Monday, March 24, 2008

4,000 Dead -- and Still Counting the Costs

If the question was “will she live or die,” for at least 4,000 men and women volunteers in the U.S. military in the last five years and four days, the answer, sadly, was “die.”

The Basic Facts

The details, other than specific identity of the 4,000th fatality, are:

Time: 10:00 p.m.
Date: March 23, 2008.
Place: Baghdad
Context: Vehicle patrol
Event: Detonation of a homemade (improvised) explosive
device aimed at the passing U.S. patrol
Outcome: Four U.S. soldiers killed
Significance: Puts U.S. deaths to date in the Iraq war at 4,000
and the March toll at 27 with 8 days left in the

The Burden of the Veterans Administration

Through March 1, 2008, the Pentagon lists 29,320 U.S. soldiers as wounded. This is a wounded-in-action-to-fatality ratio of 13.6-to-1, a stunning survival rate when compared to statistics from wars fought as recently as half a century ago. Even counting only the wounded who required medical air evacuation from the combat zone, the equivalent ratio in Iraq is 4.3-to-1. Another 31,325 service members required medical air evacuation from the theatre for illness or non-hostile injuries. All such evacuees, when discharged from active duty, remain eligible for continued medical treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics for all “service-related” medical conditions that were not resolved when the service member left active duty.

Associated Statistics

On the same day that U.S. fatalities reached 4,000, another 60 Iraqis (at least) were killed in a series of rocket and mortar attacks, including 13 mortar rounds targeting the “Green Zone,” suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, and ambushes. Total Iraqi dead for March, with eight days left in the month, are at least 646.

British fatalities are 175 and all other coalition partners combined have suffered 133 fatalities. So far this year, 95 of the reported 96 coalition fatalities have been U.S. soldiers. (The non-U.S fatality is British.)

Coalition forces passed a milestone of their own when the four U.S. soldiers died March 23. Of the total fatalities in the Iraq theatre – 4,308 – 3,501 have been killed in combat.

Another Abu Ghraib in the offing?

As sobering as the death toll is, of more concern us a reported jump in the number of Iraqis being detained by U.S. forces as a result of improved information from Iraqis emboldened by the success of the “surge.” Unfortunately, it also appears that U.S. troops now in Iraq are no better trained in prisoner of war and Geneva Convention rules and protections. This neglectful oversight is reminiscent of conditions (extreme overcrowding) and practices (long detentions without review of the accusations) that contributed to the events of Abu Ghraib.


Blogger Mary Kay Rehard said...

Dan Smith: I'm a Friend in Cincinnati, Ohio. I found your piece interesting, and until I read it, I didn't know of your work on the FCNL staff (I've been in Africa since 2002). It's great to see your blog and the hard work you've put into research and education on military issues. What a great role you have to play in helping us to be more aware of what is happening inside the military! Thanks! Mary Kay
Here are the blogs I've been working on:

11:13 AM  

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