New Zealand -- Friday, 13 October 2006
(And for those with a macabre imagination: the height of Bush's pyramid of skulls is slightly higher than the White House. Calculations on the blog. Scroll down for No Right Turn's answer and correction i.e. Bush Jnr‘s pyramid of skulls about half the height of the White House)
Two years ago, a team of epidemiologists at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath in Baltimore published a study in the Lancet estimating that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq had led to approximately one hundred thousand excess deaths. While the study caused a storm of outrage among supporters of the war, its methodology and conclusions were generally regarded as robust and repeatable. The authors of the study have now done exactly that, repeating their sampling with a greater number of clusters. Their midpoint estimate for the number of excess deaths is now 655,000 .
Six hundred and fifty-five thousand - that's 2.5% of the Iraqi population, dead due to America's war. Even the bottom of the confidence interval - 392,979 - is thirteen times higher than Bush's estimate of 30,000 dead, and more than twice as high as the estimated 182,000 killed in Saddam's Al-Anfal campaign of genocide against the Kurds, for which he is currently on trial. What does that suggest about the eventual fate of the architects of this obscene occupation?
(I am steadfastly Not Thinking about the top of the confidence interval. It doesn't top a million, but its certainly within reach).
Thanks to George Bush, 500 more Iraqis are dying a day than died under Saddam. 92% of them are dying due to violence, and 31% of those deaths are directly attributable to US forces. The rest is mostly gunshot wounds, car bombs, and other explosions (the researchers don't seem to have included a category for death squads). 500 a day. Maybe someone should start piling the skulls on the White House lawn?
For a war that was supposedly waged to help the Iraqi people, this has done precisely the opposite. "First, do no harm" is a basic principle of medicine. Maybe we should think about making it a principle of foreign policy too.
While writing last night's post, a sick question occured to me: how high is Bush's pyramid of skulls? So, I tried to work it out: (Warning: sick maths follows):
Assume a cubical skull (I just love the way physicists say things like this; its so they stack nicely);
Assume the volume of a single skull is about 2 litres, or 0.002 cubic meters (not unreasonable, looking at the cast on my mantlepiece, and if its too large, call it packing fraction);
So the volume of 655,000 cubical skulls is 13,100 cubic meters - enough to fill five standard Olympic swimming pools or bury a rugby field to a depth of 1.3 meters;
If we use a 45 degree cone, with height equal to radius (to make the maths simple), we have v = 1/3 pi r3. Solving for r gives a final height of 23.2 meters, or 76 feet for those still stuck in the dark ages. So if stacked on the White House lawn, they would be taller than the White House.
Interestingly, the above website also gives the floor area of the White House: 55,000 square feet, or 5100 square meters. So Bush's pyramid of skulls would fill every floor to a depth of 2.5 meters - burying the President and his staff in the death they have caused.
Correction: As pointed out in the comments, I'm out by a factor of ten in the total volume, which means the pile is somewhat smaller (only half the height of the White House). Teach me to use a calculator in the morning...