Saturday, February 24, 2007

How many Iraqis have perished

since “Mission Accomplished”?

[Illustration is W.W. Wereschtschagin: Pyramid of skulls (Wege ohne Dorma, 3/1995, p. 52)]

A thousand? Ten thousand? A million? A trillion?

As the old joke goes --

Q: "What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?"

A: We don't know and we don’t care. (emphasis added)

Americans underestimate Iraqi death toll

By NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writer
Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed.

When the poll was conducted earlier this month, a little more than 3,100 U.S. troops had been killed. The midpoint estimate among those polled was right on target, at about 3,000.

Far from a vague statistic, the death toll is painfully real for many Americans. Seventeen percent in the poll know someone who has been killed or wounded in Iraq. And among adults under 35, those closest to the ages of those deployed, 27 percent know someone who has been killed or wounded.

The number of Iraqis killed, however, is much harder to pin down, and that uncertainty is perhaps reflected in Americans' tendency to lowball the Iraqi death toll by tens of thousands.

Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at more than 54,000 and could be much higher; some unofficial estimates range into the hundreds of thousands. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq reports more than 34,000 deaths in 2006 alone.

Among those polled for the AP survey, however, the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890. The median is the point at which half the estimates were higher and half lower.

Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University political scientist who tracks public opinion on war casualties, said a better understanding of the Iraqi death toll probably wouldn't change already negative public attitudes toward the war much.

"You have to look at who's doing the killing," said Neal Crawford, a restaurant manager in Suttons Bay, Mich., who guessed that about 10,000 Iraqis had been killed. "If these people are dying because a roadside bomb goes off or if there's an insurgent attack in a marketplace, it's an unfortunate circumstance of war — people die."

Gelpi said that while Americans may not view Iraqi deaths through the same prism as American losses, they may use the Iraqi death toll to gauge progress, or lack thereof, on the U.S. effort to promote a stable, secure democracy in Iraq.

To many, he said, "the fact that so many are being killed is an indication that we're not succeeding."

American culture is completely schizophrenic on three subjects, all interrelated: Sex, Faith and Stupidity.

Sex is a true, flat-out blessing. Period. And everyone damned well knows it. But while we soak our entire culture in it to the point of complete saturation, we also insist it is Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed!

Faith can be a blessing. It can almost miraculously nourish us and sustain us when we have nothing else. In utter darkness it can help lead us into an ascending path towards greater love, greater compassion and greater joy. And yet we use it as a sword to cut the legs out from under the Enlightenment. As a club to beat men down to the level of obedient beasts. And as a whip to form those beasts up into the ignorant armies that clash by night.

And then there is Stupidity. And to understand American culture you must first understand that it's not that some people don’t like to be stupid. Lots of people love being stupid, and lots of other people make millions of dollars every year telling them that it is perfectly OK to be stupid.

That it is a holy and noble and All-American thing to be stupid. That their God, in fact, requires it. That “elites” have ruined this country, and that only good, old-fashion, dumb as drywall morons can save us from their predations.

We generally refer to these people by the taxonomically correct term of “Republican”.

However while lots of people enjoy steeping in their own stupidity and bigotry, paradoxically, they are terribly frightened of appearing stupid.

So, for example, back in the Jesse Helms era of universal, Rightwing berserk condemnation of all things international, the general feeling on the Right was that we spend waaay too much on foreign aid.

Back then I used to have this kind of argument rather a lot; back before I finally learned that arguing with drywall about time-shares is more productive than arguing with a Republican about foreign policy. Or domestic policy. Or, really, anything.

They were and are absofuckinglutely convinced that something like a third or a quarter of our budget goes to ungrateful furriners. They’re willing to get into punch-ups over it.

What are the facts?

From Kevin Drum, in May of 2003:
...this Q&A from the Council on Foreign Relations:
Do Americans understand how much of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid?
No. A 2001 poll sponsored by the University of Maryland showed that most Americans think the United States spends about 24 percent of its annual budget on foreign aid—more than 24 times the actual figure.

Do Americans support increasing foreign aid?

Yes. According to [a University of Maryland poll], the typical American would like to spend $1 on foreign aid for every $3 spent on defense; the real ratio in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 is $1 on aid for every $19 spent on defense.

24%! The average American thinks we spend a quarter of the federal budget on foreign aid!

The ignorance of Americans about the real world never ceases to amaze me. Ask them what percent of the population is black and they guess it's about a third. Ask them how much they pay in income taxes, and they figure about 50%. Ask them how big the foreign aid budget is and they're off by a factor of 24.

Is it any wonder our political decisions are so screwed up?

Anybody wanne bet that the people who had no fucking clue what we spend on foreign aid but are willing to come out swinging when the facts insult their ignorant opinions are the same people who think that maybe nine thousand Iraqis have died in George Bush’s war?

Ten thousand, tops.

Which is not to say that being a moron is not every man or woman's God given right.

One may choose to live one’s life in bewildered rage.

Choose to walk the Earth proud of being uncontaminated by contemplation, or doubt or mere realism.

Choose to die in fear and ignorance.

This is no kind of life for any sentient being, but it is certainly the right of any citizen live with his or her head up his or her ass. However what will no longer be tolerated is their loutish, pinheaded inferiority to go politely unmentioned and unmocked.

Because the hell on Earth in Iraq exists today because stupid people were allowed to unleash it.

Stupid people were allowed to kick over the Iraqi wasp’s nest and pound on it with a hammer.

Instead of being pelted with rotten produce and sold to a passing circus for beer money, stupid people in suits were actually listened to as if they were not stupid people.

And for the next generation we will all being paying a dear price for letting the Flowers for Algernon crowd (who will no doubt forget sometime in the next eleven minutes that it was their stupidity that got us into this mess in the first place) play at governance.

Which is why we can no longer allow you drag our country down into Stupidville with you any more.


¡El Gato Negro! said...

The difference being that een "Flowers for Algernon",
el hombre y el ratón pequeño were fairly smart for a leetle while, no?


tbob said...

Obviously, you can't eliminate all the dim-bulb Republimeciums, but I suggest the outright elimination/prohibition of any golf-related activity would do wonders in decreasing their spread.

cieran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cieran said...

and that only good, old-fashion, dumb as drywall morons can save us from their predations

I do believe that you owe the drywall community an apology for comparing the intelligence of laminar gypsum wallboard products to that of republicans.

Other than that, damned fine work, Sir DG!

driftglass said...

Drywallers, forgive me.

Also hogs, rodent wranglers, the illiterati, people who just happen to have shit on or in their heads through no fault of their own, etc.

Sorry, but the muse of metaphor is a demanding wench and sacrifices had to be made.

Deb said...

The willing embrace of stupidity has bothered me for a long time, but they keep swallowing the kool-aid and lining up for their next dose of Anna Nicole or Paris, or Britney.

The fact that most Americans can't do math, whether it pertains to counting Iraqi dead from the news reports to understanding that you can't pay less than the interest on your mortgage and still expect to pay off your house is frightening. I can't believe the lack of logic in this country.

alyssa said...

Deb: Or assert that 51% (even if won fairly) represents a landslide mandate.

Wastin' away again, down in Stupidville...

gay veteran said...

wonder if Germans in the 1920s were as stupid as our Fundies today? maybe stupid isn't the main problem, maybe the problem is their inherent authoritarianism

after all not all stupid people are authoritarians

lonnie said...

oooooooh well