White House tries to spin body counts

The White House expressed concern Thursday about what it believes is an impression that American forces in Iraq "aren’t doing anything, they’re just targets."

In fact, said presidential spokesman Tony Snow, U.S. troops are "fighting the bad guys" and killing and capturing them.

Snow raised the point when asked to explain why President Bush, a day earlier, had said that 5,900 enemy forces had been killed or captured in Iraq during October, November and the first week of December.

Typically, Bush and White House officials do not talk about enemy body counts, although the Pentagon keeps a running total on the number of American losses. More than 2,930 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.

"There is quite often the impression … that our people aren’t doing anything, they’re just targets," Snow said at his daily press briefing. "And I think there’s a certain amount of unease in the American public because they hear about deaths but they don’t hear about what’s going on."

Snow said the government has been loath to do body counts since the practice was discredited during the Vietnam War. "But it probably is worth at least giving a general impression of relative battlefield success of what’s going on."

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