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6 Oct, 2002

Double Standards of Death: How Many More Innocents Will Perish in Iraq, The Sequel?

Originally Published: 6 Oct 2002

Sifting through the mass of material available on the internet about the coming conflict in Iraq, distinctly noticeable is the nearly complete absence of any soul-searching about how many people will die. Innocent people, that is.

Yes, we all know that it’s about control of global oil supplies, the upcoming November congressional elections, getting rid of evil, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc. Whatever the real reason, conflicts kill people, which is what will happen big time when the precision laser-guided bombs begin raining down.

Mass destruction in and of Iraq is seen to be necessary in order to bring down a dictator who allegedly controls weapons of mass destruction. In the Gulf war of 1991, according to UK media reports, about 100,000 people died in Iraq (1). No one knows how many were seriously hurt or handicapped for life.

So how many will perish in Iraq the Sequel? How many babies and children? How many injured? What medical facilities will be available to those horribly disfigured or mutilated? Who will take care of the orphans and the elderly?

Or does none of that matter?

Like in Afghanistan, when the mass destruction begins, the spin doctors will be ready with their weapons of mass distraction. The standard lines will be read-off by rote: Everything is being done to minimise civilian casualties, but in the unlikely event that some bombs go off course and strike unintended targets, investigations will be duly launched and the necessary mutterings of regret and apologies issued.

That’s where it will end. Unlike the thousands who died in the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, there will be no soul-searching, no candle-light vigils, no worldwide religious ceremonies, no sorrow, no remorse, not a tinge of pity or sympathy. The dead will be dismissed as ‘collateral damage’ and the rest left to fend for themselves.

Like in Afghanistan, the weapons of mass distraction (a phrase originally seen in a brilliant headline in the UK Observer last week) will ignore the casualties and focus on spin doctoring it as a great war of liberation for which the whole world should be truly grateful.

As for whether it will have been worth it, hark back to the famous interview on May 12, 1996 between Lesley Stahl of the investigative TV news-programme 60 Minutes and former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright on the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

“Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

“Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

Did anyone ever see any outrage over that remark? None, whatsoever.

Such are the double standards of death.

This is a world that bemoans the thousands who die daily as a result of poverty, AIDS and other diseases, floods, famine, environmental disasters. It even frets about the growing extinction of insects, birds, animals and plants. But human beings, real live flesh and blood human beings, that’s a different matter.

Just a few weeks ago, a global environmental summit was held in Johannesburg after which another string of stirring resolutions were trotted out about saving the planet. This was a meeting of the United Nations, the same institution where negotiations are under way to find language that will sanction the killings to come.

So, while one arm of the UN claims to have great regard and respect for human life and a desire to alleviate the woes of the world, another arm is willing to let loose yet another conflict that will do nothing for either, except perhaps reverse them.

The reality is that the materially corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders of today’s world do not care. Their souls are available for sale to the highest bidder. Behind their Saville Row suits and slick spin-doctoring, they know one thing for sure: It’s all about business.

Wars are good for economies of the industrialised countries — they generate huge amounts of jobs and income. Once manufactured, weapons need to be tested and sold. The cycle of peace and war needs to be constantly pedalled in order to keep economic generators burning.

Here is a quote from a letter to the Financial Times published last week. It was from Daniel J. Aronoff, President and Chief Executive, The Landon Companies, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304, US:

“The onset of every major war in the 20th century in which the US participated, from the outbreak of the first world war in 1914 to the Gulf war in 1991, was soon followed by a marked economic expansion. Since the domestic economy was often in recession at war’s beginning, and since the onset of war coincided with significant increases in government expenditure to finance the war, economic theory – both Keynesian and monetarist – predicts an increase in gross domestic product resulting from the stimulus. If the economy is in recession and resources are initially under-utilised, the stimulus should increase employment and output (and corporate profits).”

Once, power-hungry leaders waged war to satisfy a lust for power and glory. Today, they do it because it’s good for business. The only thing they still have in common is that both are still in pursuit of empires.

Callous discussions are already under way about sharing the contracts for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. Saudi Arabia reportedly paid US$ 80 billion for Iraq (I) and is unlikely to pay for Iraq (II), meaning that Iraq’s oil-money will be used to rebuild the country, with the money flowing to the hundreds of consultants and contractors who will flood the country.

The invaders will get their money back. But who will pay to rebuild the lives of the victims’ families?

Such are the double standards of death. When innocent civilians of New York or Israel are killed, that’s terrorism. When innocent civilians of Afghanistan, Palestine or Iraq are killed, that’s “war on terrorism.”

The former is evil, the latter is just. But thousands of people out there believe that the reverse is true, and like the formidable Ms Albright, they too feel that the price being paid is worth it. And the conflict will rage on.

Certainly worth a bit of soul-searching about where a unipolar world is heading, whether that direction is the right one and how, not if, it should be changed.