Thousands of Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, Australian and British soliders dead … the toll of George Bush’s war which has left a chaotic nation without a government and perhaps less security than ever.
What the Mercury said in 2002:
The Monthly Essays | July 2005
How a lovestruck teenager, an angry man and an ambitious baron made sure bad news was no news on the path to Iraq
On the road to the invasion of Iraq, and through the two and a half years of bloody chaos since Baghdad’s fall, almost every Australian news-paper owned by Rupert Murdoch has supported each twist and turn of the American, British and Australian policy line. Oddly enough, however, during 2002 the humble Hobart Mercury did not. Here is its quite characteristic, fiercely anti-war editorial of September 12*:
It would be wrong for the US pre-emptively to attack Iraq. It would be wrong for Australia to ride shotgun to any unilateral assault on the hated regime of Saddam Hussein … Australia must side with those nations urging President George W. Bush not to abandon the 50-year political doctrine which has underpinned the interests of the West … [A] blazing ember in the powder keg would be a dream scenario for the future rise of Islamic fascist fundamentalism. It would be Osama bin Laden’s dream come true – and Australia, and the world’s nightmare.
What the Australian published in 2007:
BRITISH government officials backed the methodology used by scientists who concluded that more than 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the US-led invasion in 2003, the BBC reported today.
The Government publicly rejected the findings, published in The Lancet medical journal in October.
But the BBC said documents obtained under freedom of information legislation showed advisers concluded that the much-criticised study had used sound methods.
The Lancet study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, estimated that 655,000 more Iraqis had died since March 2003 than one would expect without the war. The study estimated that 601,027 of those deaths were from violence.
The researchers, reflecting the inherent uncertainties in such extrapolations, said they were 95 per cent certain that the real number lay somewhere between 392,979 and 942,636 deaths.
The conclusion, based on interviews of households and not a body count, was disputed by some experts, and rejected by the US and British governments.
US President George W. Bush said he did not consider it “a credible report,” and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official spokesman said the study had extrapolated from an unrepresentative sample of the population.
However, the chief scientific adviser to the Defense Ministry, Roy Anderson, described the methods used in the study as “robust” and “close to best practice.”
A memo from Anderson’s office to senior officials, obtained by the BBC World Service, said the chief scientist “recommends caution in publicly criticising the study.”
In another document, a government official - whose name has been blanked out - said “the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.”
Calculating the number of people killed in violence-wracked Iraq is notoriously difficult, and estimates have varied widely. The private group Iraq Body Count estimates civilian deaths at between 59,000 and 65,000. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq calculated that 34,452 Iraqis were killed in 2006 alone, while the Iraqi government put the death toll for the same period at 12,357.
In a statement responding to the BBC report, the British government said that while the methods behind the Lancet study had been used in other conflicts, “the Lancet figures are much higher than statistics from other sources, which only goes to show how estimates can vary enormously according to the method of collection.”
“There is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures,” it said.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010: