Col. Cruncher was passing the newsstand in the Pentagon when he saw a headline: "650,000 Iraqis Have Died as a Result of the U.S. Invasion."
He rushed back to his office. It turns out that Cruncher is in charge of body counts in Iraq, and those figures were not his. His were much lower, at the order of the defense secretary.
Cruncher's assistant, Maj. Numbers, said, "The phone's been ringing off the hook. They're very upset upstairs with the news."
Col. Cruncher said, "Well, anybody can come up with any figure. It's actually just a poll. No one counted every dead Iraqi. They just did a sampling, and like all polls, they inflated the number to make it look good.
"The survey was printed in the Lancet, the British medical journal, and they said they could be in error between 10 and 15 percent."
Maj. Numbers sighed, "We work so hard to be accurate when it comes to body counts. I think it was a mistake to allow someone else to do the polling."
Cruncher asked, "Why are they so excited? We'll give them some figures to refute Lancet."
The major replied, "The Lancet numbers are not credible. But worse than that, the president is going to go on the air at a news conference in an hour and he has to have some numbers from us when he's asked how many Iraqis have been killed."
Cruncher said, "Take this memo:
" 'The Pentagon said it would not accept the fact that 650,000 Iraqis were killed after the invasion. What was wrong with the poll was that it did not question every household in Iraq and interview relatives of those who might have been killed to bring about democracy and show what a terrible person Saddam Hussein was.
" 'The Office of Body Counts has gone over all the figures and they just don't make sense. Many of the people were scheduled to die anyway because of old age. Others may have been caught in friendly fire. The big error was that no one counted the people sitting on the fence.
" 'Body counting is a very scientific business. This office was set up in the first place because of the errors in body counting in Vietnam. They were way off, and the Pentagon used those numbers to claim we were winning the war.