Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Human Toll

Iraqi workers in Karbala have uncovered another mass grave, filled with more victims of Saddam Hussein's regime. According to human rights organizations, Saddam authorized the slaughter of more than 300,000 Iraqi citizens--mostly Shiites and Kurds--during his reign of terror. Some estimates place the death toll much higher--perhaps as high as one million.

Why is that number important? Back in 1999, we went to war in Kosovo largely to end ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Serbs. President Clinton painted a grim picture, insisting that "tens of thousands" of Kosavars had been murdered by Serbian troops and security forces. U.S. officials even provided satellite photos that purported to show mass graves that (supposedly) contained thousands of bodies.

So, what was the final death toll in Kosovo? Larry Elder, the columnist and KABC talk show host has been one of the few observers who actually followed up on the Kosovo story, comparing pre-war estimates against the number of bodies actually recovered. He discovered that the number of Kosavars murdered by the Serbs was betweeen 2-3,000, a horrible tragedy, to be sure, but far below original estimates. Based on those numbers, Larry rightly asks; did Clinton lie about the justification for Operation Allied Force, just as liberals accused Bush of lying about the need to liberate Iraq?

I'm no fan of Bill Clinton, but on issue of Kosovo, I'll be charitable and say that he received misleading or erroneous intelligence, just as George Bush did on Iraq. However, I won't give a pass to the MSM, which has ignored contradictions between pre-war intelligence and the ground truth that emerged in Kosovo, while assailing President Bush for "getting it wrong" in Iraq. Contrary to what the NYT or WaPo may think, you can't have it both ways: either Bush and Clinton both lied, (or) they acted on limited, sometimes faulty intelligence, (or) Saddam's genocide provided sufficient justification for going to war in Iraq, just as it did in Kosovo.

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