You’ve heard the President and Vice President say it over and over: There was a connection between the events of September 11, 2001 and Iraq. Let’s take this seriously and consider some of the links between the two:
*1,536 Iraqis died in Baghdad alone in August, according to figures from the Baghdad morgue — over half the 9/11 casualties in one city in one increasingly typical month. According to the Washington Post, this figure does not include suicide-bombing victims taken to the city’s hospitals or deaths in towns near the capital.
*By the beginning of September, 2,974 U.S. military service members had died in Iraq and in the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, more than died in the attacks of 9/11.
*Five years later, according to the British newspaper, the Independent, the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror has resulted in, at a minimum, 20 times the deaths of 9/11; at a maximum, 60 times. According to journalist Paul McGeough, Iraqi officials estimate that that country’s death toll since 2003 “stands at 50,000 or more — the proportional equivalent of about 570,000 Americans.”
*Recently, the Senate agreed to appropriate another $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the (taxpayer) cost for Bush’s wars to about $469 billion and climbing. That’s the equivalent of 469 Ground Zero memorials at full cost-overrun estimates, double that if the memorial comes in at the recently revised budget of $500 million.
While Americans are planning to remember 9/11 with four vast towers and a huge, costly memorial sunk into Manhattan’s Ground Zero, Baghdadis have been thinking more practically. They are putting scarce funds into two new branch morgues (with refrigeration units) in the capital for what’s now most plentiful in their country: dead bodies. They plan to raise the city’s morgue capacity to 250 bodies a day. That would be 7,500 bodies a month. Think of it as a hedge against ever more probable futures.
The link between 9/11 and Iraq is unfortunately all too real. The Bush administration made it so in the heat of the post-9/11 shock.
Think of it this way: In the immediate wake of 9/11, our President and Vice President hijacked our country, using the low-tech rhetorical equivalents of box cutters and mace; then, with most passengers on board and not quite enough of the spirit of United Flight 93 to spare, after a brief Afghan overflight, they crashed the plane of state directly into Iraq, causing the equivalent of a Katrina that never ends and turning that country into the global equivalent of Ground Zero.
For a longer version of this, check out the full essay at my website, Tomdispatch.com (and scroll down).