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Do some deaths matter more than others?
arts and media |
Tuesday January 23, 2007 14:01 by David Manning and Miriam Cotton - MediaBite editors at mediabite dot org
Hiding the Cost of War
While the idea of comparing one gross act of terrorism to another gross act of terrorism seems as odious a comparison as any, there is nevertheless an appropriate comparison to be drawn where one gross act of terrorism is a direct precursor to the second. And when two acts of terrorism are the defining moments of the century in terms of Western foreign policy, comparison becomes an urgent necessity.
On September 11 2001 2,973 innocent people were killed (another 24 remain listed as missing) when two airliners (United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11) were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City by a group of terrorists. These facts are uncontroversial, though the reasons behind them have given rise to what amounts almost to an industry of speculation and theory. 
While the human cost of this act of terrorism cannot be measured by simply counting the bodies in the rubble, we can at least estimate the number of people’s lives immediately affected by this crime. We could do no less than record their deaths in history.
The historical record now rightly accounts for each of these souls - there is no news organisation or book that doesn’t clearly state the cost, and the Irish media are obviously no exception. An RTE report on the 8th January 2007 concerning the sentencing of a man linked to the events of 9/11 read, “Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of a group of radical Arab students in Hamburg who helped organise the 2001 attacks, is one of only two men convicted of involvement in the plot which resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people in the US.” 
The straightforwardness and triviality of this observation may seem pointless, but the moral obligation to count the dead, and even more so the dead whose blood is on our own hands is not always so clear as it ought to be – and certainly not if we are relying on the mainstream media in Ireland. We have had some interesting responses in our attempts to tackle them on why it is that the media has overlooked persuasive evidence of a shocking toll of death and carnage in Iraq.
As readers of Indymedia will be well aware, on the 29th of October 2004 the British medical journal the Lancet published the findings of a cluster sample survey conducted in Iraq in order to compare mortality during the period of 14•6 months before the US-led invasion with the 17•8 months after it. The study found approximately 100,000 more deaths than expected, with violence being the primary cause.
David Manning wrote to RTE at the time in order to ask why they preferred not to report these facts , and relied instead on the much lower figure offered by media monitoring group Iraq Body Count (IBC). An unnamed person from RTE’s foreign desk responded:
“We do not consider the Lancet report a realistic way of calculating the figures as it is based on a sample and extrapolates from this.
We appreciate that more civilians have died but with no reliable means of counting them we use the Iraq Body Count figures instead.” 
It was evident from these few words that almost no consideration had been given to the findings, and even less effort expended in trying to understand the science behind them. It appeared that there were people who didn’t deserve to be remembered by history.
With this in mind, please find below a critical analysis of RTE’s second ‘failure’ to report Iraq’s dead:
A crime within a crime within a crime
"Death in Iraq. It is relentless and incessant."  (Dahr Jamail, the last independent Western reporter in Iraq) 
In 2003 the US led invasion of Iraq underlined in no uncertain terms the limited reach of international law. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, “[the invasion of Iraq] was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." 
That invasion and all the subsequent crimes within have amassed over 650,000 bodies, with one recent addition, the former leader of that country.
The Irish government has played no small part in those crimes. Shannon airport has been used for three years as a fueling point for US war planes and over 500,000 US troops have passed through it.   This alliance with the ‘coalition of the willing’ [19 members of this illustrious group are no longer ‘willing’ to participate in ground operations]  was perhaps the inspiration for Minister Dermot Ahern’s 'Third Phase' in Irish Foreign Policy, ‘Active Neutrality’.