Layperson’s guide to counting Iraq deaths
Gideon Polya, “Layperson’s guide to counting Iraq deaths ”, MWC News, 6 April 2006.
Layperson’s guide to counting Iraq deaths
AVOIDABLE MORTALITY (technically, excess mortality) is the difference between the actual mortality in a country and the mortality expected for a peaceful, decently-run country with the same demographics (i.e. with the same birth rate and the same population age profile). Avoidable mortality is a fundamental parameter to be considered in any sensible discussion of human affairs – it is the bottom-line issue when assessing the success or otherwise of societal, regional and global policies.
This has been recognized by no less than US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who infamously commented “we think the price is worth it” when asked by Lesley Stahl about the estimated 0.5 million Iraqi infant deaths due to Sanctions (“60 Minutes”, 12 May 1996).
Lesley Stahl (on Sanctions against Iraq): “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it”.
Notwithstanding the notoriety of this comment, Mainstream Media have been very coy about reporting about avoidable deaths due to the Sanctions war against Iraq, the Afghan War or the Iraq War. Indeed their acute coyness now constitutes egregious lying by omission and, given the dimensions of the problem, must be described as holocaust denial.
Ignoring mass mortality simply ensures its continuance and denying past atrocities simply ensures their repetition – history ignored yields history repeated. Thus the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust (6 million deaths) was not formally acknowledged by the Allies until 30 months before the end of World War 2 in Europe. This tardiness in reportage must surely have contributed significantly to this atrocity.
However, TODAY Mainstream Media are comprehensively ignoring the horrendous magnitude of the avoidable post-invasion deaths in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan (presently totalling 2.3 million deaths) and the avoidable deaths in the First World-dominated non-European World (presently 14.8 million deaths each year).
Several years ago, as a humanist scientist interested in the fundamental problem of human mortality, I set out to determine “avoidable mortality” for every country in the world since 1950, using publicly-accessible data from the UN Population Division (see: here ).
The population, death rate, birth rate, under-5 infant mortality rate and other demographic statistics from the UN go back to 1950, a time when all the world potentially had access to the life-preserving basics such as universal literacy, a tolerable per capita income, antibiotics, anti-malarials, mosquito netting, soap, antiseptics, clean water, sanitation, some basic immunizations, basic health care and preventative medicine.
My approach was to graphically estimate base-line values of “expected mortality rates” for all countries of the world (a very complicated process). Having this information it was possible to determine “avoidable mortality rates” and thence “avoidable mortality” for every country in the world since 1950. The post-1950 avoidable mortality totalled 1.30 billion for the world, 1.25 billion for the non-European world and about 0.6 billion for the Muslim world.
These numbers were so horrendous that they demanded some sort of independent corroboration. I achieved this by independently calculating the “under-5 infant mortality” for every country in the world since 1950. This process, based on UN infant mortality data, involved no complicated “base-line” estimates – the calculations simply involved straightforward arithmetic.
The post-1950 “under-5 infant mortality” has totalled 0.88 billion for the world, 0.85 billion for the non-European world and about 0.4 billion for the Muslim world. Further, comparisons with First World countries (which all have very low infant mortality rates) revealed that for Third World countries about 90% of “under-5 infant mortality” has been “avoidable” (see: here ).
A very important number derived from this analysis is that for the non-European world “post-1950 under-5 infant mortality” has been numerically about 0.7 of the “post-1950 avoidable mortality”. This has the important operational consequence that if you know the “under-5 infant mortality” for a high mortality country, simply dividing by 0.7 will give you a rough idea of the “avoidable mortality” (remembering that the “highly technical” estimation of “avoidable mortality” described above is arduous and involves some complicated assumptions).
Over the last few years I have been performing thousands of calculations relating to avoidable mortality and writing a huge book on the subject. However I have also taken a lot of time trying to tell the world about this appalling continuing catastrophe – following the example of Continental Europeans who tried to tell an unresponsive world about the expanding Jewish Holocaust about 60-65 years ago.
In particular, over the last 2 years I have reported the steadily increasing post-invasion avoidable mortality and under-5 infant mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan that now total 2.3 million and 1.8 million, respectively. Alternative media (notably MWC News) have been ethical, responsive and eager to report this shocking intelligence to their liberal readerships. However Mainstream Media, while endlessly apprised, resolutely refuse to report this important information
This extraordinary lying by omission by Mainstream Media makes them accessories to egregious war crimes in the Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories – the Geneva Conventions make it quite clear that the occupiers are obliged to do everything in their power to preserve the health and lives of their conquered subjects (see: here).
However some of the fault must also lie with the Messenger, no matter his best intentions – he has failed to convince Mainstream Media, no matter that he has convinced many decent, humanitarian people around the world. Part of that failure lies in perceptions of the nature of “avoidable mortality” and “scholarly authority”. What is needed is a didactically-successful method of assessing war-related “avoidable deaths” that should be (a) simple, (b) publicly accessible, (c) non-controversial (i.e. clearly and simply deriving from an authoritative source) and (d) free of hard-to-understand assumptions or difficult to explain mathematical operations.
AN EASY, LAYPERSON-FRIENDLY WAY - the simplest, most immediately understandable, most publicly-accessible, publicly-confirmable and self-empowering way - is to be preferred and advanced to get this urgent humanitarian message across to an unresponsive world because EVERY DAY 1,300 under-5 year old infants die in Occupied Iraq & Afghanistan (1,200 avoidably) and 29,000 under-5 year old infants die in the non-European World (26,000 avoidably). This way IS available through the detailed, readily-accessed and regularly-updated reports of the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) as outlined below.
Under-5 infant mortality figures are presented in updated UNICEF reports for essentially every country in the world ( the latest 2006 reports ) - it is only a click away and for Iraq and Afghanistan tells us the following: in 2004 the under-5 infant mortality was 122,000 in Occupied Iraq, 359,000 in Occupied Afghanistan and 1,000 in the occupying country Australia (noting that in 2004 the populations of these countries were 28.1 million, 28.6 million and 19.9 million, respectively).
From this data, assuming that the figures have been roughly the same each year after invasion (they have actually got worse) we can readily estimate that the post-invasion under-5 infant mortality in Occupied Iraq over 3 YEARS has been 122,000 x 3 = 366,000 and that in Occupied Afghanistan over 4 YEARS has been 359,000 x 4 = 1,436,000 i.e. a total of 1,802,000 [as compared to my "highly technical" calculation of 1.8 million].
Assuming for "bad outcome" Third World countries that "under-5 infant mortality" is numerically about 0.7 of the "avoidable mortality", we can estimate that the post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan = 1,802,000/0.7 = 2.6 million [as compared to my "highly technical" calculation of 2.3 million]. Similarly, the post-invasion “avoidable mortality” can be estimated roughly to be 366,000/0.7 = 0.5 million (for Occupied Iraq) and 1,436,000/0.7 = 2.1 million for Occupied Afghanistan) [as compared to my “highly technical” estimates of 0.5 million and 1.8 million, respectively) (see MWC News )
As you can see, the "easy, layperson-friendly way" yields essentially the same results for post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan as my "careful, highly technical, precise method" based on UN Population Division data.
It must be noted that this "easy, layperson-friendly" approximate approach is only valid for "bad outcome non-European countries” - but then these are the countries we are interested in from an urgent, humanitarian perspective ("avoidable mortality" as conservatively measured by me is zero or essentially zero in other countries - even the unusually elevated "avoidable mortality" in Hungary - which is among the countries in the world with the lowest infant mortality - "only" accounts for 35,000 Hungarians each year) (see MWC News ).
In 1945 Germans presented with evidence of the Jewish Holocaust claimed that “We didn’t know” - lying by omission by Mainstream Media is giving Coalition citizens, and indeed everyone in the world, the same excuse in relation to horrendous post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. It is up to decent people to INFORM EVERYONE that (a) “under-5 infant mortality” in “bad outcome” Third World countries is numerically about 0.7 of the “avoidable mortality” and (b) that under-5 infant mortality data for Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and other Third World countries is regularly up-dated and reported by UNICEF – the awful truth is only a click away.
Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity – it IS possible to get through the Wall of Silence.