Friday, October 20, 2006

No news is good news

The civilian death toll in Iraq has been a constant source of political discomfort for the Bush administration and their toadies in Baghad. Earlier this year the UN human rights office reported that 100 people a day were being killed in Iraq. Then The Lancet published a "controversial" study that estimated some 650,000 Iraqis have been killed by violence since the war began. It was controversial only in the sense that war supporters simply didn't want to believe a scientific survey that most experts agreed had used a perfectly acceptable methodology. While the margins were large, the order of magnitude of the humanitarian disaster that is the Iraq war was undeniable.

The Lancet report was greeted with derision by the White House, though they did not seem to dispute to the UN figure. Nonetheless, such reports have had an uncomfortable habit of underscoring the Bush-led calamity to the American public at the same time the administration is tyring to keep Iraq from being newsworthy. A solution to such distressing news has now been arrived at by the Iraqi government. It is not, however, the plan to halt the killing; there is no such plan. The solution, always seen as the most direct route by Orwellian forces, is too stop disseminating the information:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document.

A confidential cable from the United Nations' top official in Baghdad, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, said the Iraqi prime minister is seeking to exercise greater control over the release of the country's politically sensitive death toll. U.N. officials expressed concern that the move threatens to politicize the process of counting Iraq's dead and muddy international efforts to gain a clear snapshot of the scale of killing in Iraq.
It may not stop the killing, but it will stanch reports of the killing. Which is all that is really important to the Bush administration.


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