Counting the victims of war is a grim task anywhere, but it is especially difficult in Lebanon. Initial death counts issued by one group or another, while immediately reported by the media, have on more than one occasion proven wildly inaccurate.
Such was the case yesterday, as Lebanese prime minister Fuad Saniora opened a meeting of the Arab League with this statement:
"An hour ago, there was a horrific massacre in the village of Houla in which more than 40 martyrs were victims of deliberate bombing."
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Arab foreign ministers applauded as Saniora repeatedly broke into tears.
But after his initial "massacre" claim was reported by the news media, Saniora issued a new statement saying that only one person had died, not 40.
This was not the first time that initial death counts were revised: the early claim that an Israeli airstrike in the village of Qana had killed almost 60 Lebanese was later revised to 28.