On Meet the Press, NY Times' Brooks admitted to pulling number of possible Iraqi deaths "out of the air"

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On the July 22 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, discussing the number of Iraqis that could be killed following a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, New York Times columnist David Brooks asked "are we willing to prevent 10,000 Iraqi deaths a month at the cost of 125 Americans?" Brooks initially tried to attribute the "10,000" figure to New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns and the National Intelligence Estimate, but later admitted, "I just picked out 10,000 out of the air."

Earlier in the program, host Tim Russert had quoted Burns, who said during the July 21 edition of PBS' Charlie Rose, "It seems to me incontrovertible that the most likely outcome of an American withdrawal anytime soon would be cataclysmic violence, and I find that to be widely agreed amongst Iraqis, including Iraqis who widely opposed the invasion and especially amongst Sunnis."

Later in the show, Brooks said: "Well if we leave, we could see 250,000 Iraqis die -- you had the John Burns quotation earlier in the program. So are we willing to prevent 10,000 Iraqi deaths a month at the cost of 125 Americans?" Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward challenged Brooks: "[T]he problem, though, is we don't know [what will happen in Iraq following a redeployment of U.S. troops]. People can say 'Oh, it's going to be a disaster,' I mean you've -- you cite numbers which are pulled out of the air -- '10,000 dying' -- I mean that's -- where does that come from?" When Brooks replied, "A, it comes from John Burns and, second, it comes from National Intelligence --" Woodward pointed out, "But [Burns] doesn't say 10,000."

In response, Brooks stated, "Well, no. No, but it talks about genocide, so I just picked out 10,000 out of the air. But the National Intelligence Estimate says that -- well, most people, as Burns reports, say it will get much, much worse. So that's the dilemma."

As Brooks acknowledged, neither Burns nor the NIE provided a numerical estimate.

From the July 22 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Is there any way to achieve, in Washington, a bipartisan consensus on what to do about Iraq?

BROOKS: It's based upon this unknown: I don't think there's any possibility that within five years that we're going to see a drastic diminution of violence. So we could be losing 125 Americans every month for five years. On the other hand --

WOODWARD: I mean that's politically impossible --

BROOKS: But, so you think "OK, get out." On the other hand, if we leave --

WOODWARD: No, glide plane [reference to earlier discussion] --

BROOK: Well if we leave, we could see 250,000 Iraqis die -- you had the John Burns quotation earlier in the program. So are we willing to prevent 10,000 Iraqi deaths a month at the cost of 125 Americans?

That's a tough moral issue, but it's also a tough national interest issue, because we don't know what the consequences of getting out are. And the frustration of watching the debate in Washington, very few people are willing to grapple with those two facts: that there's gonna -- the surge will not work in the short term, but getting out will be cataclysmic. And you see politicians on both sides evading one of those two facts, but you've got to grapple with them both.

STEPHEN F. HAYES (Weekly Standard senior writer): And one of the things that the president said at this session that David was at and I was at as well was that he intends to make the case that, "Look, this going to be a disaster if we get out." He didn't say it in exactly those terms, but I think he's going to start making in many cases the negative case: "Look at what Iraq will look like if we leave. We have a moral obligation to the Iraqis to stay."

WOODWARD: And the problem, though, is we don't know. People can say, "Oh, it's going to be a disaster." I mean, you've -- you cite numbers which are pulled out of the air -- "10,000 dying" -- I mean that's -- where does that come from?

BROOKS: Well, A, it comes from John Burns and, second, it comes from National Intelligence --

WOODWARD: But he doesn't say 10,000.

BROOKS: Well, no. No, but it talks about genocide, so I just picked out 10,000 out of the air. But the National Intelligence Estimate says that -- well, most people, as Burns reports, say it will get much, much worse. So that's the dilemma.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
David Brooks
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
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