All or nothing

As Greg notes a few posts below, and as I’ve mentioned a time or two in various cartoons, one of the major debate strategies of the right is to find any inconsistency in a story and use it to discredit the entire story. Given the inherent fallibility of human beings, this is a pretty easy task — there’s always going to be some little fact that somebody got wrong, some mistaken detail in an otherwise true story. Or, at the very least, there will be an inexact turn of phrase or metaphor (a word like “gulag”, say) which can be seized upon to channel attention away from the issue itself.

On the topic of detainee deaths, the righties have apparently decided that the weak point is the inexact number of deaths. Never mind the 2000 page Army investigation leaked to the New York Times which pretty much concluded that two innocent men were tortured to death at Bagram. Never mind that anyone who understands how to use one of these newfangled “search engines” can find a story like this within seconds:

A senior military official, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said the Army has completed or is still conducting criminal probes into 33 cases involving the deaths of 32 detainees in Iraq and five in Afghanistan.

The new tally amounts to an increase of eight cases over the 25 reported on May 4 by the Army’s top criminal investigator as the scandal over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison was erupting.

It also pointed to wider problems beyond the Abu Ghraib facility, raising the possibility that coercive interrogations and other mistreatment by U.S. soldiers may have resulted in the deaths of some detainees.

In the case of Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who once headed Hussein’s air defenses, the Pentagon initially attributed his death last November to natural causes. But an autopsy released by the Pentagon yesterday said Mowhoush, who was found in a sleeping bag, died of “asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression.” At the briefing, the military official confirmed a Denver Post report Wednesday that his case is being probed as a homicide.

The Pentagon released autopsy reports on 22 other prisoners, with causes of death including “multiple gunshot wounds,” “strangulation,” “blunt force injuries and asphyxia,” as well as some natural causes.

But never mind all that. Somewhere, at some point, somebody pegged the number of detainee deaths at 100. I’m not sure where that figure originated, but it’s been floating around for awhile, and people keep referencing it — but since the Army itself “only” officially acknowledges 37 deaths, then, well, clearly the entire thing is just another fiction promulgated by the Lying Liberal Media. And the righties can go back to pretending that the worst allegation of abuse anyone anywhere has made was about Korans in toilets. Oh, and that one night at Abu Ghraib when everyone took those photos, but the guilty have been punished and we’ve put all that behind us now. Next subject please.

Now, it seems to me that whether 37 people have been tortured to death or 100, or even just one, it’s still too many, for reasons too obvious to enumerate. But apparently not everybody sees it that way.

So watch for that magic number, 100. You’ll be seeing a lot of it, from craven apologists desperate to change the subject.

…update: the most recent figure on the detainee deaths is “only” 27.