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Vietnam Casualties

In response to:

Laos: What Nixon Is Up To from the March 11, 1971 issue

To the Editors:

I would like to amend the data on civilian casualties in Vietnam presented in my article of March 11, “Murder in Laos,” and to correct an error.

Since that piece was printed, the Kennedy subcommittee has received final, complete data on hospital admissions within South Vietnam for 1970, on the basis of which the subcommittee staff now estimates civilian casualties for 1970 to have been between 125,000 and 150,000, of which between 25,000 and 35,000 were killed. This brings the subcommittee’s estimates of total civilian casualties from 1965 through 1970 to 1.1 million, including from 325,000 to 335,000 killed.

Through the slip of the tongue of a member of the subcommittee staff, the figure of 35,000 killed for a twelve month period through the first half of 1970—the last definite estimate available at the time of publication—appeared in my essay as a figure for killed in the first half of 1970, and this error was not caught in a subsequent check with the staff. I take full responsibility for its publication, of course, which I regret.

According to Dale De Haan, the subcommittee counsel, no figures on civilian war casualties in Cambodia are collected or estimated by the executive branch of the US government; as a State Department official told De Haan, in explaining this lack of estimates, “There is no pressing problem of people in Cambodia.”

However, on the basis of the fragmentary evidence available, De Haan believes that total civilian casualties for Indochina, including Cambodia, were higher in 1970 than in 1969.

Daniel Ellsberg

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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