October 16, 2006
The corporate-controlled American media is deliberately suppressing
the results of a survey that demonstrates that the US invasion
and occupation of Iraq has caused more than 600,000 deaths in
the past three years—a figure that in and of itself refutes
all the claims by the Bush administration that it carried out
the invasion of Iraq in order to foster democracy in the Middle
East. What kind of "freedom" and "human rights"
can be the consequence of such a slaughter?
The major American media organizations—including the New
York Times—published only brief reports on the study
October 11. Taking their cue from President Bush, who declared
the survey’s methodology faulty without offering any proof,
the Times and other leading media outlets have dropped
the subject. There have been no editorials in the Times,
the Washington Post, or other major newspapers, nor any
demands for a more serious response from the Bush administration.
There is no legitimate, scientific basis for rejecting the
findings of this survey carried out under the auspices of Johns
Hopkins, one of the leading US universities. Under the direction
of epidemiologists at the college’s Bloomberg School of Public
Health, Iraqi interviewers visited thousands of Iraqi families
throughout the war-torn country. The sample size was huge: 12,801
individuals in 1,849 households, in a country of 26 million people.
By comparison, the CBS-New York Times poll, whose findings
receive regular front-page coverage in the Times, uses
a sample of 800 to 2,000 people in a country of 300 million.
If President Bush were to declare at his next press conference
that the opinion polls showing 60 percent or more of the population
opposed to the war in Iraq are bogus, and based on a "flawed
methodology," the Times would presumably denounce
such an accusation and demand the White House provide proof of
the alleged poll-rigging.
Why is a similar standard not applied to the Johns Hopkins
inquiry into the excess deaths in Iraq? Is it, perhaps, because
these figures would implicate all those responsible for the US
military intervention—including its media apologists—in
killing on a scale that deserves to be called genocide?
During the week since the Johns Hopkins survey was published,
the Times has found ample space to report on the affairs
of the multimillionaire Astor family, the charges against a local
high school teacher of having sex with a student, and countless
other news items of even lesser weight. Yet it has had no room
to follow up the findings of a study, carried out with a standard
scientific method—a "cluster survey"—and published
in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet.
As a number of public health professionals have explained in
letters and blogs to leading newspapers like the Times
itself and the Guardian in Great Britain, the most important
data provided by the Hopkins survey is the enormous difference
between the death rate reported by the surveyed families before
and after the US invasion.
In the 18 months before the invasion, the more than 12,000
individuals reported 82 deaths, two of them by violence. In the
39 months since the invasion, this group saw 547 deaths, 300 of
them by violence. The death rate in this surveyed group jumped
from 0.7 percent to 2.5 percent, a rise of nearly 300 percent.
Such an increase is utterly incompatible with the official
Bush administration estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths—as
of December 2005—or the estimates of 50,000 to 60,000 deaths
from groups like Iraq Body Count, which have no on-the-ground
reporting capability and rely on media accounts.
There is every reason to believe that the Times and
other US media outlets are refusing to further report and investigate
the Johns Hopkins study because its findings demonstrate that
both the Bush administration and the American media itself have
been carrying out a cover-up of the bloodbath in Iraq.
One has only to contrast the silence on the Hopkins study with
two equivalent cases: the Kosovo War of 1999 and the Darfur conflict
of the past three years.
In Kosovo, the media readily echoed the Clinton administration
claims that tens, even hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians
had been massacred by the Serbian military and paramilitary forces.
In fact, the death toll, horrendous as it was, came to several
thousands, with crimes committed on both sides of the conflict
between the Serb forces and the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army.
But the US media blared out numbers that suggested death on a
Holocaust-like scale in order to swing public opinion behind the
NATO war against Serbia.
More recently, the Times has been one of the publications
most adamant about the necessity for UN or NATO intervention in
Darfur, in the western Sudan. Using statistical methods no different
from those employed by the Johns Hopkins study in Iraq, humanitarian
aid organizations have produced credible estimates that some 200,000
people may have died of starvation and ethnic killings by militias
backed by the central government in Sudan.
The US government and the American media generally have labeled
the killings in Darfur as genocide. According to the Hopkins study,
the Iraq war has taken three times as many lives as the bloodbath
in Sudan, a country whose population is roughly equal to Iraq’s.
The Bush administration is thus implicated in a crime which approaches
those of the Nazis. Indeed, if Americans were dying at the rate
that Iraqis have died over the past three years, the death toll
would be 7.5 million.
There are many other reasons to examine with a critical eye
the pretensions of the New York Times to represent a genuine
"Fourth Estate." This newspaper is deeply implicated
in the drive to condition the American people to accept the war
in Iraq. It played the leading role, through the activities of
reporters like Judith Miller, in peddling and validating Bush
administration lies about weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda
ties to Iraq, and the supposed Iraqi threat to the United States.
Only two months ago, the Times public editor Byron Calame
revealed that the newspaper deliberately withheld its report on
the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic spying
until after the 2004 election. This decision was taken by executive
editor Bill Keller, and its effect was to help insure Bush’s
Mr. Keller will appear in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Monday, October
16, to give the Sixteenth Annual University of Michigan Senate
Lecture On Academic And Intellectual Freedom. He has chosen as
his topic, "Editors in Chains: Secrets, Security and the
After the Times editor gives his account of his moral
sweatings over whether or not to make public a criminal conspiracy
by the Bush administration against the democratic rights of the
American people, he should be asked why his newspaper is choosing
to cover up a serious and meticulously documented report on the
worst human rights violation of the twenty-first century: the
US war in Iraq.
US-SEP lecture series
The economic and political roots of the crisis of
A lecture by David North, chairman of the World Socialist Web
University of Michigan
Monday, October 30, 7:00 p.m.
University of Michigan
Michigan Union, Kuenzel Room
530 S. State St.
Also speaking: Jerome White, SEP candidate
for Congress in Michigan’s 12th District