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Body Counts

October 30, 2005
Body Counts
By Casey Morris
Democracy Cell Project

The "We don't do body counts" Pentagon, then:

General Tommy Franks, March 2003

"I don't believe you have heard me or anyone else in our leadership talk about the presence of 1,000 bodies out there, or in fact how many have been recovered," Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the Afghanistan operation, said Monday at Bagram Air Base. "You know we don't do body counts."
Donald Rumsfeld, November 2003

RUMSFELD: Well, we don't do body counts on other people.
The "We don't do body counts" Pentagon now:

The New York Times, (emphasis added)

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 29 - In the first public disclosure that the United States military is tracking some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians, the military has released rough figures for Iraqis who have been killed or wounded by insurgents since Jan. 1 last year.
The estimate of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians and security forces was provided by the Pentagon in a report to Congress this month.
It appeared without fanfare in a single bar graph on Page 23 of the document. But it was significant because the military had previously avoided virtually all public discussion of the issue.
The count is incomplete - it provides daily partial averages of deaths and injuries of Iraqis at the hands of insurgents, in attacks like bombings and suicide strikes. Still, it shows that the military appears to have a far more accurate picture of the toll of the war than it has been willing to acknowledge.
So, apparently we don't do body counts, except for when we do.

And the indication from this report, is that, to some degree, the Pentagon has been "doing body counts" all along. They just used that line to avoid discussing the issue of "collateral damage" publicly. And they would have continued using that line except that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully sponsored an amendment to the fiscal year 2006 Defense Authorization Bill that calls for casualty details.

Can this administration tell the truth about anything?

Senator John Kerry had them pegged all along. Hardball, March 11, 2004*:

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I‘ve ever seen.
And they are.

*[Editor's note: The typo is in Hardball's transcript of this show. It is not the wishcraft of anyone at the DCP. Among the other ironies, one of the people Matthews had on to comment about the "lying crooks", Jayson Blair.

Special thanks to DCP blogger and IRC commenter, Sunflower, for pointing us to the Iraq Body Count story in the New York Times.]

Matthew Carnicelli is taking a break. His Sunday column, The Tao of Politics, will return when he does. In the meantime, an index of his columns can be found here.



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