Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Thursday, November 10, 2005
I see them here, I see them there, I see yankee war crimes everywhere.

Yankee war crimes in the Independent - read Scott Burgess on the White Phosphorus Scandal that rose into the sky like an illuminating flare, appropriately enough, and just as quickly sank. [Added later: I did not make quite clear enought that Scott's role in all this was to supply the gravity.]

Yankee war crimes in the Guardian - see this column by George Monbiot called "The media are minimising US and British war crimes in Iraq"

What struck me most about this article when I had stopped laughing long enough to read it was its reliance on cheap stunts. It starts with the line "We were told that the Iraqis don't count." Because by means of a wearisome pun on two possible meanings of the word "count", Monibot could give you the momentary impression that the Americans have said that the Iraqis are worth less as human beings .... yawn, you guessed right, Monibot does give you that impression.

He doesn't keep it up because he can't. With a certain reluctance he turns to his actual, quite different complaint in the next few lines. He writes:

"Before the invasion began, the head of US central command, General Thomas Franks, boasted that "we don't do body counts". His claim was repeated by Donald Rumsfeld in November 2003 ("We don't do body counts on other people") and the Pentagon last January ("The only thing we keep track of is casualties for US troops and civilians").
But then do you know what those warmongering Pentagon scum did? (Sensitive readers may prefer to look away at this point.)

They made a bar chart. Yes, a bar chart. In a report to Congress. It was labelled "average daily casualties - Iraqi and coalition. 1 Jan 04-16 Sep 05".

Sternly, Monibot says, "The claim that it kept no track of Iraqi deaths was false." First point: two of Monbiot's supposedly damning quotes (by Franks and Rumsfeld) date from before the beginning of the offending bar chart. (The first of them dates from before the war itself, and pretty clearly was talking about battle casualties among Saddam's army.) If someone claims not to be on a diet in 2003 it doesn't make her a liar if she then starts one in 2005.

Second point: who cares? So someone came out with a bit of bravado designed to lay the ghosts of Vietnam (a war in which "body counts" of enemy dead were widely condemned both for their dishonesty and because they can act as an incentive to massacre) and then the Pentagon changed its mind about its record keeping? Big deal.

Third point: if you look very, very carefully you will see that the unnamed Evil Pentagonian quoted third said, "The only thing we keep track of is casualties for US troops and civilians." And then if you look equally carefully further down the page you will see Mr Monbiot says,

The report does not explain what it means by casualty, or if its figures represent all casualties, only insurgents, or, as the foregoing paragraph appears to hint, only civilians killed by insurgents.
It's all very vague, but it looks to me as if the Evil Pentagonian and the Evil Bar Chart might have been talking about the same thing.

The next bit of the article is about Iraq Body Count and the Lancet study. Now, the internet isn't exactly short of discussion of the Lancet figures. For the record I think that they are way too high to be credible for that sort of war and that the source of error will turn out to be exaggeration by survey respondents for political reasons or in the hope of getting compensation.

Given that the phrase "two independent news agencies" impresses me very little when I consider possible pairs, my guess is that the Iraq Body Count estimate will also turn out to be too high. But I don't want to attack Monbiot here for believing differently. The point is that even on his own account, so far the article has had practically nothing to do with its stated subject of British and American war crimes. First he talked about, at worst, the US keeping records it had said it didn't keep. Then he talked about how to count numbers of deaths due to the war. He is of course aware that the Lancet and Iraq Body Count figures include things like higher incidence of disease, not to mention* the victims of the spectacular and unashamed war crimes committed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Finally he claimed that the US foolishly assumes all the people it blows up are insurgents.

The last two issues are important (the first isn't), but I can't help feeling sorry for all those Guardian readers who clicked the link hoping for some juicy US war crimes action and this is all they got. False advertising, I call it. Still, I suppose it sells papers.

*As indeed Mr Monbiot doesn't.