Monday, November 08, 2004

A TRAGEDY IN THE MAKING. Even if John Kerry were president, I suspect we would try to root out the insurgents in Fallujah. Such battles are tragic. Think of the young American soldiers who are going to lose their lives, or be permanently disabled, as a result of what happens in the days and weeks to come. Think of the Iraqi civilians whose lives are going to be destroyed. Yet if you accept Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn" rule - we break it, we own it - then surely we have to be willing to attempt extreme measures in order to bring stability to Iraq.

But the question remains, Do we know what we're doing? Danny Schechter today points to a story in London's Independent that's quite different from what's in the American press this morning. According to the report, by Kim Sengupta, Sunni leaders such as interim president Ghazi al-Yawar warn that the fighting could "trigger widespread rebellion throughout the country." Sengupta also writes:

There was increasing evidence yesterday that vast numbers of insurgents have slipped through the US net around Fallujah and regrouped to carry out attacks elsewhere. The US military, which had been saying until now that there were more than 5,000 fighters in the city yesterday, revised its estimate to 1,200.

This is hardly surprising. Everyone has known for weeks that we were going to invade Fallujah as soon as the presidential election was over. So why are we moving ahead if most of the insurgents have left? Even if we succeed, isn't Yawar warning us that we'll only create more insurgents?

And why is Donald Rumsfeld still secretary of defense?

DEFENDING THE 100,000 FIGURE. Christopher Shea has a persuasive analysis in yesterday's Boston Globe about that Lancet study showing 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war. The study came under attack as soon as it came out. But Shea finds that though it's hardly perfect, the methodology was identical to studies on such hard-to-quantify matters as vaccination rates in developing countries.

Shea notes that critics such as Fred Kaplan, of Slate, have referred to the Lancet study as "so loose as to be meaningless." But Shea makes a good case that the 100,000 number, though extremely rough, is far from meaningless. In all likelihood, somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 Iraqi civilians have died because of the war. That's a far cry from the 15,000 to 30,000 that Kaplan offers as his best guess.

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