Friday, December 15, 2006


Are Body Counts the New Metric?

by BarbinMD

More than three years ago, Donald Rumsfeld said that:

Well, we don't do body counts on other people.

But two days ago, George Bush declared:

Our commanders report that the enemy has also suffered. Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy.

Are body counts the new metric to measure success in Iraq? When asked that question during yesterday's White House press briefing, Tony Snow said:

-- what I can do is at least offer one possible reason why that's an important data point for Americans, which is there's a lot of concern about U.S. casualties and deaths, as there should be -- 103 deaths in October alone. And there is quite often the impression -- and I've talked about it up here, that our people aren't doing anything, they're just targets. And I think there's a certain amount of unease in the American public because they hear about deaths but they don't hear about what's going on. [...]

But it probably is worth at least giving a general impression of relative battlefield success...

This is a part of the new effort at the White House "to talk about both the good news and the bad news" out of Iraq. Of course this new measurement of success only serves to give yet another way to compare Iraq to Vietnam. Because in Vietnam, when we were:

Bogged down in atypical warfare with no tangible measure of progress, U.S. commanders in Vietnam used the body count to show the alleged destruction of enemy forces.

And don't forget that:

Gen. William C. Westmoreland, used an increasing body count to suggest that victory might be close at hand in 1967 and 1968. But the 1968 Tet offensive proved him wrong..."That is what set the stage for the 'credibility gap' when the Tet offensive broke out. It put the final lie to all these bogus representations."

The more things change...

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