God's Politics

Jim WallisA group of American and Iraqi medical researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a new study on civilian casualties in Iraq Wednesday morning. Their conclusion? 600,000 more civilians have died as a result of violence since the U.S. invasion than would have died if there had been no invasion, an estimate based on interviews with nearly 2,000 families in 47 neighborhoods across the country. The survey shows the range could be from 425,000 to 800,000, but they believe 600,000 is the best estimate. The causes of death include gunshots, car bombs and other explosives, and air strikes. U.S. and other coalition forces were responsible, the study says, for 31% of the deaths – 200,000 people. And the violence of the insurgency and civil war sparked by the invasion caused the rest. The study, “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” was published in a British medical journal, The Lancet.

IraqAccording to The New York Times, “The study uses a method similar to that employed in estimates of casualty figures in other conflict areas like Darfur and Congo,” and noted that “Statistics experts in the United States who were able to review the study said the methods used by the interviewers looked legitimate.” The Washington Post quoted an official of Human Rights Watch, who said “We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy…”

After a speech last December, when answering a question about how many Iraqis had been killed, President Bush replied, “I would say 30,000, more or less.” This study shows that it may well be 20 times that number. The latest Pentagon numbers show 2,749 American troops have died, and more than 20,000 are wounded and maimed. This unnecessary war is a tragedy for American and Iraqi families and a moral outrage before God.

From now on, any political debate on Iraq must start here and be disciplined by these facts. Not by politics, not by arguments, not by visions of democracy in the Middle East, but by the deaths caused to so many of God’s children. Any politician speaking about the war should be asked how they intend to stop the violence and blood-letting that has overwhelmed that country. As Bob Dylan famously asked a long time ago – “how many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?” That question must be in the mind of every single voter this fall and those not speaking about the war must now be forced to. Every candidate running for the U.S. Senate or Congress should be asked how they feel about the loss of all these lives and how they intend to stop it.

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