Assad Unimpressed By Iraq Body Count
Damascus, Syria (AP) – Nearly three years into an uprising against his rule, Syrian President Basher Assad remains disdainful of the number of people killed in neighboring Iraq, having achieved a body count in less than three years that rivals what the Iraqi insurgents have needed ten year to accomplish.
UN estimates put the number of dead in Syria at about 110,000, while the number of casualties in the ongoing Iraq insurgency only reached that level sometime in 2012, according to conservative estimates. That means it took about nine years for the sectarian violence in Iraq to attain what Assad’s forces, Hezbollah, and the amalgam of rebel groups have done only since mid-2011.
“While the achievement here is not on the level of a Pol Pot, or with the sustained intensity of Hutu-Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the Assad regime has shown it is no bloodshed slouch. Its commitment to indiscriminate killing can be seen as a statement to Syria’s neighbor to the southeast,” said John Rambo of the Brookings Institute. “Syria has only 20 million people and Iraq has more than 32 million, but in a fraction of the time, Syria has caused mayhem at similar levels in a third of the time.”
Proponents of Iraq’s various warring factions point to an asymmetry in the comparison, emphasizing that whereas in Syria, the violence is in many ways a classic civil war, albeit with guerrilla tactics and sporadic acts of bona fide terrorism, in Iraq almost all of the killings involve terrorism as opposed to sustained battles between organized forces. That disparity, they note, accounts for the slower rate of killings in Iraq.
“We are genuinely doing the best anyone can, given the circumstances,” said Moqta Al-Sadr, leader of a prominent Shiite faction. “When American and Western forces were still here, we could focus on engagements with actual troops, but even then, it was not a real confrontation between armies.” The post-Saddam-Hussein insurgency has been characterized from the beginning by car bombings, shootings and other trademarks of terrorism, rather than by battles of attrition that claim hundreds of lives over days and weeks.
Still others are unimpressed by Assad’s achievements. “In terms of percentage of the population, Assad has certainly made a mark,” noted Richard Cheney, a former US Secretary of Defense who has also studied the Iraq theater. “Aside from the casualty mark, which represents a full two-hundredth of Syria’s population, the conflict has also uprooted about a twentieth of Syria’s people. But in terms of sheer numbers, it’s kind of pathetic in comparison to, say, American campaigns in East Asia and Germany.”
Others, in turn, laugh at such American assertions of bloodshedding prowess. “The US has always enjoyed technological superiority,” noted military historian Adolf Hitler. “But it takes a serious commitment to decimate an entire continent while committing genocide,” he said, referring to German achievements between 1939 and 1945.
The German claims were in turn laughed at by historians Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, who noted Chinese and Soviet achievements, respectively, in causing the deaths of tens of millions of their own citizens through disastrous domestic and agricultural policies. “The USSR and the People’s Republic accomplished through manifestly non-military means what Assad could never hope to do,” wrote Stalin in an e-mail. “Soviet policies in the 1920’s and 30’s, and Chinese practices in the decades following WWII, caused more deaths than the entire current populations of Syria and Iraq combined.”