Millions Dead and Counting

by Berry Friesen (June 30, 2015)

On July 1, the religious denomination I am part of (Mennonite Church USA) will debate a proposed resolution that calls on congregations to renewed focus on the meaning of “faithful witness amid endless war.”

Adoption of this resolution would add long-neglected agenda to the life of typical congregations:  reflection on “society’s commitment to the moral necessity of violence, government’s undisclosed purposes in its so-called ‘security efforts,’ and our often secret sympathies with so-called security operations.”

Wars led or supported by the USA have become so commonplace that we can easily overlook the horror they cause and leave behind.

This past March, the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study, “Body Count: Casualty Figures in the ‘War on Terror’—Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.”

Looking only at deaths in those three countries since 9/11, PRS concluded “that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million.”  This total is “approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs.”

Furthermore, the PRS states that 1.3 million is “a conservative estimate.  The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.”

Nafeez Ahmed, the British researcher, notes that “the war on Iraq did not begin in 2003, but in 1991 with the first Gulf War, which was followed by the UN sanctions regime.”  An early PRS study found 200,000 Iraqi deaths from that war, and a United Nations study attributed 1.7 million deaths to the sanctions regime of the ‘90s.  Over the past 25 years, this brings to 3 million the total number of war-related deaths in Iraq alone.

Outside of this calculation are war-related deaths in Libya, Syria and Yemen; PSR states that available data is simply too sketchy and unreliable to make a credible estimate.

And we haven’t even mentioned Ukraine yet, another functioning society the USA disrupted by a violent coup and then pushed into a civil war led by fascist groups. Nor have we mentioned the war-like sanctions, terrorism, industrial sabotage and covert operations the USA has directed at Iran.  

One of the most interesting lines in the proposed resolution would direct Mennonite “agencies, educational institutions and conferences” to “ministries of healing and renewal in response . . . to those who feel no guilt for the killing done on their behalf.”

No guilt about millions killed on our behalf?  Who could that be describing?  Well, think about your church, synagogue or mosque. When was the last time its worship rituals included reference to the millions killed on our behalf, much less words of confession and repentance?