Iraq Civilian Deaths in Comparative Perspective
Source: The New York Times
The contrasting numbers for the Iraq War and the politically motivated killings under Saddam Hussein, whom the war ousted from power, are very stark. The contrasting numbers for the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan civil war are much more extreme. There are numbers too for the conflicts where the United States has not intervened — Rwanda, Darfur. We can only speculate what the total number would have been if there were two bars on the graph for each of those conflicts, one for the civil war and one for the intervention. By the same token, we cannot know what the length of the bar for Iraq and Afghanistan would be if there had been no intervention and therefore no second bar splitting up the total number.
Fair points. I opposed intervention in Rwanda and would have in Darfur had it been seriously contemplated. It’s almost certainly true, though, that our intervention would have saved a lot of lives.
How many lives would have been lost in Iraq under Saddam absent our intervention is, obviously, unknowable. It was, of course, more difficult to lay the blame for his murder sprees on the United States than it is to blame us for the deaths post-invasion, even though a significant number of them are terrorists/insurgents (a good thing) or innocents killed by terrorists/insurgents (a bad thing but hardly our fault).
This all does reinforce the point that I’ve made repeatedly, though: The losses in this war are small by historic standards. This is even true for recent “small wars,” it seems.