The Forgotten Dead

First do a Yahoo Search for “Tsunami toll.” The BBC, CNN, ABC, the NY Times, and the Washington Post all turn up on the first page of results, tracking the ever-rising number of dead. The AP even helpfully offers a breakdown by nationality.

Now do one for “Iraq civilian toll.” Notice a difference? The only major news organization that seems to care about the cost of human life to Iraqis in the ongoing Iraq conflict is al-Jazeera. estimates the number of civilian casualties in Iraq since the start of the war to be around 16,000, although a study released in October placed the number much higher. The truth may very well lie somewhere in the middle, but it’s curious that no major news organization has applied their evident interest in tracking the number of dead from natural disasters to pursue an accurate assessment of the same in Iraq. No doubt, it is more difficult information to ascertain, due in part to our military’s refusal to release such numbers and our administration’s unwillingness to publicly address the issue, but surely that should make it all the more worthy of the media’s attention.

We are (rightfully) pouring out dollars and goodwill to those suffering from this natural disaster, and yet we are unwilling to even acknowledge those suffering from a disaster we perpetuated upon them. Where are the links to generously donate to the Iraqi people? Images of the tsunamis wreaking havoc upon the beaches of faraway places are running like a ghoulish loop on CNN and the other cable news channels, and yet we are forbidden even to see pictures of the coffins containing our own soldiers who died in Iraq, no less the brutal images of the war itself. We tut-tut about how many deaths could have been avoided with proper warnings about the deadly waves, but ignore that Iraq was a war of choice, with all the deaths incurred so far completely preventable—including the lives of the 1,500 soldiers who have died.

By the time the war is done, the civilian toll will be as high or higher than that caused by the tsunamis. I wonder, will we ever care as much about the death we cause as that for which we feel no guilt or blame?

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