It’s hard to keep up with slang. I remember when we used to use the word
“bogus” to refer to anything disagreeable. But by expanding the use of that
word from its original meaning of “counterfeit, fake, phony, misrepresented as
genuine” it left a gap in the syntactosphere and some new slang had to come in
to fill in for the vacated specificity.
Leave it to that master wordsmith Colin Powell to come up with the
I was meandering wordfully on the topic of how ideology
distorts or governs assertions of fact and in passing I mentioned the
post-Gulf War economic sanctions against Iraq:
During the long Clinton-era warm war in Iraq, the peacenik community sobbed
and moaned over the children killed by sanctions-caused deprivation. (The more
sober-minded wondered if Saddam might be persuaded to raise some milk money by
renting out one or two of the palaces he’d built for his family.) As the war
threatened to go hot in , “let sanctions
work” was the new cry. Now, if the Lancet numbers
are to be believed, the infant mortality rate in Iraq was nowhere near as bad
as the sanctions critics believed — will you wonder if they fail to criticize
the Lancet for its cover-up?
I’m no expert on the Iraq sanctions, not even really an especially
well-informed amateur, but I do remember this back-and-forth and the
impressively-large and -precise estimates of how many Iraqi children were
being killed by the sanctions. The Lancet study did
not show such an inflated infant mortality rate as would be expected from
Today we have some more data that might help to explain the discrepancy. The
Lancet study compared mortality rates from the
months before the recent invasion to the rates since the invasion.
So the protesters who were anguished about the effects of sanctions weren’t
just whistling Dixie, but they were working with
out-of-date data. The negative effects of sanctions (or of sanctions combined
with Saddam’s greed) on infant mortality had been ameliorated by the
oil-for-food program… but alas, this same program seems to have been
played like a kazoo by
Saddam’s regime and by unscrupulous countries and companies that exchanged
circumvention for kickbacks. As the sanctions were becoming less like a
starvation siege, they were also becoming less effective at defunding the
You might ask how the infant mortality rate has changed since the invasion.
The Iraqi Health Ministry did:
Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled
, according to surveys by the United Nations,
aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.
After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily
declined to 4 percent , it shot up
to 7.7 percent , according to a study
conducted by Iraq’s Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway’s Institute for
Applied International Studies and the
Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering
from “wasting,” a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous
deficiencies of protein.…
Iraq’s child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central
African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates
in Uganda and Haiti.
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