The Common Good

The Killing Must Stop

Sojomail - October 12, 2006


"[A]bsolute despair would be the wrong response. Instead, the disaster that is the West's current strategy in Iraq must be used as a constructive call to the international community to reconfigure its foreign policy around human security rather than national security, around health and well-being in addition to the protection of territorial boundaries and economic stability."

- Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, which published a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimating the total civilian death toll in the Iraq conflict to be approximately 655,000. (Source: The Guardian)

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

The Killing Must Stop

A group of American and Iraqi medical researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a new study on civilian casualties in Iraq Wednesday morning. Their conclusion? 655,000 more civilians have died as a result of violence since the U.S. invasion than would have died if there had been no invasion. The estimate is based on interviews with nearly 2,000 households in 47 neighborhoods across the country.

The survey shows that the range of deaths could be from 425,000 to 800,000 people, but they believe 655,000 is the best estimate. The causes of death include gunshots, car bombs and other explosives, and air strikes. U.S. and other coalition forces were responsible, the study says, for 31% of the deaths – 200,000 people. The violence of the insurgency and civil war sparked by the invasion caused the rest. The study, “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” was published in a British medical journal, The Lancet.

According to The New York Times, “the study uses a method similar to that employed in estimates of casualty figures in other conflict areas like Darfur and Congo,” and noted that “statistics experts in the United States who were able to review the study said the methods used by the interviewers looked legitimate.” The Washington Post quoted a Human Rights Watch official who said, “We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy” of the study.

When answering a question last December about how many Iraqis had been killed, President Bush replied, “I would say 30,000, more or less.” This study shows that it may well be 20 times that number. The latest Pentagon numbers show 2,749 American troops have died, and more than 20,000 are wounded. This unnecessary war is a tragedy for American and Iraqi families and a moral outrage before God.

From now on, any political debate on Iraq must start here and be disciplined by these facts. Not by politics, not by arguments, not by visions of democracy in the Middle East, but by the deaths of so many of God’s children. Any politician speaking about the war should be asked how they intend to stop the violence and bloodletting that has overwhelmed that country. As Bob Dylan famously asked a long time ago, “how many deaths will it take 'til they know that too many people have died?” That question must be in the mind of every single voter this fall, and those not speaking about the war must now be forced to. Every candidate running for the U.S. Senate or Congress should be asked how they feel about the loss of all these lives and how they intend to stop it.

+ Read and respond to comments on this article on the God's Politics Blog

Top Ten God's Politics Epiphanies
by Jim Wallis

When I first went out on the book tour for God’s Politics, I often got asked the standard media question, “Why did you write this book?” I answered, “Because the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it!” It worked. Now reporters tell me it’s “the book that changed the conversation.” The new essay in the paperback edition of God’s Politics talks about all the ways the conversation has changed.

But now that God’s Politics is out in paperback and the publisher has me on another book tour, there is a new question I’m getting asked—both by the media and by people who come out to the events and talk to me at the book signing tables. The new question is, “What gives you the most satisfaction about the success of God’s Politics?” Or, “What makes you feel best about having written this book?” I’ve thought a lot about this and here are the top ten things that give me the most encouragement from the impact that God’s Politics has had.

+ Read Jim's top ten list on the God's Politics Blog


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

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