Toronto
2 min

How many dead Iraqis?

It's hard to be charitable after the US election

Credit: Xtra files

Have you noticed how rarely we are told the number of Iraqi civilians being killed in the current war? In contrast, we are constantly updated with the latest death toll of “America’s sons and daughters,” as soldiers fighting in Iraq are often called.



At least we are now getting accurate tallies of military deaths, after Editor And Publisher, a US industry magazine, chastised the media for reporting only combat deaths.



The total number of US military deaths at the time of this revelation was nearly double the number of those who died in combat. The number of US military killed in Iraq passed the 1,000 mark in late September.



I suppose one could blame the media, too, for failing to drive home the numbers of Iraqis killed by Americans. But is anyone asking? Are readers of newspapers and watchers of television news demanding to know?



To be fair, there is no official death toll for Iraqis. And deaths in faraway places always seem somewhat unreal and removed from our own lives. But you’d think that, when your own country is doing the killing, it might hit a little closer to home. You might be concerned, feel responsible, even.



It’s convenient to blame the media for society’s ills. People are basically good, the argument goes, and the media – seen as an omnipotent, ideological apparatus – is basically bad. The media deceive people and program them to elect presidents like George W Bush.



It’s hard to be so charitable after the recent US election. Before, it was easier to argue that those who supported the war believed that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US. It was easier to argue that the president waging the war did not have the full support of Americans, given that he did not win the popular vote in the 2000 election.



But now, a solid majority of US voters has backed Bush and the war in Iraq, long after anyone is pretending that big weapons are at issue. Sixty million Americans have condoned the slaughter of countless Iraqi civilians – and given the green light for the slaughter to continue. This in an election where voters identified “moral values” as their top concern when voting!



To add insult to injury, CNN reports that exit polls show 23 percent of self-identified gay men ad lesbians voted for Bush.



Globe And Mail columnist Rick Salutin recently turned the blame-the-media argument on its head. He quoted Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek pointing the finger back at citizens themselves. “The key factor is not that people are duped – there’s an active will not to know.”



Nowhere is this more evident than in a Republican election ad called Ashley’s Story. The televised ad – the biggest ad buy of the campaign, apparently – exploits the tragic loss of a loved one while shilling for a president who mass produces such loss overseas.



The ad tells the story of Ashley, whose mother was killed in the World Trade Center on Sep 11, 2001. Ashley is introduced to president Bush at a rally in Ohio, and they are photographed as he gives her a big, protective, fatherly hug.



Filmed later for the ad, Ashley enthuses: “He’s the most powerful man in the world, and all he wants to do is make sure I’m safe.”



I’m afraid that’s not all, Ashley.



Various estimates have put the number of Iraqis killed by Americans in the low tens of thousands. The Lancet, a British medical journal, recently published a report estimating that 100,000 Iraqis have been killed so far. The report claims that Iraqis are 58 times more likely to die violent deaths since the US invaded.



Dear Ashley. I’m really sorry your mom got killed on 9/11. I really am. But killing moms in Iraq won’t make you more secure.



America sleeps safe and sound on a bed made soft by the rotting corpses of tens of thousands of Iraqis. Do you still feel the pea of fear, princess? How many dead Iraqis will make it better?



* David Walberg is Xtra’s publisher.