L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

02 July 2006 Blog Home : July 2006 : Permalink

Intolerance of Death

I'm sure the usual suspects will accuse me of being a "Chairborne Ranger" or "Chickenhawk" or whatever if they read this post.

Thanks to the Labour party's attempt to instill some sort of British feeling in us ungrateful English slobs, I am reminded that 90 years ago World War I was raging across French and Belgian Flanders and the rest of the world. This weekend is the 90th aniversary of that total fuckup known as the Battle of the Somme, which killed some 20,000 British and allied soldiers in the first day and something like 125,000 over the next few months. Last month was the aniversary of D-Day 1944 in which some 10,000 soliders wer killed in one day. 90 years ago in May the last major battleship battle was fought (Jutland) with deaths of some 6000 British and 2000 German sailors (despite the greater casualties, it is generally considered that the British won at Jutland because the German fleet never left port again). 91 years ago the Gallipoli campaign was in full swing (total casualties around half a million deaths over 9 months)

Yesterday our pals at AP reported the deaths in Iraq since March 2003 of coalition troops:

As of Friday, June 30, 2006, at least 2,535 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,000 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.


The British military has reported 113 deaths; Italy, 32; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Slovakia, Denmark three; El Salvador, Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each.

By my sums that is 2766 total deaths. Civilian deaths are something like 40,000 (between 38,764 & 43,192 according to Iraqbodycount - I'm not going to quibble those figures; IBC have been criticised for both under- and over-counting, they are probably correct within a few thousand).

In approximately the same time frame the Sudanese have killed around 200,000 people in Darfur. Deaths in the Congo are still (as far as I can tell) running at around 1000 per day of which it is estimated that about 2% (50 per day) are deaths by violence. Even ignoring the 950/day who die from war induced starvation/disease etc we are still looking at around 20,000 violent deaths per year or over 60,000 in the same period as the Iraq conflict.

To put these numbers in other contexts, road deaths in the US per year are similar to the total civilian death toll in Iraq over 3 years (FWIW annual road deaths in the UK are higher than the military death toll in Iraq over 3 years). Iraq has a population of some 26 million, and hence the average annual death rate per 100,000 from violence is around 50. This rate is not disimilar to the murder rate of Washington DC.

One thing that doesn't get brought up is that the overall death rate in Iraq is falling steadily from 6.4/1000 in 2000 to an estimated 5.37/1000 in 2006. Although I'm a bit suspicious of the total numbers, since that is lower than the death rate in France, the US and the UK, the trend is clearly down.

To put it all together the military deaths in this war are paltry - something like 2-3/day on average and have yet to add up to the deaths in a single battle in the first world war. The civilian deaths are also comparatively low and overall the death rate is decreasing and is lower than it was under Saddam. So why the constant handwringing that this has been "a terrible mistake" etc. etc.? and why the lack of concentration on the far worse humanitrian crises in Africa?

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin