FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

One of Robert Gates’ More Real Legacies

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Today’s fixation in Washington is former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ so called new revelation, breathlessly reported by theWashington Post (Robert Woodward), the New York Times (Thom Shanker) and others, that Barak Obama was not fully committed to George Bush’s (and Robert Gates’) war in Afghanistan, especially the troop surge there which Obama allowed himself to be maneuvered into by the Pentagon’s generals (and Robert Gates).  We are then blown away-well, not entirely–by the other dramatic news from Gates that Hilary Clinton said politics influenced her own position during her 2007-8 presidential campaign on the other troop surge-the one in Iraq.  Quite a stunner, eh?

Without giving this fluff any further attention, it’s time to consider something a little more important and a little less comforting to those seeking to distract us from the effects of their handiwork.

Consider the question of life and death.  Specifically, almost a half a million deaths, mostly of civilians.  That is the tally in Iraq directly attributable to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq: “461,000, just under half a million people,” a recent study says.  It came out in October 2013.  (I had cast it into my to-read pile; I finally got to it; I urge you to read it-more promptly than I did.)

“Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003-2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study” appears in an international, peer reviewed publication, PLOS Medicine.  The study is the work of researchers at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins, Fraser University in Canada and the Iraqi Ministry of Health.  The typical Washington apparatchik will ignore the study as from an obscure publication; individuals with any interest in data and analysis will look at the article’s description of its methodology and realize that this is a piece of research that cannot be ignored-even if Washington already has.

In sum, the study surveyed 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, using methods to ensure the sample was nationally representative-including of those who were either internally or externally displaced.  Direct interviews were the primary data collection technique–with procedures to verify what the interviewers were being told.

As to findings-

* “The wartime crude death rate in Iraq was 4.55 per 1,000 PY (95% UI 3.74-5.27), more than 0.5 times higher than the 2.89 ((95% UI 1.56-4.04) death rate during the 26-mo period preceding the war. By multiplying those rates by the annual Iraq population, we estimate total excess Iraqi deaths attributable to the war through mid-2011 as about 405,000 (95% UI 48,000-751,000).” (page 7)

* “Conservatively, assuming that only 15% of the emigrant households experienced a death, our migration adjustment would add more than 55,000 deaths to the total generated by our household survey..” (page 9)

* “Our total excess death estimate for the wartime period, then, is 461,000, just under half a million people.”(page 10)

* “US-led coalition forces were reported to be responsible for the largest proportion of war-related violent deaths (35%), followed by militia (32%). While militia were reportedly responsible for the most adult male deaths in the sibling survey, coalition forces were reportedly responsible for killing the most women.” (Page 6)

Americans should not take solace from the finding that 65 percent of the war-related violent deaths were from non-Americans.  It is not just that women were victimized  by us (or rather our coalition) more than by others, but also consider that America initiated the social and political forces that resulted in all of the half million deaths-a tally that Saddam Hussein at his worst would have envied and that would put him in a category of mass murderers second only to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

It is also highly likely that the 460,000 deaths are an undercount.  The baseline death rate was the 26 month period just before the US invasion in March 2001; that was a death rate already elevated by the effects on the Iraqi infrastructure from the bombing of civilian targets (such as water treatment facilities and electricity generation) during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and also elevated by years of US-led economic sanctions.  Moreover, it is not clear if the new study included infant mortality in its accounting, and its assertion that only 15 percent of the families that left Iraq during the US occupation had a death in the family seems more than a little conservative for that group.

Perhaps the upper bounds of the statistical analysis (751,000 deaths, or more if you include the emigrant households) approach the reality of the impact of the American invasion and occupation.

No wonder they kicked us out in 2011 and don’t want us back now.

For it all, we have many people to thank, not just Robert Gates.  Anyone reading this commentary knows their names.  However, as you contemplate Gates’ efforts to write his own legacy, think about what he was a part of-but which his eagerly fawning reviewers write no whisper of.

(For an antidote to the press characterization of Gates as the best secretary of defense since the title was created, consider some different views hereherehere and here.)

Winslow T. Wheeler is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight. Previously, he worked on national security issues for both Republican and Democratic senators and for the Government Accountability Office.

 

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail