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IPFS News Link • WAR: About that War

The Iraq War Was a Systematic Atrocity

•, by James Bovard

There were systematic war crimes that have largely vanished into the memory hole, but permitting government officials to vaporize their victims paves the way to new atrocities.

On the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, former First Lady Barbara Bush announced: "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's gonna happen? It's not relevant, so why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

The Pentagon quickly institutionalized the Barbara Bush rule. Early in the Iraq war, Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, asked about tracking civilian casualties, replied, "It just is not worth trying to characterize by numbers. And, frankly, if we are going to be honorable about our warfare, we are not out there trying to count up bodies."

Congress, in 2003 legislation funding the Iraq War, required the Pentagon to "seek to identify families of non-combatant Iraqis who were killed or injured or whose homes were damaged during recent military operations, and to provide appropriate assistance." The Pentagon ignored the provision. The Washington Post reported: "One Air Force general, asked why the military has not done such postwar accounting in the past, said it has been more cost-effective to pour resources into increasingly sophisticated weaponry and intelligence-gathering equipment." Acquiring more lethal weapons trumped tallying the victims.

The media blackout on the death count begins

After the invasion progressed, Bush perennially proclaimed that the United States had given freedom to 25 million Iraqis. Thus, any Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. forces were both statistically and morally inconsequential. And the vast majority of the news coverage left out the asterisks.