In her September 12 column, “From the Halls of Malibu to the Shores of Kennedy,” Ann Coulter wrote, “Mark Bowden, author of ‘Black Hawk Down,’ warned Americans in the Aug. 30, 2002, Los Angeles Times of 60,000 to 100,000 dead American troops if we invaded Iraq — comparing an Iraq war to Vietnam and a Russian battle in Chechnya. He said Iraqis would fight the Americans “tenaciously” and raised the prospect of Saddam using weapons of mass destruction against our troops, an attack on Israel “and possibly in the United States.”
Bowden took umbrage at Coulter’s column writing that, “Among other things, Ann Coulter in her column ‘Halls of Malibu …’ says that I warned of ‘60,000 to 100,000’ American deaths in the Iraq War, and suggested that Saddam would attack use the US and Israel with WMDs, citing an essay I wrote for the LA Times on August 30, 2002. I did not. Happily, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can look it up.”
Ms. Coulter responded, “I defy anyone to read what he wrote (in the excerpt below) and claim I misinterpreted him.” The passage from Bowden’s 2002 column that Coulter quoted says:
“Nevertheless, fighting it out with Hussein on the streets of Baghdad would exact a terrible cost. Rosy pre-battle scenarios rarely prove true. The Russians are estimated to have lost 200 tanks assaulting Grozny in Chechnya in 1994, a battle that left an estimated 100,000 dead. It is always possible that the Iraqi military will refuse to fight for Hussein, but this is wishful thinking. A foreign army will be invading their capital city. It is far more likely that they will fight, and tenaciously. Hussein will employ whatever weapons he can to kill the Americans, and he may find ways of killing civilians in Israel, neighboring countries and possibly in the United States. Before going to war, a nation should always consider the worst. An all-out attack on Iraq will entail a level of risk and sacrifice that the U.S. has not assumed since Vietnam.”
Ann Coulter’s reference to Bowden’s column was not a quote, and appears reasonable to us. Bowden’s last sentence clearly raises the losses of Vietnam — nearly 60,000 dead — in the context of predicting the result of an invasion of Iraq. Bowden’s reference to “rosy pre-battle scenarios” in the context of the Russian 1994 attack in Chechnya and the resulting estimated 100,000 deaths (Russian, Chechnyan or in combination) can also be fairly read to predict that level of US casualties in Iraq.
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