the still-worse failure to rebuild New Orleans... the list is definitely not complete yet.

The Congress isn't directly responsible for all of these decisions; a lot of them are on the President. But the Congress has oversight power (at least in theory, if not in current events). If you want investigations and accountability, you need a Congress willing to stand up to the President. Could that be a Republican Congress? All signs point to no.

Don't we need to stand up to this President? (funny)

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