In Iraq, the losses Americans don’t see: We focus so much on the deaths of our troops that we don’t understand the suffering of Iraqis
BY JOHN TIRMAN (John Tirman is executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.)
December 31, 2006
For all the talk about the violence in Iraq, Americans are focusing little attention on the human costs to the Iraqis. The Iraq Study Group report, for example, which is a kind of national temperature gauge of the public’s mood, fails to express much sympathy or regret for the chaos and colossal loss of Iraqi lives. In this oversight, if that’s what it is, an essential lesson is lost about this war.
The Iraq Study Group includes a number of references to the hardship and danger for U.S. forces. It speaks of growing violence caused by insurgents, militias and criminals. But where is the analysis of the role of the U.S. military in the violence and carnage suffered by the Iraqi people?
This skewed perspective is reflected among think tank analysts and news commentators. What matters in most of these accounts is that U.S. troops are caught in the crossfire of ancient rivalries within Islam. The major opinion pollsters have not asked about Americans’ concerns about the carnage in Iraq except as it relates to Americans. The slew of journalists’ reports of the war have essentially ignored Iraqi fatalities as well.
For now, however, the silence persists. The regrettable, but unavoidable, conclusion: Americans do not care how many people are killed there. In the end, for us, that may be the biggest tragedy of the war.
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