Michael Novak: The Media Are Exaggerating Combat Deaths in Iraq

Michael Novak, in National Review (Feb. 2, 2004):

The news media, which constantly accuse the Bush administration of exaggerating the threat in Iraq, are constantly exaggerating the number of U.S. combat deaths. I first pointed this out last August [in www.nationalreview.com]. For a while, the exaggeration stopped, but early in January it recommenced. The round number "500" was apparently irresistible.

Yet as of January 15, exactly ten months after the war began on March 16, 2003, the official number of US combat deaths listed by the Defense Department was 343. Another 155 had died from non- hostile causes, including 100 in accidents and others from illness, etc. Since non-hostile causes are responsible for army deaths in peacetime as well as wartime, in bases at home as well as in war zones, many of the non-hostile deaths ought not to be counted as specific to Iraq, although of course a portion of them are.

These 343 (not 500) combat deaths, furthermore, need to be set in context. During 2003, the number of homicides in Chicago was 599, in New York City 596, in Los Angeles 505, in Detroit 361, in Philadelphia 347, in Baltimore 271, in Houston 276, and in Washington 247. That makes 3002 deaths in only eight cities.

The least the media could do is print the number of combat deaths in Iraq in two columns. The first would show the number of days since the war began (as of January 15, 305). The second column might show the number of combat deaths as of the same date (343).

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