IRAQ: ‘Managing’ the body countsApril 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Body count
‘Managing’ the body counts
People who are, for example, 13 may not remember this because they’re really too young too. But the US government hid behind the (earlier) pose of ‘we don’t do body counts’ when starting the Iraq War. Of course they did body counts. They did them all along. Three years after the Iraq war started, those who stated ‘of course the US is keeping a body count’ were backed up with one of the most forgotten stories of the Iraq War.
As with so many of the important stories during the Iraq War, that report came from Knight Ridder. The US government was keeping a body count on Iraqis killed in the violence. They were keeping the count and a military officer freely showed the count to a Knight Ridder reporter.
It shouldn’t be hidden history but it is.
Bill Moyers wasn’t interested in praising that report when he returned to PBS with Bill Moyers Journal and that was probably due — Moyers sexism is well known and has been for decades — to the fact that a woman broke that story: Nancy A. Youssef.
She also wasn’t helped out by her outlet. She broke the news for Knight Ridder Newspapers . . . on the last day of the chain’s existence. The very next day it was McClatchy Newspapers and McClatchy had little to gain from trumpeting a Knight Ridder report. Things might have been different if the report had been held for one more day allowing it to become McClatchy’s first big scoop.
From the June 26, 2006 “Iraq snapshot” (and I’m correcting the spelling of Knight Ridder):
In what might get the most attention today, reporting from Baghdad, Nancy A. Youssef (Knight Ridder) breaks the news that the United States now admits to keeping some figures on Iraqis who have died during the illegal war. Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli tells Youssef that “the number of civilian dead and wounded” via US troops “is an important measurement.” Chiarelli reveals that “he reviews the figures daily.” The US government has denied that any figures were being kept.
I was wrong (not the first time, not the last time), it didn’t get the most attention that day. It didn’t really get any attention, as we’d note in “2006: The Year of Living Dumbly” — including it in a long list of Iraq related news that independent media couldn’t be counted on to report in the summer of 2006:
Despite the knowledge that DoD was keeping a count, other outlets ignored Youssef’s story and there was never any pressure for the government to supply those figures to the press. So hidden away was Youssef’s scoop that weeks later, Phyllis Bennis would go around, weeks after, insisting publicly that US government didn’t keep a body count — like so much of America, even she wads unaware of Nancy Youssef’s report. As Phyllis was called out (and not just within this community) and as numbers — US government numbers — began to appear in the press, suddenly Phyllis was aware. Basically, it took over a year for her to finally grasp that the voices she was hearing were actual people and not personalities inside her head. That led her to declare in September 2007 on CounterSpin:
Now apparently they’re making body counts. So nobody has asked them, “Excuse me, general, when did you start doing body counts?” From the beginning you told us ‘We don’t do bodycounts.’ When did that [tracking the number of Iraqis killed] begin? When do these figures start from?
There was no great mystery, just a failure to pay attention. (In fairness to Phyllis, corporate media wasn’t interested in trumpeting Nancy Youssef’s scoop and Panhandle Media was working other grudges when Youssef’s story broke so they were unable to amplify it.)
What did the press do in those first years of the Iraq War to note dying Iraqis?
Not a whole hell of a lot.
Keep their own count? Oh, you make me laugh. Except for the Associated Press, the lazy American outlets couldn’t even be counted on to keep a count of the US service members killed in the Iraq War.
Instead, many began using the London-based Iraq Body Count which based their count on press reports. It was an undercount because so many of the deaths never were reported. In the earliest days of IBC, it was also an undercount because they tended to ignore the reports from non-Western outlets. Many were using them for the count and then Bully Boy Bush included a number in public remarks. It was IBC’s number. As IBC notes:
The only significant mention by a senior member of the US government of a figure for Iraqi deaths came in a brief response from President G W Bush, when taking questions after a speech on 12th December 2005. Asked to provide an approximate total for all Iraqis killed since the beginning of the war, including military and insurgents as well as civilians, he replied “30,000, more or less.” At the time, the IBC web-site indicated 27,383 to 30,892 civilian deaths alone.
The outlet having been stamped with White House approval, that all the US press began including IBC in their month’s-violence reports which were generally published between the first of the month through the fourth of the month. In fact, the press was so predictable that the Bully Boy Bush White House took to asking the Pentagon to hold off on announcing deaths of US service members. If you died, for example, on the 30th of the month, they’d wait until the 4th to announce it so as to make a heavy month of fatalities look a little lighter. This practice only ended when it became obvious . . . if not reported. The same US press that whores for Barack today whored for Bush back then. Kids, the business never changes, only the clients.
So IBC became the established measure. And then it suddenly didn’t. Today the press treats as gospel the numbers issued by Nouri’s ministries — even the ministries that have no minister heading them. Nouri controls the ministires and we’re supposed to believe that has no effect on the counts they enter?
As violence increased in Iraq, the ministries numbers dropped and dropped. It’s nothing for them to now be 100 or more less than IBC’s monthly count. But the press doesn’t want to note that. We understand why Nouri lies, he wants to present Iraq as more peaceful. But who’s twisting the arms — especially of AFP and Reuters — to get them to go along with that nonsense?
We’ve spent about two years decrying this nonsense. Back then we could do our own count here each month because McClatchy Newspapers did a daily violence summary and Reuters did one they called a factbox. But with so many vested in the lie that Barack (and the US) “saved” Iraq, reporting the violence just struck news outlets as unAmerican. Which is why they ignore the daily violence today. It takes many bombings and many deaths for the press to even note it. And if it’s not over 50 dead in one day, don’t expect ABC, CBS or NBC to even mention it — not even a single sentence — on their evening newscasts.
IBC counts 283 killed so far this month.
There are Americans who truly believe the violence has ended. They believe that not because they’re stupid but because the press stopped reporting it.
As the press gears up for their so-called monthly totals — point of fact, repeating government figures with no context is not reporting — the above is worth remembering. Also worth remembering is that Joel Wing tackled the veracity of the official counts in a piece at AK News. Excerpt.
In February 2012, the Iraqi government released its official figures for casualties from April 2004 to the end of 2011. It had over 69,000 deaths for that time period. That count was 30,000 less than other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq. During the height of the civil war, the country’s ministries’ numbers were comparable to other groups, but since 2011 they have consistently been the lowest. While some Iraqi politicians have claimed that the official counts miss many deaths, it could also be argued that the statistics are being politicized by the prime minister who controls all of the security ministries.
On February 29, 2012, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh announced the government’s numbers for deaths in the country. He said that from April 5, 2004 to December 31, 2011 69,263 Iraqis were killed. 239,133 were also wounded. The deadliest year was 2006 when there were 21,539 dead, and 39,329 wounded. 2011 was the least violent with only 2,777 casualties. Of the nation’s eighteen provinces, Baghdad was the deadliest with 23,898 dead for the reported time period, followed by Diyala, Anbar, and Ninewa. Muthanna in the south was the safest with only 94 killed over the seven years covered. A member of parliament’s human rights committee immediately criticized the report. The deputy claimed that there were thousands of people who disappeared during the civil war that were never counted. He also said that out in the countryside, reporting to the ministries was poor. No numbers on violence in Iraq can be anywhere near complete. During the civil war from 2005-2008 there were sections of the country that were too dangerous to enter and do any serious reporting. Some insurgent groups also buried their victims. The problem with the ministries numbers however are that they are so far below other organizations that keep track of violence in Iraq, which was not always true.
Bonnie reminds that Isaiah‘s The World Today Just Nuts “Celebrity In Chief” went up last night. On this week’s Law and Disorder Radio — a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include Bradley Manning drones — drones is the topic they discuss with Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jennifer Lynch. In the snapshot today, I may go off on David Cole. Right now, I’m telling myself he’s just not worth it. And he’s not. He’s the most weak-ass ‘protector’ the Constitution and America has ever had. He’s churned out a small tribal following that is as weak as he is. (I do know him.) He’s an embarrassment because he’s always so worried about being respectable and ‘respectable’ means he forever gets his facts wrong offering one bad comparison after another. In a world where academics were truly held accountable, Cole’s body of work would have been picked apart and refuted long ago. Considering how his ‘respectable’ drive hurt Lynne Stewart’s case (please, David, if you’re going to ‘help’ by convicting, just please close your mouth and don’t say a damn word), there’s a good chance I’ll call Cole out in the snapshot.
Lynne is a political prison. Convicted under Bush of the ‘crime’ of a issuing a press release, targeted under Barack — because heaven forbid she be released and tell her story — by having her prison sentence increased. The locking away of Lynne will be seen historically as one of the great affronts of the double-Os (I’m referring to the decade). At her website, this message from Lynne was posted Thursday:
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