Wednesday, October 11, 2006

War Is Hell

Let us assume that the new study from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University--the one that puts the number of Iraqis who have died violent deaths since the U.S. invasion at over 600,000--is way off. Let's assume the sampling techniques were flawed, that respondents lied to those who gathered the data, that in the absence of bodies there can be no meaningful estimates of the number of deaths in a chaotic place like Iraq. What are we left with if we assume that the number is significantly lower--say, one-tenth the Johns Hopkins researchers' estimate?

We are left with the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in what began as a war of choice, not of necessity. We are left with a fiasco that brings a flood of headlines like these drawn from a quick Lexis-Nexis search:

  • "110 Bodies Found in Baghdad in Two Days" (Oct. 10)
  • "Bomb Kills 14 in Iraqi City that Bush Had Lauded as Safe" (Oct. 8)
  • "4,000 Iraqi Police Killed in 2 Years, U.S. Official Says" (Oct. 7)
  • "Baghdad Blast Kills 35 Waiting for Fuel" (Sept. 24)
  • "Attacks in Iraq Leave 23 Dead as Talks Lag on Autonomy" (Sept. 19)
  • "Blasts in Kirkuk Kill 23; 36 Die Elsewhere in Iraq" (Sept. 18)
  • "Nearly 100 Killed in Baghdad Over 24 Brutal Hours; Scores of Corpses Dumped in Streets" (Sept. 14)

We are left, in short, with a reminder of why war must always be a last resort. Michael Walzer asks, and promptly answers, the key question in Just and Unjust Wars (p. 22):

Why is it wrong to begin a war? We know the answer all too well. People get killed, and often in large numbers. War is hell.