response to Gary Woodward

To the Editor:

In a March 23 letter, I challenged two factual claims asserted by Gary Woodward in a previous letter. The first claim was about the UN’s “knowledge” of Saddam Hussein’s deception regarding WMD. The second was about the number of Iraqi casualties.

In his March 30 response, Professor Woodward ignores the first issue as though he had never made an assertion on the subject, and as though I had never challenged it. That isn’t quite a concession, but I’ll take it as one.

On the second issue, he offers a grudging concession. Khawaja “may well be right,” he tells us. “The number of Iraqi dead in this war have been difficult to estimate, because the Pentagon does not count Iraqi casualties…” I accept the concession. I would simply add that when numbers are avowedly “difficult to estimate,” it makes no sense to cite them.

Professor Woodward ends by telling us that he disavows cost-benefit analyses about Iraq, asserting in the next breath that “any single death in the conflict is one too many.” In that case, of course, 100,000 “difficult-to-estimate” deaths is 99,999 too many to cite. The message here seems to be that a factoid can be worth citing even when it isn’t worth defending. Professor Woodward may think that message defensible. I don’t.

Irfan Khawaja