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The "40 dead civilians" mystery solved

By Michael Fumento

In my recent NRO piece on the latest propaganda efforts to portray U.S. troops as the bad guys, regarding the use of white phosphorus, I wrote: "It's not enough that whenever we bomb a terrorist safe house we're accused of killing 40 civilians and no terrorists. (Why always 40?)"

Howard Hayden wrote to tell me:

"Forty occurs with monotonous regularity throughout the Bible and all early writings from the Middle East, but there's a reason for it. The word for 40 and the word for scads (zillions, thousands...) were the same (or very similar) word throughout the region (such as Arabic, Farsi, ancient Greek). Even in Russian, where the word for a huge number is (my spelling) soric soricov (40 40's). So when you read that Moses spent forty years in the wilderness, or it rained for forty days and forty nights, it was most likely not 40. Ali Baba and the forty thieves, ditto."

Interesting! Now, Howard, explain to me why the civilians we kill are always women and children attending a wedding. Nah! I can figure that out for myself.

December 3, 2005 04:58 PM  ·  Iraq