Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Iraqi Innocents

Once again, I find myself pondering a point made by Gregg Easterbrook in 'Tuesday Morning Quarterback' about the war in Iraq. Easterbrook expresses confusion and dismay about the lack of concern for the loss of innocent life in Iraq. Using Pres. Bush's own estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths, Easterbrook writes:

Had some other country or group done something that caused 30,000 deaths here, we would claim an unlimited right of self-defense and retaliation. Yet the death the United States has brought to the innocent of Iraq isn't even being discussed here. Some of the Iraqis who have died because they have been hit by our bombs, or in the sectarian violence our destruction of the Iraqi government set loose, would have died by now regardless; perhaps some of them would have been killed by Saddam Hussein, had he remained in power. But by invading Iraq we made ourselves responsible for what happened next, and what has happened next is killing of the innocent. When 3,000 were villainously slain here, we called it a crime against humanity. Since then we have caused or played a role in the deaths of perhaps 10 times as many in Iraq, and this is spoken of here as if it were some mere unfortunate side effect of policy. History may judge America harshly for acting as though Iraqi lives have no value.

While I agree that the deaths of civilian Iraqis is both horrible and underanalyzed, the U.S. is not entirely to blame. True, the invasion and destablization of Iraq has created fertile ground for sectarian violence, and our complete and utter failure to plan for the postwar occupation has increased the violence further still. But at the end of the day, American soldiers are not killing innocent Iraqis -- they are trying to protect them. Indeed, American soldiers are continuing to sacrifice their own lives in the pursuit of security for the Iraqi people. No, Iraqis are killing Iraqis, and only Iraqis can make it stop. Whether they will choose to do is the pressing humanitarian question of our time.


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