Letters to The Editor

To the Editor: In his Commentary article published on February 21st, Tom Dimopoulos ’03 stated, among other things, that “conservative estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths during the first Gulf War stand at 100,000; while liberal estimates reach into the millions.” I would honestly like to know where Mr. Dimopoulos got his figures, as the largest credible statistic ever cited for civilian casualties caused by the Gulf War was Carnegie Mellon University Professor Beth Daponte’s estimate of 205,000 civilian casualties caused by the war, the subsequent civil unrest, and famine and disease associated with the conflict combined. Ms. Daponte estimated that at least 35,000 deaths were directly related to Saddam’s crackdown on the Kurds and Shiite Muslims immediately after the War. Remember, however, that this 205,000 figure is the absolute top of the range – and we have not yet approached the “millions” of which Mr. Dimopoulos speaks . According to former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John Heidenrich, the number killed in the war was actually far less. Mr. Heidenrich also stated that only 1,500-6,000 civilians were killed. John Mueller, head of the political science department at Ohio State University, came up with almost identical figures in a study independent of Mr. Heindenrich’s. Although these numbers may seem rather low to those of us used to reports of massive civilian casualties and mass destruction. However, exaggeration of civilian and military casualties is hardly uncommon. In fact, it could be said to be the norm. In a press conference immediately following the conclusion of hostilities in 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf estimated that up to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers had been killed. Now, compare this figure to the total number of deaths confirmed by bodies – a mere 577 – and one can see how much statistics can vary. Next, by analyzing confirmed vehicle kills, and extrapolating outwards possible human “kill” statistics from there, military analysts estimate that between 20,000 and 25,000 Iraqi soldiers fell in combat during the Gulf War, still a far cry from “Stormin’” Norman’s 100,000 guesstimate. When the US first went into Afghanistan, prognosticators again predicted mass civilian casualties. Various United Nations agencies claimed that a civilian death tally above 10,000 was unavoidable. In reality, the Associated Press has yet to substantiate a number greater than 600. What, you may ask, is the point of my writing this lengthy response to what many might consider a few inconsequential words in an opinion article? Essentially, I can not bear it when people try to pass off horribly distorted statistics in support of doubtful points. It is tantamount to lying and I will not stand for it. Having any viewpoint marginalized by fabricated statistics is simply a travesty. Now, I do not mean to accuse Mr. Dimopoulos of lying; I think he had no intention of deceiving anybody. He simply did not realize that what he was writing was not true, because it has been repeated by “peace-niks” throughout the world for more than a decade. However, just because something is said by a lot of people does not make it true, and saying that millions of Iraqi civilians died in the Gulf War is about as accurate as saying that Saddam is a very kind, compassionate man. The fact of the matter is that millions of Iraqis were not killed, and it is doubtful that even the “low-end” figure Mr. Dimopoulos cites of 100,000 has any truth to it. I am sick and tired of seeing attempts at blatant misinformation aimed at derailing the just American cause of a regime change in Iraq. If you want to voice your opinions, at least use correct facts, and not fabricated lies. Sincerely, Will Scharf ’04