Civilian Casualites in the War on Iraq

by AHMAD FARUQUI

The Bush administration has argued that if Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm, it will go in and disarm him with or without a second UN Security Council resolution. The war is portrayed as a just and necessary war that would improve America’s national security by preventing future 9/11 type attacks, liberate the Iraqi people from the yoke of an evil dictator, and bring democracy to the Arab world. However infeasible these might be, these are all noble ends. But do the means justify the ends?

It has been estimated that the war would cost the American taxpayer about $100-200 billion at a time when budget and trade deficits are running at all time highs. Given the risks in any military operation, the war would also result in several hundred American casualties, even if Saddam does not resort to using biological or chemical weapons. About 200 Americans were killed during the Gulf War of 1991, but according to retired Colonel David Hackworth, the Gulf War syndrome has caused more than 200,000 casualties, including 10,000 dead.

However, even bigger costs would be imposed on the people of Iraq. The Bush administration is mute about these costs. The Gulf War, which had a comparatively simple objective of ejecting Saddam’s forces from Kuwait, resulted in more than 200,000 Iraqi deaths. Three-quarters of those killed were civilians. This time the US military will need to go in all the way into Baghdad, in order to effect regime change. Urban combat is likely to take place. Thus, the number of civilian Iraqi casualties will probably exceed those caused by the Gulf War.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Anan, expects the war will displace about two million Iraqis, create almost a million refugees and endanger the lives of 30% of Iraqi children under the age of five. It may leave as many as 10 million Iraqis dependent on food assistance from the outside. This would represent a serious problem for any country, but is likely to be catastrophic for a country like Iraq that has been subject to economic sanctions for the past 12 years.

These sanctions have not had any adverse impact on Saddam Hussein and his coterie, but they have taken a toll on the civilian population of Iraq. According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children Fund, the sanctions have created such a harsh resource-constrained and unhygienic environment in Iraq that kills 5,000 children under the age of five every month. The Economist magazine comments, "Even if the truth is half that number, it would still mean that about 360,000 children had died as a result of 12 years of sanctions."

Beyond triggering a massive humanitarian crisis, the war would destabilize the entire Middle East. There is rising anti-Americanism in the region, flowing from America’s continued support to General Sharon’s harsh occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. With the exception of Kuwait and Qatar, none of Iraq’s neighbors support an invasion of Iraq. Even in Turkey, public opinion is strongly opposed to the war.

This war would provide an outstanding recruitment opportunity for Osama bin Laden, and defeat the very purposes for which it is about to be fought. Douglas Hurd, who was the British foreign secretary during the Gulf War, noted recently in the RUSI Journal, "we may win the war in six days and lose it in six months."

Given the significant humanitarian and political costs of this war, should it be waged in the first place? This is a case where the ends do not justify the means. Other ways have to be found to disarm Saddam Hussein. As most of the countries in the world have argued, the inspectors should be given sufficient time and resources to accomplish their task. If they find that Iraq is in non-compliance with UN resolutions, the blame should be placed on Saddam Hussein. American has the world’s best-equipped and trained special operations forces. They should be entrusted with the job of capturing Saddam and bringing him to justice, whether in an American court or in the International Court of Justice. The Iraqi people have suffered enough during the past quarter century for the sins of their leader. There is no reason to add to their woes by raining cruise missiles and bombs on them.

AHMAD FARUQUI, an economist, is a fellow with the American Institute of International Studies and the author of Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan. He can be reached at faruqui@pacbell.net

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman