Thursday, April 22, 2004

Conflicted about the Conflict: Body Counts

I’ve been hearing occasional numbers batted around about the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq since the war “ended” almost a year ago.  The last number I read was 630, but I can’t pin a date on it, identify the breakdown of in-combat vs. other, or tell how many were soldiers and how many were civilians.

The term usually used for this is “casualties”.

That’s not accurate, though.  “Casualty” indicates those injured as well as those killed.  With all the focus in the past couple days about John Kerry’s war record (at least he has one!) and whether he really “earned” the first Purple Heart, you’d think we’d be focusing a bit more on accuracy in our terminology.
How many of our soldiers have received head wounds?

How many have lost a limb?  Or even just broken one?

Gone blind or deaf?

Nerve damage from crushed hands?

Lung damage from fumes and smoke and dust and other particulate matter?

Severe burns?

Exposure to caustic materials?

How many are casualties omitted from the numbers we’re being told, because the soldier’s life was merely permanently ruined rather than completely ended?  Why do we accept that only deaths are important enough to tally?
According to, it’s almost 4000 (as of April 22, 2004).  I’m not sure just what their numbers are drawn from, but they link to a page at the Department of Defense which tags 566 killed since May 1, 2003 (almost 400 Killed in Action) and 3100 wounded (with just under 2000 not returned to duty in three days).

We’ve got about 130,000 troops in Iraq right now.  A little under one-half of 1% have been killed, and 2.4% have been wounded.  That’s almost one soldier in 40.

Updated on April 23, 2004
I’m obviously not alone in the recognition of this discrepancy in the numbers that get pushed at us and the greater impact on our troops’ bodies.  This week, both Doonesbury and Get Fuzzy have moved to the issue of seriously-wounded-yet-not-killed soldiers.
Updated on January 21, 2011
The current numbers from say almost 4300 American deaths (3400 in combat) since “Mission Accomplished”, and almost 33,000 American wounded as the “official” number.  No idea how many non-American dead and wounded.

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