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WPost Downplays Iraq War Crimes

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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From Consortium News

What those judges meant was that every evil that comes with war the slaughter of civilians, the brutality faced by soldiers, the depredations of hunger and disease, the destruction of homes and businesses, the temptation to torture, and all other war crimes can all be traced back to the original crime of invasion.

Yet, the Post's editors, who aided and abetted President George W. Bush in building public support for his war of aggression against Iraq, have never been willing to stand up and take full responsibility for those deceptive editorials that parroted Bush's WMD lies and contributed to the bloodbath that followed.

Instead, the Post editors have continued to cavil and quibble. On Tuesday, the Post attacked WikiLeaks for its latest release of secret U.S. military field reports from Iraq, though finding value in the documents' suggestion of a lower Iraqi death toll about 122,000 than some scholarly estimates.

"Claims such as those published by the British journal The Lancet that American forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands are the real "attack on truth,'" the Post editorial sniffed.

The Post editors also sought to shift responsibility for the death toll away from the Bush administration and themselves by noting that "the vast majority of Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by other Iraqis, not by coalition forces."

But that argument misses the point understood by the Nuremberg Tribunals that it is the original war of aggression that unpacks all the other evils of war, including the breakdown of civil order and the invitation to various ethnic and religious rivals to seek advantage and revenge.

The Nuremberg judges were well aware that many of the massacres in Europe were not carried out by the Germans directly, but rather by surrogates, like the Croats against the Serbs in the Balkans or local anti-Semites against the Jews. But those slaughters were made possible by the larger war which had been provoked by German aggression. Barbarity had been made the new normal.

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Similarly, it was Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq cheered on by the Washington Post that created the hyper-violent environment in which longstanding grievances between Shiites and Sunnis were brought to critical mass and allowed to explode into sectarian savagery.

And, as for the Iraq casualty estimates, the Post's determination to low-ball the death toll and thus presumably minimize the newspaper's shared guilt for these unnecessary deaths is equally troubling.

The best that can be said about the 122,000 deaths tallied by the Iraq Body Count (after adding about 15,000 previously unreported deaths revealed in the WikiLeaks' documents) is that it is a base figure, not a complete total.

The Iraq Body Count has simply talled violent deaths that were reported in Iraq from various public sources. However, in areas largely off limits to the news media or in neighborhoods where citizens don't trust the authorities, many deaths surely have gone unreported.

Epidemiologists at the respected medical journal Lancet and elsewhere have sought to reach a more accurate estimate by applying sampling techniques that have been used to gauge the casualty figures in other conflicts. [For details, see's "Undercounting the Iraq War Dead."]

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Minimizing the Crime

But the scientific estimates, placing the total excess death toll in Iraq in the hundreds of thousands and possibly over one million, would make the Iraq War seem like one of history's great war crimes, so it is in the interests of the Post's editors to minimize the numbers and ridicule anyone who disagrees.

This pattern has been common across the U.S. news media where many prominent journalists share in the complicity of promoting the Iraq invasion. So, most major American news outlets have shunned or denounced the higher estimates, a marked contrast to how they behave when a death toll can be blamed on a U.S. enemy.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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