Friday, November 23, 2007

Calling things by their names

I've mentioned before that our national Zeitgeist seems to favor a bit of holocaust denial when it comes to discussing the Iraqi death toll due to the US invasion and occupation. Turns out I'm not the only one out there to dare call it that:

The methods used in the estimates of Iraqi deaths are the same as those used to estimate the deaths in Darfur, which are widely accepted in the media. They are also consistent with the large numbers of refugees from the violence (estimated at more than four million). There is no reason to disbelieve them, or to accept tallies such as that the Iraq Body Count (73,305 - 84,222), which include only a small proportion of those killed, as an estimate of the overall death toll.

Of course, acknowledging the holocaust in Iraq might change the debate over the war. While Iraqi lives do not count for much in US politics, recognizing that a mass slaughter of this magnitude is taking place could lead to more questions about how this horrible situation came to be. Right now a convenient myth dominates the discussion: the fall of Saddam Hussein simply unleashed a civil war that was waiting to happen, and the violence is all due to Iraqis' inherent hatred of each other.

In fact, there is considerable evidence that the occupation itself - including the strategy of the occupying forces - has played a large role in escalating the violence to holocaust proportions. It is in the nature of such an occupation, where the vast majority of the people are opposed to the occupation and according to polls believe it is right to try and kill the occupiers, to pit one ethnic group against another. This was clear when Shiite troops were sent into Sunni Fallujah in 2004; it is obvious in the nature of the death-squad government, where officials from the highest levels of the Interior Ministry to the lowest ranking police officers - all trained and supported by the US military - have carried out a violent, sectarian mission of "ethnic cleansing." (The largest proportion of the killings in Iraq are from gunfire and executions, not from car bombs). It has become even more obvious in recent months as the United States is now arming both sides of the civil war, including Sunni militias in Anbar province as well as the Shiite government militias.

Is Washington responsible for a holocaust in Iraq? That is the question that almost everyone here wants to avoid. So the holocaust is denied.
See also, Iraq War: None Dare Call it Genocide.

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