I’m Surprised More Civilians Haven’t Died

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is horrific. Evil. A pox on humanity. And a blow to our efforts to build a better world.

Yesterday we saw the United Nation’s estimate of civilian deaths in Ukraine: two weeks into the conflict they have counted 549 dead while “acknowledging that the figure could be considerably higher.” Maybe it is five times higher: 2,500 deaths. How sad and terrible.

Even a single lost life is a tragedy. Every one is a story that will not play out. A laugh that will never be heard again. A family that will long for the hug of a loved one.

I can understand. In the course of a year I lost a father, then a grandmother broken-hearted over her son, and a few months later my only brother.

He died of a bullet wound to the neck from a well-armed 15-year-old…in broad daylight, in a middle-America city.

A horrible way to die…so violent…in fear…for no good reason.

In my analytical brain, I ask myself if 2,500 civilian lives is a “big number” in the first two weeks of an invasion of 170,000 well-armed troops in a country with 44.5 million people?

The second Iraq War in 2003 is a reasonable place for comparison. The United States invaded with the intent of overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime. At the time Iraq had about 26 million people in the country.

There are a wide range of civilian death estimates for the Iraq war, from 85,000 to 650,000. These are attributed to all causes, all enemies, and all times.

One source, Iraq Body Count, assembled data largely from dual-sourced death reports and recorded their day and cause.

Chart provided by LiveStories with data from Iraq Body Count on 3/11/2022.

The United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Through the end of that first month IBC found 3,959 civilian deaths due to the US coalition.

Even if we assume the UN has undercounted by a factor of five, Ukranian deaths in the first two weeks were 40% lower than Iraqi deaths in the same period.

Iraq: 3,959 deaths in the first 12 days.

Ukraine: 549 to 2,500 deaths in 14 days.

Only 549 deaths in the first two weeks of the Ukraine war.

Has the Russian military actually been more careful in Ukraine than the US military in Iraq?

Was the American military more efficient in Iraq…getting the inevitable civilian deaths out of the way in the first two months?

My analytical brain starts to break down, not knowing what to say.

I can’t help but remember the words of my grandmother, over and over again in the days before she, too, died of a broken heart:

“Children are not supposed to die before their momma.”

My hopes and prayers go out to the people of Ukraine. And also to the people of all the countries of the world.

We can do better when we search for truth together.

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Be well

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J. Andrew Shelley

J. Andrew Shelley

People working with people. Sure, it’s business but it’s also personal. About you and me. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.