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Do the numbers of dead Iraqis matter?

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Message Paul Titterton
Just how well was the war worked out in advance? There would have been no doubt of victory over Saddam’s defences which, indeed, crumpled under the assault and his “World’s fourth-biggest-army” was a well beaten and broken force, as predicted. So far so good, but that was never going to be the problem.

The Americans and Brits will have planned to use their absolute cutting edge equipment and troops, they were always going to win overwhelmingly. Presentation would be more of an issue. They have such overkill capacity that they will have had genuine difficulty in having to tone down, even 'Shock and Awe'. The world was watching and flattening Baghdad, although the preferred choice for some, was never an option.

The superiority of the ground forces was also not in question and it now seems laughable that the media were able to present the Iraqi Army as anything other than a total pushover. They had fought for Saddam in war after war and achieved nothing. For a generation they had been slaughtered and abused. Now the best equipped and trained armies in the world were coming… they were always about to give up. I would have.

Blair and Bush needed to make the threat more urgent to convince their voters that a war was the only way. Negotiations and not war, may have left some of the “Coalition of the Willing” in the cold, with no way of getting any future business, Italy or Exxon, say. Hence when the Weapons of Mass Destruction argument seemed a little thin, they wheel out the “Worlds 4th biggest army” option again. No, I have no idea either how they calculated it. Every cadet, boy scout, fact everyone, that would do it! Everyone in Iraq was a soldier! ( Bill Hicks... Yes, but after the 3rd..there is a BIG drop off! (Hicks.. RIP))

Not having the UN was a big problem, not for Blair, but for the new breed of Brit Commander. They wanted to make sure they were covered. They too had been affected by the litigation culture. Even military people cannot escape and will be very aware that some young lawyer could now be plotting a case for The Hague in 10 years time. Organising mass murder might not be viewed, in a more enlightened age, as excusable because “orders is orders”. “I dropped those bombs because Tony really did think Saddam was dangerous” may not sound as good a defence in the future, as it does now.

Failing to prevent others engaging in war, could also possibly be an offence. Some countries have “Samaritan” laws whereby you are obliged to help people, so it’s not such a big step. Tony is a millionaire lawyer who knows a few as well. He would be well defended at The Hague. A Commander may be not be married to a Queen’s Counsellor like Tony is.

A Commander knows a bit though. Enough from the Military Law option in his training and his lap top, to be concerned. A modern Commander does not wear Jodhpurs and a Sam Brown belt and there is no pistol to fight to the end. He will still do the job, but there is no running-stark-bollock-naked at the enemy anymore. Blair seems to have missed that and seemed unprepared when our top soldier wanted it in writing that the war was legal. He did write and said that the guy he asked to look into it, the Attorney General, who owed his position to Blair, had decided it was legal. “Get back to me if you still have further concerns. Yours Tony.”

Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General disagreed, but who was he compared to Tony’s unelected, but British, pal? Annan had not used the words “illegal war” until after the war started, but others had, including the Germans… We rebuilt them up after WW2 and this is how they repay us! We never shouted at them “The Blitz is illegal!” We just got on with it the war. We knew where we stood then..

So the Iraq war was not risky militarily, only legally. Oh! And morally..we had to be careful and at least try to look as if we are not a bunch of opportunistic oil grabbers.

In terms of presentation, obvious concerns are pictures of dead Iraqis. This often happens. When bombs are dropped on cities, people have a habit of becoming part of the initiative. You see, they don’t leave despite being warned. (Actually jumping subjects, the inability of the New Orleans people to leave was similar. What is it about poor people with no cars? Are they dim?)

The embedded journalist was part of the answer for the US. Whizzing some gushing Fox reporter for action footage, meant that they could keep the unsmiling faces of dead Iraqis off the front pages and TVs. Except when Saddam’s sons were killed. Then get the make up out, fix them up quickly before they go off, a few snaps taken, a few more playing cards crossed off and a few more sections of the Geneva Convention broken.

Regarding numbers of casualties, a proper count has to be done years later, after our best weapon, disease, has been deployed, but these guys are specialists and should have had a reasonable idea. The trick is to have a believable, but low estimate. Recently Bush said 30 thousand. Well, OK, let’s agree. We have killed 30 thousand Iraqis, not the 100 recommended by the communistic British Medical Association.

30 thousand. This is obviously a very careful calculation. This is not just a guess but will have gone though spin and focus groups and been run past advisors, medical and military planners, morticians in Baghdad and statisticians. Knowledge is power. They will know roughly how many people really died. They will have planned for it. I think we should not quibble about whether it is 100 or 30 thousand dead. Instead I think we should focus differently. They will have fifty reasons why the total is not 100 thousand. So don’t walk on that side of the road. Agree that Bush and Blair have only killed thirty thousand Iraqis!

The question being “Is this more or less than the number they had planned to kill?”
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'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.
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