The Triumph of Fantasy Politics

News Abroad

Mr. Schell is the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at the Nation Institute. He is most recently the author of The Unconquerable World (Metropolitan Books) and A Hole in the World (Nation Books), a collection of his "Letters from Ground Zero" columns for the Nation Magazine. This piece appears in print in the new magazine Final Edition, edited by Wallace Shawn and distributed by Seven Stories Press.

Ever since September 11, 2001, and the "war on terror" it occasioned, the very quality of public events -- their grain, their tenor, their style, if you like -- has seemed to undergo a certain deterioration, as if from that day forward history was being authored by a third-rate writer rather than a master, or was being compelled, even as it visited increasing suffering on real people, to follow the plot of a bad comic book. Not the representation of the events but the actual events, not the renderings of the characters involved but those characters themselves, not the telling of the story but the story itself -- all seem to have become crasser, coarser, woven of shoddier materials.

The tone was perhaps set by the sudden appearance of Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer who came across at the same time as a comic-book, caricature villain -- a man whom it would be impossible to take seriously if he had not killed so many people. The plan that he brought to fruition on September 11 was lifted whole out of any number of action comics, video games, or disaster movies, most of which end up with buildings blowing up, the more the better. (For example, in the most recent Terminator movie, The Rise of the Machines, starring the current governor of California, scarcely any standing structure shown on camera survives for more than a few minutes, and the movie winds up with a nuclear holocaust.)

Bin Laden's choice of spectacle obviously was contrived to match this stock scene. He lacked any capacity even to slightly dent the military power of the United States, so he delivered his blow to the nation's psyche instead. What better means than to turn its most common fantasies into horrifying life? He was assisted in his aim by accident. The towers had been designed to withstand airplane crashes. Perhaps that's why, immediately after the attack, the authorities in New York failed to give timely warning that the towers might come down. Yet they did come down, and when they did the emotional power of the catastrophe was magnified a hundred-fold. The attacks alone would have been an event of the first order; but it was the belief-defying, heart-crushing fall of the towers that knocked history off its course. (What would the world be like now if the girders holding up the buildings had managed to withstand the fires? Would there have been a Camp X-ray in Guantanamo, a war in Iraq, a global "war on terror"?)

As it was, the towers' collapse added an element of the uncanny to the fantasy made real by bin Laden. Yet although the scale of the crime was new, his strategy was hardly original. Terrorists have long compensated for their military weakness by creating the greatest possible spectacle with their bloody acts. They work in a symbolic realm. Real destruction and real deaths are only the means to accomplish their psychological effects. It's a strategy that cannot succeed without the de facto cooperation of the news media, which are routine exploiters for commercial purposes of all varieties of violence and destruction, from the local murder or fire in the warehouse to the latest hurricane. (How often does a meeting of negotiators, or a city council or parliament lead the news?) Their habits have guaranteed that the terrorists get all the coverage they hope for.

These media have in addition been busy in recent years scrambling reality and fantasy for entertainment purposes. A watershed was the coverage of the car chase in which the Los Angeles police pursued the white Bronco carrying O.J. Simpson, fleeing arrest for the alleged murder of his wife. Like the September 11 attacks, the Simpson episode recreated in the real world a type of scene -- in this instance, the car-chase -- that had been seen endlessly in movies and on television. What was sensational in the event was not any intrinsic drama (all you could see were a couple of cars driving along a highway) but the fact that the stale fictional scene was being lived out by real people. Ghoulish criminal cases, always popular, soon became the main stock-in-trade of television news -- infotainment. Soon came "reality" television, which reversed the process of the Simpson chase. If infotainment started with real events and turned them into de facto soap operas, reality television started with soap operas and spiced them up by adding "real" elements (consisting mostly of people being serially kicked off the shows).

It goes without saying that movie mayhem and reality television have no moral likeness to September 11. However, the news media's longstanding symbiosis with violent criminals along with their infection of reality with fantasy provided models for bin Laden's action as well as a global stage on which it would appear and be guaranteed unlimited coverage. Bin Laden strove for maximum effect with his crime, and he was granted it. At the time, it seemed that everyone was saying or writing, "Everything has changed." (I also wrote it, in a column right after the attack.) But in this reaction, felt as defiance of bin Laden, was there not also a kind of surrender -- not, to be sure, exactly to him, but to his debased style of thinking, his understanding of how the world works? What was damaged was not only the quality of political discussion and decision-making but something that might be called the dignity of the real.

Surely our reaction suited bin Laden well. He had no power to "change everything" unless the government of the United States agreed. Then everything could change.

The government of the United States did agree. And a lot of things -- if not everything -- did change. President Bush seemed to accept bin Laden's invitation to enter into the world of an apocalyptic comic book. Even today, it may be hard to think of any response to September 11 as excessive. A great atrocity had been committed. A great reaction was needed. But was it necessary or wise to divide every person and government on earth into two camps -- the good, the lovers of freedom, who are "with us," and the "evil-doers" who hate the good ones for their very goodness, and "who are against us"? -- as if no other evils or horrors existed on earth to compel the attention of human beings?

The comic-book aspect became even more pronounced when the President turned himself into a sort of real life action figure, donning a pilot's suit and landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare success in the Iraq war (though in his National Guard service, in which he was trained as a pilot, he was grounded for failing to show up for a physical). But the fullest realization of a fantasy world built on the foundation of September 11 was the Republican convention, where a collection of villains abroad was blurred into one mass of evil-doers who were in turn blurred with John Kerry, depicted as their domestic accomplice. Iraq, descending in actuality into anarchy, was presented as an inspiring example of democracy for the entire Middle East. Hidden behind the visions of a glorious future -- the favorite tense of the demagogue -- rose the pile of corpses, Iraqi and American. It was a further curious demonstration of the power of illusion that bin Laden himself slipped through the administration's fingers, as if the actual villain of September 11 had been dissolved in the fantasy his act set in motion.

Each country that plunges into nightmare -- whether Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under the Bolsheviks, Chile under Pinochet, or, for that matter, Iraq under Saddam Hussein -- travels there along its own path. The American political system -- based on free elections, the rights of citizens, and the rule of law -- is, though under the severest pressure, still available for use. If it is lost, and the full American nightmare descends, there will be many causes. They will include the militarization of foreign policy, global imperial ambition, the loss of balance among the branches of government, the erosion of civil liberties, and the overwhelming influence of corporate money and power over political life -- all present before Osama bin Laden made his appearance. But at every step of the way the skids will be greased by the national capacity, conferred by the media and exploited by politicians, to produce and consume illusion, which, though hardly an American monopoly, may be the specific form of corruption most dangerous to American democracy.

Once, observers imagined that we were entering an information age, but they were wrong. It is a misinformation age. The stupendous machinery of modern media has reached into every cranny of American life. Its outlets have been posted in every household, like a mechanical standing army. The steady, mild propaganda of advertising has long saturated the home for hours every day, the mental equivalent of low-level radiation. Now the public is being dosed with more virulent stuff. The standing army has been given increasingly insistent political marching orders. Stalin and Mao, confined mainly to radios and megaphones, could only dream of such penetration of daily life by their propaganda apparatuses.

The injection of fantasy into the real offends the aesthetic sense, but the true price is paid in blood -- in the torture of prisoners, in the launch of wars. If a grasp of reality and the constitutional machinery to act upon it remain intact, then every other ill can be addressed. But if these are lost, the capacity to recover is lost with it, and the game is over.

This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

Copyright C2004 Jonathan Schell Used with the permission of Final Edition, Volume I, no. 1 (the last issue), Autumn 2004.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

1. The men "on the run" to keep their jobs are Dick Cheney and his sidekick George W. Orwell. Thanks to their treason, Osama looks in no danger of losing his anytime soon.

2. Lancet did not "discover casualties", as you might "discover" if you would bother to inform yourself as to the nature of their study. They estimated death rates before and after the invasion of Iraq and took the difference (e.g. 100,000 = estimated deaths before invasion minus estimated deaths after invasion).

3. "...bin Laden [is] not blowing up people in the US..."

What were his suicide men doing on 9-11-01 ? Playing tiddly winks on American Airlines ?

4. "we have been aggressive. Such keeps bin Laden and "friends" wondering whether, if any of them decides to attack the US again, we shall then start dropping WMD's"

This is too idiotic to even qualify as a decent fantasy. Try finding one shred of evidence to support such garbage (levelling the Himalayas and Hindu Kush with nukes ?!) and then try thinking for a change, instead of toeing the Sharonistic eye-for-an-eye line. It belongs back in the Middle Ages with Osama.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Don, I think you confuse strategy with tactics. Osama does not give a hoot about the Palestinians and they have little use for him. Of course, he exploits Bush's acting as Sharon's door mat, just as Saddam took time out from raping Kuwait to lob a few scuds at Tel Aviv in 1990, but this is distinct side show, most probably designed to help in the overall brainwashing of new Al Qaeda recruits.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Make that 1991.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

N. The more hot and bothered and un-proofread multiple posts you throw out, the less coherence you achieve.

It is easy for your points to be "misunderstood" when they make little sense to begin with.

You can talk all you want about how you don't "support the war" in Iraq because Bush "might have made a error" etc., but this so-called position (which is of little interest -it is your befuddled arguments that are of concern) has little credibility when you repeatedly and unthinkingly mouth Karl Rove’s propaganda, such as about Al Qaeda being "on the run", and Sharon propaganda about how Israel is more secure under his misrule. Of course, the many Israelis murdered under his misrule - which fulfilled the hopes of Palestinian terrorists by brutalizing innocent Palestinians- don't have to worry about dying now.

The "Europeans" you love to monolithically slander (including thereby, of course, all your ancestors with the European name Friedman) overcame the German RAF, the Italian terrorist brigades and the IRA without using a single WMD. That is not a "pipe dream", it is history. Of course, the Islamic terrorists are a tougher beast (for one thing, the prospect of death does not deter their constantly replenished suicide squads, notwithstanding your clinging to fantasies about either “unexceptable” or unacceptable casualties somehow slowing them down). That does not mean, however, that we must therefore embrace nuclear first strikes, or turn the U.S. into a more reckless and paranoid copy of Israel.

It is not going to be possible, for the foreseeable future, to end all terrorism for all time (that is one of several reasons why a "war" on it is an inherently stupid conception) and killing terrorists is only a net benefit to our security IF a greater number of new terrorists aren't created in the process. When hundreds of innocents are killed collaterally for every one bad guy knocked off (as in Iraq) or an entire population is unfairly, cruelly and collectively punished (as Sharon has done to the Palestinian regions) the cause of the terrorists is advanced not retarded, and the damage takes decades to repair.

Finally, I will take the expertise of Lancet over your "expertese", thank you.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Don, your embrace of the death penalty without trial does add persuasiveness to your often cogent arguments. The only democratic remedy for the warped ignorance and policy blunders of the U.S. Congress, is to replace that Congress, and to do that requires (among many other things) a better educated populace. I hope you will continuing exposing the trail of money and corruption, while toning down rhetoric that makes you sound too much like Stephen Frank

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Kennedy (not Kerry) said that in 1960 ("The Strategy of Peace").

Schell's insight here is profound, but the conclusion is off-balance. The "game" is never really "over" until it is over.

Most Americans today are at least part-timeinhabitants of something like Schell's fantasy world, because they can still afford to be. Their lives are not being blown up like children and social workers in Iraq, melting rapidly away like the Greenland ice cap, sinking under water as in Bangladesh, or torn from their homes as in Darfour, at least not that they can see.

When the fertilizer really hits the air propulsion system in Peoria, then we will find out if the "capacity to recover" in the USA has really been eroded past the point of no return. And we will know soon enough then whether the 4,8 or 12 wasted and lost first years of the 21st century -on global warming, on emerging diseases, on wasteful depletion of nonrenewable resources, on the financial solvency and non-partisan effficacy of federal, state and local governments in America, on global economic inequity, crime, and violation of basic human rights, and, above all, perhaps, on the international nexus of armaments proliferation, corruption, and religious-based terrorism- were the edge of a cliff or just a long slide down on a longer but still climbable slope.

Needless to say, the sooner the slumbering fantasizers wake up, the better their are our chances. When and how did the brain rot in Ohio (where the Pretzeled-non-president is apparently ahead in the polls) set in, I wonder ? I can understand airheads ruling the roost in Texas, Florida, and California, but Ohio, the sensible, pragmatic, no-nonsense, central industrial heartland of Middle America ? Surely it should have been one of the last refuges against infotainment decadence. Off the deep end, just like that ? Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus: what went wrong ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Here in the comment above, by contrast, we have the sad reality.

When foreign terrorists blow up your friends, ST (as happened to thousands of New Yorkers 3 years ago) and your children are sent to die in a botch, unprovoked and unAmerican revenge invasion of a country that had NOTHING to do with those foreign terrorists, in order to cover up the incompetence of the government on whose watch that terrorism happened (the situation of thousands of Americans whose relatives had to die in Iraq so that draft-dodger W. Bush could strut on the carrier deck), then you will start looking at facts ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Just a ignorant tool of Al Qaeda. And not the only one around here. If voters of that mental calibre elect (for the first time) President Cheney and cheerleader Bush to the White House, then I would agree with your earlier comment about the American flag. (There can be little doubt that the above average IQ vote is going for man who can speak publically with telepromters or stuttering). I would also note, however, that that study amounts to a guesstimate extrapolated from a small sample, although even 20,000 or 30,000 killed is too many given the alternatives which were available to Rumsfeld's bungled non-cake-walk.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

...THE man who can speak publiCLY withOUT teleprompters...

(in the second-to-last sentence above)

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Re "uniting" in "self defense" (see #45482 above): I am one American who would not be sorry to see a little more backbone in Europe - such as among British Labor Party members who cling to a leader that has betrayed them.

But, I think you misunderstand American politics quite fundamentally, Mr. Jobson, if you think that the Iraq invasion happened because of mass from-the-bottom-up hysteria for revenge among the bulk of the American populace. We have an incompetent and unelected president here who took office with neither a clear agenda nor a clear mandate, and who then gambled his country's reputation and security on a blatant hypocritical foreign war of aggression, in hopes of riding a quick "cakewalk" victory to legitimacy at the next election (e.g. this coming Tuesday).

I do not seek to excuse the spineless U.S. Congress which rubberstamped this predictably reckless folly, nor the millions of intellectually lazy and ignorant Americans who, to this day, still believe that somehow Al Qaeda and Saddam were part of one common enemy, but thinking persons, internationally, ought to try to keep the various causal factors behind this disaster in some kind of reasonable proportion.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Practically speaking, I would not buy oil company stocks expecting to sell when the pump price hits seven bucks a gallon in the U.S.. If 75% of the public can believe that Saddam knocked down the towers, how many other diverse and sundry tall tales will they swallow before the last tar sands are mined and the last internet-directed genetically-modified balsa wood 200-miles-a-gallon car becomes a museum piece ?

Sound as though you have the "peak oil" fever, Andrew and, as my earlier post made clear, I consider this a very real and grave problem, but there are too many "demand and supply elasticities" to expect pump price shock to be THE effluent that finally hits THE air circulator.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Let's get off the killing kick here, okay ?

No one on earth has done more over the last 3 years to help Bin Laden and trash the traditions of Western Civilization than George W. Bush. But he deserves a fair trial before being condemned to death for his treason to his country and his crimes against humanity.

To Don: Bin Laden has changed his tune as of this latest cynically timed release. He and, more importantly, those around him are learning and becoming more dangerous. The solution to the errors and incompetence of the American news media is, however, not to bash the best parts of them, but to rely more upon other sources and work on raising the standards of acceptance among the public. America would be a far less ignorant country if half of Fox and Sinclair's viewers would get off their couch potato behinds, throw their cesspool TV sets in the trash, and start reading the New York Times.

By the way, what do you make of Economist's endorsement of Kerry ? I don't think they have supported a Democrat for the White House since at least the 1970s.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

As usual, Mr. Friedman, you know not whereof you speak. Lancet is highly respected international medical journal. Of course the 100,000 figure is not a "fact", it is their best objective guesstimate based on a sample of households backed up by death certificates and other sources. The nu number is probably too high, but the central reality remains that huge numbers of people die for all sorts of ancillary reasons when a country is invaded by an military led (at the very top levels) by deceptive cowardly bunglers and relying heavily on ariel bombarment, and your belly aching about peer review, as if you had a clue what that is, makes not a wit of difference. By the way, I hope you noticed the portion of Osama's rant yesterday that was devoted to "restoring the caliphate". Newspapers and critical thinking, Mr. Friedman. Discover them.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I do not know to which "military casualty experts" you refer or think you refer. The main point of the Lancet study, in any event, is that the full death toll goes well beyond the immediate (and even then rarely discussed) civilian casualties.

Speaking of progaganda, one gets tired of having one's intelligence repeatedly insulted by the Pentagon claiming that this or that city was bombed and x number of "insurgents" or "terrorist" were killed. Six month old "insurgents" ?

Osama's propaganda is, of course, mainly directed at Moslems in the Mideast despite his obvious ploy for attention on the eve of the U.S. election. The fact that he is able to command such a big audience reflects the disastrous failures of the Cheney administration which claims to be "resolved" and "steadfast" against him and his ilk, but has actually been assisting him (as Rumsfeld himself briefly confessed in his "leaked" memo last year).

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I fully agree with 90% of the points, many quite excellent, made in the two comments above, especially the observation about the gulf between the real cost of oil and the "fantasy" pump price of gasoline, and can add little. I dissent mildly on two details: 1. I think the big deregulation of new media happened under Clinton even if it started under Reagan, 2. A United States of Europe is decades if not centuries away.

I would also note that Europe's more balanced and efficient transport system was more than a century in the making. We are unlikely to ever match it even if were to suddenly decide we wanted to - and how many politicians are willing to publicly call for gasoline taxes at European levels ?

Finally, the "Red Bud" example is confusing: The Democrats gained in '92, the Republicans (who are even more brain-dead than the Dems about energy problems) partially recouped in '96. What is that supposed to prove about trends from 2004 on ?

Joey Johnson - 6/7/2005

Maarja, what does this have to do with the article?

Don Williams - 11/3/2004

1) The military men who died in Iraq under orders did not volunteer to seize oil fields for Cheney --they signed up to defend the nation. The same is true of the 20,000 + military men who have been wounded in Iraq -- some have lost arms and legs. We cannot assume citizens will continue to volunteer to defend this nation if Bush and Congress takes that self-sacrifice for granted.

2) I had a friend who was drafted and died in Vietnam -- I know how murderous Congressional corruption can be.

3) Still, I suppose one should not become the same as the people one criticizes. Hence, I retract my comment re Al Qaeda hitting the US Capitol.

N. Friedman - 11/2/2004

You are entitled to your opinion, Val. However, thus far you have advanced no arguments which support your view. Were you to do so, I would be able to consider your point of view. Insteaed, you have merely stated your position - which is a non-starter if the goal is to persuade -.

Val Jobson - 11/1/2004

By reading your comments.

N. Friedman - 11/1/2004


How would you know?

Andrew D. Todd - 11/1/2004

Well, let's recapitulate from the top:

Automobiles run on gasoline.
Gasoline is made from oil. Electricity is generally not made from oil-- too expensive.
Oil is imported from the Middle East, and provides the principal income of all Arab states and potentates.
That includes/included Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Iran.
Radical Islamiscism is paid for by oil, which is to say, by automobile mileage.

On the other side of the fence:
Texas was modernized with oil money
Both Houston and Odessa-Midland, Texas are oil cities.
The core of the Bush family's power base is in the oil industry.

If you do something drastic about automobiles, the whole shebang folds.

Andrew D. Todd - 11/1/2004


Val Jobson - 10/31/2004

How the hell would you know. You do not have any expertise on medical journals, or on the Caliphate, or on "expertise" itself.

I admire you gentlemen who are patient enough to argue with Mr. Friedman; I think he is not willing to listen or learn or change his mind about anything.

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


Again, you employ ad hominem arguments, not real arguments. Telling me that I mouth something said by Rove does not make the statement correct or incorrect. It merely says you do not like Mr. Rove. Cite the facts which support your argument and the conclusions you draw from the facts rather than attacking Mr. Rove, me or anyone else.

You say many Israelis died under Sharon's alleged misrule. That is an opinion, not a fact. State the facts which support your opinoin and then we can explore whether your opinion has any merit. Otherwise, you are spouting propaganda.

I do not recall saying that it is possible to end all terrorism. What I said is that it may be possible to deter the Islamist Jihadis like al Qa'eda, a group which has discernable, albeit unlimited, goals, by convincing them they have more to lose by attacking us than not attacking us. And, to that extent, I think Bush's policy appears, thus far, to have detered bin Laden and Co.

I have never said I favored the use of WMD's. I said that the potential use of such weapons by the US has to be in the mind, at this point, by any of the Jihadi groups thinking of attacking the US. Again, bin Laden has to ask himself, if one attack on the US brought an invasion of two countries in the Muslim region, then what will another such attack bring.

As for your nonsense about the IRA, etc., Kerry's main terrorism advisor, Graham Allison has written a book in which he assert that it is ***highly likely*** - and mark his words, highly likely - that the terorrists will hit us with nuclear weapons. Levy's book about Daniel Pearl speaks of meetings involving bin Laden and people involved in the Pakistani nuclear program including, but not limited to, AQ Khan and the provision of assistance to bin Laden's program. Levy also reports that the Jihadis have a specific policy toward the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons - namely, they plan to acquire and use them (if they can). So, when I hear you compare groups like the IRA, with a very limited agenda, with groups like al Qa'eda, which have an unlimited agenda, I conclude that you are in error.

As for the Europeans during WWII, those with my sort of last name died in rather large numbers during WWII. Europeans took more steps to rescue painting than they did to help Jews. Requests to bomb out the train line which carried people to death camps (and the allies were, in fact, aware of this) were ignored while desperate attempts were made to rescue paintings. Europeans, and not just the Nazis and Fascists, spread antisemitic propaganda during the war throughout Europe, the US and the Arab regions and Jews were forced back into Nazi occupied regions rather than be permitted to escape. So, when you tell me about the beautiful Europeans, I think it depends where you stand.

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


The US has supported everyone in the Middle East. It also supports people in Europe. The US supports Israel's position because, frankly, it is perceived to advance US policy. If it did not, then the US would tell Israel to take a jump.

Don Williams - 10/31/2004

How right was Shelby?

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&;node=&contentId=A45532-2001Jun25

An excerpt:
"Back from a six-country tour of the Persian Gulf, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) believes U.S. counterterrorism officials are winning the war against Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

It's not always easy to understand how, since bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists clearly have the U.S. military on edge. Whatever terrorist group attacked the USS Cole last October has succeeded in driving the Navy away from the Yemeni port of Aden. And the circulation of a bin Laden propaganda video in the Middle East last week, coupled with reports of increased activity by individuals linked to bin Laden, put U.S. forces on the highest state of alert throughout the region.

But Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview that bin Laden is the one who's on edge.

"He's on the run, and I think he will continue to be on the run, because we are not going to let up," Shelby said.

"I don't think you could say he's got us hunkered down. I believe he's more hunkered down," Shelby said. "He's moved and tried to be one step ahead of our intelligence on where he might be. He knows he's hunted, and he's not exactly strolling down the streets of London or Paris or Berlin, shopping."

Recall that Shelby had the highest clearances and access to WHite House information. Nothing like having the country run by a pack of morons.

I should say rather, corrupt morons -- who achieved high leadership positions not by real achievements but by knowing which butts to kiss and which backs to stab.

But most of all, by knowing how to duck responsibility by standing up on TV in front of the US flag on September 11 and singing "God Bless America".

The real tragedy of Sept 11 is that Al Qaeda hit the World Trade Center -- and missed the US Capitol.

Don Williams - 10/31/2004

The reason Sharon has prospered is that the leaders of both US political parties have been willing to whore themselves to wealthy supporters of Israel --at the cost so far of 4000+ US lives and $2 Trillion in lost wealth. All for the sake of a tiny country on the other side of the world which gives the USA NOTHING --not even a decent military base.

As I noted earlier, the biggest campaign contributor in 2002 was Haim Saban --an Israeli billionaire --who gave $12 million + to the Democrats. This time around, he gave roughly $80,000 -- and I believe $4,000 of that was to George Bush. Haim Saban's Middle Eastern Policy group at the Brookings Institute was beating the drums for war on Hussein months before Bush's invasion. In my opinion, this was not so much because Hussein was a creditable threat to the US as because he was a threat to Sharon.

There are several other wealthy supporters of Israel. Go to opensecrets.org and look up the donations of S Daniel Abraham, the billionaire who sabotaged Howard Dean's campaign in Iowa after Dean said we needed to have a more even-handed policy in the Palestian-Israeli issue. Or go and look up who funds the pro-Israel NeoCon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Or ask why Fortune Magazine annually ranks AIPAC as among the most powerful lobbies in Washington.

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


As for the WMD rhetoric, you again misunderstood what I was saying. My point is that bin Laden and his ilk now have to consider the possibility - perhaps the likelihood - that the US will exact unexceptable casualties and harm to the Jihadi cause. Which is to say, the war is not, as you argue, only - and perhaps not even primarily - about whether bin Laden and Co. obtain increased sympathy and/or recruits. As I have said ad nauseum, somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people attended the Jihadi camps long before the US attacked Iraq - a war, I want to remind you, I did not and do not support - and that number is more than enough for the Jihadi army.

Your assumption is that there are actually actions the US might take, short of suicide, which would cause local populations in the Muslim world to challenge the Jihadis and/or turn them in to the authorities. My assumption is that such is a pipe dream - if the time frame is to be "anytime soon." This is because, the goal of restoring the Caliphate or otherwise restoring Arab/Muslim power runs across political lines in the Middle East (i.e. Ba'athism, pan-Arabism, Islamism). Which is to say, there is likely, no matter what, to be considerable sympathy for the Jihadis.

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


Regarding the substance of what you write:

You write: "This is too idiotic to even qualify as a decent fantasy. Try finding one shred of evidence to support such garbage (levelling the Himalayas and Hindu Kush with nukes ?!) and then try thinking for a change, instead of toeing the Sharonistic eye-for-an-eye line. It belongs back in the Middle Ages with Osama."

Well no. You have misunderstood my point. My point is rather straight forward. It is that there may be, to some extent, the possibility that groups like al Qa'eda have been deterred from attacking the US. Such is premised on the view that, pre-9/11, such groups were under the delusion that the US would not behave agressively when attacked. Such premise arises based on what occured in Lebanon with the sucessful suicide attack on hundreds of sleeping marines, what occured in Somalia after some deaths, the unwillingness of Clinton, in Kosovo, to use US troops, the non-response to the First WTC bombing, the non-response to the embassy bombings, the non-response to the Cole bombing and, frankly, a rather long list of similar such events over the course of 25 years or so. You will also note that bin Laden, himself, said that the US was afraid to put its troops in harms' way.

As for the allegation regarding Sharon: you appear to believe that by throwing out a name which you despise that such puts down my argument. In fact, such reveals the weakness of your manner of arguing.

My suggestion, since I do not enjoy having mere conclusory allegations from you - without any support, so far as I can see -, is that you take on the actual substance of my arguments instead of employing an ad homimem attack.

For what it is worth, Sharon does, in fact, appear to be winning his battle against Palestinian terrorism. Which is to say, the number of incidents has decrease rather dramatically. Moreover, the Palestinians are now fighting among themselves. And, further, they have no concerted political program anymore.

Meanwhile, Sharon is standing down his own party in support of his plan for Israel to withdraw from Gaza and portions of the West Bank while maintaining control of the portions of the West Bank likely, in any event, to remain part of Israel. He appears, as he has been pursuing all along, to have sidelined the PA and, most particularly, Arafat (who may now, for other reasons, have exited the scene) in favor, I suspect, of a return to UN 242 as a model for settling the dispute. Which is to say, he is nearer to his long standing desire for a Transjordian federation between the West Bank, perhaps Gaza and Jordan rather than a purely Palestinian Arab state.

I am not aware of many politicians who have better pursued their coutries' interests, particularly in hard times. Have you?

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


I can also estimate the number of dead. The issue is, however, whether Lancet has the expertese. Maybe they do. However, clearly there could be no adequate peer review because such is not within the expertese of doctors.

On much of the remainder, you have misrepresented my opinions. Surely, a bright guy like you can address my arguments.

N. Friedman - 10/31/2004


Again, I cannot imagine what expertese a medical journal might have with respect to a matter of discovering casualties. This is simple common sense. I trust you have an explanation suggesting that Lancet has the expertese to provide peer review for the article it published.

As for bin Laden, I see that you are a mind reader. It would seem to me, if he is spewing propaganda but not blowing up people in the US, that such is a victory for us. I am not an advocate of the Bush/Cheney administration. However, some credit is due them for the fact that the attacks have not, at least thus far, continued in the US.

You, no doubt, have a theory which says he wants us to fight him in the Middle East. I think that theory is unlikely. I think he thought we would behave like Europeans do - spinelessly -.

I have a different theory than you for why we have not, thus far, been attacked. I think bin Laden and his group are on the run. And they are on the run because we have been agressive. Such keeps bin Laden and "friends" wondering whether, if any of them decides to attack the US again, we shall then start dropping WMD's on areas and people important to them. Which is to say, unless he is a complete madman, he has to notice that there is a downside to starting up with the US. And such recognition tends to deter attacks.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/30/2004


NYT is and always has been just one of the trumpeters of the US imperialistic policies and mainstream ideological opinion.
By their very social and partisan disposition in this country cannot say the whole thruth, especially about Israeli-American connections.

Don Williams - 10/30/2004

Bin Ladin's November 2001 interview was consistent with similar arguments he made during interviews with US TV networks in 1998. See, e.g., Bin Ladin's interview with CNN reporter Arnett in 1997 at http://newera2002.150m.com/laden6.htm
An excerpt:
" REPORTER: Mr. Bin Ladin, you've declared a jihad against the United
States. Can you tell us why? And is the jihad directed against the US
government or the United States' troops in Arabia? What about US
civilians in Arabia or the people of the United States?

BIN LADIN: We declared jihad against the US government, because the US
government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts
that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal whether directly or
through its support of the Israeli occupation of the Prophet's Night
Travel Land (Palestine). And we believe the US is directly responsible
for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. The mention of
the US reminds us before everything else of those innocent children who
were dismembered, their heads and arms cut off in the recent explosion
that took place in Qana (in Lebanon). This US government abandoned even
humanitarian feelings by these hideous crimes. It transgressed all
bounds and behaved in a way not witnessed before by any power or any
imperialist power in the world. They should have been considerate that
the qibla (Mecca) of the Muslims upheaves the emotion of the entire
Muslim World. Due to its subordination to the Jews the arrogance and
haughtiness of the US regime has reached, to the extent that they
occupied the qibla of the Muslims (Arabia) who are more than a billion
in the world today. For this and other acts of aggression and injustice,
we have declared jihad against the US, because in our religion it is our
duty to make jihad so that God's word is the one exalted to the heights
and so that we drive the Americans away from all Muslim countries. As
for what you asked whether jihad is directed against US soldiers, the
civilians in the land of the Two Holy Places (Saudi Arabia, Mecca and
Medina) or against the civilians in America, we have focused our
declaration on striking at the soldiers in the country of The Two Holy
Places. The country of the Two Holy Places has in our religion a
peculiarity of its own over the other Muslim countries. In our religion,
it is not permissible for any non-Muslim to stay in our country.
Therefore, even though American civilians are not targeted in our plan,
they must leave. We do not guarantee their safety, because we are in a
society of more than a billion Muslims. A reaction might take place as a
result of US government's hitting Muslim civilians and executing more
than 600 thousand Muslim children in Iraq by preventing food and
medicine from reaching them. So, the US is responsible for any reaction,
because it extended its war against troops to civilians. This is what we
say. As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not
exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and
voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine,
Lebanon, Iraq and in other places and its support of its agent regimes
who filled our prisons with our best children and scholars. We ask that
may God release them."
The point is not to support Bin Ladin's views. The point is that the New York Times , in my opinion, deliberately lied to us about why Sept 11 happened. I do not support Bin Ladin, but I have to ask why our ruling elites have inflicted 4000+ dead and a $2 Trillion loss of wealthy upon us for the sake of Ariel Sharon and the Likud?

Bill Heuisler - 10/30/2004

Mr. Leckie,
"Walk to the Bahnhof..." Perhaps my age is showing, but isn't it amazing we can converse almost instantaneously - you near the Banhof, me in the Southwest desert of the United States? Normally I resent change instinctively, and accept modernization grudgingly, but isn't the internet marvelous? Instant worldwide communication will surely be the death knell for closed, coersive societies and we can surely agree that's a very good thing.

One question: what are the effects of privatization on the Deutsche Bahn?
Bill Heuisler

Don Williams - 10/30/2004

In a November 2001 interview published in the Pakistani newspaper DAWN, Bin Ladin explained why the 911 attacks occurred. An excerpt from that interview at
"America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechenya, Kashmir and Iraq. The Muslims have the right to attack America in reprisal. The Islamic Shariat says Muslims should not live in the land of the infidel for long. The Sept 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America's icons of military and economic power.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was against killing women and children. When he saw a dead woman during a war, he asked why was she killed ? If a child is above 13 and wields a weapon against Muslims, then it is permitted to kill him.

The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. The American Congress endorses all government measures and this proves that the entire America is responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims. The entire America, because they elect the Congress.

I ask the American people to force their government to give up anti-Muslim policies. The American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. They must do the same today. The American people should stop the massacre of Muslims by their government.

HM: Can it be said that you are against the American government, not the American people ?

OSB: Yes! We are carrying on the mission of our Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge massacring people. We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We are only defending ourselves. This is defensive Jihad. We want to defend our people and our land. That is why I say that if we don't get security, the Americans, too would not get security.

This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand. This is the formula of live and let live. "
Note how Bin Ladin directly contradicts the claims made by the New York Times -- that US government's strong support for Israeli aggression was not a cause of 911.

Don Williams - 10/30/2004

A copy of the New York Times article --NOT op-ed -- published on Sept 28,2001 by Serge Schmemann is available in the Times archives for a few (roughly $3). A copy of the article is available here : http://www.malaysia.net/lists/sangkancil/2001-10/frm00030.html
(Search on the phrase "Israel as Flashpoint" to locate the article. An excerpt:
"The New York Times, 28 Sept 2001

Israel as Flashpoint, Not Cause

IT probably came as something of a surprise to many Americans
that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on
Sept. 11 were apparently not about Israel and the Palestinians,
at least not directly. That conflict dominates American images of
the Middle East, and the past year has been especially bloody.
Yet President Bush made no mention of the conflict in his speech
Thursday night, and there were no indications that the architects
of the attack had American support for Israel as their primary

The hijackers, to be sure, left no statements of any sort. But
the virulent form of Islamic fundamentalism professed by Osama
bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, which was apparently behind
the attacks, has focused its hatred on the United States as the
chief power and symbol of a despised, secular West.

Experts on Mr. bin Laden trace the obsession to the retreat of
the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, an event that fired up the
militant Muslims who fought there with a sense of power and
invincibility. With the gulf war and the subsequent stationing of
American forces in Arabia, the loathing was transferred to the
United States and fanned to new heights. To the zealots, this was
no less than an invasion of the heart of Islam by the infidel. In
interviews and statements, Mr. bin Laden declared a holy war to
expel the Americans, along with all the Arab regimes he perceives
as secular and corrupt. Israel, in this vision, is simply a
beachhead of the infidel, as well as a convenient rallying cry.

This explanation runs counter to the popular notion that if only
Washington could forge a peace between Israel and all the Arabs
in and around it - or if Israel ceased to exist -
anti-Americanism would wane in the Middle East. Of course, the
impact of the Israel-Arab conflict cannot be underestimated. The
scenes of street battles, house demolitions and riots have a
powerful impact on Arab streets, and few Arabs perceive the
United States as an impartial referee in the fight. The Palestine
Liberation Organization and its various offshoots were pioneers
in the use of sustained terror. And even as the old generation of
secular Arab nationalists has given way to a new wave of Islamic
zealots, movements like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have
waged relentless terror campaigns against Israel. Yet the inferno
in Lower Manhattan left no doubt that the scale and roots of the
hatred, in a region rife with poverty, despotism and corruption,
go far beyond the Jewish state.

But even if Israel is not in its accustomed place at the eye of
this storm, it is wrong to conclude that it is not being battered
by it. The Middle East is a place where hatreds and loyalties
overlap in staggering complexity, and any new crisis creates
dangers and opportunities throughout the region - not least in
Israel. The very fact that Mr. Bush did not focus on Israel in
his speech could be viewed in Israel as heartening evidence that
it was not in this fight, or as worrying evidence that the
Americans were forging a coalition in which the Israelis were not

In the immediate aftermath of the strikes in New York and
Arlington, many Israelis hoped that now, at last, the United
States would understand what they live with, and that the
reigning superpower would finally unleash its wrath against all
terrorists and their lairs, whether in Syria, Lebanon, Iran,
Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan - or Gaza and the West Bank. Indeed, the
attacks effectively put Yasir Arafat on parole, even if they had
nothing to do with his Palestinians. He had the spectacle of
dancing Palestinians to overcome, as well as memories that he had
sided with the Iraqis in the gulf war, and any new suicide
bombing in Israel would push him into the enemy camp. There was
also the possibility that Mr. Sharon would seize on the
distraction and the martial mood in Washington to crack down
hard, knowing that Washington would not be in a position to scold
it for "provocative actions."

INDEED, soon after the attacks Mr. Arafat ordered his forces to
cease fire, raising hopes that the year- old intifada would
finally abate. It did not. But by then other anxieties were
rising in Israel about the potential side effects of America's
wrath. If forging a front against Mr. bin Laden was the
overriding priority, did that mean the United States would cut
deals with Syria, or Iran, or even the P.L.O.?

"Certainly we're looking at least at the possibility that Arafat
will be part of the coalition, and we won't," said Joseph Alpher,
an Israeli security analyst. "As long as the objective is
advanced to get rid of terrorists, it's clearly to our advantage.
But if the scenario plays out and the U.S. cooperates with the
P.L.O., or Iran, then there is a perplexing prospect - what
happens when the smoke clears?"

There was also a growing apprehension among some Israelis that
just as Washington had put pressure on Mr. Arafat to call a
cease-fire, it might also reach for greater Arab support by
leaning on Israel to make new concessions. That, Mr. Alpher
argued, could put new pressures on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
coalition, potentially plunging Israel into a new period of
political instability. Finally there was the threat that Israel
would not agree to stay out of the fighting, as it did during the
gulf war even when Iraq rained missiles on Israel.

"Sharon understands that the U.S. has regional interests, and
particularly in this case that the U.S. must form a coalition
that includes Arab and Islamic states," said Martin Indyk, who
recently stepped down as ambassador to Israel. "But Israel will
not pay the price in its blood for such a coalition. There is a
real concern that Israel's enemy will be the U.S.'s friend."

All that, in the absence of a concrete American plan, is
speculation for now.

BUT it underscores the notion that the Middle East is a region
that defies common notions of friend and foe. In his speech, Mr.
Bush declared war not only on terrorists, but on any country that
"continues to harbor or support terrorism." But he named only Al
Qaeda and the Taliban, leaving many others wondering whether they
would be invited into the coalition or crushed by it. Countries
like Sudan, Libya and Syria, all pegged as crucibles of terror,
rushed to express support for Washington. Pakistan sent envoys to
put pressure on the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan.

Certainly for all of them, as for Israel, America's rage carries
both risks and opportunities. There is the chance that they could
be made to feel America's wrath. And there is the chance that
America could prove generous with those who come to its side.

And, this being the Middle East, there is the fact that many of
the despots regarded as sponsors of terror, like Saddam Hussein
of Iraq or Bashar al-Assad of Syria, are secularists who would
not bemoan the eradication of Osama bin Laden, any more than Mr.
Arafat would mourn the passing of Hamas, or Egypt's Hosni Mubarak
that of the Islamic Brotherhood."

Don Williams - 10/30/2004

Professor Said Amir Arjomand, Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at Stony Brook has written about how the American people were deceived by false and misleading stories in the US news media after 911. His full article is here: http://www.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/arjomand_text_only.htm

An excerpt:
"Level-headed thinking about the US-Israeli connection is much more difficult as it does run counter to a long-standing taboo against criticizing the Israeli government, and all the more so because the taboo is understandably reinforced in adversity. Mentioning Israel is pointing a finger to an ally the way the terrorists would have wanted, and we would be cowards to let them have that satisfaction as well as the horrendous destruction of American lives and property. This basic lay of the land in American politics gives a tremendous advantage to pro-Israel organized groups for framing the post-crisis public discourse. The reinforcement of the taboo can be short-sightedly exploited in the interest of the Israeli government. On the day that Prime Minister Sharon cancelled peace talks with the Palestinians, for instance, an article by Serge Schmemann, “Israel as Flashpoint, not Cause” (New York Times , Sunday, 9/23/2001) had the words “The Target” above the headlines, and an enigmatic picture of shadows of men engaged in the politically innocuous act of praying on the Western Wall of Jerusalem. It quoted our former Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk as stating that “Israel will not pay the price in its blood for such a coalition [that includes Arab and Islamic states]. There is real concern that Israel’s enemy will be the U.S.’s friend.” (Mr. Indyk does not appear to measure the Israeli and American blood on the same scale.) In other words, business as usual for the pro-Israel stalwarts as if nothing had happened. Or perhaps even better than usual. Boosted by the likes of Schmemann and Indyk some two weeks later (10/4/2001), just before ordering the attack on two Palestinian neighborhoods with American-made tanks and Apache helicopters, Prime Minister Sharon warned the Americans not to “appease Arabs” as the Western democracies had appeased Hitler on the eve of World War II. The New York Times cycle of op-editorial restoration of consensus was completed with Dennis Ross’s reassurance (10/12/01) that, bin Laden’s clear and unequivocal words notwithstanding, “Bin Laden’s Terrorism Isn’t About the Palestinians.” With its irrelevance to September 11 so securely established, the shaping of public discourse on behalf of the hidden Israel can move from the defensive to the offensive.

To tackle Islam as the sole remaining cause of terrorism, the New York Times leads the way once more. In the Arts & Ideas Section, recently refashioned to help us think through the national crisis the right way, a polemical book by Martin Kramer, an Israeli political scientist described as an expert “who teaches in the United States and Israel,” just published by a Washington “group that has close ties with Israel” (11/3/2001, pp. A13 & A15), occasions the appearance of the lead article (“Many Experts on Islam are Pointing Fingers at One Another”), providing advance publicity for the accusation against the academic specialists on Islam of failing to warn the American public.

This refabricated consensus can easily mislead us into the trap of an American crusade against the Muslims. Bin Laden could not wish for greater help with his apocalyptic war than the assistance given by Sharon and his allies in the press. Nothing would make bin Laden happier, or give the terrorists greater satisfaction, beyond the grave, than an open-ended war against the Arabs or Muslims with no clear goal, but involving the bombing of civilian targets, that would precipitate a revolution in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and pit the United States against Islam."

Don Williams - 10/30/2004

Scott McDonnell , editor of the American Conservative --Pat Buchanan's conservative magazine -- has endorsed Kerry in the latest issue. See http://www.amconmag.com/2004_11_08/cover1.html

Pat Buchanan finally chose to endorse Bush --but in a way that is truely "damming with faint praise"

N. Friedman - 10/30/2004


Again, doctors are doctors, not military casualty experts.

Yesterday, a piece of propaganda was published. Do you really take the propaganda, directed at us, as a serious statement of al Qa'eda's goals? I do not.

N. Friedman - 10/30/2004


Why was the article not published in a jounal with the applicable expertese? I, frankly, do not have the knowledge to determine whether the article's methodology is correct or crazy or whether the data employed are real or phoney. On the other hand, I do know something about the limits of expertese. And the topic is clearly not something within the expertese of medical doctors.

I note: I would not take on face value an article in a medical journal that purports to determine mortality resulting from legal restrictions on immigration. Such would, to me, seem far afield from what any medical journal might credibly review. I do not see how the same is not true for a medical journal trying to peer review an educated or, perhaps, prejudiced guess at the number of casualties during a war. Which is to say, what was published is basically an article outside normal peer review such that, as a matter of simple common sense, the article cannot be deemed credible.

This is not to say the article is wrong. I have no idea. If, in fact, the facts are as asserted, then they can be confirmed by people who publish studies in the applicable field of learning. Again, if the article were, in fact, of first rate quality and free of bias, it would more likely be published in a jounal within the pertinent field of expertese.

N. Friedman - 10/30/2004


No. I am not saying that doctors are without knowledge about dying.

What I am saying is that they do not have any particular knowledge regarding the determination of how many casualties occurred in a war. That is a very different thing

Val Jobson - 10/30/2004

You are saying doctors know nothing about how people die? Instead of sitting on your thumb insisting that a medical journal can't know more than you do about this matter, why don't you look at the researchers and the institutions involved in the study; Johns Hopkins for one

Val Jobson - 10/30/2004

I suggest you actually read the article I linked to above,which discusses the methodology and the institutions involved.

N. Friedman - 10/30/2004


I do not know if alarm bells should be ringing. However, I am not quite sure that a medical journal is a good place to publish an analysis of a non-medical subject. In particular, what would be the basis for peer review of a non-medical subject by medical experts? And, why was the article not published in a jounal in the relevant field, most likely one related to the military arts or military history, where there might be pertinent peer review? I think something is a bit odd - although, again, things might well be explainable.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/30/2004

You might very well be correct in your assertion, but what I attempted to do was show you the error of your reasoning.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/30/2004

"First, even without reading the study, alarm bells should go off. The study purports to show civilian casualties 5 to 6 times higher than any other reputable source"

Which "reputable source" are you referring to? The one that the U.S. does not bother taking?

"100,000 deaths over roughly a year and a half equates to 183 deaths per day. Seen anything like that on the news?"

You know what, you are right! In fact, I have not seen one single American soldier killed on T.V., so using the same logic as you implement, we can assume that no were near 1000+ American soldiers have died.

Steven L. Frank - 10/29/2004

October 29, 2004
Bogus Lancet Study
Via The Command Post comes this study published in Lancet (free reg) which purports that 100,000 Iraqi have died from violence, most of it caused by Coalition air strikes, since the invasion of Iraq. Needless to say, this study will become an article of faith in certain circles but the study is obviously bogus on its face.

First, even without reading the study, alarm bells should go off. The study purports to show civilian casualties 5 to 6 times higher than any other reputable source. Most other sources put total combined civilian and military deaths from all causes at between 15,000 to 20,000. The Lancet study is a degree of magnitude higher. Why the difference?

Moreover, just rough calculations should call the figure into doubt. 100,000 deaths over roughly a year and a half equates to 183 deaths per day. Seen anything like that on the news? With that many people dying from air strikes every day we would expect to have at least one or two incidents where several hundred or even thousands of people died. Heard of anything like that? In fact, heard of any air strikes at all where more than a couple of dozen people died total?

Where did this suspicious number come from? Bad methodology.

From the summary:

Mistake One:

"A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004"

It is bad practice to use a cluster sample for a distribution known to be highly asymmetrical. Since all sources agree that violence in Iraq is highly geographically concentrated, this means a cluster sample has a very high chance of exaggerating the number of deaths. If one or two of your clusters just happen to fall in a contended area it will skew everything. In fact, the study inadvertently suggests that this happened when it points out later that:

"Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters..."

In fact, this suggest that violent deaths were not "widespread" as 18 of the 33 clusters reported zero deaths. if 54% of the clusters had no deaths then all the other deaths occurred in 46% of the clusters. If the deaths in those clusters followed a standard distribution most of the deaths would have occurred in less than 15% of the total clusters.

And bingo we see that:

"Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja"

(They also used a secondary grouping system (page 2, paragraph 3) that would cause further skewing.)

Mistake Two:

"33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002."

Self-reporting in third-world countries is notoriously unreliable. In the guts of the paper (page 3, paragraph 2) they say they tried to get death certificates for at least two deaths for each cluster but they never say how many of the deaths, if any, they actually verified. It is probable that many of the deaths, especially the oddly high number of a deaths of children by violence, never actually occurred.

So we have a sampling method that fails for diverse distributions, at least one tremendously skewed cluster and unverified reports of deaths.

Looking at the raw data they provide doesn't inspire any confidence whatsoever. Table 2 (page 4) shows the actual number of deaths reported. The study recorded 142 post-invasion deaths total with with 73 (51%) due to violence. Of those 73 deaths from violence, 52 occurred in Falluja. That means that all the other 21 deaths occurred in one of the 14 clusters were somebody died, or 1.5 deaths per cluster. Given what we know of the actual combat I am betting that most of the deaths occurred in three or four clusters and the rest had 1 death each. Given the low numbers of samples, one or two fabricated reports of deaths could seriously warp the entire study.

At the very end of the paper (page 7, paragraph 1) they concede that:

"We suspect that a random sample of 33 Iraqi locations is likely to encounter one or a couple of particularly devastated areas. Nonetheless, since 52 of 73 (71%) violent deaths and 53 of 142 (37%) deaths during the conflict occurred in one cluster, it is possible that by extraordinary chance, the survey mortality estimate has been skewed upward. "

Gee, you think? It's almost as if military violence is not randomly distributed across the population of Iraq but is instead intelligently directed at specific areas, rendering a statistical extrapolation of deaths totally useless.

In the next paragraph they admit:

"Removing half the increase in infant deaths and the Falluja data still produces a 37% increase in estimated mortality."

That puts their final numbers just above the high end of the range reported by other sources.

This "peer reviewed study" is a piece of polemical garbage. Everybody is supposed to take away the bumper sticker summary, "Coalition kills 100,000 Iraqi civilians, half of them children," without reading the details. It tries to use crude epidemiological models like those used to study disease and applies them to the conscious infliction of violence by human beings. The result is statistical static.

Posted by Shannon Love on October 29, 2004 05:14 PM | TrackBack


I am voting Bush because I can no longer tolerate stupidty.

Posted by: syn on October 29, 2004 06:30 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Adding to the skepticism are two facts:

The lead author was an opponent of the war, and

The lead author submitted it to the Lancet on the express condition that it be published before the election.

Do you suppose the guy might have a bit of bias of his own?

Posted by: John Moore on October 29, 2004 06:31 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Why does the medical profession do this to itself? People just love to trade on the good name of their profession (accumulated by someone else, I might add) to score cheap political points. Just like good leftists, always spending someone else's money.

I just read a trade paper (I'm a shrink) where the APA is actually considering a proposal to classify "racism" as a mental disorder! It's truly infuriating.

Posted by: godfodder on October 29, 2004 06:38 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for clearing this up. Now that I know only 15,000 to 20,000 people died, I feel much better about the War. Let's start some more.

Posted by: Brice Tebbs on October 29, 2004 06:40 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Does no one remember the UN said 4000 Iraqi children five and under were dying every month before the war?
They were dying because of malnutrition and lack of medical care.
That was before the liberation.
That was because of the trade restrictions.
One might think it was because certain UN folk were doing a great job of feathering their nests.

Posted by: Bedford on October 29, 2004 06:44 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Good Stuff!

Thanks for providing this information for my brain to process and make a more informed opinion of what I think about this.

I already had my doubts.

Posted by: Keith on October 29, 2004 06:47 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

So its about the body count? There are lots of places we can save 1000s of lives without even shooting at anyone. Turns out to be lots cheaper too.

Posted by: Brice Tebbs on October 29, 2004 06:51 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

I'm sorry, but it sounds like you are contradicting yourself.

You say that deaths shouldn't be widespread, and that "most of the deaths would have occured in less than 15% of the clusters" (less than 4 clusters).

And then you say they report that violent deaths occured in just one cluster (less than 4, certainly).

Are you saying that their use of the word widespread, when they clearly indicate the total distribution of deaths, was wrong-headed?

I take most objection to your comment that we haven't heard reports of more deaths.

The facts are that many, many stories aren't getting reported. Journalists aren't told by the military to stroll around. They are told that if they leave certain areas, their lives are in their own hands.

Your wild guess of Iraqi military dead is entirely unsubstantiated.

Posted by: Josh Narins on October 29, 2004 06:52 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

When I read the news account, I had problems, many of which you stated quite well. You also raised some other issues which I should have thought of, but thank you for making them. You have hopefully made the electorate a little smarter.

Posted by: Geoff Matthews on October 29, 2004 06:54 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------


It is great news that the APA is considering clasifying racism as a mental disorder. This will prevent racists from being fired from their jobs as they will now have ADA protection. Further, given the notorious lack of success in dealing with such previous mental disorders as homosexuality, racists will have no incentive to change. Szasz was right.

Posted by: Bull Connor on October 29, 2004 06:55 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

after taking classes in stats, conducting medical research, and learning about how you cannot draw conclusions on ridiculous stats, i find this report in the Lancet abominable.

if the Lancet held the same statiscal standard to drugs currently in testing, or drugs that you and i will be taking, then 50 percent of all people who take the drugs would either die or be incapacitated.

this publication has just denigrated itself by infusing such hilarious mystifying conclusions from statisitics that cannot even pass a simple logic test.

what a shame.

Posted by: Jason -- USA on October 29, 2004 06:57 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

They are told that if they leave certain areas, their lives are in their own hands.

Well, duh. I here that from police when I go to North Minneapolis.

Posted by: Eric Anondson on October 29, 2004 07:00 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

This story surfaced before and then and now seems tied to a web site (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/) that is part of a circuitous linkage of resources that reference each other in one large daisy chain, with each supporting the previous one's data.

Try tracking the related sources yourself and see if its still the case.

Posted by: Stephen on October 29, 2004 07:02 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Have a look at this report from UNICEF


To take some figures:

85% of the population in the survey
24000 households surveyed
In 1999, there were 131/000 under 5s mortality
In 1999, infant mortality (under 1 yr) was 108/000
In 1999, maternal mortality was 29/000

In the Lancet publication:

Only 800 odd households surveyed
Before war, infant mortality was 29/000
After war, infant mortality 57/000

Clearly bombing is good for the Iraqis, it halves their their infant
mortality rate.

Or you might like to think that this was a partisan puff piece put out as an
"October Surprise" for the US election. Certainly, it would be sensible to
treat it with sceptisism.


Posted by: jc on October 29, 2004 07:15 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------


Posted by: sigh on October 29, 2004 07:17 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Speaking as an epidemiologist, I wouldn't even spit on this study, let alone cite it. What idiots! Not just the authors, but anyone who takes the study seriously.

Posted by: Marvin on October 29, 2004 07:26 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Brice Tebbs,

15 to 20 thousand people in 16 months is less than were being killed violently by Saddam Hussein. There is no way to get rid of an established totalitarian regime by force without killing 20 to 50 thousand people. The militant core of people that benefit from the regime are not going to give up until they see enough of their comrades killed to convince them to give up.

During the civil war General Sherman reached this conclusion about the confederacy. He decided that the Union needed to kill, I believe, 200,000 confederates to get enough of the militant core of confederate leaders to end the war with a victory for the North.

Because we have invested in military technolgy such as precision bombs and air survellience. We can do this a lot more cleanly now than in past wars. But there is no way the Baathists are going without tens of thousands of deaths. It is still better for Iraq than having them in power though.

Posted by: buck smith on October 29, 2004 07:29 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

if 100,000 Baathists had died, I'd say we need to kill more ..

Posted by: JonofAtlanta on October 29, 2004 07:36 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

A few other notes about the study:

-On author bias - when discussing what could have gone wrong, they routinely mention how they could be under-estimating the rate, and rarely mention how they could be over-estimating the rate.

-Did they check their model assumptions? It looks like they dumped their data into some canned software - tends to be pretty unreliable.

-They seem to be focusing on urban areas. What about rural death rates?

-They assume an increase in death rate from the invasion. While this can also fit no increase, this does tend to make one question parts of the study - especially the confidence intervals

-The people conducting the study were scared to travel around the country. How does this affect stuff?

-Look at the chart 2/3rds of the way through with monthly death figures. Just think about it for a bit......

Plus what the original post said.


Posted by: Michael Last on October 29, 2004 07:40 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Gads, that study wouldn't even rate a D if it were submitted to me as a Grad school prof. The Lancet is following Scientific American into the ranks of pseudo-science. They better learn some math -- fast!!

Posted by: Mike G on October 29, 2004 07:51 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Interesting analysis. Thanks for doing the work. Cliche warning - cliche warning: Statistics lie, and liars use statistics. War is hell. People are stupid.

Posted by: Crunch on October 29, 2004 07:56 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

The real "health problem" is the "European disease" that has been endemic over there for 2,000 years, The soul-sickness to which I refer is, of course, anti-Semiticism. Charles at LGF has a number of excellent references exposing the political agenda infecting Lancet and many other elitist publications. Sometimes the rabidly-ill disguise their sick thinking with a cosmetic application of "concern for the suffering of the Palestinians" (in the case of anti-Israel propanganda). In this case, they are using "concern for Iraq" as cover for the fact that a primary reason they hate U.S. is that it is Israel's greatest ally.
Oh well, we had to go over and administer a strong dose of military medicine in order to cure their last outbreak of the European scourge (also called WW II). Now the disease is exacerbated by Islamofascism. Come Tuesday, we will find out if our current generation is up to the task. I hope and pray that we are.

Posted by: Julie on October 29, 2004 08:13 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

You can't make this stuff up. Only they did.

It is really getting bad here in Western Civilization Land. First we lost religion. Then art falls to pieces. And now even science is biting the dust.

I'm with Ann Coulter on this one. Reasonable people have been playing nice for too long. They want a street fight, it's time for a street fight. Only civilization itself depends upon it.

Posted by: Michael on October 29, 2004 08:37 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

"The number of 100,000 dead so far in Iraq in this peer reviewed study is the best estimate we’re likely to get since the Bush administration refuses even to engage in a count." --Alterman

Posted by: joe on October 29, 2004 08:38 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

""Removing half the increase in infant deaths and the Falluja data still produces a 37% increase in estimated mortality."

That puts their final numbers just above the high end of the range reported by other sources."

Ummm, no it doesn't. That puts their numbers at 66,600 dead.

37% higher than an annualized mortality rate of 5/1,000 is 6.85/1,000.

Now, if we take 24 million Iraqis as a given here, it should look something like this.

24,000,000 Iraqis/1,000=24,000x5=120,000x1.5 years=180,000 total deaths.

24,000,000 Iraqis/1,000=24,000x6.85=164,400x1.5 years=246,600 total deaths.


Since when is that "just above the high end of the range reported by other sources"?

Posted by: Clashman on October 29, 2004 08:53 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

If the smug, safe-in-Chicago folks were subjected to random acts of violence by the US forces, perhaps they would be joining the insurgency to free their country. See -


if you have any intellectual curiosity.

Posted by: Rich L on October 29, 2004 09:16 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------


I couldn't follow your math or your point. But this study is absolute crap. It shows a relative risk sans Fallujah of 1.5, which is one half the level accepted by leading medical journals for publication. Even if their numbers aren't wildly skewed by sampling bias and the kazillion confounders they can't control for, they are not statistically relevant. An RR of 1.5 means their data only "explains" 1/3 of the deaths. The other two-thirds are explained by something else.

I call B.S. The Lancet "researchers" should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: Fresh Air on October 29, 2004 09:18 PM Permalink ----------------------------------------------------------

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey

Summary Background
In March, 2003, military forces, mainly from the USA and the UK, invaded Iraq. We did a survey to compare mortality during the period of 14·6 months before the invasion with the 17·8 months after it.

A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004. 33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002. In those households reporting deaths, the date, cause, and circumstances of violent deaths were recorded. We assessed the relative risk of death associated with the 2003 invasion and occupation by comparing mortality in the 17·8 months after the invasion with the 14·6-month period preceding it.

FindingsThe risk of death was estimated to be 2·5-fold (95% CI 1·6–4·2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1·5-fold (1·1–2·3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98,000 more deaths than expected (8000–194000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included.

The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1–419) than in the period before the war.

Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce noncombatant deaths from air strikes.

Published online October 29, 2004 http://image.thelancet.com/ extras/04art10342web.pdf

Center for International Emergency Disaster and Refugee Studies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA (L Roberts PhD, G Burnham MD); Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Al-Mustansiriya University, Baghdad, Iraq(R Lafta MD, J Khudhairi MD); and School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (ProfRGarfieldDrPH)

Correspondence to: Dr Les Roberts les@a-znet.com Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham

Steven L. Frank - 10/29/2004

I merely posited an appropreate amount of carnage that has produced capitulation by prior sworn enemies and theorized the amount of macroviolence that will be required to produce a simular effect. Do you not believe that if Bin Laden actually follows through with a more spectacular version of 9-11 that the gloves will not come off our collective hands no matter if Bush or John Kerry were president?

Steven L. Frank - 10/29/2004

People like you need to be lined up against the wall too.

Sincerely, I cannot fathom what kind of weak kneed person would rather fellate Bin Ladin than to kill all who would stand with Bin Ladin against Western Civilization.

Don Williams - 10/29/2004

See this news article about a video of Bin Ladin broadcast
today on Al Jazeera: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&;e=1&u=/ap/20041030/ap_on_re_mi_ea/bin_laden_tape

An excerpt:
"CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), publicly injecting himself into the campaign four days ahead of presidential elections, said in a videotape aired Friday that the United States can avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stops threatening the security of Muslims.

In the portion of the tape that was broadcast, the al-Qaida leader refrained from directly warning of new attacks, although he said "there are still reasons to repeat what happened."

"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands," bin Laden said, referring to the president and his Democratic opponent. "Any state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security."

Admitting for the first time that he ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, bin Laden said he did so because of injustices against the Lebanese and Palestinians by Israel and the United States.

In what appeared to be conciliatory language, bin Laden said he wanted to explain why he ordered the suicide airline hijackings that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news - web sites) so Americans would know how to act to prevent another attack. ....
....In the video, Bin Laden accused Bush of misleading Americans by saying the attack was carried out because al-Qaida "hates freedom." The terrorist leader said his followers have left alone countries that do not threaten Muslims.

"We fought you because we are free ... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours," bin Laden said.

He said he was first inspired to attack the United States by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon in which towers and buildings in Beirut were destroyed in the siege of the capital.

"While I was looking at these destroyed towers in Lebanon, it sparked in my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women," he said.

"God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind," he said.


The real question for Americans is why our goddamm lying news media -- especially the New York Times --lied to us about why the attack occurred. I specifically recall how the New York Times ran a deceitful story by Serge Schulman on Sept 23 assuring Americans that Israeli persecution of Palestinian was not a cause for the attack.
They continued with this line even after I wrote to them pointing out Bin Ladin's 1998 TV interviews and the November 2001 interview published in DAWN.

I also recall New York Times journalist Tom Friedman going on Meet the Press in October 2001 with neocon Bill Kristol and saying nothing while Kristol dismissed criticism of the US government's support of Israeli aggression.

In my opinion, the US news media is a pack of deceitful , lying whores who help Bush mislead Americans.

William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 10/29/2004

Another monkey wrench in the energy crisis equation--mixing my metaphors--is disposal of public and private debt sustaining urban sprawl and that's not taking account of federal debt; the icing on that cake--another to the mix--is the real estate bubble and the recycling of consumer debt (the sprinkles?) by home refinancing. Then there's the longer-term calculation (I've tried it for just one metropolitan area, St. Louis, and haven't the confidence to proffer even a tentative, ballpark aggregate, but it approaches cosmic scale) of the costs of disinvestment in urban cores during the last century, all related to retrofitting cities to the least efficient means of transportation devised by man--I haven't had the guts to try calculating the externality costs (oh, let's start with things like educational and healthcare systems and the impact on them) and structural costs, all cumulative, of various direct and indirect subsidies under the aegis of "urban redevelopment."

Finally, strategic access to global petroleum reserves ain't gonna forestall what's a-comin' since neither foreign refining capacity can absorb hyped-up production nor will building new make much difference because, if I understand the the studies by 2020 even remaining reserves will be petering out and additional capacity will become another drag. But increasing energy costs are just the lights flickering in the clouds. Not even South American economies can offer adequate comparisons. There's gonna be one shocking episode of reality creation, and quite soon.

Oh--where I live, despite the run-up to $55 a barrel, our price at the pump for mid-grade has been between 1.16 and 1.20 euros, I can walk to the Bahnhof in less than ten minutes, and though Deutsche Bahn shows the effects of privatization, I always make it to work by train.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

What foolish trivia this man writes. All it amounts to is the standard leftist intellectual lament that the body politic rejects his stale world-saving nostrums. And, yes, they do.

The leftist intellectual is such a bloodless, passionless, inert, sexless, empty vessel. Unable to feel much of anything, dead to sex and passion, and completely unable to understand a real flesh and blood human, the leftist intellectual imagines that his grand theories actually represent reality.

It is Mr. Schell who is the foolish fantasist. The average American voter in Peoria is a genius in comparison.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I seriously doubt whether that voter from Peoria cares about your facts. I don't.

I'll set off your liberal heart here. I would have supported invading Iraq and deposing Hussein simply as retaliation for the assassination attempt on President Bush's father.

Any society that will not avenge the attempted murder of its lead male authority figure is a society that has lost the will to survive.

Your facts are boring, useless and irrelevant. The average voter in Peoria knows this. The reason you don't is that your head is filled with useless theory.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/29/2004


"I realise that some of the posters at this site are well aware of the rest of the world, and I sympathise with their frustration. Americans are not the only people who feel that their compatriots are mostly decent, and who hate to admit that their country has done wrong. But, God! So many of your people are so wilfully blind and ignorant!"

America's "Public Relations" (propaganda machine) is actually quite extraordinary. If it was not so inherently immoral, than one would have to gaze in awe at how well all the subtleness and emotional excessiveness works (granted, when your eyes are wide open it is much easier to spot). I am not suggesting that this is a good reason to not know the difference from the dream world from reality, but it does help to understand why good, hard working American's open their lips and teeth wide when the silver spoon that feeds them serves them a mouthful of Grade A horseshit. Just take a look at Soviet propaganda- it was so crude and constructive that Russians knew it was a bunch of bunkum. Propanda was very refined under the Nazi’s because Hitler realized that the power it could have over people (he blamed Germany’s loss of WWI on meager, objective German propaganda and excellently biased British and American propaganda). To top that all off, people, especially we American’s are a frightened people. I do not mean to suggest that we are cowards; on the contrary, we are quite brave and noble. But even as far back as the foundation of this great nation we were barraged with stories of redskins that wanted to kill us (“He has excited domestic Insurrections among us, and has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is in undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions”- Declaration of Independence). Perhaps it is related to the fact that most American’s fled from their Motherlands and Fatherlands in fear, and it is therefore ingrained in our very essence, passed down generation from generation from our forefathers. We once despised central government and saw the tyranny in every man’s soul; however, scare tactics, which has thus caused us to find protection in their very bosoms, has slowly chipped our mistrust of government away. I think in a few hundred years from now, that is, if humanity still exists, historians will look back at America and see the irony in it all, but for now, all I see is a tragedy.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/29/2004

"the jingolistic bullies and the Fox News chickenhawks like Richard Perle -- and direct their attacks at them. Because anyone who drags us into a bitter, costly, and unnecessary war with millions of Muslims --for little or no reason --is no patriot."


N. Friedman - 10/29/2004


Peer review. Lancet is a medical jounal, not a jounal with expertese regarding war casualties. That, to me, makes the article suspect.

N. Friedman - 10/29/2004


America certainly does think its compatriots are decent. We also think our military is decent. Some of us think that our president erred. I am one such person. However, I recognize the possibility that I might be wrong and that the government may turn out to be correct. I note that a number of historians believe that Bush did the right thing while others strongly disagree. None of this makes Americans evil or anything of the sort.

Val Jobson - 10/29/2004

The Lancet is supposed to be a highly respected medical journal and they say this report was extensively peer-reviewed. I understand that the number is an estimate, and that the surveyors share the motivations of most of the world's people, who want very much to get rid of your current President and his ghastly crew before he destroys more lives.

Still, the US Army has refused to provide an estimate of how many civilians were killed, whether by bombs or bullets; it has left itself wide open to speculation that the numbers are too high to be acceptable even to Americans. They apparently learned from the experiences of the Nazis and of the US in Vietnam, that it is safer not to document or publicise these things.

I realise that some of the posters at this site are well aware of the rest of the world, and I sympathise with their frustration. Americans are not the only people who feel that their compatriots are mostly decent, and who hate to admit that their country has done wrong. But, God! So many of your people are so wilfully blind and ignorant!

But the point of the 100,000 dead is not that the number may or may not be accurate; it is that the American government and army is willing to massacre innocent people in order to kill people it thinks are guilty. Americans are no better than anyone else; they are just as capable as anyone else of committing murder, rape, systemic torture, mass murder and war crimes. The world will remember this, and it may end up uniting against the US in self-defence.

Don Williams - 10/29/2004

It would be an error to leave them out --after all, they
are one of the biggest elements of Bush supporters.
Bullies who espouse imperialistic wars but who stay safely at home while they send the sons and daughters of blue collar America off to fight.

But hey, they are merely emulating their leader --who sends the daughter of a dirt-poor West Virginia family off to Iraq to be raped while his own daughters pose on the cover of Vogue in designer gowns. Somehow I don't think that West Virginia family will be the one receiving $million from the Houston oil companies

Don Williams - 10/29/2004

George Bush lied to America when he said that the Sept 11 attack occurred because "they hate our freedom". He also lied when he said that his administration had done nothing to deserve that attack. Al Qaeda is a response to decades of US aggression --and support of vicious dictators --in the Middle East. See ,e.g., http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=43764#43764 , http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=43835#43835 ,
http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=43412#43412 ,
http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=43481#43481 ,

There is a hard core cadre within Al Qaeda who are probably our implacable enemies and who we will have to kill. But it's too bad that Al Qaeda does not target our terrorists within the US population -- the jingolistic bullies and the Fox News chickenhawks like Richard Perle -- and direct their attacks at them. Because anyone who drags us into a bitter, costly, and unnecessary war with millions of Muslims --for little or no reason --is no patriot.

Anyone who places business agendas (i.e., seizure of Middle East and Caspian Sea oil deposits, arms sales to Middle East) and ideological agendas (support of Israel ) above the American national interest is a traitor, not a patriot. Especially given the huge costs --in blood and money ($2Trillion+) --we have suffered and will suffer.

N. Friedman - 10/29/2004


I read the 100,000 dead remark in the papers. I wonder about the methodology and data for the report. What were they? I wonder whether, in fact, the figures are more likely much lower. I am not saying they are. I am merely noting that a scientific report, analyzing data, may or may not be the best evidence on the topic. Until someone explains the logic of the analysis and the data examined, I shall assume that politics, not science, was involved. I hope I am correct although I recognize the possibility that the methodology and data are sound.

Val Jobson - 10/28/2004

You stupid, evil man.

Steven L. Frank - 10/28/2004

I think we need to kill about 10,000,000 Wahhabis. Then they might learn to behave in a civilized manner. I base that number on the amount of casualties the Japanese and Germans needed to suffer before coming to their senses.

Val Jobson - 10/28/2004

"LONDON Oct 28, 2004 — A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months since the U.S.-led invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war..."


I am sorrry, but your American flag is dripping with blood.

Marianne Briggs - 10/27/2004

"Any society that will not avenge the attempted murder of its lead male authority figure..."

I'm intrigued with your use of the word 'male' here and wonder why you would not advocate avenging the attempted murder of a female social authority figure.

I'm assuming you don't envision a female president in the near future but then wonder why you opt to make this distinction in any case.

Marianne Briggs - 10/27/2004

"Any society that will not avenge the attempted murder of its lead male authority figure..."

I'm intrigued with your use of the word 'male' here and wonder why you would not advocate avenging the attempted murder of a female social authority figure.

I'm assuming you don't envision a female president in the near future but then wonder why you opt to make this distinction in any case.

Marianne Briggs - 10/27/2004

"Any society that will not avenge the attempted murder of its lead male authority figure..."

I'm intrigued with your use of the word 'male' here and wonder why you would not advocate avenging the attempted murder of a female social authority figure.

I'm assuming you don't envision a female president in the near future but then wonder why you opt to make this distinction in any case.

Don Williams - 10/26/2004

my error.

Andrew D. Todd - 10/26/2004

To: Peter K. Clarke

I didn't say that the price of oil will necessarily go to $200/barrel. I said that the Europeans could afford to bid it up that high. The point is that the Europeans have comparative advantage over us as oil consumers. In round numbers, Europe and Japan have a petroleum consumption per capita which is about half of ours. What do you do if they decide that in view of Bush's carrying-ons, they want a five-year-supply, and they want to build it up in the shortest possible period, and to hell with the yanks? This is temporary of course, because once they get their five-year-supply, they will scale back their imports to normal levels. The European already has a car that gets 40 mpg, and presumably his government will lean on the local automakers to make them provide hybrid power conversion kits, for 60 mpg. That said, a barrel of oil, yielding thirty gallons of gasoline or diesel, is about 900 miles of driving for them, or 225 round trips to a commuter rail station two miles distant. On that basis, $200 is not an unreasonable sum to pay. The average American adult/licensed driver uses something like six hundred gallons of gasoline a year, and his public transportation fallback is a bus which is much slower. You know the poker expression, "buying the pot"? Well, the Europeans can afford to buy the pot, that's all. They aren't poor cousins any more. To the extent that Europe acts in unison, it is a richer and more powerful country than the United States.

The Amtrak North-East Corridor, the Long Island Railroad, and the New York Subway System are generally conceded to be the best American passenger railroads in their respective categories. However, by European standards, they are merely mediocre. As a French train salesman said rather huffily to Amtrak officials, "you haven't _got_ any track good enough to do justice to our best equipment." Europe has been spending money on its trains for the past fifty years. Check out the St. Gotthard Base Tunnel project. A total of sixty miles of tunnels, the main tunnel thirty miles long, it will go under the Alps without going up at all. Not only are European cars more efficient-- the Europeans are far less dependent on them.

Objects the size of a fuel refinery take a long time to build, just as ships do. We might be talking about a couple of years to build a tar sands or shale oil extraction plant. This kind of equipment is not made on an assembly line. It is all very well to talk about elasticities like an economist, but actual production scheduling works out to PERT/CPM charts, ie. who cannot do what because he needs for someone else to do something else first? Which specialized tools are sufficiently scarce that they have a waiting list? For example: a specialized trip hammer capable of making thousand-ton steel kettles twenty feet in diameter, to cook large quantities of chemicals in. What with CAD/CAM and all, the situation is considerably better than it was in the 1970's. Two years might be a tight enough window to be politically feasible. Jimmy Carter' problem was that by 1980, he still had nothing in the way of tangible results to show for his energy initiatives. He needed more like ten years, and he didn't have it.

I don't know if you are old enough to have usable memories of the 1970's oil crisis. There was a period of several years of confusion while the elasticities were sorting themselves out. People who started the game better prepared were able to achieve lasting advantage. The Japanese automakers arrived in America with the oil crisis, and they are still here. It turned out that the American automakers literally did not know how to make small cars, and the result was massive unemployment before they finally learned. The Japanese are a long way ahead of the American automakers in hybrid power, and it seems quite probable that they will be able to mop up another sizable chunk of business.

The Europeans never allowed themselves to get as automobile-drunk as we did. That means that they are not going to experience the same kind of withdrawal symptoms. They aren't going to have the DT's. What this means in practical terms is that the inhabitants of Peoria will simply not get enough gasoline to continue their accustomed way of life. The Europeans will have diverted it en route. The Peorians will be forced to rethink things from the ground up.

What we have to work with in dealing with the energy crisis in the United States, is a first-class telecommunications infrastructure, built in the 1990's with speculative capital, and now grossly underutilized. However, that does not mean that all workers can telecommute and everything goes on as usual. Whole classes of jobs will simply disappear. Once a given job becomes telecommutable, the question will arise: why not telecommute it all the way to India? Or why not automate it? Or why not reorganize in such a way as to make it unnecessary? For example, the airlines are on the verge of economic collapse. They were organized to facilitate business travel, not to enable people to go and see their grandchildren. That said, there is really no way that the airlines can cope with the acceleration of business to internet time. Important gaps may emerge between "have's and have-not's," that is, between people who are enriched by the internet, and people who are impoverished by the internet. Many people who come out well in the long run will still have to go through a year or so of chronic economic fear, unemployed and haunting the state unemployment office and taking a course at the community college without really believing that it will lead to a job.

In the March 1992 Issue of Life Magazine, there is an article by Grey Villet, "Hard Times," about the town of Red Bud, Illinois, a town of 2900 people which made its living with a furnace-making factory which employed 800 people directly, and another 1200 via suppliers and subcontractors. The new owner of the factory, a Canadian multinational, closed them down in the fall of 1991. Some of the employees were still in Saudi Arabia as reservists, and their bitterness was indescribable. A decade later, the population is about 3400. The townspeople fantasized about some new company coming in, white knight fashion, to restart the factory, but that apparently did not happen. No one wanted to make mass-production consumer goods in a small town in Illinois. As near as I can make out from the material turned up by a Google search, some of the slack was eventually taken up by small local machine shops growing bigger, and selling specialized gear at longer distances. Some of the inhabitants started commuting to St. Louis, thirty miles away over secondary roads (a 45 minute drive, per Villet).

Red Bud is on the border between Monroe and Randolf counties, and I have therefore combined the election results for these two counties.

Year Democrats Republicans Perot
1984 9611 16351
1988 12373 13671
1992 13423 9706 5905
1996 12217 10772 2974

Wham! People in places like Peoria and Red Bud do react when the chickens finally come home to roost. These are traditional midwestern folk. They surely didn't vote that way because they admired Slick Willy's morals. What the elephant knows, he never forgets.

Don Williams - 10/26/2004

I think the news media-inculated ignorance of US citizens
is well demonstrated in the reports of gas prices.

On the one hand, gas prices have not really risen in the past two years --not when measured in terms of gold's price, the Euro, or the yen. Rather, the dollar has lost roughly one third of it's value --due to George Bush's financial disaster. In his last budget, for example, he projected federal debt in 2008 that is $3.8 TRILLION more than what he promised only three years ago , in his 2001 budget. For a preview of coming attractions, Check and see what happened to capital and currency values in South American countries a decade ago.

But on the other hand, the real price of gas is not shown at the pump-- the real price in money is much higher , around $8 per gallon. The price in blue-collar blood, of course, is much, much more.

We have been spending from $50 billion to $100 billion/year maintaining control of the Middle East just to buy roughly $25 billion of oil. That is a huge subsidy to protect the investments of the oil companies.

An irrational subsidy, to be sure, but it's spent because the oil companies do not pay the costs of protecting their Middle Eastern investments --the US taxpayers do.
That's because the oil companies give millions in campaign donations and Mr National Interest doesn't donate anything. What kind of service do you think the oil companies wanted from the pudgy CEO of Halliburton -- a career bureaucrat with no knowledge of corporate management or of the oil business?

The cost in blood can be ignored, of course, because our Republican leaders --and their children -- will continue their proud military tradition of never getting within a 1000 miles of an active battlefield.

Energy research and development --innovations that could make this country much richer -- will continue to lack funding. The huge distortion in the free market caused by the defense subsidy of the oil companies will ensure that Wall Street ventures very little capital into energy ventures. By the time the full disaster of our policies hits us, it will be too late to adapt and respond.

PS Agricultural crops --our food supply -- takes enormous amounts of nutrients out of the ground every year. How do you think our farmers replenish the ground -- what is their source? How large a population do you think we can support if that source dries up?

10 years from now, millions of Americans will die years before their time --but they will not die from terrorist strikes. They will die in agony from cancers that will not caught in time due to the lack of anything but the most austere medical care. They will die as the result of a bankrupt Medicare system whose "assets" consist of $4 Trillion in worthless IOUs written by Bush and the Republican Congresses.

That is why we should have intense hatred for the lying shitheads in the right wing propaganda machine -- who earn millions by lying to Americans. That is why we should hate scum like Tucker Carlton, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and others who distract the voters with irrelevent garbage and distortions -- people who enrich themselves by giving Americans a false and misleading picture of reality --one in which major facts and problems are swept under the rug.

Our citizens live in a fantasy. But that fantasy is created by tight control of the media --based on Ronald Reagan's 1987 deregulation -- and by millions spent on malign manipulations by some of our plutocrats.

Maarja Krusten - 10/26/2004

Andrew, last month we had some interesting exchanges about America's automobile culture and about public transportation. I thought of you when I read the November issue of Washingtonian magazine. The mag has an interesting report by Larry Vandyne on "The Future of Metro." Vandyne includes a lot of interesting historical background info on DC area battles over freeways, the premise for the hub and spoke downtown oriented design of the Metro subway system, etc.

Unfortunately there is no online version available now at http://www.washingtonian.com although the mag may post one after this no longer is the current issue. You may be able to find one at a library although I doubt any public library outside the Washington, DC area stocks this magazine.

Andrew D. Todd - 10/25/2004

I have noticed that a lot of our political agitprop types on HNN are almost determinedly ignorant of practical considerations.The agitprop types, parenthetically, seem to have absolutely nothing in common with the carreer army officers I have met from time to time. They have no ability to plan to the last detail. They make fine speeches about holy crusades without having any idea of where the logistics are going to come from. I realize some of these practical considerations may sound, what was the phrase? Ah, yes, "boring, useless and irrelevant." However, unless you are capable of Jesus Christ of Nazareth's miracle of the loaves and fishes...

Europeans and Japanese are much more frugal with oil than we are. They have heavy gas taxes. They have small cars. They have wonderful railroad systems (electric and ultimately nuclear-powered) which make American railroaders green with envy. If the Europeans and Japanese lose confidence in America and President Bush, and start laying in oil supplies, based on the few things they really need automobiles for, my guess is that they can afford to bid the price up to about two hundred dollars per barrel, that is, four times the present price.

In terms of gasoline prices, I would guess that it might work out to six or seven dollars per gallon. That's assuming that it will be difficult to pass on price increases for byproducts, such as home heating oil, LPG, etc., because people can switch to coal-fired electricity at a pinch, especially in winter, which is the electric grid's slack season. I don't believe you could easily get more than thirty gallons of motor fuel (gasoline, diesel, aviation kerosene) out of a barrel of oil. American refineries are probably not designed with the necessary plant to do that on short notice. Believe me, when the people in Peoria have to pay a hundred dollars or so for a fill-up, they will become very attentive. As the saying goes, it is not all that difficult to get an elephant's full, undivided attention. However, be sure in advance that you want the elephant's full, undivided attention.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/25/2004


There's a difference between ignoring facts because you conclude they are irrelevant and not knowing them to begin with. People functioning at the documented level of ignorance can be led astray in many directions, including some that you might not like.

Don Adams - 10/25/2004

Mr. Thomas, you are impressive indeed. Whereas the rest of us are limited to assessing Mr. Schell's ideas, you apparently have the ability to identify him as "sexless" strictly on the basis of a political op-ed piece. No doubt you are an excellent phrenologist as well.

Let me tell you something about the “average voter from Peoria” – clearly a conservative voter in your mind – whom you extol as a genius. The University of Maryland has recently released the results of study which found some interesting things about Bush supporters. A few examples:

72% believe that Iraq possessed WMD at the time of our invasion
75% believe that Iraq supported Al-Qaeda directly in the 9/11 attacks
A majority believe that US inspectors have confirmed these beliefs
Only 31% believe that the majority of the world opposed our invasion
A majority believes that the most of the world favors Bush’s re-election

Reasonable people may disagree about America’s policy choices, but if we are unable to base our opinions on verifiable facts, we are indeed engaging in fantasy. America invaded Iraq on the basis of specific claims made by the Bush administration, all of which have turned out to be false. It should disturb rationale people from all portions of the ideological spectrum that large numbers of American voters are willing to ignore these facts in order to accommodate their beliefs. It is one thing to support a candidate or a cause, but quite another to construct a wholly artificial reality devoid of ambiguity or inconvenient facts. If it is reasonable to support either our invasion of Iraq or the Bush administration more generally, it should be possible to do so on the basis of the actual reasoning and actual consequences associated with each. Maryland’s study suggests that average Bush supporters are doing no such thing. Call that what you will, I think the word fantasy is entirely appropriate.