It just wouldn’t be Sunday if NBC’s Meet the Press wasn’t being used by some senior government official to make outrageously false but politically advantageous claims — after all, as folks like former Vice President Dick Cheney realized, it does make an ideal platform for disseminating disinformation. As surprising as the sun rising in the East, host David Gregory this week continued the program’s longstanding role as a megaphone for power, permitting White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to make unchallenged this claim in response to a question regarding the release of a new purported recording from Osama bin Laden:
We have no independent confirmation that that is, in fact, his voice. But let’s look at–the fact of the matter is, is that he’s a murderer, he has attacked Americans. In fact, he’s killed more Muslims than any other group in the region. And so the president is committed to going after al-Qaeda and all of their affiliates and bringing them to justice.
While that statement might work on the gut level (it just feels right, doesn’t it?) and thus fly in the world of politics — David Gregory sure as hell didn’t challenge it — it is demonstrably, laughably (in a morbid sense) untrue. The group that has killed more Muslims in the Middle East than any other group in the region is, indisputably, the United States military; over the last few decades alone it has killed well over a quarter million Muslims. Indeed, as Stephen Walt pointed out last year at his Foreign Policy blog in response to a particularly inane Tom Friedman column, the most conservative estimate has the U.S. government killing 288,000 Muslims since 1983 — a number that that’s less than half some estimates of preventable deaths caused by U.S. sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s.
Still, assuming the most conservative estimate is true, “the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American” killed both by terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Walt. “The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of ‘excess deaths’ in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.”
Even if one were to accept a broad, expansive definition of “al Qaeda,” comprising all the organizations from Somalia to Yemen that claim some sort of affiliation with or affinity for bin Laden, the group he heads — assuming he’s still alive — has killed at most perhaps 1/100th the Muslims the U.S. government has, which I guess says something for American productivity, if not morality. Bastards, no doubt, al Qaeda’s killing power nevertheless still not approach the awe (and shock)-inspiring might of cluster bombs, Predator drones and half-trillion defense budgets.
When al Qaeda kills Muslims, though, they at least acknowledge it.