Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Thursday, February 26, 2004
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Disappearing The Dead

It's no surprise that "collateral damage" in our current wars has been obscured by the fog of war, "coalition" spin and outright lies. Some folks have taken an in-depth look at the issue. The Project on Defense Alternatives recently produced a very interesting report about the DoD's efforts to ignore casualties and shape our discourse. The conclusion:

The efforts were antithetical both to well-informed public debate and to sensible policy-making. The casualty issue was not alone in suffering such treatment during the prologue to the Iraq war. Distortion and miscalculation infected the official discourse on many of the key issues surrounding the war, including: the magnitude and immediacy of the threat, the likely financial cost of the war, the troop requirement, and the difficulty and expense of post-war reconstruction and stabilization efforts.
It would be encouraging to conclude that the tendency to "disappear the dead" resides in the handling of just one war or one set of wars. If this were so, it might be easily excised. However, several of the problematic concepts and "news frames" examined in this report predate both the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. The problem resides, more than anywhere else, in the confident belief that the United States has discovered a new way of fighting wars that is virtually bloodless -- a belief that seems immune to the fact that these "new wars" (beginning in 1991) have claimed the lives of approximately 50,000 people (of which 10,000 were non-combatants). Excising this conceit may prove difficult because it pertains to the utility of America's post-Cold War military predominance. Nonetheless, until America's opinion leaders disabuse themselves of this notion, the nation will be brought to war easily, but left unprepared for and perplexed by the consequences that follow.

I remember in my pre-blogging days I argued with some folks on a politics mailing list about incidents at the Al Shaab and Al-Nasr markets in Iraq that killed upwards of 100 civilians. Some folks were buying the US/UK claims that the people were killed not by "coalition" weapons, but by defective Iraqi air defenses. I scoffed at the notion, provided reasons why the official story was wholly unlikely, and eventually the bogus claims were shown to be false (and any admission buried on page A17 of US papers). Regardless, the disinformation campaign was successful and support for the war remained high.

And while the media now seems to be more interested Rosie's impending nuptials than continuing casualties, I do think that the campaign to hide the true cost of Bush's various wars is starting to bite him. As usual, it's not any one thing that is making people look at Bush skeptically, but when you consider things like not including war costs in his latest budget, the missing WMD, and all the other "little" things we've seen lately, the public is indeed beginning to get a clue.

It's too late for the 650 dead "coalition" soldiers and 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians, but maybe soon enough for us to revive honest debate and alter our path in November. The truth will out.


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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

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