Published on Wednesday, December 3, 2003 by the Boston Globe
Do Americans Know the Score?
by Derrick Z. Jackson
IN THE EARLY weeks of America's invasion of Iraq, Central Command spokesman Frank Thorp said, "We cannot look at combat as a scorecard."
This was because we did not count Iraqi military or civilian casualties. Until this week. Suddenly, the military is hawking scorecards, saying that 54 guerrillas have been killed.
The military now figures you can't tell who's winning the war without one.
In the great spirit of President "Bring 'em on" Bush, the military was back to lecturing the enemy as to how utterly superior we are. General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "They attacked, and they were killed. So I think it will be instructive to them." Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said: "Any enemy looking at eight tanks, four Bradley fighting vehicles, and 93 coalition soldiers and still decides to fight is making a dreadful mistake."
We Americans, of course, make no mistakes. "We take proper aim and fire at those firing at us," said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Consalves. "We don't indiscriminately engage. We engage people who are shooting and trying to kill us."
Our soldiers were so sure of their aim, they had no problem describing the gore. Specialist Sergio Silva told The New York Times how he literally blew apart a guerrilla with his Bradley cannon just before the guerrilla was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade. "He just exploded," Silva said.
Enough of this proper aim. Since our invasion was a dreadful mistake based on lies (seen any weapons of mass destruction lately?), American scorecards are about as trustworthy as Vegas odds. Even the military admits the sudden interest in counting the bodies of Iraqi soldiers is a political ploy. It comes after the deadliest month for American soldiers since we commenced the bombing of Iraq. Eighty-one American soldiers perished -- more than the 65 in March or the 73 in April during the actual invasion.
The military did not want to count Iraqi soldiers or civilians who were killed for fear of humanizing the enemy. That boomeranged as the American bodies mounted. The number of US soldiers killed after Bush declared that major combat operations were over is currently 303, more than double the 138 of the invasion.
A senior military official told the Los Angeles Times that the new accounting of casualties is a "conscious change in policy." The official said: "We've been killing and capturing bushels of these guys, but no one was talking about it. . . . For a while there it was beginning to look like only Americans were being killed."
It is also clear that there will only be a scorecard when it looks like only Iraqis are killed. As vicious as the ambush was said to be, no Americans died.
The same official said: "We don't want to have a regular box score. As soon as you get into the body count business, it gets to look like the Super Bowl. That's not what we want."
When it has to be 54-0 before the government lets us know the score, it is no surprise to discover that this ploy may have as little credibility as the nation that issued it.
Iraqi doctors and civilians told American reporters a far different story of US soldiers shelling and riddling civilian houses, a mosque, a kindergarten, a minibus carrying Iranian pilgrims, and a pharmaceutical factory. People told reporters that American tanks randomly crushed Iraqi cars.
Satar Nasiaf, a shopkeeper who said he personally saw two civilians killed by American soldiers, said: "If I had a gun, I would have attacked the Americans myself. The Americans were shooting in every direction."
Saad Feisal, the brother of a mentally disabled brother who was wounded, asked, "This is the gift of Mr. Bush?"
Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Qadir, an official at a mosque where witnesses said a man and his son were killed, said, "Even in worship we're not safe from the Americans."
At least one woman who worked at the pharmaceutical factory was killed in the crossfire. An angry ambulance driver, Adnan Sahib Dafar, said: "Is this woman shooting a rocket-propelled grenade? Is she fighting?"
An elderly Iranian pilgrim was killed with shots to the head and chest. No one knows where the bodies of the 54 guerrillas went. The United States was not stopping to mop up, and the band of guerrillas was surely not anxious to take them to the local morgue.
The most tangible evidence of the United States was eight bodies at the local hospital, all civilians, according to local doctors. Two of the victims were under 18 years old.
The hospital did record a "54." It the number of wounded who came to be treated.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.