Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Power of Numbers

This week, the Lancet Report on Iraqi Mortality has become the dominant discussion on many Iraqi blogs. People have been divided over the total number of deaths in Iraq. Iraq The Model believes the number is too high. Zeyad believes the number is probably half of what was reported in the study. Others think the number is too low. Then there's the group-in-denial, which absolulely disagrees with every word written in the report.

Reading the reactions to the report, I wondered what matters the most? One or 500 dead Iraqis a day? Does 50 dead Iraqis make it less tragic than 500 dead Iraqis a day? Does an Iraqi Christian girl who commits suicide after being gang-raped then released by her kidnappers count? Does the murder of an Iraqi Sabaean-Mandean count? Does the decapitated body of an Iraqi priest count?

The issue isn't whose numbers are most accurate or whose dead are most important. An issue is the denial that civil war is taking place in Iraq. An issue is the silent exodus of Iraqis from Iraq. An issue is both sides of American politics who use Iraq as its winning card without the slightest sympathy to the plight of the Iraqi people -- unless it lands them extra votes during the November Elections. An issue is the innocent joke that could end your life. An issue is the obsession of Iraqi politicians with power and corruption. An issue is the spread of the Iraqi civil war on the Internet. The list of issues is very long and depressing.

We need to address these issues seriously. We need to understand that ten or a million dead Iraqis matters the same to their loved ones. Until then, more Iraqis will die and more debates on whose numbers are more accurate will continue to dominate the news.

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