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Between the Lines

October 29, 2004

'Confusion and intimidation'

The big picture in Ohio (free New York Times site registration may be required):

Ohio was a confusing patchwork of litigation and election board hearings on Thursday as Democratic and Republican lawyers waged courtroom battles from Cincinnati to Newark, N.J., over the rights of tens of thousands of Ohioans to cast ballots next week.

Closeup:

When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.

The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.

What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.

**

She went to the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to defend her right to vote and found herself among an angry mob -- people who had to take time off work to defend their right to vote.

After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.

The move, ironically, came from Republican board member Joseph Hutchinson and was seconded by Republican Alex Arshinkoff after they determined that the four local Republicans who made the challenges had no evidence to back up their claims.

Some people seem shocked that the D's are hiring lawyers to watch this year's elections in places like Ohio and, of course, Florida. They'd be fools not to.

Still, as my Seattle Times colleague Danny Westneat notes, most of the time in most places our elections go pretty smoothly.

Lawsuits over this election may be inevitable, but why obsess about it? Tell the lawyers to step aside. If the poll workers don't have you on the list, ask for a provisional ballot.

Most of all, don't believe the hype … nothing can stop a voter determined to be counted.

Finally, we all ought to at least try to respect the opinions of our fellow citizens even if we think they're wrongheaded. In this respect, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Florida seems to be the chief exhibit for Voters Behaving Badly:

In the most publicized incident, a motorist was arrested Wednesday on charges of trying to run down Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., at a Sarasota intersection.

The story recounts equally threatening activities by Bush supporters. Please, folks. This is an important election, but we've survived other important elections before. So vote. And respect the rights of others to do so.

Posted by tbrown at 12:42 PM


Iraqis are better off … except for these

They're dead.

A new study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, concludes that nearly 100,000 more Iraqis are dead now than would have been had we not invaded Iraq. Some 80,000 are said to have died in U.S. air attacks.

If this is true—a question I'll address in a moment—then even the humanitarian justification for the invasion is bogus. As blogger Juan Cole notes:

The troubling thing about these results is that they suggest that the US may soon catch up with Saddam Hussein in the number of civilians killed. How many deaths to blame on Saddam is controverial. He did after all start both the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. But he also started suing for peace in the Iran-Iraq war after only a couple of years, and it was Khomeini who dragged the war out until 1988. But if we exclude deaths of soldiers, it is often alleged that Saddam killed 300,000 civilians. This allegation seems increasingly suspect. So far only 5000 or so persons have been found in mass graves. But if Roberts and Burnham are right, the US has already killed a third as many Iraqi civilians in 18 months as Saddam killed in 24 years.

The authors of the new study arrived at their estimates by using a cluster sample survey, a common technique in public-health studies. Thirty-three clusters of 30 households each, or 990 in total, were interviewed about what had happened to them since January 2002. Then the authors compared the number of deaths in the months preceeding the war with those since it began. Which produced this conclusion:

Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.

The authors also found that, "Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children."

Are these numbers anywhere near accurate. Frankly, I have to wonder. As blogger David Adesnik notes, "Historically, only out-and-out carpet bombing, as in WWII or Vietnam, tends to have this kind of result. And one has to wonder how Western journalists failed to notice this alleged scale of destruction in Iraq."

The only continuous attempt to track civilian casualties in Iraq that I am aware of is by Iraq Body Count, which compiles deaths as reported in media accounts and by official sources in Iraq. The IBC site today estimates civilian deaths at between 14,181 and 16,312. This is still a lot of dead people, but nowhere near what the study in The Lancet is reporting. In a place as chaotic as Iraq it may well be that there are many deaths that don't make it into news stories or official accounts. But could there be over 80,000 such deaths? Let's hope not.

Note: The full text of the new study is available here, but free registration is required.

Posted by tbrown at 12:39 PM


Statistic of the day

The missing high explosives at the al-Qaqaa site comprise just .06 percent of all missing munitions in Iraq.

Yes. You read that right. So the issue, once again, is not so much about a single incident, bad as it may have been, as it is about the key issue since "Mission Accomplished": Security.

U.S. military commanders estimated last fall that Iraqi military sites contained 650,000 to 1 million tons of explosives, artillery shells, aviation bombs and other ammunition. The Bush administration cited official figures this week showing about 400,000 tons destroyed or in the process of being eliminated. That leaves the whereabouts of more than 250,000 tons unknown.

Those thousands of tons of missing ammo and explosives, which are being used daily to kill Americans and Iraqis, will last the Iraqi insurgents and jihadis a long, long time.

Posted by tbrown at 12:33 PM




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'Confusion and intimidation'
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