Politics & Policy

90% Baloney

Kerry-Edwards lie about casualty numbers in Iraq.

In the first debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry, Kerry said again and again that Americans are suffering 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq, and that American taxpayers are paying 90 percent of the costs. In the vice-presidential debates, Sen. John Edwards said the same thing. It would be a tremendously effective line in proving Kerry’s point that we “pushed our allies aside” and went to war unthinking and unprepared. It would be a tremendously effective line if it were true, that is.

But like so much else in the Democrats’ relentless attack on the war, it is–in the immortal words of M*A*S*H’s Col. Sherman Potter–”horse hockey.” A senior administration source filled me in on the real numbers. This does not diminish the enormous sacrifice represented by each and every one of those Americans who have given their lives in this war; it only shows how low the Dems will go to make a political point.

The real numbers tell a very different story than the line Kerry and Edwards are peddling. From the beginning of the war in March 2003 through October 2, 2004, about 800 American troops had been killed in action (another 260 died of non-combat causes). In that same period, about 750 Iraqis and 120 Coalition soldiers were killed in action. The math just doesn’t work for Kerry-Edwards. It’s 48 percent, not 90 percent. And the percentage is decreasing.

If you count the number of combat dead from May 2003 to October 2004, Americans are 700 out of about 1540 total (which includes the 750 Iraqi and 90 Coalition casualties), or 45 percent. From September 1, 2003, to October 2, 2004, Americans constitute 43 percent of combat deaths (600 Americans, 700 Iraqis, and 80 Coalition KIA).

All these numbers are gruesome; none is pleasant to contemplate. But none of them–from beginning to end–amounts to the bill of goods Kerry-Edwards are selling.

Vice President Cheney shot some of these numbers back at John Edwards on Tuesday night, and didn’t end with the casualty numbers. He said, “The allies have stepped forward and agreed to reduce and forgive Iraqi debt to the tune of nearly $80 billion, by one estimate. That plus $14 billion they’ve promised in terms of direct aid puts the overall allied contribution financially at about $95 billion,” which Cheney said amounted to more than 40 percent. But even the vice president didn’t include the amount the Iraqis have contributed themselves, which my source said was about $20 billion. Whatever the figures add up to (my source’s estimate was that America was putting in only about 35 percent), they clearly add up to one fact: The Kerry-Edwards line about America’s paying 90 percent of the bill is–like their casualty figures–baloney.

The abuse of the casualty figures is above and beyond outrageous. Kerry and Edwards are twisting them around to make the point that President Bush took us to war without a sufficient number of allies to share the butcher’s bill. It’s not sufficient to say, as some talk-radio hosts have, that we lost more than 1,000 men on some single days in World War II and Korea. Saying that plays into the Dems’ despicable theme. It’s not enough to say, as Dick Cheney did to John Edwards, that it’s beyond the pale to ignore the sacrifice of the Iraqis, the Brits, the Aussies, and others who have died there.

A few of my friends, while on active duty, have had the terrible task of visiting the homes of soldiers killed in action to notify their families. Were it possible, I would sentence both Kerry and Edwards to that task, not just here but in Iraq and in the Coalition nations. Perhaps by being compelled to do that duty, they wouldn’t be so anxious to use those deaths to score political points. Maybe just sending them to Iraq would be enough.

According to the same administration source, 233 members of Congress have visited the troops in Iraq so far. One hundred ninety-one were House members: 121 Republicans, and 70 Democrats. Forty-two were senators: 24 Republicans and 18 Dems. Eight senators have made two trips, and one has made three. Neither Kerry nor Edwards has taken time away from manicures, hairstyling appointments, and campaign stops to talk to the men and women who are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and to see the facts on the ground. That’s leadership for you.

NRO contributor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think.

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