From tonight’s speech, along with surreal argument that somehow increasing US forces in Afghanistan to 100,000 is necessary to defeat the 100 Al Qaeda members the Pentagon says are left there, one section jumped out at me. Obama said:
And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.
Given the number of innocents we have killed already in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the numbers likely to die in this new escalation, it’s astonishing that the President would make that statement.
Just today, a friend pointed me to a recent Foreign Policy article by Stephen Walt in which he notes:
I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.”
Using the most conservative estimates possible, Walt goes on to provide a breakdown of Muslim deaths caused by American actions over the last 30 years:
Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.
I am certain the lesson of our recent actions and this new surge are not lost on “the Muslim world” – it just surely is not the lesson President Obama claimed tonight.