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October 28, 2005
JINSA Report #527
The Body Count
The "body count" is a very bad way to assess progress in a war; neither
the count of enemy dead nor of our own soldiers lost provides an
adequate understanding of the stakes involved. But if we are to count
the dead, let us not forget to count the 200,000. That is not a typo.
Forensic experts have uncovered mass graves in Iraq with 200,000 bodies
– so far – and believe as many as 200,000 more remain un-exhumed. There
are men, women and a startling number of children. There are graves with
five, fifteen and hundreds. Some were killed as long ago as the early
1990s, some as late as 2003. Their graves span the far southern reaches
and the northern edges of Iraq. They were tortured or shot or buried
alive. There are Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis, according to family members
who line up to identify remains and give their loved ones a proper burial.
Little has been made of this in the American press. Journalists expected
to find caches of WMD, not caches of human remains. But those remains
lead us to the larger questions – to what end is the American sacrifice
of 2,000 brave young men and women thus far?
JINSA is clear that Saddam's depredations throughout the 1980s and 1990s
made his removal necessary. In the post-9-11 environment, we agreed with
the President and Congress that waiting longer for Iraq to comply with
UN demands for accountability on WMD would be counterproductive. We also
knew that UN sanctions were falling heavily on those Iraqis least able
to tolerate them, while failing to curtail Saddam's funding for weapons,
palaces and suicide bombers. The UN reported that its own sanctions were
causing 5,000 "excess deaths" of children each month in Iraq [the number
over the average before the sanctions]. But even we are stunned by the
number of people Saddam had killed in ones, twos and tens.
In the narrow sense, the U.S.-led coalition is fighting to provide
political space for Iraqis to establish a government by the consent of
the governed. If they are successful, mass murder by its own government
will be Iraq's past, not its future. This makes the decision of the
Sunni militias to participate in the upcoming Parliamentary election a
victory to be celebrated in its own right. In the broader sense, through
Iraq and Afghanistan to Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Egypt,
Jordan, the PA, Pakistan, Syria and Iran, citizens are coming to believe
that their future lies in political choice – and dictators are coming to
fear the same thing.
If the experiment fails, the dictators will take heart and the citizens
will be crushed. Those who fight to make it fail are a coalition of
secular and religious totalitarians whose goals begin with civil war in
Iraq and extend to building a base for the export of violent Islamic
radicalism across the Middle East, into Europe and across the oceans.
We mourn the 2,000 and mourn the 200,000. But we believe American
soldiers, as they were in World War II, are liberators while they fight
totalitarian oppression that would surely come to our shores without
their defense of our freedom and security.
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