Conn Hallinan | October 17, 2007
The great 19th-century Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once remarked there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. It is a dictum the Bush administration has taken to heart when it comes to totaling up the carnage in Iraq: If you don't like the numbers, just change them; and when in doubt, look 'em in the eye and lie.
For instance, according to the Department of Defense (DOD), the United States does not track civilian casualties. As former commander General Tommy Franks put it, "We don't do body counts."
But testimony in the recent trial of U.S. Army snipers from the First Battalion of the 501 Infantry regiment indicated the generals indeed do body counts. In a July hearing at Fort Liberty, Iraq, Sgt. Anthony G. Murphy said he and other snipers felt "an underlying tone" of disappointment from their commanders when they didn't rack up big body counts.
"It just kind of felt like, 'What are you guys doing wrong out there?'" he testified. When the snipers started setting traps to lure in unsuspecting Iraqis, the kill ratios went up and the commanders, he said, were pleased.
The choreography the Bush administration does around casualties is aimed at creating a dance of lies and disinformation to cover up one of the worst humanitarian crises to strike the Middle East since the Mongols sacked Baghdad.
That is not an overstatement.