Bad Math: Matthews Wildly Overstates U.S. Death Toll in Iraq

February 27th, 2006 3:58 PM

Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, appeared on the February 25 edition of NBC’s Today. Co-host Lester Holt began the segment, airing at 8:11AM EST, by asking Matthews about Iraq. He responded:

"The President, of course, got us to go to war in Iraq with the argument that someday down the road, that country over there on the other side of the world might someday help out the terrorists, and we've lost 3000 guys fighting that argument."

That statistic, of course, is not correct. The actual number, as of February 26, is 2294. The death of every soldier is tragic and their sacrifice should be remembered and honored. But the fact that Matthews rounded up by over 700 shows the grisly fascination that media members have with these milestones. Holt then asked the MSNBC host what options the United States had in a potential Iraqi civil war. Matthews then suggested a bleak and dire scenario:

"Well, the only option is to go back to the table and try and get a sizable Sunni participation in the next government and that is really tough. And in all fairness, James A. Baker, the former Secretary of State and former President Bush all warned our country, don't go into Iraq because inevitably the Shia and the Sunni are going to war. They will break apart and we will be sucked into that civil war right in between them. It's taken a while to happen, but the closer we get to giving that country its freedom, the closer we're getting, unfortunately, to a civil war and it may spread throughout the region with Shia and Sunni and every one of our friendly countries over there, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, going to war with each other."

Considering that a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shias has not yet occurred, it seems a stretch to imagine one including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Finally, it might be interesting to know why a prominent member of the "mainstream media" believes the UAE port deal should go through:

Holt: "Does the President have an argument that pulling this deal would send a bad message moderate Arab allies?"

Matthews: "Well, he's right on that front. Because we've seen how any message, whether it's a cartoon in Denmark or any sign of disrespect or insult, travels immediately around the world."

So we should agree to the transaction because we’re afraid?