Morning Report 10/24/05
Hate to Say I Toll You So
Bush regime starts counting dead Iraqis — selectively
Mysteriously, announcements of dead Iraqis are finally emerging from the Pentagon, as Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reports this morning:
Eager to demonstrate success in Iraq, the U.S. military has abandoned its previous refusal to publicize enemy body counts and now cites such numbers periodically to show the impact of some counterinsurgency operations.
The revival of body counts, a practice discredited during the Vietnam War, has apparently come without formal guidance from the Pentagon's leadership.
Military spokesmen in Washington and Baghdad said they knew of no written directive detailing the circumstances under which such figures should be released or the steps that should be taken to ensure accuracy.
I thought General Tommy Franks said, "We don't do body counts." What he meant was that the Pentagon was refusing to release body counts. So why the reversal now?
Because of the reversal that's going on in Iraq. There's really no mystery. We've got a cabal, according to Colin Powell's top aide at the State Department during the general's hapless reign as the mouthpiece of the Cheney-Rumsfeld war plot. And a cabal, like the Kabbalah, can be expected to produce mystical and mysterious numbers. "Cabal" comes from "kabbalah" — if you don't believe me, ask Madonna.
Or ask Major Russell Goemaere, one of the Pentagon flacks who has released some mysterious numbers in Iraq. The Post story doesn't mention Goemaere, but it should have. Ellen Knickmeyer and other Post reporters have put the lie to Goemaere's inflated numbers of Iraqis killed by insurgent bombings.
And on October 16, I ran a photo that Goemaere took of a U.S. Army photographer taking a photo of an Iraqi voter. He's always there to sell the war. That's his job; those are his orders.
In a cynical ploy, the Bush regime is now playing up the numbers of Iraqis killed by the increasing number of suicide bombings. The Iraqi child pictured above doesn't count, but not because she didn't die. She doesn't count because our bombs hurt her. She happened to be in Fallujah after Bush won re-election. And in March I showed a picture of another victim, a child amputee, who also didn't count. As the Post's Graham points out:
The Vietnam experience led U.S. commanders to shun issuing enemy death tallies in later conflicts, through the initial stages of the Iraq war. "We don't do body counts on other people," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in November 2003, when asked on Fox News Sunday whether the number of enemy dead exceeded the U.S. toll.
That policy appeared to shift with the assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November, an operation considered crucial at the time to denying safe havens to enemy fighters. U.S. military officials reported 1,200 to 1,600 enemy fighters killed, although reporters on the scene noted far fewer corpses were found by Marines after the fighting.
A surge in enemy activity this year has generated a corresponding increase in offensives by U.S. and Iraqi forces — and a rise in the number of U.S. military statements containing numbers of enemy killed.
But that still misses the point: Most of the civilian casualties of the Iraq debacle are from our bombs, not from those of the crazed insurgents. See my earlier piece "Red Harvest" for more on that.
As for the child pictured above — a picture from the U.N.'s IRIN news service, not from the Pentagon — I haven't seen Major Russ Goemaere rush to report on her or on the other Iraqis we've killed and wounded.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.