In Their Own Words, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” edition
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:
And there have not been large numbers of civilian casualties because the coalition took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians as well as holy sites. … When the dust is settled in Iraq, military historians will study this war. They’ll examine the unprecedented combination of power, precision, speed, flexibility and, I would add also, compassion that was employed.
General Tommy Franks, Bagram Air Force Base, 19 March 2002:
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. You know we don’t do body counts.
Donald Rumsfeld, interview on FOX News Sunday, 9 November 2003:
Well, we don’t do body counts on other people ….
Gilbert Burnham, Shannon Doocy, Elizabeth Dzeng, Riyadh Lafta, and Les Roberts (principal authors): The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002–2006:
A new household survey of Iraq has found that approximately 600,000 people have been killed in the violence of the war that began with the U.S. invasion in March 2003.
The survey was conducted by an American and Iraqi team of public health researchers. Data were collected by Iraqi medical doctors with analysis conducted by faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The results will be published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.
The survey is the only population-based assessment of fatalities in Iraq during the war. The method, a survey of more than 1800 households randomly selected in clusters that represent Iraq's population, is a standard tool of epidemiology and is used by the U.S. Government and many other agencies.
The survey also reflects growing sectarian violence, a steep rise in deaths by gunshots, and very high mortality among young men. An additional 53,000 deaths due to non-violent causes were estimated to have occurred above the pre-invasion mortality rate, most of them in recent months, suggesting a worsening of health status and access to health care.
Methods: Between May and July 2006 a national cluster survey was conducted in Iraq to assess deaths occurring during the period from January 1, 2002, through the time of survey in 2006. Information on deaths from 1,849 households containing 12,801 persons was collected. This survey followed a similar but smaller survey conducted in Iraq in 2004. Both surveys used standard methods for estimating deaths in conflict situations, using population-based methods.
Key Findings: Death rates were 5.5/1000/year pre-invasion, and overall, 13.2/1000/year for the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that through July 2006, there have been 654,965excess deaths–fatalities above the pre-invasion death rate–in Iraq as a consequence of the war. Of post-invasion deaths, 601,027 were due to violent causes. Non-violent deaths rose above the pre-invasion level only in 2006. Since March 2003, an additional 2.5% of Iraq's population have died above what would have occurred without conflict.
The proportion of deaths ascribed to coalition forces has diminished in 2006, though the actual numbers have increased each year. Gunfire remains the most common reason for death, though deaths from car bombing have increased from 2005. Those killed are predominantly males aged 15-44 years.
Deaths were recorded only if the person dying had lived in the household continuously for three months before the event. In cases of death, additional questions were asked in order to establish the cause and circumstances of deaths (while considering family sensitivities). At the conclusion of the interview in a household where a death was reported, the interviewers were to ask for a copy of the death certificate. In 92% of instances when this was asked, a death certificate was present.
White House Press Conference, 11 October 2006:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Back on Iraq. A group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war. That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December, at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure, and do you consider this a credible report?
George Bush: No, I don’t consider it a credible report. Neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me and it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate. And it’s now time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods so people can feel at peace.
No question, it’s violent, but this report is one — they put it out before, it was pretty well — the methodology was pretty well discredited. But I talk to people like General Casey and, of course, the Iraqi government put out a statement talking about the report.
Q — the 30,000, Mr. President? Do you stand by your figure, 30,000?
Bush: You know, I stand by the figure. A lot of innocent people have lost their life — 600,000, or whatever they guessed at, is just — it’s not credible. Thank you.
Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit (1986/2005):
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. …The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.