HH: Next I want to turn to the question of body counts. In a conversation with a bunch of talk radio hosts including me, a number of us raised with the President the issue of whether or not the number of terrorists killed in Iraq ought to be publicized. And I can’t quote his response on that, but I’m wondering what is your belief about the Pentagon policy of not revealing the number of dead and wounded among the enemy?
VDH: I think it’s a great mistake, and you and I both know why they don’t. It’s the reaction to Vietnam when we had the search and destroy missions, where success was predicated on body counts. But in every other war that we’ve fought, even when fronts changed hands and territory wasn’t the only litmus test for success, we have tried to give some estimations of the body counts. And we have this mystique about al Qaeda and Islamicists in general that there’s this endless supply of people who want to blow themselves up, or die before our army, and there’s not. There wasn’t in World War II with Japanese kamikazes. They had to be drugged or made to get drunk, or they were shanghaied out of university. Anybody who was an English major was put in a plane. There’s always a finite supply of that, and I’d like to see when they say that the incidents are going down, one of the reasons is that we don’t even talk about, it’s not just that Sunni sheiks have gone over to our side, but we’ve killed a lot of people, and people don’t want to die, most people don’t.
HH: What about the argument from some in the Pentagon that if a private finds out that we’re releasing these body counts, he’ll think the metric of a success are the number killed. And it is not necessarily that at all, if he starts killing civilians.
VDH: Yeah, well, I think that’s what good officers are for, and I think you and I, and most people have a lot of confidence in American officers in general, and specifically the caliber of officers that are in Iraq right now. I think everybody who’s for the war or against the war agrees on one thing. This is the finest American army that we’ve fielded in the history of this country.
HH: Now going back to Karl Rove’s resignation announcement today, of course it’s at the end of the month right now…
HH: He’s five for six, twice with Bush as governor, twice as president, the off years in 2002…
HH: But he lost, or at least the Republicans lost, in ’06.
HH: What’s your analysis of what happened in ’06, Pete Wehner, from the distance of eight months that that can afford, nine months.
PW: Yeah, that’s interesting, that’s exactly my take in terms of Karl was five for six, the one loss was ’06. And what happened? I think that he had a terrible hand to play. My own view is that Iraq was a political ball and chain around the GOP, and it created arguably the worst political environment since ’74. And when you added the GOP Congressional scandals, I think you had a terrible election year. My view is that the damage, which was considerable, could have been a lot worse. And historically speaking, the ’06 elections were not that bad. As you’ll recall, Reagan lost 26 House seats in ’82, and he lost the Senate in ’86. So all things…looking back on it, I think that a very bad year could have been worse if Karl and Ken and some others hadn’t been at the helm.