Old Pol

Project Censored’s top censored story of 2009 was the death toll in Iraq, said to be close to 1.2 million dead in the wake of the 2003 invasion. It was a poll done by Opinion Research Business, a British polling group whose results are generally thought to be reliable when they do not contradict official truth. The true number of dead in Iraq will never be known, just as we now only speculate about the casualties of the Vietnam War. It’s considered bad taste – we do not investigate our own crimes. Only those of others.

I’ve been round and round with that at a number of sites over the years, and am familiar with the mindset/reaction that follows. The only research-based studies put forward are by groups like Lancet and ORB, and there are no counter-studies. Instead, there is hostile denial, and accusations that I wear a shiny hat. So all of the research is on one side, and only denial on the other. It is a classic emperor’s new clothes environment.

I’ve long accepted that the death toll is much, much higher than anyone acknowledges. (And note the ease with which hand-over-heart patriots accept lower tolls like only 65,000 or 100,000 – as if that was acceptable!).

But the mechanics are troubling – American bombs are not nearly as accurate as the Pentagon says, and targeting is not only at “combatants,” as in counterinsurgency, the domestic population is the enemy. So death from the sky accounts for quite a bit of carnage. But even Lancet said that such deaths were a minority of the casualties.

Surprise raids on Iraqi households

Others merely presume to know that crazy Iraqis are killing each other (we are neither crazy nor killers, you see), but Lancet attributed 56% of the casualties to American violence. How is it happening?

[ORB] points out that the logic to this carnage lies in a statistic released by the US military and reported by the Brookings Institute: for the first four years of the occupation the American military sent over 1,000 patrols each day into hostile neighborhoods, looking to capture or kill “insurgents” and “terrorists.” (Since February 2007, the number has increased to nearly 5,000 patrols a day, if we include the Iraqi troops participating in the American surge.) Each patrol invades an average of thirty Iraqi homes a day, with the mission to interrogate, arrest, or kill suspects. In this context, any fighting age man is not just a suspect, but a potentially lethal adversary. Our soldiers are told not to take any chances.

According to US military statistics, again reported by the Brookings Institute, these patrols currently result in just under 3,000 firefights every month, or just under an average of one hundred per day (not counting the additional twenty-five or so involving our Iraqi allies). Thousands of patrols result in thousands of innocent Iraqi deaths and unconscionably brutal detentions.

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

The house-to-house aspect of the war is hardly mentioned here in the land of the free, but My Lai-style face-to-face killing is the essence of counterinsurgency. Rebels have to be rooted out of their communities, exposed, imprisoned and made examples, tortured and killed. It is a truly remarkable feat of propaganda that we know so little of the violence that we have inflicted on that country. From 1991 forward, from the initial bombing and destruction of civilian infrastructure to the sanctions and bombings of the 1990s’ to the 2003 invasion, the toll is staggering. Iraq ranks somewhere between Rwanda and Pol Pot in casualties, and who knows – we may top old Pol before we are done. The country is not yet pacified.

And then there is the exodus:

Iraqis’ attempts to escape the violence have resulted in a refugee crisis of mammoth proportion. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration, in 2007 almost 5 million Iraqis had been displaced by violence in their country, the vast majority of which had fled since 2003. Over 2.4 million vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq, up to 1.5 million were living in Syria, and over 1 million refugees were inhabiting Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Gulf States. Iraq’s refugees, increasing by an average of almost 100,000 every month, have no legal work options in most host states and provinces and are increasingly desperate.

Yet more Iraqis continue to flee their homes than the numbers returning, despite official claims to the contrary. Thousands fleeing say security is as bad as ever, and that to return would be to accept death. Most of those who return are subsequently displaced again.

The underlying tragedy is that those who flee are those who can afford to flee. Iraq’s educated classes are leaving, the professionals, the doctors, civil engineers and other professionals who had turned Iraq into a burgeoning and wealthy country by 1989. If the object of the U.S. attack, 1990 forward, was to return the country to the stone age, then indeed George W. Bush was right: Mission Accomplished.

About Mark Tokarski

Just a man who likes to read, argue, and occasionally be surprised.
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43 Responses to Old Pol

  1. rightsaidfred says:

    The Great Khan concurred that the best thing in life is to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.” (scholarly link)

    What we are getting from you are the lamentations of a woman.

    When in history has any culture fretted about the deaths of others? Did Alexander bemoan the casualties at Tyre? Did Rome mourn the civilian deaths at Carthage? Do the Turks wring their hands over lost Armenians? Does Mark Tokarski say anything about the murders and traffic fatalities perpetrated by illegal aliens colonizing America? Does Mark Tokarski scold Black Americans about their 50x propensity to commit violent crime? No, Mark Tokarski cheers them on, as it hastens the end of a culture he hates.


  2. ladybug says:

    It will be interesting to see how history accounts for America’s demise. Will it be the overextended foreign campaigns and occupations? Or will Wall Street finally get its due? Perhaps the combination of government and consumer borrowing and subsequent hyperinflation.

    Then again, if rightwhitefred is correct, it’s blacks and mexicans causing this superpower its final blackout. Be afraid, very afraid.


    • I’ve done a lot of prejudging in my time, so I am no one to talk. But this attitude that we are somehow diminsihed by different cultures drives me buggy. Regarding blacks and crime, what is there for you if you are offered schooling and know that on the other side awaits gardening, housekeeping and fast food jobs? So the inner city neighborhoods have their own economy, often based on drugs, and the power structure is set up so that the drugs are illegal and incarceration likely.

      I do wish, RSF, that you’d at least try once in a while to walk tat mile.


      • rightsaidfred says:

        I’m arguing for a little cultural robustness here, including on the part of Iraq, who raised up leaders and social institutions that jumped out in front of a moving truck. I expect now you’ll get mad and call me for “blaming the victim” while once again going on in great detail that everything is America’s fault.

        Regarding Blacks and crime, there is just about zero relationship between poverty and crime, especially violent crime referenced here, but thanks for scrolling the cliche.

        But this attitude that we are somehow diminsihed by different cultures drives me buggy.

        It depends on what you want. If you want to subsidize low achieving Indio peasants who have lots of kids, then you like our current policies. If you want Tokarski grandchildren to have a culture with physics research, a space program, and bookstores, then maybe you should use your influence to enhance those things.


        • You are indeed blaming the victim. The attack was naked aggression. There were no WMD’s, and this was known. The neighborhood raids are indicative of a cleansing operation, suggesting to me that if casualities have gone down in the last couple of years, it is due to the fact that we’ve killed most of the kids who were fighting back. We’re out of targets!

          It’s insane butchery, and I have no words beyond that. Your reference above to history, as if I have no stomach for reality, lies in stark opposition to the usual claims that the body counts are lies and our intentions good. Neither is true. Body counts are real, intentions were evil from 1991 forward.

          If ORB is close to reality, and if you add the 500,000 kids that died of starvation and disease in the 1990’s, we are right at 1.7 million, and have equaled Pol Pot. Factor that into your realisitic assessment of history.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            You are indeed blaming the victim

            If the shoe fits…

            You like to froth at the mouth with your imaginings that we are busy, sweating, and working overtime at killing as many Iraqi’s as we can, pressing every resource to the task. Meanwhile we are pumping vast sums of money into rebuilding the place and refurbishing power plants. I guess it is just to raise more Iraqis so we can kill them.


          • You don’t see that you’re right and that it doesn’t matter? That’s kind of obtuse.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            The point is that you go out of your way to make America look bad using metrics you don’t apply anywhere else.


          • I don’t “make America look bad.” I merely ask that Americans look in the mirror. You seem incapable of doing so. Muslims, for example, have not even scratched the surface of the violence and bloodshed that we have inflicted on the planet. Yet listen to the talk … they are evil, they conspire in little groups to inflict harm on us … they want to blow us up … all of this as we butcher them in droves.

            All is projection. That’s all. I’ve read history, and I don’t need to be reminded of evil and horrors that we inflict on one another. The history of Europe is of bloody warfare, internecine and religious wars and inquisitions … it’s very ugly.

            From you I get two responses: First, you deny. Must be a lie. Then you do strategic retreat, saying yeah, maybe so, but dammit, you’re not being fair. Others do it too!

            I think that’s the end of the argument.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            I feel like I’m back on the playground. Ya wanna go swing?

            I never conceded to your body count. I think you are off at least by a factor of 10 with your Enron accounting, and I think you vastly overstate the number done in by American action. Even if your numbers are right, leadership does not entail supplication and mewling.

            Do you know anybody in the military? Do you talk to them about their experiences in Iraq? Do the military people you know reflect what you describe?

            For all your blather about being emotive and empathetic, this just seems like another example where you don’t form any bond with the larger culture around you: businessmen are cheaters; politicians are craven; religion exists only to annoy you; insurance companies should be soylent green; and now our military is einsatzgruppen.


          • The soldiers involved do talk. This is what turned so many against vietnam – returning soldiers and their tales. Chris hedges did some random interviews with returning vets. Almost all were involved in h2h stuff. Very gruesome.

            Most people don’t normally behave like that and suffer personal trauma as a result. We call it PTSD these days.

            Your “factor of ten is comical. Why not 20? 30? As long as you are ass-pulling, pick any number you like that makes you feel better.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            pick any number

            I’ve been involved in these kind of counting schemes.

            Just reading your cites make me not believe them. The usual bias.

            Just working back through the numbers with our troop levels–actual boots with a finger on the trigger–would require our troops to be hyperactive video soldiers to get all that killing done.


          • It’s part of propaganda to believe evil of the enemy and automatically doubt anything evil about ‘our’ side.

            America is always good and always does the right thing. Even when America is wrong, it was trying to do the right thing.

            America’s enemies are always evil and always do the wrong thing. Even when they do the right thing, it is for the wrong reasons.

            I read your book, Fred. I could have written the blurb.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            I’m glad you are so dialed in and know how the world works. It allows you to be happy and have a nice life.

            Your book is that America is evil everywhere, all the time. Non-Americans are always good, all the time. Cut and paste.

            Despite this being your view of the American military, we are orders of magnitude benign relative to our capability, and the historic use of force with demographic displacement common to military powers.


          • Don’t stop believin’


          • rightsaidfred says:

            It’s part of propaganda to believe evil of the enemy and automatically doubt anything evil about ‘our’ side.

            It is not necessarily propaganda. It maybe, you know, true. And, insofar as life is a competition, a successful group dynamic requires some kind of belief that your group is best. See sports for an example.


          • We don’t really know if things are true or false until we investigate, right? And there is not much about American mythology that withstands sunlight, which is why propaganda techniques are so important in our culture.

            We are all entitled to believe as we will about ourselves. Every country is built on mythology. I’ve got no problem about that – it is only when we turn the mythology into bloodshed, as we are currently doing with Muslim-based cultures, that I object. We could very easily just leave them alone, and not suffer for it.

            ANd that’s all I have done here, by the way – expose some lies.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            Your use of the term “propaganda” covers too much.


          • If you would read about the art/science/history of propaganda, we would be able to talk about it. As it is, I use the word, and you think it means things that I do not intend.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            Drop me the name of that book, the one by the weird Frenchman.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            Never mind.

            Propaganda, by Jacques Ellul. This book slowly helped me understand that societies are not random collections of individuals with unique thoughts, but groups whose thoughts are managed by people who have studied the art of propaganda for many many decades. This sounds like a form of bullshit, but I’m going to hunt the book down and see what gives. Not all countries engage in this nefarious activity, but ours does. In spades. What makes us so special here? This is the book that has turned me into the hated soul that I am today Sounds like a kind of brag as I don’t think that the original thinkers around us on the blogs have any original thoughts. Kind of a cheap shot That sort of thing gets me banned. More brag.


          • Might be hope for you yet, if you actually read the book. Don’t care if you like it or not. You might also try “Propaganda” by Bernays, and of course Lippmann and Niebuhr, two “liberals” who pretty much agreed that people cannot govern themselves.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            One book at a time.

            Ellul is on its way, thanks to the scary cool one click shopping from Amazon. Remarkably ravish reviews.


  3. Ingemar Johansson says:

    Just think, if only Saddam had let the inspectors in there wouldn’t have been any bloodshed.


    • Amazing – you still buy the lies!~


      • Ingemar Johansson says:

        And yet, thousands of gassed Kurds still cannot be reached for comment.


        • Dammit Swede – the problem with you is that you think in snippets. There no substance to you.

          Take the gassing of Kurds at Halabja … did you know about that when it happened (1988)? Where did the poison gas come from? Who provided the coordinates needed to deliver it via missile?

          That attack was kept quiet. You didn’t know about it when it happened because it was suppressed in the news. Saddam at that time was a loyal ally, and we were supplying and supporting him. Later, as it became apparent that he was losing the war with Iran, the U.S. military would step in and take control of the Gulf, and shoot down an airliner as a warning to Iran to stand down. That’s how much support we provided him.

          That was the context of Halabja. Along comes you saying yeah, Kurds can’t talk because he gassed them. You have one little snippet of information – one little snippet!

          Your snippet, when put in context, means something entirely different than you think.


          • rightsaidfred says:

            What you just gave us here was not context, it was just more of your specious connections in service to your narrative.


  4. ladybug says:


    The war began during Bush I. It continued under Clinton, and flamed out with W. Sadaam was only the dictator, our dictator, but we did the dictating, until he “tried to kill (W’s) my daddy.” I believe that was the trigger, not suspension of WMDs inspections. You gotta’ get this, it’s right up your alley. Please say you get this.


  5. Reinhard says:

    Kill them all and let Allah sort them out.


  6. Ingemar Johansson says:

    Mark please be patient.

    Your side will evidently even the score.


  7. Ingemar Johansson says:

    You said: “The only research-based studies put forward are by groups like Lancet and ORB, and there are no counter-studies. Instead, there is hostile denial, and accusations that I wear a shiny hat. So all of the research is on one side, and only denial on the other. It is a classic emperor’s new clothes environment.”

    Not so fast.



    • Your usual rigor, I see. This “study” merely analyzed the Iraq Body Count results. IBC only counts deaths that are published in newspapers. It’s a loose method. Hopkins (Lancet) dismissed it, saying that the method only accounts for maybe a fifth of actual casualties.

      Prior to Hopkins IBC was the only work done and the Pentagon and American media studiously ignored it. When Hopkins came out, IBC suddenly became credible.

      Back to your Natelsonian-like “research” on this matter, Swede. This won’t do.


  8. Ingemar Johansson says:

    Are Iraqis stupid? You must certainly think so.

    If some invading force waltzes in and indiscriminately kill 1.2 million including women and children then where’s the protest?

    Where are the thousands if not millions fleeing for the borders?

    Why are they participating in free elections sponsored in part by the great satin?

    Why aren’t they demanding us to leave?

    Why are they coming up and hugging these murderers in the streets?


    • Iraqis are not stupid.

      There have been protests and resistance (which we call “terrorism”), going on eight years now.

      Millions have fled, 2.5 million by last count. You obviously cannot read.

      They know that the elections are not free. They are US puppet shows.

      Polling since 2003 has shown that the vast majority of them, maybe 80-90%, want us to leave.

      You’ve been shown a picture or two. Your mind is driven by images, and you don’t read or cognate. They showed you a picture of a kid hugging a solider, and that’s all it took.

      Good grief, Swede. You’re hopeless.


      • Ingemar Johansson says:

        Sure Mark, they want us out. Via The Hill.

        “Iraqi officials likely will request thousands of U.S. troops remain in that country into next year to provide security and train indigenous forces, a senior lawmaker said Thursday.

        House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said he expects most House Democrats to be “amenable” to such an arrangement, which would require a revised U.S.-Iraqi security pact.

        “I think they will make the ask,” Smith told reporters during a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Center for Media and Security. He called such a request “highly likely.”


  9. Ed Kemmick says:

    Swede: The “great satin”? Are you sure it’s not the “very good silk”?


  10. Ingemar Johansson says:

    Another one Mark.

    “(Reuters) – Iraq’s capital wants the United States to apologize and pay $1 billion for the damage done to the city not by bombs but by blast walls and Humvees since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

    The city’s government issued its demands in a statement on Wednesday that said Baghdad’s infrastructure and aesthetics have been seriously damaged by the American military.”

    No apology for all the murders-no compensation?


    • You’re hard to follow. I think of the people in power in Iraq as “Vichy Iraq”, but they have stood up to the US now and again, as in insisting on elections when the US did not want them.

      But they can demand all they want! They propose Satan disposes.

      Got anything more than a snippet long for me?


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