Staff Editorial: Printing body counts serves as reminder

By The Mac Weekly Staff

81,527 Iraqi civilians, 3,972 U.S. soldiers.There they are, the numbers of Iraqi civilians and soldiers that Iraq Body Count and CNN report killed as a result of the Iraq war since its began in 2003.

We’ll be publishing that number each week after considering the request of Macalester Students for a Democratic Society (MPJC-SDS).

As they argued, The Mac Weekly has the unique opportunity to provide students with pertinent information “to develop a more complete understanding of the actions of our country and the resulting effects in the world.”

However, The Mac Weekly primarily covers campus news, so how as a staff did we decide that this number was relevant to our campus community?

Some editors argued that we should print the number because the continuation of American involvement in Iraq relies on the tax dollars and the silence of every person on this campus. We should cover the issue in our only campus news source simply to acknowledge our complicity in the war.

Yet we are complicit in most of the social problems and governmental wrongs we perceive. If we included every number that quantified a “relevant problem” with the implicit purpose of communicating a need for change, we would rightly be accused of biased journalism.

Instead, we voted to print this number because we reached a consensus on the singularity of this issue.

The war does not just pervade our economic and political systems; it dominates it. What issue cannot be tied to our county’s unilateral invasion and continued occupation of Iraq?

If we don’t think that’s pertinent to campus news, we need to reassess our privilege as much as our supposed roles as global citizens.

The act of printing this number is largely symbolic: While it is easy to access the number of U.S. soldier deaths from military and media websites, it is nearly impossible to find an accurate, comprehensive count of Iraqi dead.

While Iraq Body County only counts the 81,527 people killed in a “violent event” reported by more than one media outlet, issued a valid death certificate and identified by the US military as a “non-combatant,” the independent British research firm ORB estimates that 1,033,000 Iraqis were killed between March 2003 and August 2007.

We chose our source because we considered it better substantiated, and CNN was the only major media outlet that provided a soldier death count.

It is our hope that these numbers challenge us to envision approaches to transnational engagement that count all bodies and hear all experiences. As Macalester pursues the project of cultivating global citizens, such questions of inclusion and enfranchisement must remain paramount.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.