American policy has killed more Iraqis than Saddam's tyranny; "Pro-Lifers" Silent

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The Iraq Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 which was founded in 1991 to promote democracy and economic prosperity in Iraq and the Middle East, has every reason to play up the death count from the Saddam regime. Not that they would overestimate, but they have no political reason to underestimate. An article on their website says this:

Since then, Mr. Hussein's has been a tale of terror that scholars have compared to that of Stalin, whom the Iraqi leader is said to revere, even if his own brutalities have played out on a small scale. Stalin killed 20 million of his own people, historians have concluded. Even on a proportional basis, his crimes far surpass Mr. Hussein's, but figures of a million dead Iraqis, in war and through terror, may not be far from the mark, in a country of 22 million people.

The First Gulf War was short enough to keep civilian casualties relatively low. Between 200 and 2,300 civilians were killed during the fighting, mostly in air raids.
Estimates of the impact of sanctions vary. The Iraqi government claims that 1,500,000 people died as a result of the sanctions. While that estimate is likely to be higher than the reality, an article in CNN sites a UN report which puts the death toll from sanctions at around 1,000,000. Children under 5 account for a disproportionate number of these deaths:

The United Nations estimates 1 million Iraqis, mostly children, have died under the sanctions. The Al-Thawra newspaper gave a higher death toll, claiming 1.5 million people have died as a result of the embargo.

The DoD has famously said that it doesn't keep track of civilian deaths in Iraq, but puts number at between 43,000 and 48,000. This number is based on American and Iraqi news sources, as well as the various wire services. A breakdown of these numbers can be found here.

Some may say that Saddam is to be held responsible for these deaths, particularly the ones caused by sanctions. This is a matter of perspective, and a strong argument could be made to support this point of view. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the US had the power and influence to end the ineffective sanctions and save innocent lives, yet it did not.

We might expect to hear a louder protest to the loss of innocent life on a massive scale coming from members of the pro-life movement, who have voiced strong opposition to the use of stem cells in potentially life-saving research. Why people who call themselves pro-life can get bent out of shape over a lump of cells while remaining utterly silent, or even supportive, of a policy which has caused the death of more than a million innocent people is speaks either to the collective ignorance or hypocrisy of the pro-life movement.

While this movement as a whole has failed to mobilize in any effective way in the issue of the US policy toward the Middle East, some elements within the pro-life community have spoken out, and their message, thankfully, has not been in support of the War. In an article for the Center for Christian Nonviolence, Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy writes about how war inevitably leads to abortion as misplaced persons who are pregnant are faced with few alternatives. He says:

Mass abortions are the necessary and one hundred per cent inevitable consequence of modern war. Morally, that which a person is certain will occur if he or she makes a particular choice represents a choice for which he or she is responsible before God. A person cannot morally claim he or she does not intend abortions that are certain to take place, by claiming he or she only intends to improve the mother's bodily health or the health of the body politic.

To sum up in the simplest terms possible, one cannot be both pro-life and pro-war.

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Oh criminy, where to begin.

Ok, first: Good post! Well researched and sorta well argued. I agree with more if it than I would have thought from the title.

Also, now that you've graduated to blogger you CAN use html coding for your links and they'll always work.

As in - well I can't demonstrate exactly because now I'M the commenter - for the first one, you could have highlighted the words "article on their website" and clicked the chain-link icon, and pasted in the URL, and it would have shown up as a link.

The whole "death toll from sanctions" data is quite hypothetical, as you know. In a sense, you could argue every single Iraqi killed by Saddam's regime between 1992 and 2003 is a victim of "American policy" because the first President Bush did not finish the job. Certainly all the Shiites who rose up after the first Gulf War and were massacred should be considered victims of U.S. policy. H.W. Bush's failure to take Baghdad was one of the reasons I was campaigning for Ross Perot in 1992.

But it is a wee bit false to posit "U.S. policy" as a reified thing because that policy changed drastically between the first and second Bush presidencies.

Regarding abortion: I think this argument suffers from the weakness of the previous one, insofar as there really wasn't a single U.S. policy for the pro-life movement to supposedly be endorsing.

Secondly, the pro-life vs pro-war dichotomy doesn't completely hold true, although I'll grant it contains the seeds of a conundrum (which most conservative Christians, I'd suggest, are keenly aware of).

Thirdly, saying "bent out of shape over a lump of cells" is no throwaway line but is, you should know, the entire point of disagreement. If I end up arguing THIS point with you, I'll make it a new post.

Finally, your conclusion "one cannot be both pro-life and pro-war" begs a debate. It begs a long, involved debate. A person can reasonably believe that human embryos should not be treated like corn, and also believe sometimes a country has to go to war.

Jack said:

Fixed the links. (Hope you don't mind.)

Jack said:

Well, I suppose he's looking for a debate. Unfortunately, Puffy is actually running several different hypothoses here, making the whole essay rather muddled. There is the "sanctions are bad" hypothosis, the "war is bad" hypothosis, and the "pro-lifers cannot support war" hypothosis.

Let me try to take them one at a time.

(1) Sanctions are bad.

They are supposed to be. The problem with sanctions is that they assume that the leaders of the countries upon which we impose sanctions actually care about their people. Since Saddam did not care, the sanctions did not work.

(2) War is bad.

Of course it is. But it is also sometimes necessary. There were also Christian opponents to our involvement in WWII. They were wrong, but their intentions were good. Had we stayed out of the war, or just dealt with Japan and not Germany, those good intentions certainly would have paved the road to Hell in Europe, and possibly here, too.

In that case of Iraq, all intelligence pointed to its having "bugs and crud." Even Hussein thought he had them. Why else would he allow so many of his people to die rather than allow the U.N. inspectors to come in? We know Iraq had the capability to send missiles to Israel, Europe, and possibly the U.S. Hussein had also threatened to attack the U.S. Iraq was harboring terrorists. Terrorist Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Iraq was also paying the families of suicide bombers in Israel.

(3) "Pro-lifers cannot support war"

Bull. Certainly, we would prefer peace. However, both sides must be weighed, and the course with the least harm to innocents taken. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes we are wrong. We are not perfect, nor do we claim to be. But we must make the best decisions we can with the information we have.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that the Iraq Body Count includes deaths by roadside bombs, car bombs, people beheaded, and "also includes excess civilian deaths caused by criminal action resulting from the breakdown in law and order which followed the coalition invasion." So basically, you're blaming the U.S. for the indiscriminate killings the enemy perpetrates.

Roci said:

Nicely done Joe, if a bit abreviated.

Of course, I am not pro-life, for the reasons stay-puffed mentioned.

I am pro-innocent life. Children should be protected by society, and that means usually by government. While I don't support going to war to save children in another country, I do to save our children.

The argument that we are responsible for the anticipated actions of other people is just stupid. They are responsible for their own choices. If anything, we are responsible for failing to go to war when winning would be easy so that we can futiley engage in diplomacy and sanctions first (as we did in Iraq).

Finally. Oil for Food? There is no reason why sanctions should have resulted in any deaths in Iraq. Every medicine was available for import as well as unlimited food. The fact is that Saddam spent much of his oil money on bribes to UN officials (French, Russian and Chinese), Russian anti-tank missiles and palaces. All of the numbers showing deaths in the interwar years are inflated because the only people who care about publishing those numbers have a rather obvious agenda.

zimzo said:

What are Iraqi civilians, or any civilians killed in a war, guilty of? What makes them not "innocent life"?

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

sometimes a country needs to go to war.... sometimes a woman needs an abortion.

and what, were sanctions just too complex of an issue for "pro-lifers" to oppose. Pro-lifers don't oppose policy, they oppose "issues": abortion, stem cell research... why not 'sanctions'?

I think some folks try to place the blame for the negative outcomes of some of the things they support on other people. Everything bad in Iraq is Saddam's fault. Since the US can only do good, if US policy leads to mass death, it must be someone else's fault. It seems a bit like having an all-powerful God of Everything in Existence, and a devil to scapegoat for the bad stuff.

let me just ask, in what way is this war morally justifiable in the mind of someone who considers themself "pro-life"?

(but I gotta say, there may be problems with the original post, but it ain't bad for an hour's labor. Just wait till the next one!)

Jack said:

I explained the reasons for invading Iraq in my above comment. Perhaps you didn't read it. (BTW, "themself" is not a word.)

You do bring up a good equivalence: "sometimes a country needs to go to war.... sometimes a woman needs an abortion"

The only valid reason a woman needs an abortion is to save her own life. So, the only reason a country should go to war is to save itself? Then we should not have intervened in Bosnia, nor should we intervene in Sudan, to save innocent lives? Should we not have aided Kuwait? Should we never enter into mutual defense agreements?

Roci said:

The point of mutual defense agreements is that they benefit us. If they don't, we should definitely stay out of them. Example NATO was good until the end of the cold war. Now it is not so good.

Ask the people who killed them.

zimzo said:

No, Roci, I am asking you. What are Iraqi civilians, or any civilians killed in a war, guilty of? What makes them not "innocent life"? If you cannot answer that question yourself, say so.

Jack said:

Perhaps the Iraqi people are guilty of tolerating a dictator who threatened other nations? The Iraqi people were certainly well armed, and the Iraqi government would have had a very difficult time dealing with an armed insurrection of the majority of Iraqis.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

"The argument that we are responsible for the anticipated actions of other people is just stupid"

that's nice. so if we smash the social order of a country, and the place plunges into chaos, it's the people's own fault, and we don't bare any responsiblity?

by that logic, every state ought to release all their violent criminals, it'd save a bunch of money, and the state can't be held responsible for the anticipated actions of the convicts, right?

what's, "just stupid," Roci?


SHOULD we enter into such alliences? If so, why? Is the decision to join something like NATO made on moral grounds, concerned with saving innocent lives, or is it made purly out of a desire for self-preservation and/or expansion of power and influence?

Also, do you think the right to self-preservation is 'unlimited'? I mean, let's say The only way for the nation to survive somehow involved killing a billion innocent people? Could that be justifiable?

Roci said:

No, Roci, I am asking you.

No, I'm asking YOU!.

See how this works?

When you kill someone, you owe an explanation. When you have nothing to do with it, you don't.

Those innocent civilians were killed in a variety of circumstances. In each case there was a reason that only the person who was there knows. Asking me what someone else's motive was is futile.

Unless you want me to make excuses for those I have killed, there is no point to your argument.

Disappointed? I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Roci said:

that's nice. so if we smash the social order of a country, and the place plunges into chaos, it's the people's own fault, and we don't bare any responsiblity?

What is the source of your "responsibility" and what are its limits?

most people define their responsibilities in terms of morality and law.

Under law, a country that invades another and wins has no obligations to do anything. And since you can't legislate morality, or so I am told, there is no point arguing from that perspective. Each person's moral code is as equally valid as any other.

...and the state can't be held responsible for the anticipated actions of the convicts, right?

Right. With the possible exception of Willy Horton, no politician or government has ever been held responsible for the criminal conduct of people they let go. Didn't you know this?

zimzo said:

You're the one, Roci, who claimed to be "pro innocent life" as opposed to being a hypocrite. I asked you a simple question: "What are Iraqi civilians, or any civilians killed in a war, guilty of? What makes them not "innocent life"?" You were unable to answer it because you are not, in fact, "pro innocent life" as you claim but are making semantic distinctions to cover up the hypocrisy of your position, which was the point of Puft's post. Thanks for revealing who you really are.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

Well, Roci, I think your position on responsibility is a bit waci, but I'd like to propose a simple experiment to see where our societal conceptions of responsibility place the blame.

Here's what we'll do. You go to any art museum (I here there are several in the DC area), find a priceless Ming Vase, and just go ahead and knock it off it's stand. Then, when the security guard gets over his shock and informs you that you're under arrest, tell him, "I shall not be held accountable for the smashing of the priceless vase, for I only pushed it, it was the floor what broke it." then you get back to me and let me know what happened next. And remember, if your story's good enough, I can post it in a new thread!

Roci said:

There is such a thing called proximate cause in determining responsibility.

I would certainly be responsible for the causing damage to your hypothetical vase (as your example intended). Yet I am not responsible (nor is the government of the USA) for all of the problems, life, death, suffering, going on in Iraq. Certainly, our government is responsible for the problems it causes, but not for all of the choices that other people make after that. Theft, murder, and abortion are choices that were not caused by the invasion or by any USA activity.

As to the question of "what were they guilty of". Your question is illogical. I accept that most of them are guilty of no crime I know. Given the choice, I support their desire to go on living. Given the choice, I would not chose to kill them. Unfortunately, the people who are killing these innocent people do not ask for my advice or consent. I fully support our government's position of using military force to prevent such loss of innocent life, at the expense of exterminating those who chose to murder them.

I see no inconsistency in this position.

Summary: Innocent people are good. Don't kill them. Murdering terrorists are bad. Kill them early and often.

Jack said:


Are you trying to tell me that the terrorists are not responsible for their actions? "The Devil (Bush) made them do it?" George Bush made them behead innocent Iraqis? George Bush made them plant roadside bombs in populated areas? Did George Bush force Hussein to expel the inspectors?

Every human being is responsible for his own actions.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

this from the wikipedia entry on "proximate cause":

"The most common test of proximate cause is foreseeability. It determines if the harm resulting from an action was reasonably able to be predicted. The test is used in most cases only in respect to the type of harm. It is foreseeable that throwing a baseball at someone could cause them a blunt-force injury. But proximate cause is still met if a thrown baseball misses the target and knocks a heavy object off of a shelf behind them, which causes a blunt-force injury."

When the social infrastructure is removed from a town/city/country, it's fairly predictable what the outcome will be. If a city stops funding the Fire Dept. buildings will burn down. If you remove the policy forces, people will loot, the mob will rule. When one country, through power and influence, imposes sanctions on another country ruled by an evil dictator, people will starve as a result.

I know that The Right has had a lot of practice making the "we had no way of knowing" argument in the past several years, but these examples are fairly predictable outcomes of choices in policy, and while you may or may not continue to believe that the US can't be held responsible for things like the death toll from sanctions or the breakdown of society in Iraq, the fact is that these things should have been anticipated (like the smashing of a vase)

"I fully support our government's position of using military force to prevent such loss of innocent life"

brings us back to the original point that US policy has led to more loss of innocent life than the alternative.

maybe we're going in circles now.

Jack said:


Answer my questions: Is Bush responsible for terrorists' beheading innocent Iraqis? Is Bush responsible for terrorists' planting roadside bombs in populated areas? Is Bush responsible for Hussien's ejecting the weapons inspectors?

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

I said, US Policy, not Bush, but if you insist...

if nothing else, Saddam held the country together. Brutally, yes, but he did. Now who's holding the country together? We pulled a string and the whole thing unraveled.

If everything had worked wonderfully and Iraq was a happy democratic paradise right now, I'd imaging the Bush admin. would not shy away from taking some of the credit for it. In reality everything fell apart, but I think the admin. still get some of the credit. Their, "we must remove saddam" policy has resulted in the current situation.

I don't know how Bush is responsible the the inspectors, I don't think I ever said he was...

Jack said:


Please remember that Clinton wanted to take out Saddam, too.

The problem of the unravelling goes back to Brits creating nations willy-nilly without knowing the situation. (See Kashmir.) The country of Iraq was imposed on the people from the outside. I do not know why we are wedded to the idea of a one-country solution. Possibly as a buffer against Iran?

Anyway, you still have not answered the questions. You said Bush was responsible for the sanctions. Since the sanctions were because Saddam expelled the inspectors, it follows that Bush was responsible for Saddam's expelling the inspectors.

Anyway, is Bush responsible for the roadside bombs and the beheadings?

Jack said:


Another point where your logic is as solid as the marshmallow for which you are named, is your comparison of "innocent" Iraqis to unborn children. Many of these innocent Iraqis, being armed with AK-47s and other assorted firearms, are far from defenseless. An unborn child, on the other hand, is completely dependent upon the mother for his life. Furthermore, the Iraqis who have been killed were not individually targeted by U.S. policy to be killed. An aborted child IS individually targeted to be killed -- by the very person upon whom he is completely dependent.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

In the comparison to abortion, I'm talking about dead Iraqi children who starved to death under the sanctions or were blown up by US missiles. innocent is innocent. I'm not talking about insurgents.

I've explained, I think, the "chain of responsibility" US policy (which you keep referring to as "Bush") created a situation in the 90's in which perhaps a quarter of a million children starved, and our leaders' insistence on removing saddam has created the current situation. It's simple cause and effect, "if we do A, B will happen" : "if we put the country in a box, people will starve to death" We chose to do it anyway. "If we remove Saddam without careful planning, the country will plunge into chaos" We chose to do it anyway.

Jack said:


You provided the link to in your post, so I assumed you were blaming those deaths on U.S. foreign policy.

Now, it is NOT simply "if we do A, B will happen." No-one knew with certainty that Hussein would ignore the sanctions, or that he would raid the Oil-for-Food program and starve his people. We are not responsible for his insanity.

We took Hussein out when we did because our intelligence sources, and those of other nations, indicated that he was an imminent threat to us and to our allies. There was no time for more planning.

Roci said:

No-one knew with certainty that Hussein would ignore the sanctions

Sure we did. Using puffy's interpretation of proximate cause, we all knew the UN was a corrupt anti-American institution. We also knew that Saddam was dangerous and was rearming. We knew he was sponsoring terrorism outside of Iraq. We knew he was shooting at our airplanes every day (weather permitting) for 5 years. It was totally predictable that Oil for food would fail. It is also predictable that everything the UN touches will turn to shit.

Therefore, the proximate cause of everything the UN does is the USA's fault since we let them do it by not stopping them.

Of course, the predictability standard falls apart when human choices enter the mix. While war invariably brings with it human suffering, the specific choices of humans to make that suffering worse are not caused by the war. The proximate cause of rape is ALWAYS the choice by the rapist, not what the woman was wearing or the presence of a functioning police department.

Not having a fire department is NOT a proximate cause of fires. sparks, air and fuel coming together are a proximate cause. Fire departments don't prevent fires, they respond to them to mitigate their damage.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

"Not having a fire department is NOT a proximate cause of fires. sparks, air and fuel coming together are a proximate cause. Fire departments don't prevent fires, they respond to them to mitigate their damage."

I think I said that Fire Depts don't cause fires, but if the mayor of a city shut down all the Fire stations in the town, my guess is that he would be seen as culpable for the excessive fire damage suffered by the city.

If no one knew Saddam would ignore sanctions when they were imposed, they had 10 years to figure it out. In all that time, US policy was that it was more important to continue putting economic pressure on Saddam than to end a policy which was causing suffering and starvation among the general population. You guys go ahead and support it, I just wonder how you're going to explain it to St. Pete.

when our policies fail to accomplish anything but misery, we can shrug and say, "we were doing the best we could with the information we had" You think an Iraqi teenager's going to be sympathetic to that explanation? Imagine a kid who grew up under sanctions which climaxed with a Shock & Awe and an invasion which destroied the last remenents of civilization in the country, and flowed into a 3-year-long afterglow of terrorism, insurgency, and sectarian violence. What's that kid going to think when you say something like, "we were doing the best we could with the information we had" He's probably not going to thank you.

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