FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Learning to Count the Dead

Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or badly wounded by U.S. and British bombs and guns. Thousands. Go up to www.iraqbodycount.net and see for yourself the number of civilians who have been killed.

Here’s the problem: None of us living in the United States really know how to think about numbers. Not only are we one of the most innumerate advanced societies on Earth, we are also it appears at best completely indifferent to numbers. Especially when the numbers refer to the dead and injured people who arrive at that grave state by our hand.

Thousands. Teenagers: that’s EVERYONE in your high school and then some. Small Towners: that’s EVERYONE in your town. White collar workers: that’s EVERYONE in your pretty-big and pretty-profitable company.

Yesterday, U.S. Marines shot up an automobile filled with Iraqi civilians in the Holy city of Najaf. 7 people died and 2 were injured-9 people in all. There was poll on CNN.com asking people whether it was a justified shooting given the fact that the automobile did not stop at a U.S. military checkpoint. When I voted “No,” that it was not justified, I found out that 81% of polled people disagreed with me. Apparently, it is therefore justified. But then what does the number 9 really mean? Family-oriented people: That’s your ENTIRE family + your Parents and siblings.

The New York Times covered this story; the headline was “Failing to Heed Warning, 7 Iraqi Women and Children Die.” Note the spin in the headline. “Failing to Heed Warning..”- clearly the Iraqis did something wrong. They paid the price it seems. “7 Iraqi Women and Children Die.” Die? Die is a passive construction which implies that, lo and behold, these people simply stopped living. “Were Killed” would be a more appropriate and correct way of re-telling what happened. Kill is an action word and the action always has an “object” –in this case people. But then 7 people isn’t that large a number. Stuff like this happens to people we are liberating, doesn’t it?

When we read that the sanctions we have imposed on the Iraqi people are responsible for the deaths of 1.2 Million people, do any of us really stop and think about what this means? That’s EVERYONE is a good-sized city. EVERYONE.

Are we really such an indifferent, callous people? Have we really lost all touch with our humanity? Do the sheer numbers befuddle us to such an extent that we equate 1 of OUR lives with hundreds, thousands, of THEIR lives?

Or is there something left to be reconciled when we say at once that all people are equal but insist that one of us for all intents and purposes, for all matters of sorrow, for everything that matters counts more than 25 million Iraqis?

And if we conclude that there is something left to be reconciled, that what we say and what we do diverge radically, that we have shown no humanity to numbers of people we can’t even begin to imagine, that we spin all facts in our favor and to the misfortune of others, then elemental decency suggests that we stop waging wars, we stop killing people, and we learn to think of Iraqis as people just like us.

We need to learn to count. Only then will we understand the enormity of our crimes.

ROMI MAHAJAN lives in Seattle and can be reached at:
Romimahajan2000@yahoo.com
Today’s Features

Uri Avnery
A Crooked Mirror: Presstitution and the Theater of Operations

David Vest
Can You Hear the Silence?

Anthony Gancarski
Colin Powell Telemarketer

David Lindorff
Takoma: the Dolphin Who Refused to Fight

Michael Roberts
War, Debts and Deficits

Ramzy Baroud
Now That Iraqis Are Being Killed Is Israel Any More Secure?

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad with Tears

Anton Antonowicz
Cluster Bombs on Babylon

Alison Weir
Israel, We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie

Bruce Jackson
Hating Wolf Blitzer’s Voice

Eliot Katz
War’s First Week

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/03

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail