4063 dead Americans in Iraq, 1.2 million dead Iraqis

The numbers are all over the place. As we reach the end of April, we owe it to the deceased to remember those who gave their lives.

The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count shows 51 Americans killed in Iraq in April. The most recent press release from the Department of Defense reports the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 28 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their forward operating base with indirect fire.

Killed were:

Pfc. Adam L. Marion, 26, of Mount Airy, N.C. He was assigned to the 171st Engineer Company, North Carolina Army National Guard, Saint Pauls, N.C.

Sgt. Marcus C. Mathes, 26, of Zephyrhills, Fla. He was assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), located at Fort Polk, La.

Sgt. Mark A. Stone, 22, of Buchanan Dam, Texas. He was assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), located at Fort Polk, La.

Antiwar.com places the official tally of American wounded at 29829, but estimates the total is somewhere between 23000 – 100000.

Tallying the number of Iraqis killed is more difficult. Iraq Body Count puts the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at somewhere between 83,221 and 90,782. Why not an exact count?

The Iraq Body Count (IBC) records the violent civilian deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its public database includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others.

IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violent events leading to the death of civilians, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures.

Systematically extracted details about deadly incidents and the individuals killed in them are stored with every entry in the database. The minimum details always extracted are the number killed, where, and when.

Confusion about the numbers produced by the project can be avoided by bearing in mind that:

  • IBC’s figures are not ‘estimates’ but a record of actual, documented deaths.
  • IBC records solely violent deaths.
  • IBC records solely civilian (strictly, ‘non-combatant’) deaths.
  • IBC’s figures are constantly updated and revised as new data comes in, and frequent consultation is advised.

Just Foreign Policy puts the number of Iraqis killed due to the invasion at 1,205,025. These figures are much higher than the IBC. The editors admit their count is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited by media. They explain their rationale at arriving at the higher figure, saying their number is based on a scientific study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003:

That study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then. The graphic above provides a rough daily update of this number based on a rate of increase derived from the Iraq Body Count. (See the complete explanation.)

The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in September 2007. Opinion Research Business estimated that 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed violently since the US invasion.

This devastating human toll demands greater recognition. It eclipses the Rwandan genocide and our leaders are directly responsible. Little wonder they do not publicly cite it.

Sadly, the truth lies somewhere in between, and it is unlikely that we will get accurate figures any times soon.

The overwhelming majority of Americans are now opposed to the invasion of Iraq, but these sentiments are too late for the dead. The Bush Administration was quick to cite the overwhelming support of American citizens at the start of the war. Now that public support for the invasion has all but vanished, we will forever remember Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent , “So?

After all, no one in his family died.

And the President?  His girls didn’t enlist.   Indeed, Jenna’s getting married in May.  We can’t be thinking about Iraq and all … that.  The media will be showing up soon to cover the wedding and poppy’s joy — while somewhere in Iraq, more will die.

How surreal.

Todd Stroger thinks he’s Oprah Winfrey

Just when I thought I had heard it all, Todd Stroger reaches new levels of hubris.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is “forcing anyone who works under him to sign a confidentiality agreement — promising they won’t disclose anything he deems ‘confidential’ that they ‘learned, disclosed or observed’ while on the job,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Stroger’s edict extends beyond employment with Cook County government:

They must also promise never to disclose information after they leave their job.

Not even Mayor Daley requires such obedience from his employees and those familiar with Gov. Blagojevich’s operations don’t believe he does, either. But Stroger is making those closest to him — department heads, bureau chiefs and anyone working in his PR operation — sign it.

Anyone working in his PR operation? Yes, this is great PR, Todd.

Stroger promised to make Cook County government more transparent. This move certainly muddies the waters.

Oprah Winfrey makes employees sign lifelong confidentiality agreements:

Oprah has successfully intercepted revelations by insisting that everyone who works at Harpo sign an unusual lifelong confidentiality agreement. “You wouldn’t say it’s harsh if you were in the tabloids all the time,” Oprah says in her defense.

I’ll give Oprah her confidentiality agreement because, well, she’s Oprah. While I may tire of her self-indulgent escapades like her road trip with best friend Gayle when she learns how to pump gas and drive in a car by herself — surrounded by cameras, of course — Oprah has done enough philanthropic work for several lifetimes. And she keeps giving.

But Todd Stroger? Todd, you’re no Oprah Winfrey. In fact, Todd, I’d wager that what you’re doing is not even legal, and I would encourage Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to take a good, hard look at this confidentiality agreement for possible violations of the Freedom of Information Act. Madigan speaks about the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act on her Web site:

Both of these laws are intended to foster government accountability and increase the public’s ability to participate fully in government. However, FOIA and OMA are only effective when citizens, the media and public officials understand their rights and obligations under these laws.

Individual governmental bodies cannot be permitted to judge for themselves what the public gets to know. There must be oversight and review on this matter, and this nonsense must stop.

Did Blago try to oust Fitzgerald? Get ready for “Blagogate”

The Chicago Tribune tells the good news:

In a bombshell disclosure before testimony began Wednesday morning in the Antoin “Tony” Rezko trial, a federal prosecutor said a former Rezko confidant was prepared to say that another friend of Rezko was trying to pull strings with White House political director Karl Rove to fire U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and kill his investigation into Rezko.

Karl Rove and Robert Kjellander issued statements denying the following allegations:

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom Wednesday, [ Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton] Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve that Republican National Committeeman Robert Kjellander was working with Rove “to have Fitzgerald removed.”

The potential witness at Rezko’s trial, Ali Ata, a former official in the administration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is ready testify about conversations he had with Rezko in 2004 when the Rezko investigation had just begun. According to Ata, Blago was present in the room when Ata and Rezko proposed swapping a $25,000 campaign contribution for a job in the Blagojevich administration.

All roads lead again and again to the Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Governor-Who-Won’t. It’s almost like we’re dealing with an elected mob — a klutzy Sopranos with styled hair.

I recall the night Blago was re-elected. As the numbers came in and it was evident that Blago would win, a friend who serves local municipalities as a prosecuting attorney made an intriguing observation. He said, “What’s it going to be like seeing a sitting governor indicted?”

No one has attached the legendary “-GATE” to this whole ordeal, but it’s coming soon. Perhaps “Blagogate”?

Whatever we end up calling this mess, it will not be good for Illinois.

Pennsylvania racism alive and well

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a heartwarming story about an 85-year-old woman who came to vote on a stretcher, right after a dialysis treatment.  Perhaps we should somehow be more understanding because of her age, but this is what Mary Hilferty told reporters:

“I’m here for Hillary, and I hope everyone else is, too.  There are some black people who are ready to be president, but [Illinois Sen. Barack Obama] is not one of them. [New York Sen. Hillary Clinton] has made some goofy mistakes, but she’s a woman and she thinks like a lady.”

Evidently thinking like a lady entails making a decision as to whether one of those “black people” is ready to be president.

Take a trip to Pittsburgh, sometime.  It is still very, very segregated.  Century III Mall in West Mifflin is a haven for white people.  Eat’nPark on Clairton Blvd. just up the street from the mall is whiter than white.

How much was race a factor in Pennsylvania?

It was huge.

Republicans help Clinton tip the scale in Pennsylvania

The alerts are already arriving. Hillary Clinton has won Pennsylvania. The victory is not an overwhelming, but it is sound.  Unofficial AP numbers at 9:51 p.m. ET show Clinton leading 55 to 45 percent. This trend among Republicans was reported by the Boston Globe last month:

Spurred by conservative talk radio, GOP voters who say they would never back Clinton in a general election are voting for her now for strategic reasons: Some want to prolong her bitter nomination battle with Barack Obama, others believe she would be easier to beat than Obama in the fall, or they simply want to register objections to Obama.

There are numerous reports of Republicans crossing party lines in Pennsylvania, a process which is a bit more involved in the Keystone state. Republicans must officially changing registration to the Democratic Party to take a Democratic ballot in the primary.

Democratic superdelegates need to keep this in mind as we get closer to the convention. These numbers are significant and warrant consideration. According to the Boston Globe, “About 100,000 GOP loyalists voted for her in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas, and about 38,000 in Mississippi, exit polls show.”

Sources in Pittsburgh report watching media interviews with PA Republicans letting everyone in on the game plan.

How many Republicans changed parties in Pennsylvania for the primary? We’ll learn that soon. But I would certainly not award Senator Clinton the nomination based on the wishes of Republicans.

Pennsylvanians not phased by ‘bitter’ quip

Much ado about nothing.  While the mainstream media salivates over ‘bitter’ nonsense, Pennsylvania voters appear to be focused on issues, of all things.

Yes, just as Pittsburgh still has the most intelligent sports fans in the nation, Pennsylvania is home to very astute voters.  They’re forming their opinions on issues, not nonsense.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Theodore Wheeland, 21, a Penn State University senior from Troy, Pa., said he was outraged when he first read that comment from Obama.  He had been volunteering for Barack, but left the campaign after he heard this remark — and the way it was played up by the media.

But then Wheeland read more stories that gave more of the context of Obama’s remarks. He read Obama’s responses. Then, he read Obama’s “call to renewal” from 2006, urging Democrats to embrace religion. Wheeland got back on board the campaign.

“His point was not one of deep condescension to rural voters,” Wheeland said.

Wheeland is back on board with the Obama campaign.

Barack’s appeal is reaching voters who have seen many candidates and public officials come and go.

Howard and Harriet Schwartz, 83 and 80, respectively, are of the demographic that generally more strongly supports Clinton. But, despite the “bitter” comment, the couple from Lewisberg, Pa., population 5,600, say he excites them like no other candidate in a generation.

“He reminds me of Roosevelt and Kennedy — he gives me hope,” Harriet Schwartz said.

To their credit, voters in Pennsylvania are voting on the issues.  They’re ignoring the media nonsense.

Months ago, my father in Pittsburgh told me he didn’t think many would be paying attention to the Pennsylvania primary.  Everything would be decided.  After all, that’s what the media was saying at the time.

Not so.  Their votes really matter this time.  Each and every one.

George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson are morons

What a missed opportunity. What a stupid line of questioning for a Presidential Debate.

You two gentlemen were in the enviable position of asking questions of two of the most intriguing political minds in this country, and you played like children.

I defer to Will Bunch, journalist from Philadelphia, on this one. In An open letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, he says everything I felt:

With your performance tonight — your focus on issues that were at best trivial wastes of valuable airtime and at worst restatements of right-wing falsehoods, punctuated by inane “issue” questions that in no way resembled the real world concerns of American voters — you disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it’s even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to “export democracy,” and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, “no thank you.” Because that was no way to promote democracy.

And there’s more. Read the entire post.

Army Pfc. Shane D. Penley dies a hero

A hero stares back from Eternity.

Army Pfc. Shane D. PenleyA hero stares back from Eternity.

Another young man has died in Iraq. Just out of high school, Sauk Village native Shane D. Penley died April 6 from wounds suffered while on duty at a guard post. He was 19.

This one hits close to home. Shane graduated from Bloom Trail High School in Steger, IL, and wanted to be a police officer. A senior at Bloom Trail who knew Shane shared the shock with me that students felt when they learned the news. Children meeting adulthood head on, victims of war in our back yard.

The Times in Munster, IN, shares thoughts from Shane’s father, David Penley:

“He always wanted to be a hero,” David Penley said from the family’s Sauk Village home. “He’s our little hero. I’m sure whatever the situation was, he stuck his neck out there. He was very brave, very brave.”

Mr. Penley shared times when he and his son would work out together or play baseball.

“He could run circles around me, even before his training,” he said.

Memories of Shane’s childhood and a former babysitter who called him “Tarzan”:

“I guess because he would run around with his bleached blonde hair, and in his diapers (he looked like Tarzan),” David Penley said.

When we count the total number of soldiers killed in Iraq, the number of Iraqi civilians, the billions spent, watch gas prices spiral out of control, or tally our national debt, we pause and reflect. The big numbers have a story to tell on their own.

But here, the only number that counts is “one”. One more life lost. One too many.

Thank you, Pfc. Penley. Thank you, sir.