Dira Dawa, Northern Ethiopia, January 2007

Inside emergency shelter camp, following massive flooding which left thousands of villagers homeless.

19 October 2010

Tom Brokow and the Pentagon: Unwitting Partners in Apathy

Veteran news broadcaster Tom Browkow, in an October 17 Op-Ed in the New York Times, asks the following question regarding the current election campaign:

"Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape? How about war?"

Acknowledging that "no decision is more important than going to war", Brokow laments the virtual absence from public discourse of any discussion on the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "longest wars in American history'.

"...why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign?" he asks.

It's a relevant question.

But Mr. Brokow is himself guilty in nurturing the same collective apathy in our society about these wars which he decries.

In describing the 'human consequence' of the war, this revered, senior newsman points out:

"...almost 5,000 men and women have been killed."

Mr. Brokow is wrong. The figure he cites refers only to Americans killed in the conflict, though he does not label it as such. It is as though Iraqi or Afghan civilian deaths do not count as "human consequence". Not a word.

Why did Mr. Brokow's Op-Ed - at its core a plea for the American public to take note of the "blood and treasure" lost in these conflicts - completely bypass any mention whatsoever of the foreign life lost?

Perhaps it is because the U.S. Military wants it that way.

The Associated Press reported last week that it 'accidentally' found a report quietly issued by the US Central Command - back in July - which acknowledged the number of Iraq's killed in the conflict to be over 77,000 people.

According to the October 14 AP story, "The new data was released without comment or explanation when it was quietly posted on the U.S. Central Command's website in July. Indeed, the figures were only discovered this week, by accident, during a routine check by The AP for civilian and military casualty numbers that were first requested in 2005 through the Freedom of Information Act."

Since former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld infamously declared "We Don't Do Body Counts" in 2003, the Pentagon has taken great pains to avoid reporting on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties. It's recent admission, then, would seem to merit significant press coverage of an important element in a controversial war.

The press has ignored it. The candidates don't talk about it. Brokow's Op-Ed said nothing.

Do we simply not care about the Iraqis killed?

If, as Mr. Brokow argues, the 'human consequences' of these ongoing wars merit tpublic discourse, then shouldn't the full range of those consequences be part of the discussion?

Mr. Brokow's passionate dismay (noting the $1 Trillion cost, Brokow pleads that more attention be paid to the "blood and treasure" lost) is offset by his omission of any mention whatsoever of one of the more profound details involved - the tens of thousands of non-Americans killed in our name.

When Rumsfeld said "We Don't Do Body Counts", many people were mortified. Yet, as ethically horrifying as that statement was - what may be even worse is this:

Now that we indeed produced such a body count --

Does anyone care?


Tom Brokow, "The Wars That America Forgot About" Op-Ed, New York Times, October 17, 2010

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