You’ve probably heard of the Lancet study (and if you haven’t, I’ve provided a link to some news about it) that claims that upwards of 600,000 people have likely died in direct and indirect consequences of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. This, of course, has been widely disputed by the Bush administration and many other media figures. Diane Rehm had a very interesting segment on her show the other day, hosting a co-author of the study with a few other guests, most of which were skeptical. (Slate provides an interesting analysis.)

Regardless, this raised an issue with me that has nagged at my mind for some time now. I often hear guests call in to programs and complain about the over 3,000 (3,413 according to current Wikipedia figures) coalition personnel killed in Iraq since the invasion. This gives us slightly under a 200:1 Iraqi-to-coalition forces mortality rate. I’m not saying this isn’t tragic. Every single one of these deaths, regardless of who they were or where they stood, is a tragedy. It comes as no surprise that Bush doesn’t give a fuck about how many civilians have been killed in the conflict. And it surprises me only slightly less that no official body is bothering to make any real effort to track deaths. However, it hurts me to know that we, as a culture, see our national boundaries as such bold divisions that we are far more outraged about our relatively small number of military personnel killed in combat. Even if that number is off, the number of Iraqi civilian dead far outweighs our losses. Yes, they may be more likely to be the children of people we know, and yes, it’s terrible that they were essentially lied out of existence. However, the sooner we can all accept that every one of these slain mattered as much as the other, the sooner we can recognize one another’s universal humanity, the more likely we can actually end this whole bloody affair.

Not that that’s going to happen. Not that I have a real idea for a solution to all this. It’s just sad.

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About John D. Moore

Writer, cartoonist, filmmaker, and student of Japanese language, literature, and cinema at the University of Utah.

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