|Southwest Asia News Digest
New Study Puts Iraqi Deaths at Over 600,000
A report published in the latest edition of the British medical journal Lancet estimates that more than 600,000 Iraqis have died since the onset of the U.S.-led war there. Columnist Paul Craig Roberts, writing for antiwar.com Oct. 12, summed up the significance of this figure: "Bush's illegal invasion raised Iraq's mortality rate from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people per year to 13.3 deaths per 1,000 people per year." The report estimates, according to Roberts, that "Violence accounted for 601,000 deaths, and disease and destruction of civilian infrastructure accounted for 54,000 deaths. The violent deaths are attributed to gunshot wounds, coalition air strikes, and car bombs."
The study was conducted by doctors on the ground in Iraq, who conducted door-to-door surveys in 47 randomly selected areas of Iraqencompassing 1,849 households and 12,801 peopleto calculate the change in death rates over the years since the U.S. invasion. Roberts reports that, "In 87 percent of the deaths, the researchers requested death certificates, and more than 90 percent of the surveyed households produced the death certificates." Researchers extrapolated their results to the entire country, with a population of about 26 million.
One of the report's authors, Les Roberts, now at Columbia University, defended the extrapolation method: "Almost every statistic you've ever heard about health in America comes from a sample. It may not be extremely precise, but at least it gets us in the right ballpark."
The architects of the war, including President Bush, branded the study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health in conjunction with an Iraqi university, not credible. Iraq commander Gen. George Casey said, "I have not seen a number higher than 50,000, and so I don't give it that much credibility at all."
In contrast, professionals in the field of public polling and public health have given the research methods broad support. These include:
* Pollster John Zogby told CNN, "The methodology, from what I've seen of the survey, is quite good, following all the rules of random sampling to a degree that it's possible in a country like Iraq, and cluster sampling, zeroing in on sampling points that are representative." Zogby noted that the difference with earlier studies which reported much lower figures, is that the Hopkins study included "clusters of areas that are not within the daily purview of where the media are and where many public officials are who report those body counts.... [T]he media [is] clustered in about five or six cities, and that's where much of the body count comes from. There is so much more to Iraq than just five or six cities. I don't think that there's anybody in my business who responsibly believes that [only] 30,000 to 40,000 or 45,000 Iraqis have been killed since March of 2003."
* Paul Bolton, a Boston University School of Public Health researcher who has conducted surveys throughout the world, said the methodology appears sound. "The president mainly relies on figures that come from passive surveillance, where you have institutions like hospitals that collect data as bodies are brought to them," Bolton told the Boston Globe Oct. 12. "When the President says these studies are different, they are different. But the passive method is the flawed one."
* Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, who is a visiting scholar at MIT's Center for International Studies, said the science is sound and the conclusions deserve prompt, serious attention.
Carter: Lift Siege on Hamas; Begin Real Peace Process
Former President Jimmy Carter issued a strong statement Oct. 7 calling for restarting a serious peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The attempt to coerce Hamas leaders by starving the Palestinian people has failed, and it is time for the international community to alleviate their suffering and resort to diplomacy," the former President urged.
"Since elected Hamas members assumed a major role in the Palestinian National Authority, Israel and the United States (with uncomfortable acquiescence from the European Union) have deprived the people of humanitarian aid and have even withheld taxes and customs that belong to the Palestinian government," creating a situation where the PNA "has not been able to pay its debts, or to compensate police, teachers, nurses, or other public servants."
Carter writes that, "inevitably, violence has broken out in Gaza among protesting citizens whose families are suffering" because of Israel's stranglehold over the region. "It is doubtful that the Palestinian leaders will seek a reconciliation with Israel as long as the Palestinians are subjected to this kind of debasement and personal suffering," Carter said.
In conclusion, the former President called for lifting the siege, adding, "A strong peace effort has been absent for the past five years. It is long overdue."
Arab Group Rejects Anti-Hamas Bush Money
The Bush Administration is spending $42 million to build up an opposition to the Hamas in the Palestinian National Authority, Project Democracy's National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute taking the lead, Reuters reported Oct. 14. As usual, this money is going to private "contractors" who are supposedly advising organizations such as Fatah in preparation for new elections which the Bush Administration has been pressuring Palestinian President Abu Mazen to call. Because the money comes with the provision that the organizations work against the democratically elected Hamas, many organizations have refused to accept it.
One such organization, the Arab Thought Forum, refused the offer: "We couldn't be in a position not to recognize a government elected by the people," said director general Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh. "So we are not receiving any U.S. money."
Left unsaid, is the widespread view, that if the Bush Administration wants to undermine Hamas, it should end the occupation by Israel and stop the massive suffering in the Palestinian territories.
Assad Expects Israeli Attack on Syria
On Oct. 7, President Bashar Assad said that the Syrian military is preparing for war with Israel, because they expect that Syria will be attacked, Ha'aretz reported Oct. 7. Syrian Information Minister Muhsen Bilal made similar comments to Al Jazeera, saying, "Syria is taking into account the possibility that Israel will embark on a military adventure against Syria," because of the July-August failure in Lebanon. "We are preparing for every possibility," he added.
In discussions with a well-informed Israel-connected source, EIR was told that many Israelis believe that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may attempt another attack on Lebanon in order to try to survive politicallyproviding the IDF could do better than last time. The adventure could well spill over to include an attack on Syria.
Bilal told al-Jazeera TV that Syria wants peace, but that peace must be based on UN resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and the recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
James Baker: U.S. Must Talk to 'Enemies'
Former Secretary of State (Bush, Sr.) James A. Baker III co-chair of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), told ABC's "This Week" that the U.S. must talk to nations it considers "enemies," and that he has already met with representatives of Syria and Iran. Baker said that the ISG's report will not be ready before the November election, and perhaps not until next year. Baker agreed with Sen. John Warner's (R-Va) statement that if the Iraq government cannot stop the violence and disarm the militias in the next two-three months, the U.S. must change course, and that the ISG is "taking a look at other alternatives." An immediate pullout, he said, would bring Turkey, Iran, Syria, and others into the crisis.
World Leaders Call for Mideast Peace Conference
More than 130 retired world leaders have called for an international conference on Mideast peace. "We believe the time has come for a new international conference, held as soon as possible and attended by all relevant players, at which all the elements of a comprehensive peace agreement would be mapped, and momentum generated for detailed negotiations," say the signatories to a statement now circulating. The premise of the conference would include a Palestinian Authority unity government that includes Hamas representation, an end to the PA's isolation, and the inclusion of Syria and Lebanon in the talks, JTA reports.
Prominent American signatories include former President Jimmy Carter, Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), and Stephen Solarz, former Democratic Congressman from New York.