In a press conference on Aug. 25, Abdel Jalil, head of the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council (TNC), said that he believed the war has killed over 20,000 Libyans since it began in mid-February. No one knows for certain. Rebel fighters argue -- with mixed emotions, given their own suffering and the suffering they have witnessed -- whether or not toppling Gadhafi is still worth the terrible price.
Simple but grisly mathematics provides a sobering perspective on the loss of life. Libya has a population of 6.3 million. For the moment, accept the TNC estimate of 20,000 dead. That means approximately 0.32 percent of Libya's population has died in the war. The comparable death toll for the United States, with a population of 307 million, is 982,000.
How many Libyans have been killed by Gadhafi's forces? How many died at rebel hands or in NATO air attacks? We don't know yet; initial Iraq war estimates -- many issued to promote a political agenda -- proved to be inflated. Eventually, someone in Libya will produce an accurate accounting.
How many people would Gadhafi have murdered if he had won? Thanks to the rebel victory, that dark number will remain a matter of speculation.
To see a video breaking down the events of the war in Libya, go to http://bit.ly/q5K23L.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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