The Iraqi Body Counts

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To: Sen. Pat Roberts [R KS]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: More Bad Intelligence

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Roberts,
you have done the country a great service by issuing the committee's
report on the errors made by the Intelligence Community [IC] that
led to the President's decision to war against Iraq. You have also
been good enough to acknowledge that if what is now known to be
true — that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and no connection
with 9-11 — there would not have been the votes in the Senate in
November 2002 to authorize the use of force against Iraq should
diplomacy fail. What seems to be the consensus view of the Intelligence
Committee, especially its vice chairman Jay Rockefeller [D-WV],
is that the IC came to believe the administration was bent on regime
change in Iraq and the u201Cgroup thinku201D produced the erroneous intelligence.
That is, the u201Cprocessu201D was flawed, directing information up the
ladder to the Oval Office in ways that would support a war decision
and suppress counter arguments that would prevent that flawed information

It is human nature, Senator, that when you know the Boss wants information
to justify an action he really wants to take, that's the way the
process will work. Even when u201COmbudsmenu201D are put in place as a check
on this human tendency, as already exist in the IC, the u201Ctruthu201D
can always be subverted at the last minute at the very top of the
information ladder — as it was when CIA Director George Tenet told
President Bush it would be a u201Cslam dunku201D to prove Iraq had WMD,
when Tenet knew full well that the IC could only speculate on that

The reason I write you today, Senator, is that a similar problem
has come up with you. I'm afraid you are still relying on faulty
intelligence in saying, as you did on the weekend talk shows, that
the war could be justified because of Saddam's cruelty to his own
people. Here is how you put it on u201CMeet the Press,u201D in response
to a question from Tim Russert:

Well, that was then. This is now. I know I stood on a gravesite
at Hillah in Iraq and looked at 18,000 bodies being unearthed,
you know, one at a time; 500,000 were dead. I think we’re probably
in better shape. I know the people in Iraq are in better shape,
if we can achieve the stability, which is a very tough challenge
over there. But I don’t think anybody in terms of threat to regional
stability, to Israel, the possibility of reconstituting –
he did have the capability of the weapons of mass destruction.
I think we’re better off without Saddam there.

was a bit puzzled, Senator, because I have been following the u201Cgenocideu201D
issue in Iraq for several years and wondered how you could get these
numbers. If you were not chairman of the Intelligence Committee,
I wouldn't bother you today, because most members of Congress have
bought the genocide story that has become embedded in the national
consciousness because it has been repeated too many times. As a
result, I contacted your staff (your eyes and ears, so to speak),
and asked: u201CCan you help me better understand where Senator Roberts
gets the numbers of Iraqis killed by Saddam Hussein… particularly
the number 500,000. He used it several times in the weekend talk
shows. There have been reports of as many as 200,000 killed in the
Anfal campaign of 1987–88, but so far no mass graves have been
found in Kurdistan, none at all. The Senator also says he watched
18,000 bodies being unearthed at a gravesite at Hillah. The most
recent number I’ve seen relating to that area is 2,200. The Senator’s
inference is that these dead were victims of genocide, when all
the accounts say the victims were Shiite rebels who were attempting
to overthrow the government – and were of the belief the USA
would come to protect them because they were incited to rebel by
CIA agents.u201D

Your staff responded with an e-mail referring me to the now defunct
website of the Coalition Provisional Authority, with the comment
that my numbers were u201Cway too low.u201D

I went to the website
and found a press release of the CPA that referred to a press conference
given March 17 by US AID director Andrew Natsios: u201CIraqi and U.S.
officials have prepared a long-range plan to excavate mass graves
in Iraq and prepare forensic evidence of crimes against humanity…There
are 300,000–400,000 bodies reported to lie in mass graves in
Iraq.u201D The way Natsios put it: u201CHow many died in these mass murders?
Some say 300,000. Some say 400,000. We are helping the Iraqis as
they begin the terrible task of counting.u201D

See what I mean, you have already added another 100,000 to
the mass murders, and as far as I know from following these accounts,
not one body has been unearthed that can be identified as a victim
of genocide. There are gravesites all over Iraq, but the u201Cforensic
evidence of crimes against humanityu201D has yet to be presented. As
I pointed out in my note to your staff, I had previously seen u201Creportsu201D
of as many as 200,000 Iraqi Kurds killed by the Iraqi army at the
end of the Iraq/Iran war, but if you would now ask your staff to
check, they will have to tell you that so far no bodies at all have
been found in connection with that u201CAnfalu201D campaign. The original
charge of mass murder by gassing of the Kurds was made by then Secretary
of State George Shultz on September 8, 1988, but when the Iraqi
foreign minister asked Shultz for proof, Shultz said he could not
do so as it would compromise his sources. Sadoun Mahmoudi, the foreign
minister, then asked: u201CWhere are the victims?u201D

No kidding, Senator. It is now almost 16 years later and the victims
have yet to be found. If you ask your top intelligence people on
your committee to check, they will find articles in the contemporaneous
press by journalists who traveled to Kurdistan during this uproar
over genocide, and who could find no evidence of it. In fact, I
think your committee staff will admit to you, if you asked, that
the Intelligence Community has never been able to confirm these
deaths. Indeed, if you read page 400 of your own committee's report,
you will find under. “Information sources,u201D the following:
u201CAccording to comments from IC analysts who spoke to Committee staff,
a large part of the information available to the IC concerning human
rights abuses was from refugees, defectors and opposition groups.
The IC also depended on the Foreign Broadcast Information Service
(FBIS). In all cases, verification of the reporting on human rights
abuses was difficult… Unfortunately, the immigrant/refugee reporting
usually could not be verified on the ground in Iraq.u201D

I hope you understand what's going on here, Senator. The IC is telling
you the same people who supplied the erroneous intelligence about
WMD and Al Qaeda connections to Iraq are the people who cooked up
the genocide stories. Of course it is human nature for you to want
to believe our government can be ultimately vindicated by a trial
of Saddam that proves he was the mass murderer you believe him to
be. The Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee should
not have been snookered, but you were, and it has to be an embarrassment
to suspect as much. But as I indicated to your staff, it will be
an even greater embarrassment for you to discover how to this day
you are relying on bad intelligence in your public statements. There
were, for example, no 18,000 bodies at Hillah, a number suggested
at the time when bodies in this battlefield area were unearthed.
The latest number after 14 months of counting before the forensic
experts left the area was 2,200. That's a lot of dead Iraqis, but
they were encouraged to overthrow their government by our CIA, were
they not? Kind of like the Bay of Pigs, yes? We can’t really accuse
Fidel Castro of genocide when he put down the rebellion, or we would
have to file charges against Abraham Lincoln.

In addition, Senator, there are fairly careful estimates that as
many as 90,000 Iraqis — civilian and military — have died since
we decided we had to save Iraq from Saddam and his genocidal impulses.
That’s a lot of dead Iraqis.

You can go to Google as I did and run this down for yourself. It
may not be a happy experience for you, but it should make you a
better chairman.

14, 2004

Wanniski [send him mail]
runs the financial/political advisory service
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