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U.S. Casualties in Iraq:
I check in from time to time with icasualties.org, one of several sites that keeps tabs on the number of casualties in the war in Iraq. As you may have realized from news stories, the last few weeks have been very tough for U.S. troops: In just the last two weeks, we've lost 59 soldiers and 776 have been wounded, about double the rate typical over the last year or so.

  You can see a chart of monthly deaths of U.S. troops here. As the chart shows, 2,772 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war. A chart of the number of U.S. troops wounded by month is here. According to the site, over 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded in the war.

  All of the figures are based on information provided by the Defense Department.
AntonK (mail):
[Deleted by OK on relevance grounds]
10.16.2006 9:19pm
OrinKerr:
AntonK,

Can you explain why your long excerpt is relevant? My inclination is to delete it: if you have an argument to make, please make it.
10.16.2006 9:29pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
The Normandy Invasion had lighter casualties than anticipated, and they were not anywhere near as bad as the Battle of the Bulge.

For pointless casualties, however, its hard to beat the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It lasted from the beginning of July through November 18th, and the total casualties are estimated at about 1.1 million. During that time, the French advanced approximately 12 kilometers.

Thats about 7500 casualties per day, sustained for three and a half weeks. Or, to compare it to D-Day, it would be like fighting D-Day three times a week for 11-12 consecutive weeks.

And the gain comes out to somewhere around 85-90 yards a day.

They just don't fight wars like that anymore :)
10.16.2006 9:47pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
As for relevance, I was primarily responding to the post now deleted. But I think, when looking at casualties in Iraq, it has some relevance to put them into historical perspective.

I'm not saying that the Iraq war is a good thing because the butcher bill is low. But its worth knowing that, as pointless wars go (if you think the Iraq war is pointless), the Iraq folly is still pretty cheap.
10.16.2006 9:51pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Damn, that is so freaking sad. I just want a break of some sort -- or, at least -- equal time to our kills, not just our deaths.
10.16.2006 9:55pm
Realist Liberal:
Professor Kerr,
Even as someone who opposes the war (and has from the beginning) I fail to understand the fixation on the number of soldiers of ours who have been killed. If the war is one that we should be fighting then those brave men and women who died are a tragedy but a necessary one. If the war is one that we never should have gotten involved in (as I believe) then one soldier dying is already too many.
I truly do not mean this as a rhetorical question but am I missing something?

For the sake of full disclosure, I oppose the war in Iraq mainly because I think it is a distraction from the war that we should be fighting which is the war in Afghanistan. I realize that this position tends to anger people on both sides of the debate.
10.16.2006 10:13pm
OrinKerr:
Realist Liberal,

I am puzzled by your comment. Why do you think that I am "fixated" on the number of soldiers killed? To be sure, I think the number is important, because each one represents an American hero killed. But I only blog about this issue every few months. Do you think that the deaths of thousands of Americans is not worthy of an occasional blog post?

Of course, it goes without saying that the number of Americans killed does not answer whether the war is worth fighting. But I think those American deaths are worth noting and remembering, no matter what your views are on the war.
10.16.2006 10:37pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Milestone journalism isn't journalism. It's laziness.

Furthermore, the war in Iraq IS the war in Afghanistan because in both instances you had governments who had the skill, the inclination, and the habit to terrorize.

More to the point, both governments violated the two basic requirements for society: 1) a process of peaceful change that is supported by free speech, and 2) a belief in reciprocity among people. Without those you have a government of thugs that a United Nations, if it were working, would not tolerate.
10.16.2006 10:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Various folks have done the research to find out how many soldiers have died on active duty when there was no war.
It's thousands. Tens of thousands in the last couple of decades. They don't get much ink. They're still dead, and their families devastated. But they just don't seem that important to the Chattering Classes.

About two years ago, there was a chopper crash at Ft. Hood. Seven guys were killed, including a one-star. I challenged some professional journalists to show a media concern with their deaths--making the point that dead soldiers are only important if they are politically useful. Chopper crashes in the States are not, of course, politically useful.
Another participant googled the publications which carried it. One major--the LAT, I think--some regional papers, many in the area of other bases who could expect their readers to have friends or family at Ft. Hood, and the Army Times.
This is not new, of course.
But it is worth remarking on.
It means that you can't even point to a number of dead without at least the suspicion of political gamesmanship. Which mostly would be justified.
10.16.2006 11:10pm
frankcross (mail):
Your theory is that the Defense Department, which provided the number dead, is engaged in political gamesmanship?
10.16.2006 11:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
frankcross. Don't be deliberately obtuse. You're wasting everybody's time, except possibly your own.

The DoD did not "point" to the number of dead. The number were provided, for the rest of the country to chew over, or use, or mourn. Given the restricted demographic--the morally superior--from which the soldiers come, the mourners will be in a distinct minority.
10.16.2006 11:19pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
6800 Americans and 22000 Japanese died in the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima.

Expect a ramping up of violence in Iraq as we near the US elections. The murderers over there aren't stupid.

I'm looking forward to hearing what James Baker's committee will have to say about the whole thing. But, their report won't be available until after the election.

If the US does bug out of Iraq, it would be nice if we could first completely demolish Moqtada Al Sadr. Sistani won't stand in the way anymore, as Sistani's influence has greatly diminished.

We have actually accomplished quite a bit in Iraq. At the very least, we've shown what kind of misery comes to regimes and nations who are not forthright with UN weapons inspectors. That achievement will remain no matter whether democracy takes root in Iraq or not.

Our troops over there are very brave, and it's too bad that we can't give them a more definite and clear mission.

What I'd like to see is for the US to purchase Waziristan from Pakistan, and give it to Afghanistan, so that our troops in Iraq could relocate to Osama's neighborhood. How much do you think the Pakistanis would charge for that little piece of real estate?
10.16.2006 11:26pm
OrinKerr:
Richard Aubrey,

Can you back up your claims with evidence? If so, I would love to blog about it.
10.16.2006 11:34pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"At the very least, we've shown what kind of misery comes to regimes and nations who are not forthright with UN weapons inspectors."

But... Iraq DID let the UN weapons inspectors in. Remember? That's when the inspectors told us they couldn't find any WMDs.
10.16.2006 11:40pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Orin's post noted the recent increase in casualties. That's not "milestone journalism," that's evidence of the current deteriorating situation in Iraq. It's worth noting facts like these since they are so contrary to the predictions and continuing descriptions of the situation by the Bush administration (final throes, birth pangs, and all that).

Second, noting total deaths is also valid. It makes people aware of what the cost of this action has been and continues to be. Respectfully, Realist Liberal, it's not as simple as "if it's a good war, the number of deaths don't matter." Some goals are worth X amount of costs, but no more. That's not an argument for where the balance lies in Iraq (and the bigger problem, IMHO, is that we're obviously not achieving our goals despite signficant costs), but it's a calculation everyone makes.

Finally, Duffy Pratt, granting that Iraq has not turned into the unbelievably horrid and tragically pointless waste of millions of lives that World War I was, what do we conclude from that?
10.16.2006 11:42pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
BTW, no matter how you count it, the number of US soldiers dead appears to be dwarfed by the number of dead Iraqi civilians.

How about we shed a tear for them on occasion, no matter how untermenschen Americans think they are?
10.16.2006 11:43pm
Prince Charming:
This is the most unusual argument for the war I have ever seen:
We have actually accomplished quite a bit in Iraq. At the very least, we've shown what kind of misery comes to regimes and nations who are not forthright with UN weapons inspectors. That achievement will remain no matter whether democracy takes root in Iraq or not.
So let me get this straight -- we've accomplished "quite a bit" for a loss of 3,000 lives because rogue regimes will now be scared of the United Nations? Woah.
10.16.2006 11:46pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey, I reluctantly disagree. I think both sides can bring up anecdotal evidence here. I remember when (my former post) Fort Drum, had a really bad training accident a few years back, it was front page news. (My link tool doesn't work, but google "Fort Drum Helicopter Accident.")

For what it's worth, and regardless of the news coverage, left wing activists do not line Union Square with thrift store combat boots in a nauseating effort to create an appearance of solidarity between the troops and themselves, when the troops in question are "mere" peacetime training casualties. So yeah, maybe you are up to something. The peacetime deaths aren't fetishized.
10.16.2006 11:54pm
Prince Charming:
People mostly don't care about accident deaths. See coverage of auto accidents.
10.16.2006 11:55pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Mahan:

How many of those dead Iraqi civilians were killed by American soldiers?

Because, you know, the ones that die when their own retarded loser countrymen decide it's worth killing dozens of innocent people so long as you might get one or two Americans... those really shouldn't be our problem.

I also have yet to see any clear division between civilians and military in the Iraqi people. Look, here's a dead Iraqi. If you see a gun in his hand, he's military. If you don't, he's a civilian. WTF kind of distinction is that? We're supposed to trust a lying sack of crap terrorist organisation to leave the gun in his hand while the photographers come around? These people dig dead bodies out of the rubble and parade them around for the cameramen. They do almost nothing BUT lie. Don't tell me our soldiers are over there shooting civilians; we don't do that. Terrorists do that. Go blame some terrorists.
10.16.2006 11:56pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Joseph Slater:

"That's not "milestone journalism," that's evidence of the current deteriorating situation in Iraq."

Personally, I read it as noting an unfortunate, and hopefully brief, spike in US casualties -- a very sad "blip." I'm not saying your reading is unreasonable, but your big-picture pessimism certainly isn't *compelled* by Orin's post.
10.16.2006 11:56pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
The pendulum swings both ways. Back in April, there was a distinct drop in US deaths, and various war lovers blogged up a storm about it. (I forget the main blog concerned, something that Professor Reynolds led me to.)

I said at the time that body counts are not good indicators (other than, as Professor Kerr notes, to remind us of how much we've asked our GIs to do) of success or failure.

I offered a better measure: When the US and Iraqi national government (if such exists except on paper) can control the road from the Green Zone to the airport, so that a US general can drive out to leave the Green Zone. That would be a measure of initial 'success.'

By that measure, we're losing.

Anyhow, nobody who thought a one-month fall-off in casualties in April meant a lot has since opined that the rise since then meant anything.

That's not milestoning. It's cherrypicking, and both sides do it.

As for Aubrey, who I usually think writes sense, I don't recall that particular crash, but any crash, civilian or military, that kills 7 people in the U.S. is going to make it onto the wires and into nearly every daily newspaper in the country.

If it was just an operational accident (or, for civilians, a truckload of migrant farmworkers overturning), it will get four or five paragraphs. What's left to say? Accidents don't generally have wider significance.

Now, if was an Osprey 'accident,' you saw that on page one everywhere, didn't you?
10.17.2006 12:03am
JosephSlater (mail):
MikeBUSLO7:

I agree that casualty figures alone don't compel pessimism about the war as a whole. But again, the continuing violence tends to contradict proclamations like "last throes" and "birth pangs" and a bunch of other quotes I'm sure you know.

And there's more evidence that pessimism is justified. That's a broader debate, of course, but that opinion is shared by a wide variety of folks across the political spectrum.
10.17.2006 12:16am
Realist Liberal:
Professor,
Sorry, I didn't mean to say that you were fixated on the number of dead. I meant it more from the standpoint of the media in general (the daily "running total" from the news seems to actually take away the sense of any individual who has lost their life). Yes I agree with you whole heartedly that it is worth an occasional blog post. However, I respectfully disagree with you that the number has any independent importance. It is the names and the people that are important in my mind, not the number. This is because ultimately each family that is affected when one of our heroes dies isn't as concerned with the total number but rather with the loss of one loved one.
Again, I'm sorry for the insinuation (sp?) that you were fixated one the number. And I do agree with you that it is important to remember the incredibly brave men and women who have died in the war.
10.17.2006 12:17am
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Prince Charming, I wasn't making an argument for the continuing war there. I was pointing out that overthrowing the Hussein regime had a particular benefit. That benefit was achieved a couple years ago, and it's not clear that much has been achieved since then.

It might have been wiser for us to inflict some damage, get rid of Hussein, and then get out fast. But I also understand the notion that we took some responsibility for the future of Iraq by invading.

I'm very ambivalent about happened and is happening in Iraq. I certainly am not thrilled to hear that Henry Kissinger has been playing such a big role (as if he was so successful in Vietnam!).
10.17.2006 12:18am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Joseph Slater,

I did not intend to, and hopefully did not, imply that I believe the insurgency to be in its "death throes." I'm only saying that Orin, as far as I can tell, didn't mean that there is an equally discernible opposite trend.

A slightly off-topic kvetch: Insofar as any trend is identifiable, it would, as a separate matter, be really great if there was something resembling a consensus on what that trend is. What I mean is that one can read CNN and fall under the impression that the last helicopter will soon be taking off from a Green Zone roof. You read, umm, Captain's Quarters, et al, and you basically get the opposite impression.
10.17.2006 12:29am
Kovarsky (mail):
Seriously,

What does it mean to be winning or losing? We don't have a monolithic adversary, so what are we talking about? Clearly we're measuring "winning" against some objective. But what does that mean - does it mean that we accomplished some fraction of a goal? Does it mean that we've accomplished that fraction without unacceptable cost? Does it mean that we're approaching the goal at a rate that is acceptable? Does it make any sense to define "winning" by the casualty rate - isn't that only half of the equation?

My point is that this thing is so profoundly screwed up that we don't have the foggiest idea what the metrics for victory are and, even if we did, absolutely no consensus as to what constitutes a "winning" performance against those metrics.

Also,

How many of those dead Iraqi civilians were killed by American soldiers?

Because, you know, the ones that die when their own retarded loser countrymen decide it's worth killing dozens of innocent people so long as you might get one or two Americans... those really shouldn't be our problem.


As a prefatory note, ick.

I believe the argument is (1) there is no "us" and "them" and that an innocent life is an innocent life, no matter who takes it; and (2) to the extent that our failed planning contributed to this situation, even if we are not the entity physically pulling the trigger, there is a nagging feeling of complicity.
10.17.2006 12:40am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Orin Kerr. Evidence for what?

If you're talking about peacetime deaths, I saw an assertion with links, which I followed, about a year ago. I was satisfied, but could not reproduce it. One thing you could do is pay attention to the steady reports. One here, two there. Chopper crash. Short round in artillery training. Two dead at Dahlonega from hypothermia. Heat casualty at Ft. Irwin. As an ex-grunt, whose brother died not in combat, but overseas in the Cold War, I notice such things.
The amount of ink training accidents get is not really the point. The amount of concern on the part of those besides the family is the point and the amount of ink is a proxy for that.

Sure, an Osprey crash will get more ink than a Blackhawk crash. Ospreys are designated losers. Jack Broughton in "Thud Ridge" describes the phenomenon. No matter what the actual record is, a designated loser is a loser and its bad luck will be reported, while the non-losers just go on by, for better or worse, but when worse, without much note.

It has been said by a good many that the Gulf War had negative casualties, which is to say that many soldiers in that amount of time would have had more deaths in the States. Some, of course, would be auto accidents. Again, I saw the data but cannot at this point find it again, although I suppose I could start the search from scratch. I don't care to, since I saw what I needed then.

Harry Eager. Accidents make noise if the right people--usually big corporations or unfeeling road commissions--can be blamed.

I made my point about the Ft. Hood crash on Rosen's Pressthink. Somebody, more experienced at Google than I, found the papers which had reported it. The point was, "look at all these papers, Aubrey, you're wrong". But, as I said, the Army Times hardly counts as MSM, nor do regional papers. The regional or local papers, as I said, were in the neighborhood of other bases.

The use of column inches as a proxy for social interest is, I think, valid.

Some years ago, Andrew Sullivan scorched the media for the difference in coverage in the murders of Matthew Shepherd and Jesse Dirkhising. I give the media half a pass on that one. Most of the ongoing Shepherd reporting was reporting the various groups' outraged comments. With regard to Dirkhising, there was nothing of the sort to describe. Still, if a reporter had been interested, or his editor interested, more could have been written. Except it was the wrong narrative. Not to be OT, but to make an analogy.

Anyway, my point is that dead soldiers' importance among the chin-pullers varies according to their political usefulness. Same is true for dead civilians.

Which is why even the most unloaded, adjective and connotation-free report of casualties is likely to be greeted with suspicion.
Why do you care now? is the implicit question.

When a C130 piled into a mountain outside Taipei International in 1970? I was considerably interested in that one, and found very, very little on it. Only forty-three guys dead, but they didn't reproach Nixon, so they weren't important.
10.17.2006 12:49am
Kovarsky (mail):
We have actually accomplished quite a bit in Iraq. At the very least, we've shown what kind of misery comes to regimes and nations who are not forthright with UN weapons inspectors. That achievement will remain no matter whether democracy takes root in Iraq or not.

Yeah, we sure showed Iran and North Korea what happens when they thwart the will of the international community. Yikes.
10.17.2006 12:52am
Guillermo Pineda (mail) (www):
How you dare mentioning those historical comparisons. I do not blame you. I know those and many other figures, numbers and historical statistics. I agree those dead men dying in Irak are an insignificant number compared to many other battles and wars fought all over human history. Not counting the people that die every day because of poverty and sicknesses.

But we are talking about humans that have family back home, and who are dying for no reason at all! How egoistic and insensitive of you to forget the value of human life, and compare it with cold numbers and statistics.
10.17.2006 12:57am
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Well, anyway, I read in the news today that President Bush has just renewed his commitment to maintain the US presence in Iraq, in a discussion with Prime Minister Maliki, for better or worse. Certainly, being tied down in Iraq does nothing to discourage rogue regimes elsewhere from doing as they please. I wonder: if we got the US troops out of there, and instead diverted every last dollar to responsible elements in the Iraqi government, wouldn't that be a much more effective use of funds? That's one question that I hope the Baker Committee will address.
10.17.2006 1:05am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I'm not sure what you want us newspapermen to do, Richard.

I recall quite a number of column inches in all the papers a few years ago when the Navy decided it had a systemic problem with training safety. The CNO even had the whole Navy stand down to think about it.

But when some GI rolls a jeep during maneuvers and kills himself, what more is there to report?
10.17.2006 1:06am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"How many of those dead Iraqi civilians were killed by American soldiers?"

Quite a few, I'd imagine. After all, we have much deadlier weapons than they do.

"Because, you know, the ones that die when their own retarded loser countrymen decide it's worth killing dozens of innocent people so long as you might get one or two Americans... those really shouldn't be our problem."

Umm... OK, well anyway, thanks for so vividly demonstrating my point about Americans viewing Iraqis as untermenschen. (After all, it's not like Americans ever killed each other in a bloody civil war...)

Actually, I was afraid someone was going to invoke Godwin's law on me, but you've plainly demonstrated the worthlessness of that particular "rule".
10.17.2006 1:14am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):

But when some GI rolls a jeep during maneuvers and kills himself, what more is there to report?


Well, you could report on car safety, or training safety. Probably any number of peripheral things, just like when a GI dies.

Why hide the real issue? Deaths in war, with the heroism and the sacrifice and which are such a direct result of our specific decisions, garner more public interest. I don't think it's so much about what there is to report, but much more about the deeper implications. All you report is a number, and look at the reaction that ensues...
10.17.2006 1:22am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
"Finally, Duffy Pratt, granting that Iraq has not turned into the unbelievably horrid and tragically pointless waste of millions of lives that World War I was, what do we conclude from that?"

We can conclude that there have been worse follies in the past. We might conclude that we have a much lower tolerance for paying a pointless butcher's bill nowadays.

BTW, I wouldn't simply isolate WWI. The single bloodiest day in modern battle was probably during the Napoleanic Wars, at the battle of Borodino (where somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 were killed). There are more than a handful of battles during the American Civil War that were bloodier than the entire Iraq Wars, so far. (I see this War a continuation of the Gulf War conducted by BushI.) Even the Tet Offensive was costlier than the entire Gulf War so far.

Ultimately, I think that there are very good reasons to be against this war, even though part of me thinks that that horse has already left the barn. But the number of casualties is not a reason. If there was/is good reason to be at war with Iraq, then the cost in lives is either irrelevant, or its been cheap.
10.17.2006 1:35am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"We can conclude that there have been worse follies in the past."

We might also conclude that the conclusion of this latest war is still far in the future.
10.17.2006 1:39am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"...then the cost in lives is either irrelevant, or its been cheap."

Wow. Obviously, nobody you loved has been killed in this war.

I have to say, when it comes to the offhanded dismissal of thousands of lives, or torture, or treating other persons like subhumans, I'm never disappointed when I come to the comment section at Volokh conspiracy...
10.17.2006 1:44am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
"We might also conclude that the conclusion of this latest war is still far in the future."

At the rate we are going, for the casualties in this war to come close to the numbers lost during the three months at the Somme, the war would have to go on for another 125 years or so. I suppose that is possible, but then we might as well rename the country Oceania.

When I said that the cost in lives was cheap if there was a good reason for going to war, I was using the term in a comparative sense. Almost everyone who gets killed in every war has loved ones. It would be nice if that consideration alone was enough to stop all the horrors in the world. Unfortunately, its not. So, I think its possible to think that the overall numbers are low, but still to have compassion for the people who have lost loved ones. Naybe I'm wrong in that, but I have not dismissed anything.

Let me ask you this. Suppose I told you we could overrun Iran and North Korea, get rid or their nuclear programs, and while doing that establish stability both in the Middle East and East Asia. To do that, it would cost the United States somewhere between 3-5,000 dead. If this were feasible, would you consider the sacrifice of those troops an "offhand dismissal"?
10.17.2006 2:00am
Kovarsky (mail):
Let me ask you this. Suppose I told you we could overrun Iran and North Korea, get rid or their nuclear programs, and while doing that establish stability both in the Middle East and East Asia. To do that, it would cost the United States somewhere between 3-5,000 dead. If this were feasible, would you consider the sacrifice of those troops an "offhand dismissal"?

I believe the comment to which you are responding is not talking about american lives. In fact, it's talking about the way americans instinctively think only in terms of the loss of American lives and, unfortunately, I think your response kinda proves his point.
10.17.2006 2:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Well, Harry, as I say, the column inches is a proxy for the interest of the folks who have little else to do.
The paucity of reports on the Dirkhising case was a direct result of hardly anybody being interested. There was simply little to report, which is my point.

Speaking of rolling a jeep: When I was in, the company antitank weapon for the leg Infantry was the 106mm recoilless rifle mounted on the updated jeep. The jeep, despite moving out briskly in first gear, was not a sports car. It was a small utility vehicle designed to have, among other things, high ground clearance. Whey you mounted this iron blivet of a weapon at the height roughly of the driver's head, you could roll the thing by looking at it hard. Since we didn't fight a lot of tanks in those days, it didn't kill many tanks. In fact, it probably killed more Americans than enemy tanks. I'd say that was the result of somebody's decision. Worth an investigative piece? Ummmm. Let's see. Who looks bad? Anybody we want to look bad? Nope? Forget it. Guy got killed. One of those things.
Naked twister at Abu Ghraib....months of coverage. Two troopers of the 101st tortured to death and dismembered so badly that their bodies could not be identified by looking at them. No big deal.

Kovarsky. The way things go in the non-First World, it's a given, an iron-clad given, that the non-US deaths would be far less than if we did nothing. Always the case. See Hiroshima and Nagasaki versus invading the Home Islands. Consider also that the Russians with 1.2 million men were approaching the Japanese 1 million in Manchuria. Neither army was particularly interested in avoiding casualties. That fight didn't happen.
Had Hitler been given his lebensraum uncontested....
Etc.
So the question gets back to US lives.
10.17.2006 9:04am
PersonFromPorlock:
There's a little bit of a statistical anomaly in the numbers '2,772 KIA and 20,000+ WIA'. That's a 7:1 ratio of wounded to killed, where it's almost a law of nature that modern combat produces between three and four wounded for every death. Either we are seeing the results of excellent trauma care, or the Iraqi Reactionaries are using very weak weapons, or the number of wounded is overreported, or the number of deaths is underreported, or some combination of any/all of the above. I have no idea which.
10.17.2006 9:10am
AntonK (mail):
I'm not concerned that the post was deleted, but I would think its relevance is obvious. Putting up casualty figures as in the post here, without context, and claiming that those casualty figures represent "a bad" month of US forces is ridiculous. By what meter are they "bad"? Bad because they are high in the context of the overall GWOT? Bad because the struggle we are engaged in is not "worth" the casualty figures sited?
10.17.2006 9:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Porlock.
The US military has developed the concept of "combat lifesaver". This is not a medic, who can deal with the worst traumatic injuries, ticks, and crotch rot. It's a short course in how to deal with the first ten or fifteen minutes of horrible wounds. Since you can bleed out from a major artery in as little as a minute, having somebody nearby with the proper equipment and training--it's a supplement to their regular job--is a major improvement.

In addition, the Iraqis are not using bullets, mortars, and artillery as conventional militaries do. In all those cases, the weapon is designed to project a piece of metal of a lethal size into the body. IEDs emphasize explosive power to destroy vehicles. What they throw around could be big--in which case you're in trouble--or small like tiny pieces of concrete from the road, in which case you need a bandaid.
Shaped-charge weapons like the ubiquitous RPG are designed to penetrate armor. Their casing is designed to get the round to the target as efficiently as possible. It is not particularly heavy, nor is it scribed to break up into lethal-sized pieces. Much of the backsplatter, so to speak, from an RPG hit is either tiny pieces of metal casing or tinier bits of armor.
Years ago, the Israelis discovered many eye injuries among those near RPG impacts. Why eyes? Because the stuff an RPG has flying around is frequently (not always) so small that only the eye is damaged. If you get a couple of those tiny bits in the face, you would probably cuss. This is one reason people are always wearing ballistic eyeprotection. It's not just to keep the dust out of the eye.

Note to the whingers: I am not saying nobody is getting killed, just to forestall the deliberately obtuse. I am saying the weapons the Iraqis are using have the capacity to cause a great many superficial injuries in addition to their intended use. A bullet, on the other hand, will hurt you pretty badly if it hits you and not at all if it misses you.

It has been reported that the RPGs are now being designed with anti-personnel heads, which means heavier casings scribed on the inside to break into slugs of lethal size. This is not good.

It has also been reported that a majority of the wounded are back on duty in three days. The best and most immediate care in the world wouldn't have this effect in the case of traumatic wounds. The only conclusion is that this is a matter of a great many superficial wounds caused by the weapons used by terrorists.

Short example. My father was hit five times in conventional war, but only three required hospitalization. Today, that ratio seems to be reversed, at least.
10.17.2006 9:35am
Anderson (mail) (www):
who are not forthright with UN weapons inspectors

As opposed to Iraq, where the inspectors were on track and ready to continue their work when the U.S. told them to get out, because we were going to invade?

I recall that Saddam did some grumbling and put up some minor resistance, but it's news to me that the inspectors didn't get to do essentially what they wanted. Maybe you should inform Hans Blix?

(Bush continues to tell people that we had to invade b/c the inspections had failed, so it's worth keeping the record straight on this point. We invaded b/c we *wanted* to invade, not b/c the inspections failed somehow.)
10.17.2006 9:48am
Anderson (mail) (www):
At the rate we are going, for the casualties in this war to come close to the numbers lost during the three months at the Somme

That's setting the bar for "complete and utter waste of human life" rather high, isn't it?

What strategy are we implementing in Iraq? Haig was freakin' Frederick the Great, by comparison.
10.17.2006 9:50am
sbw (mail) (www):
Orin, I'd appreciate it if you could recast the point of your post. After reading the comments it remains unclear.

What concerns me is foggy thinking that suggests that principles may be sound until a ceretain level of casualties are reached. That's why I tried to diminish the value of milestone journalism -- not eliminate it, mind you -- in favor of different reporting.

Because of its granularity, our educational system misses entirely the minimal requirements for society that, once understood, become compelling -- that lead to courage despite casualties.
10.17.2006 10:15am
Eli Rabett (www):
The US has an army of ~500,000. National Guard is a bit bigger. There have been about 33,000 casualties, of which about 25,000 had to be air transported (ie they were serious).

That is about 3% of total strength and about 6% of the Army (the Marine Corp is a relatively small operation, I'm looking at numbers here, not effectiveness). Given that not everyone in the Army/Marines/National Guard is deployable, or in a front line unit, the relative numbers are higher

This by itself will seriously impact the US in terms of being able to maintain a fighting force, let alone the effect on recruiting. In the wars cited above there were drafts to provide manpower as needed, not today.

Keep your eye on the ball, not empty political sloganeering
10.17.2006 10:23am
dvorak:
I would have to look up the numbers again, but when I checked a few months ago more US soldiers died during Clinton's first two years in office than had died in Iraq since 2003.

(This is not an attempt at bashing Clinton, just backing up the point about peace-time soldier deaths not being of interest to the media.)
10.17.2006 10:50am
JRL:

But when some GI rolls a jeep during maneuvers and kills himself, what more is there to report?



I believe the point is that there's a possibility that US military deaths have actually decreased since we've invaded Iraq, yet the media sensationalizes the deaths of Americans there.

I too saw the report referenced above in print somewhere but also cannot recall where. I believe the report claimed that in the 20-25 years preceeding the invasion of Iraq the US military averaged 1200 deaths a year, and that that annual average has actaully decreased since the invasion of Iraq.
10.17.2006 11:01am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Orin, I'd appreciate it if you could recast the point of your post.

Why would he need to do that? There's nothing mysterious about it.

I check in from time to time with icasualties.org, one of several sites that keeps tabs on the number of casualties in the war in Iraq. As you may have realized from news stories, the last few weeks have been very tough for U.S. troops: In just the last two weeks, we've lost 59 soldiers and 776 have been wounded, about double the rate typical over the last year or so.

He's an American; we're in a war; our soldiers are being killed; and rather than ignore that fact completely, he occasionally takes note of it.

If anyone can find *anything* political in that, then they're just showing their own interpretive will-to-power. For the war, against it, whatever -- however you slice it, the casualties matter. Because they are casualties, and because they are our friends, our families, our neighbors.

Is basic human sympathy now politically suspect?
10.17.2006 11:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson.

Basic human sympathy is easy to fake for political purposes.

We've come to this, mostly because a number of people have been faking it for political purposes.

That's why some of us challenge the apparent lack of basic human sympathy in certain circumstances (dem or rep president? etc.)

One would think that basic human sympathy would transcend political concerns, but it does not always.

Hence its being suspect.
10.17.2006 11:47am
Houston Lawyer:
I believe that one year during the Carter administration, over 2,000 US troops died in accidents. Our military was much bigger then, so the number of accidents was correspondingly higher. I also believe that the number of non-combat deaths in Iraq is still 20% to 25% of the total, not that that is any consolation to the families of those who died.

I believe the increase in US casualties during October is the result of an intentional ramp-up by our enemies. They know that the MSM will report any increase in casualties just before the election. It will be interesting to watch which media leaders do the most to boost enemy propaganda in the days just before the election.
10.17.2006 11:49am
OrinKerr:
Richard Aubrey,

If you have reason to believe that I am "faking it for political purposes," then please say so. Otherwise, please save your bizarre hypotheses for another blogger.
10.17.2006 11:53am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey: Basic human sympathy is easy to fake for political purposes.

Really? Because you seem to find it pretty damn difficult, actually.
10.17.2006 11:55am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Orin Kerr. I said and implied no such thing.

Anderson, what I feel is not your business.

I said that things have become so politicized that even mentioning casualties is grounds for speculation. What the result of speculation and discussion is may be one thing, or another.

OK simply provided us with recent casualty figures. What he meant by that is something else. Perhaps a simple reminder. Perhaps an indication of his grief. Perhaps Bush-bashing. My point is that we don't know and have no way of knowing, absent some discussion, what the point is.
The reason for that is the actual history of the vile use of casualties for political purposes. Had some particularly vile people not started that, we wouldn't be suspicious. It isn't made up out of whole cloth.

I've been dealing with what we used to call The Movement since the late Sixties. Not much is new.
10.17.2006 12:03pm
AntonK (mail):
A post like Professor Kerr's above, giving casualty figures with no context or elaboration, serves only one purpose: to inflame passions and avoid the exercise of intellect in examining the issue. Without context the information is not news, nor statistics, nor anything but passion-bait.
10.17.2006 12:06pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I said that things have become so politicized that even mentioning casualties is grounds for speculation.

Lovely. Blame the "politicization" and then contribute to it by taking mere *mention* that Americans are dying as "grounds for speculation." (And, who knows? Surveillance?)

Someone who sincerely regretted the politicization of sympathy for our dead and wounded countrymen, would not leap to find "grounds for speculation." What Mr. Aubrey feels may not be my business, but it certainly does give a clue as to his priorities.
10.17.2006 12:11pm
OrinKerr:
AntonK,

So let me make sure I follow: presenting the facts with no analysis "serves only one purpose, to inflame passions and avoid the exercise of intellect in examining the issue"? Bare facts without commentary is "passion-bait"? What a strange reaction.
10.17.2006 12:16pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
A post like Professor Kerr's above, giving casualty figures with no context or elaboration, serves only one purpose: to inflame passions and avoid the exercise of intellect in examining the issue. Without context the information is not news, nor statistics, nor anything but passion-bait.

LOL ... ruefully. AntonK tells us a great deal about himself, but nothing about Prof. Kerr's post.

Cf. the story of the sex maniac who went in for counseling and was given a perception test. Shown a vertical line, a horizontal line, and two parallel horizontal lines, he ID'd them as a prostitute standing up, a prostitute lying down, and a prostitute servicing her client.

When the doctor sighed and told the fellow he was a hopeless sex maniac, the man retorted, "Hey, Mac, you're the one showing me all the dirty pictures!"
10.17.2006 12:18pm
AntonK (mail):

LOL ... ruefully. AntonK tells us a great deal about himself, but nothing about Prof. Kerr's post


Amusing, and silly.

"x number of homicides by gun" tells us nothing about guns or the broader issue of violent crime, its causes, etc..

"x number of MV accidents resulting in death" tells us nothing about car safety, effect of alcohol on MV fatalities, etc....

Raw numbers are just that, raw numbers devoid of any important meaning when supplied without context. When people do trot out raw stats, there is always an agenda behind it, whether the entity throwing the stats out is the Brady Campaign, the NRA, MADD, Orin Kerr, whomever. You know that Mr. Anderson, as does everyone else.
10.17.2006 12:30pm
Barbar:
How many people died on the GREATEST WORLD-CHANGING EVENT IN RECENT HISTORY, September the Eleventh?
10.17.2006 12:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson.
Someone who sincerely regretted the politicization of the issue must have seen it happening.

I was born in early 1945. I grew up in one of the new subdivisions built for young guys getting started. As a matter of demographics, the young guys getting started were mostly veterans. It was like a growing up in a giant VFW camp.

Believing anybody would politicize the issue of casualties was a tough sell to somebody from that background. But the lefties eventually convinced me.

Since talk is cheap, I don't trust talk. And that's why I and others with my view are just a bit curious about when this fearful and wonderful sympathy is deployed and where it takes a rest.
10.17.2006 12:33pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I hope I don't run into you at any war memorials, AntonK.
10.17.2006 12:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson.

One presumes that the war memorial provides some context. Not speaking for AntonK, but I believe that would answer at least one of his concerns.
10.17.2006 12:48pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
How many people died on the GREATEST WORLD-CHANGING EVENT IN RECENT HISTORY, September the Eleventh?

Careful, Barbar -- facts are political!
10.17.2006 12:54pm
AntonK (mail):

Anderson.

One presumes that the war memorial provides some context


Indeed.
10.17.2006 12:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Barbar.

Slightly more than at Pearl Harbor.

How's that for context?
10.17.2006 12:56pm
A.S.:
There's a little bit of a statistical anomaly in the numbers '2,772 KIA and 20,000+ WIA'. That's a 7:1 ratio of wounded to killed, where it's almost a law of nature that modern combat produces between three and four wounded for every death. Either we are seeing the results of excellent trauma care, or the Iraqi Reactionaries are using very weak weapons, or the number of wounded is overreported, or the number of deaths is underreported, or some combination of any/all of the above. I have no idea which.

I think the answer is that the number of wounded is overreported. Or, more precisely, the number of wounded is accurately reported but takes into account wounds that should not be counted for purposes of checking against the rule that there are "three and four wounded for every death".

If you scroll down the iecasulaties site, you will see that, of the 20,000 wounded, 11,000+ returned to duty in 72 hours or less. With all due respect, a wound that allows the soldier to return to duty in 72 hours isn't likely to be that harsh of a wound.

When we think of "wounded", our thoughts are toward the other category - those soldiers that did not return to duty in 72 hours. There are a bit over 9,000 such soldiers. Which is right at about 3.5 wounded for each killed.

For this purpose, the appropriate number to look at for "wounded" is 9,000, not 20,000.
10.17.2006 1:02pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Sounds plausible, A.S. Thanks!
10.17.2006 1:18pm
Kovarsky (mail):
If information without editorialization is not news, i'll take 6 helpings of the information please.
10.17.2006 1:53pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What are you trying to do, Kovarsky? Draw your OWN conclusions or something? Why do you hate America?
10.17.2006 2:10pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I too saw the report referenced above in print somewhere but also cannot recall where. I believe the report claimed that in the 20-25 years preceeding the invasion of Iraq the US military averaged 1200 deaths a year, and that that annual average has actaully decreased since the invasion of Iraq.

This is unadulterated bullshit. The 1200 per year death rate is probably accurate. That would put the death rate for military personnel at about 2/3 that of the 25--44 death rate for the U.S. population as a whole, as military members would be expected to be healthier than the general population. What is bullshit is the notion that death would take a holiday in the rest of the military just because soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. You demean the sacrifices of the military in Iraq and the very real dangers our soldiers face.

Being in the military in peacetime is not a particulary dangerous job (as the deathrate demonstrates). There are a few inherently dangerous jobs (flying combat aircraft, any job that involves being on the deck of an aircraft carrier during flight operations, eod). But even combat arms (which make up only about ten percent of active duty personnel) are not that dangerous during peacetime. Most junior enlisted people in the military die the same way most young people do, in traffic accidents. Most senior officers die the same way most middle aged people do, from heart attacks. The number one killer of soldiers on duty is vehicle accidents, mostly tied directly to failing to follow simple safety instructions.

I worked in an Army Division Safety Office for two years. We had two fatal on-duty accidents, one involving a tank and another where a truck backed into a soldier and crushed him against a wall (Army trucks don't have back up alarms for obvious reasons). Both involved serious violations of basic safety regulutions.
10.17.2006 2:23pm
dvorak:
Here's the report I found before, I imagine someone could find something that covered before 1980 and after 1998:


The numbers don't diminish the losses in Iraq or suggest that more deaths would be okay, but it does offer a context you don't often get in these discussions.
10.17.2006 2:26pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
It is sad that Professor Kerr's simple acknowledgement of US combat casualty figures is taken to mean an attempt to inflame anti-war rhetoric. I presume that you have the same reaction to the "in memoriam" segment on the ABC show "This Week," when the show airs the names of service personnel who died the week before.

What is wrong with simply pointing out the sacrifices that have been made by many families?
10.17.2006 2:30pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Babar:

Approximately 150,000 people died on September 11, 1991, given typical yearly mortality rates. There was likely a blip in that number due to the Al Quaeda attacks, and notice that the typical daily mortality figure probably swelled by somewhere around 1.5% as a result.

How's that for context?

And Kovarsky, some people might read what I wrote above as being purely informational. Others, I am sure are bristling at the heartless use of the word "blip". In lots of contexts, a move of 1.5% is just a blip. But when it represents 3000 lives?

Approximately 3000 children are killed by firearms every year in the United States. Think of that as your second helping of information. Of course, I mean nothing political by it. :)
10.17.2006 2:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J. F. Nobody said death takes a holiday in the rest of the military when some are at war.

The point is that with several hundred thousand men and women in the Middle East in 1990-1991, the death rate from all causes was lower than--or the same or higher than, depending on who you read--than the projected death rate in the rate at home. No cars. One hundred hours of ground combat. No booze.

If the annual average has decreased, there could be any number of reasons, one being that everybody in. service at this time has enlisted or re-enlisted since 9-11. Those who re-upped shortly after that event have had time to do it again, and many have. These are serious people. There could be other reasons.


The current death rate overseas is higher than in CONUS in peacetime, but the point is not that. The point is the lack of interest in our dead soldiers in peacetime. The presumption of some is that dead soldiers in peacetime can't be used politically. Although some may try, if they're nuts enough.

Example: Over the weekend, one of our friends who's a teacher in Texas, in high school, recounted the pressure to pass a football player who didn't deserve to pass. She, being from the North, didn't. Another person snorted, "Bush", as if he were to blame for the Texas football culture. She blames him for a good many things. And if she had a clue--which she doesn't--she'd blame him for the deaths of soldiers in peacetime, or at least in the States. Somehow, the rest of us doubt that a Kerry or a Gore would be blamed for the same thing.
10.17.2006 2:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Christopher. Nothing's wrong with pointing out sacrifices.

If that's what it is. It isn't always, which is my point.
10.17.2006 2:38pm
JRL:

"You demean the sacrifices of the military in Iraq and the very real dangers our soldiers face."


How? By pointing out there's data to suggest that death rates of military personnel have been lower the last 3 years than the previous twenty? How is that demeaning? That doesn't make any sense.

It would seem to be just the opposite. Rather, pointing such out suggests that they performing at a very high level during very trying times, and more efficiently than ever before. That's not demeaning; that's extremely complimentary.
10.17.2006 3:10pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Anderson, I didn't realize your name is Orin or that you put up the first post. I also didn't realize that Orin put you in charge of interpreting his remarks.

What I do realize, Anderson, is that you are quick to compassion. Unfortunately, your compassion seems adrift, unattached to any principle. Compassion adorning a sleeve. But such is education today, which is something I alluded to earlier.
10.17.2006 3:15pm
JRL:

"The point is the lack of interest in our dead soldiers in peacetime."


Well, not that what I think matters, but my point is more than that. My point is that the media/left blame Bush for deaths of the soldiers killed in the war on terror, when the facts suggest that more American military personnel would have died in the last few years had he not sent them to war.

And, obviously, 0 deaths is preferred to any.
10.17.2006 3:16pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Christopher Cooke, a big ditto. Same for "inflaming pro-war rhetoric." I am really disappointed with these threads sometimes. This is definitely one of them. I don't want to be holier than thou, really, but you would think that sometimes an acknowledgment of our losses is just an acknowledgment of our losses.
10.17.2006 3:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mike Bus.

Sometimes it is.

Sometimes it isn't.

To insist that it never is for some other reason than the traditional one is to be blind.
10.17.2006 3:35pm
Steve P. (mail):
when the facts suggest that more American military personnel would have died in the last few years had he not sent them to war.

This seems like a pretty significant thing, if true. What evidence do you have?

Of course, any hypotheticals are open for debate, especially since this idea goes against common sense. The Iraq invasion has been credited with creating many more Islamic radicals -- I don't see how that would have an inverse correlation to the number of U.S. servicemen that are killed, but perhaps there are other factors that I am missing.
10.17.2006 3:36pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Richard for crying out loud, you clearly read my comment, because you repeated the word I used, the word "sometimes," to make your comment on mine. So where do you then go and get "to say "NEVER" is to be blind?" Agreed. Who in this thread says that facts should never be politicized? Kindly point me to that comment.
10.17.2006 3:40pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
sbw: Anderson, I didn't realize your name is Orin or that you put up the first post.

Well damn, the secret is out.

I also didn't realize that Orin put you in charge of interpreting his remarks.

[Utterly nonplussed.] Let's see, *how* many people jumped in to interpret Prof. Kerr's remarks?

Unfortunately, your compassion seems adrift, unattached to any principle.

[Somewhat less nonplussed, but still.] "Compassion without principle"? I've been accused of worse. Of course, some of us still subscribe to a strange, out-of-date Palestinian cult in which compassion *is* a principle. You may have heard of it?
10.17.2006 3:48pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mike. I'm speaking generally, and making the point that if it's "sometimes", then sometimes it's not and we are justified in being skeptical about one or another example.

As to creating radicals, if the US kills somebody, some of his buddies, or somebody even further afield, may find that's the last straw.

Now, since the terrorists are killing far more people than the US is, they must be creating far more anti-terrorists than we are creating terrorists. Net win for us.
10.17.2006 3:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson. I belong to one of the subsects of that Palestinian group. Believe me, their compassion is metered most strictly. What you have to do to merit it goes far beyond being dead. Among other things, being killed by the wrong guys cuts you off entirely.
10.17.2006 3:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Believe me, their compassion is metered most strictly.

Mr. Aubrey appears to confuse the perspective of the Deity with that of his creatures. Not that this is a complete surprise!
10.17.2006 4:01pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Richard,

Now, since the terrorists are killing far more people than the US is, they must be creating far more anti-terrorists than we are creating terrorists. Net win for us.

Huh?
10.17.2006 4:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Actually, Anderson, I can tell the difference. That's why I specified His creatures.
10.17.2006 4:10pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
How? By pointing out there's data to suggest that death rates of military personnel have been lower the last 3 years than the previous twenty? How is that demeaning? That doesn't make any sense

I know that Eugene didn't post this one, but it is his site. And since he loves ridiculing people who misuse statistics he should point out the stupidity of comparing 1200 deaths per year out of a population of 1.3 million (the entire active duty military) with 900 per year (plus all the casualties, even if those who can return to duty within 72 hours "don't really count") out of a population of about 1/10 that. Even my feeble math skills seem to indicate that the death rate in Iraq is about 8 times the death rate of our non-deployed soldiers, and the casualty rate astronomically higher. Actually, it is much worse than that, since the vast majority of the troops in Iraq are well protected behind multiple layers of barbed wire and concrete barriers. Only 30,000 or so actually have to go on patrol, drive trucks or fly helicopters where they are in great danger of being blown up by an IED, rpg, or being shot.
10.17.2006 4:16pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
when the facts suggest that more American military personnel would have died in the last few years had he not sent them to war.

The facts suggest nothing of the kind. You are nothing but a liar.
10.17.2006 4:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Kovarsky.

My apologies for being unclear.

Here's the "we're creating...." thing:

When we kill an Iraqi, another Iraqi, or more than one, or less than one, is motivated to get involved. So we create more terrorists.

It would follow that the problem is not that the Americans killed him, but that he's dead and somebody killed him.

So, when he is killed by terrorists, it would seem logical that one or more, or less than one, of his friends would be motivated to take up the cudgel against his killers. His killers are the terrorists. Hence, taking up the cudgel against his killers means taking up the cudgel against terrorists.

Now, since the terrorists are killing by the score every day and we are not, it would follow as a matter of arithmetic that the terrorists are creating more anti-terrorists than we are anti-Americans.

Unless it proves, or is asserted anyway, that Muslims are infinitely more concerned when a sibling is killed by an infidel than when he is killed by a fellow Muslim. If this is true, then some of the negative things said about those folks might be true.
10.17.2006 4:21pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Given what else is going on this week, when I saw that Professor Kerr had posted on casualties, I expected he would have something to say about the Johns Hopkins estimate.

Since he didn't accept that fat invitation to polemicize, I'd say it's assuming a lot to impugn his motives.

We have a long history of 'waving the bloody shirt,' even after the war is over. But surely there is some occasion while the war is on to notice the cumulative total.

Toward the end of the US adventure in Vietnam, Life called on all its resources to run an issue with a mugshot of every American killed in the previous week there, and they came very close to getting them all. That was 600 mugshots.

I don't think there's much doubt that Life's editors were using casualties to make (or score, if you prefer) a political poiont. I believe that issue of the magazine probably had something to do with the fact that we called it quits shortly afterward.

Query: Knowing what we know now, were the results of that editorial venture good or bad?
10.17.2006 4:35pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Knowing what we know now, were the results of that editorial venture good or bad?

You mean that the Hanoi Hilton would be used as a prop in a reality tv show and Vietnam would become a manufacturing hub for athletic apparel? Certainly you're not implying that fighting a few more years and losing a few more thousand Americans would have meant the war would have ended differently or that Pol Pot wouldn't have slaughtered his own people in Cambodia (it was, after all the communist Vietnamese Army that finally deposed him, not some western army).
10.17.2006 4:43pm
Mark Field (mail):
Richard Aubrey, your theory is logical but not factual. The civil war in Iraq may involve sectarian violence, but hate each other though they do, they still can hate us just as much. You neglected the basic principle of National Brotherhood Week:

Oh, the Sunnis hate the Shiites
And the Shiites hate the Sunnis
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates George Bush.

Apologies to Tom Lehrer.
10.17.2006 4:51pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I believe that issue of the magazine probably had something to do with the fact that we called it quits shortly afterward.

Cause &effect. If that article appeared "toward the end," I'd say we were already on our way out, regardless.

Put it another way: a national commitment that can be shaken by 600 photos in Life Magazine is not much of a commitment.
10.17.2006 4:58pm
dvorak:

I should have checked my reply earlier, here is another try for the link.
10.17.2006 5:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mark. They can hate us just as much, and I'm sure some do. But "just as much" implies "equally", which means some other number in the equation would make the difference. That other number is the number of people killed by terrorists versus those killed by us.

Seems there are two possibilities: One is that we are creating more anti-terrorists than anti-US. If that is uncomfortable to believe, you need a reason to go, in effect, uphill, against normal thinking. To do that, you'd probably find yourself insisting, before you figured out the ramifications, that being killed by an infidel is, in the view of the others around, infinitely worse than being killed by a co-religionist.
That would seem to be the only possibility.

The ramifications of that are...that those folks are nucking futz. And dealing with them as rational human beings is impossible. Now, if that's proven, I wouldn't go so far as to say it was Bush's master plan all along, to prepare the ground for something MAJOR. but it would sure be serendipitously handy, wouldn't it?

You think Bush ever did judo?
10.17.2006 5:12pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I should have checked my reply earlier, here is another try for the link.

Gee, don't you just hate it when you post a link that directly contradicts your earlier post and makes everyone who claims that this war is actually saving American soldiers lives look like complete idiots?
10.17.2006 5:16pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Now, if that's proven, I wouldn't go so far as to say it was Bush's master plan all along, to prepare the ground for something MAJOR.

What MAJOR thing could Bush have in mind? He has certainly not prepared either the military or the nation to expand the war. Any expansion, to say Syria or Iran will be both military and political suicide. He merely parrots "stay the course". It has become a mantra for him. He doesn't have a clue what to do other than hold on for another two years and let his successor clean up the mess he has created. Unfortunately, that won't work. We can't hold out that long.
10.17.2006 5:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J.F. Thomas:

I don't know whether this is a violation of a stretched version of Godwin's Law:

Had the French, not to mention the Brits, spent the lives of their soldiers to oppose the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, they'd have saved a great many lives, including hundreds of thousands of their own soldiers.

We don't know, as those who, in an alternate universe (Harry Turtledove, call your office) chose to fight in the Rhineland in 1936 did not know, whether we are saving lives in the future. But it's not entirely impossible.
10.17.2006 5:23pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
We don't know, as those who, in an alternate universe (Harry Turtledove, call your office) chose to fight in the Rhineland in 1936 did not know, whether we are saving lives in the future. But it's not entirely impossible.

The assertion was made above that the overall death rate in the military had dropped because of the war (apparently some believe that it is actually safer to be in Iraq than stationed here in the states). I ridiculed this notion as ludicrous and a gross abuse of statistics if not an outright lie. dvorak's links vindicates my position. The non-combat death rate in the military appears to have been unchanged by the war and the war has caused excess deaths both as a result of combat and accidents.

We were never discussing future hypothetical deaths avoided by fighting the terrorists now, rather than later.
10.17.2006 5:32pm
JRL:
Dvorak,

Thanks for posting that link.

Here's just a quick breakdown of the numbers:

Average annual military deaths:

The 22 years prior to war on terror - 1554
Since war on terror began - 1432

Average annual military death rate as a percentage of the entire military force:

The 22 years prior to war on terror - 0.08%
Since war on terror began - 0.08%
10.17.2006 5:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J.F. I have no idea what MAJOR thing might be done.
I believe Bush has not done enough to prepare the nation, but the context is that there are sufficient sufferers from BDS about that, if Bush said we should be careful of stop signs, they'd start running them to combat the descent of fascism on the US.
There are those whose only thought is to defeat Bush and the collateral damage of that is of no interest to them. I know some of them. Others want power, come hell or whatever.

Nevertheless, if we have a history of going to the UN at great length, only to have the UN fail, of allowing the EU to deal with Iran, only to fail, the desired multilateral (six-party ) talks to deal with NoKor, only to fail, say endlessly that Islam is a religion of piece, only to see that, for example, about twenty million Indonesians think violent jihad is just dan and finedy, then the ground work--trying all the alternatives--has been demonstrably tried.


We talk a good game about the gallant people of Iraq wanting to be free and in a democracy, only to discover they are killing and raping Christians--beheaded an Orthodox priest the other day, and crucified a fourteen-year-old boy--but if, after all we've done, they prove to want to be a bunch of miserable, misogynistic, violent bastards, then what can we say?

Tried all the right things, we did....
10.17.2006 5:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J.F. You say that to assert that this war is saving US soldiers' lives is false. That's a hypothetical, since the deaths, if any, lie in the future. You have no way of knowing what is coming, nor do I, but the possibility is that we are forestalling a worse conflict.
So to say that there is no possibility that this war is saving soldiers' lives is...not possible.
10.17.2006 5:44pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Dvorak's link refutes his entire argument. The military death rate is much higher in 2003-04 (and surely will be in 2005-06) than in the immediately previous period 1996-2002. There was a sharp decline from 1980 to 1996, but it seems very difficult to me to relate that to the Iraq War. The military shrank, of course, but even above and beyond that there has been a large drop in the number of accidental deaths. I wasn't aware of that, and I'm curious what has been done in training that caused it. But for this thread, that's neither here nor there.

As for the claim that not covering peacetime accidents shows that covering the waste of soldiers' lives in Bush's Operation Oedipus, let's compare that to the death of schoolchildren. Are we somehow dissing children who die from cancer, or even by their own hand, when the death of a comparatively small number—a tiny blip in the death rate—at the hands of armed nuts gets so much national coverage?

For the supporters of the bankrupt, failed Iraqwagmire, any defense will do.
10.17.2006 5:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Andrew.

The difference in coverage is not the issue. The coverage is a proxy for concern.

One question is whether any of the usual suspects can be blamed. If the children who died of cancer you mention happened to live near a high-power transmission line or in Midland, Michigan, or along Love Canal, you can bet they'd be on Sixty Minutes.

Ditto the casualties.
10.17.2006 5:49pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The 22 years prior to war on terror - 1554

Way to distort the statistics. In the early years the military was much higher, and I guarantee the higher death rates in the early '80s was due to a much higher incidence of DUI deaths (look at the steady declined in accidental deaths of 1/3 between 1980 and 1989--I bet that was almost entirely due to cracking down and education of DUI) which is no longer tolerated in the military.

And you included 2002 in your "war on terror year". 2002 is FY2002 which runs from October 2001 to September 2002. It should be excluded from your numbers. That of course would bump the real death rate to 1645 once the Iraq war began.
10.17.2006 5:54pm
Mark Field (mail):

Seems there are two possibilities: One is that we are creating more anti-terrorists than anti-US. If that is uncomfortable to believe, you need a reason to go, in effect, uphill, against normal thinking. To do that, you'd probably find yourself insisting, before you figured out the ramifications, that being killed by an infidel is, in the view of the others around, infinitely worse than being killed by a co-religionist.
That would seem to be the only possibility.


I'm not sure if you think there is just one possibility or there are two. Either way, I don't agree. This stuff is not linear -- there are MANY possibilities in fact, regardless how people "should" reason. "Reason" just isn't very helpful in judging how people will react in cases of extreme emotion.
10.17.2006 6:13pm
Moral Hazard (mail):
Umm, I see lots of talk about U.S. casualties, but does anyone have figures on the deaths of Al Qaeda (or Ansar al Islam as they're called in Iraq) members?
10.17.2006 6:15pm
JRL:

"And you included 2002 in your "war on terror year". 2002 is FY2002 which runs from October 2001 to September 2002. It should be excluded from your numbers."


Well, since the war on terror started in October 2001, it's probably best to leave them in and include those deaths that occurred during the war on terror as deaths that occurred during the war on terror.
10.17.2006 6:35pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Bush planning to do something MAJOR? How bout this:

No one likes us
I don't know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.


From Political Science by Randy Newman. I thought it complemented the Tom Lehrer above, and its scary how well it fits.
10.17.2006 6:40pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Moral Hazard:

It's hard to tell who is Al Quaeda and who isn't, so any "figures" would probably be wildly inaccurate. As for the number of Iraqi's dead as a result of the war, I've seen figures as low as 42,000 and as high as 635,000.

The low number counts people directly killed by US/Alliance forces. The high number comes from a study which purports to compare death rates in Iraq both before the war and during the war years. So, there you have it: somewhere between 40 and 635 thousand, give or take a few.

My guess is that there is good reason to question anyone's counting techniques on something like this. And almost everyone who would want to count is likely also to have a political axe to grind.

By anyone's estimate, however, its a huge number when compared to U.S. casualties. How many of the Iraqi dead were the "enemy"? Probably no one knows (not even Al Quaeda).
10.17.2006 6:49pm
Kovarsky (mail):
What is the year to year, or month to month, variation (or standard deviation) over that time period. if the numbers oscillate wildly between periods, then it's probably indicative of the interaction of a whole lot of variables that rise and fall in importance.

if the variation is low, and the curve is smooth, then perhaps all those variables always cancel eachother out, and we could infer that the death rate hasn't increased.

i doubt sincerely this is the case. my suspicion is that there are a whole lot of variables pushing the military death rate in a whole lot of directions, and that the periodic variation is huge. if that is the case, averaging the death rates over the pre war-on terror period versus the post war-on-terror period can't tell you anything, because the entire question is opportunity cost - we have no idea whether the observed post-terror war death rate is lower or higher than we would have observed given the extraordinarily random interaction of those variables.
10.17.2006 8:48pm
tsotha:
I seriously doubt any US military lives were saved by invading Iraq. Remember, our military is much smaller than it was in the early '90s, so the relevant comparison is deaths per thousand, not the absolute number.

I would be very surprised to find the deaths-per-thousand count is down when we're in the middle of an occupation, especially since we're not being brutal enough to minimize American casualties.
10.17.2006 9:17pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Moral Hazard,

Yes, there are statistics regarding how many Al Qaeda have been killed in Iraq. Al Qaeda itself says more than 4000. See <A rel="nofollow" href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15044435/">this link</A>.
10.17.2006 9:43pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Moral Hazard,

Yes, there are statistics regarding how many Al Qaeda have been killed in Iraq. Al Qaeda itself says more than 4000. See <A rel="nofollow" href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15044435/">this link</A>.
10.17.2006 9:43pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Sorry about the multiple comments. Here's that link.
10.17.2006 9:45pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Going earlier than Germany's remilitarization of the Rhineland, Churchill said, when it was all over, that 'there was a time when Hitler could have been stopped with the stroke of a pen.'

That is, more or less, the situation today with respect to Islamic 'militants.' We do not hold the pen, but if the allegedly peaceful 1 billion Muslims made it clear that they were taking their Religion of Peace back, then the allegedly tiny fraction making war everywhere would be marginalized and quickly fade away.

I find these numbers games on this thread uninspiring. If you chart homicides in the US, you get a big dip in 1941-46, and smaller dips in the late '60s, early '70s.

One way to reduce domestic murders is to draft a lot of young men into the army and ship them overseas.

My view is that if you are concerned about the total of US casualties in Iraq -- that is, if you consider them excessive -- then you should impeach Bush for failing to flood the zone with infantry after the war with the Iraqi army ended. Anybody could see that coming -- I said so many, many times in the runup.

Whatever today's total is, it would have been lower had the high command been competent.
10.17.2006 10:16pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Andrew:

That's interesting. And we should believe Al Qaeda's numbers because??? I'm not sure whether its in Al Qaeda's propaganda interest to inflate or deflate the actual numbers. I think they would tend to err on the low side. This would have the effect of inflating the number of innocent Iraqis killed by the U.S., and also show the people they are recruiting how studly they are. Their losses are on the same order of magnitude as their enemies losses. That could be a nice propaganda point.

Of course, it could also just be an accurate counting. But how would anyone know? And why would anyone trust them just because they said so?
10.17.2006 10:20pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Andrew:

I don't think a video tape by Al Qaeda in Iraq qualifies as a statistical count of the actual number of Al Qaeda killed in Iraq. As the article implies, Al Qaeda in Iraq has a motive to exaggerate the number of deaths of its fighters, i.e., to make its "sacrifices" to fellow Muslims seem more impressive and its need for more jihadi recruits more pressing.

And, most of the insurgents, according the DoD and the CIA, are Iraqis, not the "foreigners" described in the video. I believe, but may be wrong, that Al Qaeda in Iraq also has Iraqi-born fighters, not just foreigners. Presumably, there are many more Iraqi insurgent deaths than foreign Al Qaeda deaths, and some of these are Iraqi members of Al Qaeda. So, I don't think the article answers Moral Hazard's question of how Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters have been killed by the US, coalition, or Iraqi government forces, nor does it tell us how many insurgents have been killed.
10.17.2006 10:20pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Anderson: some of us still subscribe to a strange, out-of-date Palestinian cult in which compassion *is* a principle.

Dramatic, but less than satisfactory.
10.17.2006 10:23pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
sbw: Dramatic, but less than satisfactory.

Happily for me, sbw, I'm expecting someone else to make the relevant evaluation.

Harry Eagar: if the allegedly peaceful 1 billion Muslims made it clear that they were taking their Religion of Peace back, then the allegedly tiny fraction making war everywhere would be marginalized and quickly fade away.

Yes, and just think how the allegedly peaceful Christians could've brought the Crusades to a stop, or the 30 Years War, or WW1 for that matter. The talking point you repeat is a species of the "Muslims are Martians" school of thought. Why they should act remarkably different from other human beings is beyond me.

tsotha: I seriously doubt any US military lives were saved by invading Iraq.

Wow. I mean, you're right and all, but just stop to reflect that we are even considering that question.
10.17.2006 10:53pm
JRL:

Remember, our military is much smaller than it was in the early '90s, so the relevant comparison is deaths per thousand, not the absolute number.


Average annual military death rate as a percentage of the entire military force:

The 22 years prior to war on terror - 0.08%
Since war on terror began - 0.08%


The data show the rates are the same pre- and post-.
10.17.2006 11:08pm
JRL:
Note that as it was wondered above whether the data would suggest that there would be less dead soldiers if we were not at war. The data is clear that that would be the case. And while of course that seems obvious and ridiculous to suggest, it is a suprisingly close call.

What is equally clear is that soldiers are dying at the same rate as the 2 previous decades. This is surprising considering we are at war this decade and not in the previous 2.

This causes there to be questions about tenor of coverage of military casualties as compared to the coverage in the previous 2 decades of similar death rates. To paraphrase another, this demeans our military and the dangers that are soldiers face.
10.17.2006 11:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
In the late eighties, the activist group Public Interest Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) began retailing the breathless information that military spending was killing the economy because it was only 80% as effective at creating jobs as non-military federal spending.
Other groups, one of which included me as a skeptical member, took it up uncritically and wept and gnashed teeth.

Then, one day, it stopped as if it had fallen off a cliff.
I pictured a bunch of lefties sitting around staring at each other.
"For years, we've been telling people military spending is money in the shredder. Now we're telling them they're getting all this defense for twenty cents on the dollar. Shitshitshitshit!!! What were we thinking?"
I don't know, of course, but it warms me on a cold day to imagine it.


Now, we're arguing with no clear answer whether or not the current unpleasantness is actually costing American lives, net. The implication is that it might not be. The implication is that it may be too close to call.
That, I submit, is HUGE.

At my last duty station, one of my jobs was to keep the roster for Notification of Next of Kin. I did a couple myself and Survivor Assistance Officer as well. Nobody in the HQ liked it when I came up to them with a clipboard and The Look on my face. Not all cases were in regard to Viet Nam. Not all were overseas someplace else. I can tell you as surely as I breathe, none of the families had the slightest interest in whether it was war, accident, or some operational thing we might not make a big deal over. I take that back. The latter category pissed them off worse than Viet Nam.

A war with no net casualties. What a concept, if true.

You know, it has been suggested with some trepidation that a highly automated military might let us get friskier, since fewer mothers' sons are getting hurt than now. In other words, US casualties are a good thing. Sort of like a governor.
\
My, my, my.
10.18.2006 12:10am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Anderson, there hasn't been a big war over Christianity among Christians since 1648, so I have no idea what World War I has to do with it.

Nor has there been a big war against Islam by Christians since around 1790, and that one wasn't all that big.

On the other hand, wars by Muslims against infidels have been and are a constant.

So your objection is not parallel.

That's the view from our side.

From the other side, Muslims who did not believe god had promised them a victorious future history (I do not believe there are any such, but for your objection to be relevant, there would have to be a lot of them) would pragmatically seek to take back their Religion of Peace from a violent majority. Why?

Because they have no guarantee in this world that western patience is unlimited, while western arsenals are unlimited.
10.18.2006 2:18am