Layperson’s Guide To Counting
Occupied Afghanistan Deaths
By Dr Gideon Polya
22 January, 2010
Avoidable mortality (technically, excess mortality) is the difference between the actual mortality in a country and the mortality expected for a peaceful, decently-run country with the same demographics (i.e. with the same birth rate and the same population age profile). Avoidable mortality is a fundamental parameter to be considered in any sensible discussion of human affairs – it is the bottom-line issue when assessing the success or otherwise of societal, regional and global policies.
This has been recognized by no less than US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who infamously commented “we think the price is worth it” when asked by Lesley Stahl (on “60 Minutes”, 12 May 1996) about the then estimated 0.5 million Iraqi infant deaths due to Sanctions. .
Lesley Stahl (on Sanctions against Iraq): “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it”.
Notwithstanding the notoriety of this comment, Mainstream Media have been very coy about reporting about avoidable deaths due to the Sanctions war against Iraq, the Afghan War or the Iraq War. Indeed their acute coyness now constitutes egregious lying by omission and, given the dimensions of the problem, must be described as holocaust denial.
Decent people must attempt to find out and then inform others about man-made mass mortality. .
Ignoring mass mortality simply ensures its continuance and denying past atrocities simply ensures their repetition – history ignored yields history repeated. Thus the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million deaths, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation) was not formally acknowledged by the Allies until 30 months before the end of World War 2 in Europe. This tardiness in reportage must surely have contributed significantly to the extent of this atrocity.
However, today Mainstream Media are still comprehensively ignoring the horrendous magnitude of the violent and non-violent avoidable post-invasion deaths in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan (presently as of January 2010 totalling about 7 million deaths) and the avoidable deaths in the First World-dominated non-European World (14.8 million deaths each year in 2003; about 20 million each year in 2010). [2, 3].
Several years ago, as a humanist scientist interested in the fundamental problem of human mortality, I set out to determine “avoidable mortality” for every country in the world since 1950, using publicly-accessible data from the UN Population Division (and also reported in part by UNICEF). [4, 5].
The population, death rate, birth rate, under-5 infant mortality rate and other demographic statistics from the UN go back to 1950, a time when all the world potentially had access to the life-preserving basics such as universal literacy, a modest per capita income, antibiotics, anti-malarials, mosquito netting, soap, antiseptics, clean water, sanitation, some basic immunizations, basic health care and preventative medicine.
My approach was to graphically estimate base-line values of “expected mortality rates” for all countries of the world (a very complicated process). Having this information it was possible to determine “avoidable mortality rates” and thence “avoidable mortality” for every country in the world since 1950. The 1950-2005 avoidable mortality totalled 1.30 billion for the world, 1.25 billion for the non-European world and about 0.6 billion for the Muslim world – a Muslim Holocaust 100 times greater than the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed) or the “forgotten” WW2 Bengali Holocaust, the 1943-1945 man-made Bengal Famine in which 6-7 million Indians were deliberately starved to death by their British rulers. .
These numbers were so horrendous that they demanded some sort of independent corroboration. I achieved this by independently calculating the “under-5 infant mortality” for every country in the world since 1950. This process, based on UN infant mortality data, involved no complicated “base-line” estimates – the calculations simply involved straightforward arithmetic.
The1950-2005 “under-5 infant mortality” has totalled 0.88 billion for the world, 0.85 billion for the non-European world and about 0.4 billion for the Muslim world. Further, comparisons with First World countries (which all have very low infant mortality rates) revealed that for Third World countries about 90% of “under-5 infant mortality” has been “avoidable”. .
A very important number derived from this analysis is that for the non-European world “post-1950 under-5 infant mortality” has been numerically about 0.7 of the “post-1950 avoidable mortality”. This has the important operational consequence that if you know the “under-5 infant mortality” for a high mortality country, simply dividing by 0.7 will give you a rough idea of the “avoidable mortality” (remembering that the “highly technical” estimation of “avoidable mortality” described above is arduous and involves some complicated assumptions).
In the period 2003-2007 I performed thousands of calculations relating to avoidable mortality and wrote a huge book on the subject entitled “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”. However I have also taken a lot of time trying to tell the world about this appalling continuing catastrophe – following the example of Continental Europeans (notably the Polish hero Jan Karski) who tried to tell an unresponsive world about the expanding Jewish Holocaust in World War 2 about 65-70 years ago. .
In particular, over the last decade I have reported the steadily increasing post-invasion avoidable mortality and under-5 infant mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan that now total 7 million and 3.3 million, respectively. Alternative media (notably Countercurrents, Bellaciao and the Vancouver-based but very international Media With Conscience News, MWC News) have been ethical, responsive and eager to report this shocking intelligence to their liberal readerships. However Mainstream Media, while endlessly apprised, resolutely refuse to report this important information
This extraordinary lying by omission by Mainstream Media makes them accessories to egregious war crimes in the Occupied Iraqi and Afghan Territories – the Geneva Conventions make it quite clear that the occupiers are obliged to do everything in their power to preserve the health and lives of their conquered subjects (see Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War). .
However some of the fault must also lie with the Messenger (me), no matter my best intentions – I have failed to convince Mainstream Media, no matter that I have convinced many decent, humanitarian people around the world. Part of that failure lies in perceptions of the nature of “avoidable mortality” and “scholarly authority”. What is needed is a didactically-successful method of assessing war-related “avoidable deaths” that should be (a) simple, (b) publicly accessible, (c) non-controversial (i.e. clearly and simply deriving from an authoritative source) and (d) free of hard-to-understand assumptions or difficult to explain mathematical operations.
An easy, layperson-friendly way - the simplest, most immediately understandable, most publicly-accessible, publicly-confirmable and self-empowering way - is to be preferred and advanced to get this urgent humanitarian message across to an unresponsive world because, according to UNICEF, every year 338,000 under-5 year old infants die in Occupied Afghanistan (926 per day and 90% avoidably) and, according to UN Population Division data, every year 29,000 under-5 year old infants die in the non-European World (26,000 avoidably; 2003 data). This way IS available through the detailed, readily-accessed and regularly-updated reports of the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) as outlined below. [4, 5].
Under-5 infant mortality figures are presented in updated UNICEF reports for essentially every country in the world - it is only a mouse click away and for Occupied Afghanistan tells us the following: in 2007 the under-5 infant deaths totalled 338,000 in Occupied Afghanistan and 2,000 in the occupying country Australia (noting that in 2007 the populations of these countries were 27 million and 21 million, respectively).
From this data, assuming that the figures have been roughly the same each year after invasion, we can readily estimate that as of December 2009 the post-invasion under-5 infant mortality in Occupied Afghanistan over 8.1 years has been 338,000 x 8.1 = 2.7 million [as compared to my "highly technical" calculation of 2.4 million from year by year summations from UN Population Division data].
Assuming for "bad outcome" Third World countries that "under-5 infant mortality" is numerically about 0.7 of the "avoidable mortality", we can estimate that the post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Afghanistan = 2.7 million/0.7 = 3.9 million [as compared to my "highly technical" year-by-year calculation of 2.4 million/0.7 = 3.4 million].
As you can see, the "easy, layperson-friendly way" of dividing UNICEF-reported under-5 infant deaths by 0.7 yields much the same result for post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Afghanistan as my "careful, highly technical, precise method" based on UN Population Division data. It should be noted that these estimates are of non-violent post-invasion avoidable deaths from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease (post-invasion violent deaths in Occupied Afghanistan have been estimated to be about 1 million). .
It must be noted that this "easy, layperson-friendly", approximate approach is only valid for "bad outcome non-European countries” - but then these are the countries we are interested in from an urgent, humanitarian perspective ("avoidable mortality" as conservatively measured by me is zero or essentially zero in other countries - even the unusually elevated "avoidable mortality" in Hungary - which is among the countries in the world with the lowest infant mortality - "only" accounts for 35,000 Hungarians each year)..
In 1945 Germans presented with evidence of the Jewish Holocaust claimed that “We didn’t know” – but lying by omission by Mainstream Media is giving US Coalition citizens, and indeed everyone in the world, the same excuse in relation to horrendous post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq and Occupied Afghanistan (currently 2.5 million and 4.5 million, respectively).
I have made very careful estimates of avoidable deaths in Occupied Iraq and Occupied Afghanistan and in January 2010 sent an updated Formal Complaint to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court over Australian and various US Alliance involvements in ongoing genocidal atrocities against Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Muslims, and Australian Aboriginals, and against the Developing World in general through the worsening Biofuel Genocide and Climate Genocide. [3, 7-9].
It is up to decent people to INFORM EVERYONE that (a) “under-5 infant mortality” in “bad outcome” Third World countries is numerically about 0.7 of the “avoidable mortality” and (b) that under-5 infant mortality data for Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and other Third World countries is regularly up-dated and reported by UNICEF – the awful truth is only a mouse click away.
Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity – it IS possible to get through the holocaust-ignoring Mainstream media’s Wall of Silence.
. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007
. Gideon Polya, “Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide”:
. UN Population Division: http://esa.un.org/unpp/
. UNICEF: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/index.html .
. Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War:
. Gideon Polya, “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide”:
. Gideon Polya, “Afghan Holocaust, Afghan Genocide”:
. Gideon Polya, “Complaint To ICC re US Alliance Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan, Muslim, Aboriginal, Biofuel And Climate Genocides”, Countercurrents: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya090110.htm .
Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contribution “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007):
ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others:
bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: