Friday, May 02, 2003

Doing the Numbers

Rob Corr has found reason to be outraged in this Boston Globe report on further shootings in the Iraqi town of Falluja and this report from The Age of a US Marine who mistakenly adopted Tom Highway, Clint Eastwood's character in Heartbreak Ridge as a role model.

It's obvious that Rob hasn't got the hang of our new style of moral clarity. As Gareth Parker has pointed out, apropos the Iraq Body Count, what really matters in assessing the morality of US actions in Iraq is not the body count from isolated, and regrettable, incidents where "excess" force has been used by the US military, but how the casualty rate compares with that Saddam might have inflicted if he were still in power. John Quiggin has obviously got the hang of this, and provides a reasoned discussion of recent events, based on a more rigorous quantitative approach to the problem.

Gareth estimates that Saddam Hussein's regime would have killed 4,420 people since March 20 if the war had not gone ahead. If we throw in the death toll since the first Gulf War (when Saddam was very firmly repudiated by the administration of George Bush I) it's obvious that the US has a lot of catching up to do before the Left are entitled to claim that the actions of the US have any moral equivalence with Saddam's. The fact that the US' actions are taken in the interests of promoting democracy and ridding the world of the threat of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and various other forms of unpleasantness extends the ethical leeway a good deal further. As does the fact that the "innocent civilians" involved in the Falluja incidents were anything but innocent: they were anti-American demonstrators.

Perhaps it's time to move on to more important things, like the scandalous increase in car registration fees that Victorian drivers will face from July 1st this year. Now there's an issue worth getting outraged about - unless you're a West Australian of course.

No comments: