Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Blogging Masterpiece

American hero Matt* over at Today in Iraq has put up a post, a couple of days late, commemorating the second anniversary of the Scourge of God prancing about on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln with a wad in his pants, declaring Mission Accomplished. The CinC's speech is reprinted in its entirety, sound bite by sound bite, along with the relevant news since that date.

I'm going to comment on what is on topic here: the public health situation in Iraq today. Iraq is a humanitarian disaster of the same order of magnitude as the Asian tsunami. We all know of the Johns Hopkins study, published in The Lancet, that estimated 100,000 excess civilian deaths since the invasion. While U.S. officials have dismissed the study, they have not provided any counterargument or evidence. Instead, they simply say that they don't bother to count the Iraqi dead, which is apparently answer enough for Americans. Independent reviews have concluded that the study methodology is sound. Due to limitations on data collection posed by the security situation, it is undoubtedly an underestimate.

The majority of Iraqis killed by U.S. forces, through direct acts of violence, have been women and children. There have been plenty of incidents of children being killed and maimed by American bombs that have been photographed, lots of fully documented and proven incidents of innocent people gunned down by U.S. troops at checkpoints, or just because the happened to be on the highway near a convoy. Those of which some form of public record exists are obviously a small minority of all that occur. These may get a mention in the New York Times but they are of no apparent concern to any of our political leaders, television news producers or most of the public.

Far worse, in the long run, but less dramatic, is the damage being done to the current generation of Iraqi children. An estimate reported by the Washington Post is that 7.7% suffer from "acute malnutrition," which means protein-calorie deficiency, which means, if they are lucky enough to survive, stunted growth and permanent neurological damage. Far higher numbers suffer from chronic, less severe malnutrition. The public water supplies in major cities are contaminated (when the water flows at all), sewage flows in the streets, and the hospitals lack equipment, supplies, and drugs.

Freedom is untidy, it appears.

*Who works for the U.S. Army, an experience entirely unknown to the architects and most of the defenders of the Iraq war. (Correction to earlier post, Matt is a civilian DoD employee, stationed abroad. He's a hero because of his work on the blog.)

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