Monday, January 01, 2007

Iraq Military Deaths Hit 3,000 Mark

American military fatalities in Iraq hit the 3,000 mark with the close of 2006, as this Los Angeles Times article reports. The milestone comes just as the Bush administration is weighing a decision on whether to increase troop levels in Iraq in a major push to stabilize the country. Here's the background on the military deaths:

As 2006 came to an end, the steadily rising toll of U.S. troops killed in Iraq hit another grim milestone — 3,000....

Overall, the rate of military fatalities has remained steady for more than 2 1/2 years, since the insurgency against the U.S. occupation of Iraq began to gain strength in 2004. The U.S.-led invasion in the spring of 2003 took the lives of 140 American troops, then, after an initial lull, the 1,000th death was announced in September 2004 and the 2,000th in October 2005....

The 3,000th U.S. military death comes in the wake of the execution of deposed President Saddam Hussein, an event that military leaders believe will lead to more attacks against U.S. troops, at least in the short term.

The U.S. military took no official notice of the 3,000 figure, and some commanders played down the number of fatalities. U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway said in an interview that, given the significance of Iraq and Afghanistan to U.S. national security, the death toll in those two countries was not excessive.

On average, slightly more than two U.S. troops die in Iraq a day, compared with 300 or more a day during World War II, he said.

But the intensity of the fighting and the sense that many American troops are caught in the crossfire of a civil war have helped undermine public support for the U.S. presence in Iraq....

Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a public letter last week that the fighting is more intense than the death toll implies....

New protective measures and advances in military medicine reduce the number of deaths, but not the difficulty of the war, he said, noting that the total number of U.S. casualties reached 25,000 in mid-December.

More than 24,800 additional troops sustained noncombat-related injuries — illnesses, vehicle crashes and other accidents — serious enough to require air transport.

And attacks against U.S. and Iraqi security forces are increasing. The military does not release specific numbers, but the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan government committee convened to find new approaches to the conflict, reported last month that the number of attacks averaged 180 a day in October, up from 70 a day in January.

Military commanders agree that the number of U.S. deaths would be far higher but for improved defenses. U.S. combat vehicles employ a variety of signal jammers to intercept remotely detonated roadside bombs, and American troops rarely leave their bases in anything less than an armored Humvee.

In the city of Baqubah in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, many U.S. troops are conducting operations in Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks.Many U.S. troops have added more body armor, including bullet-resistant plates to protect their sides and high Kevlar collars for their necks.
Since the opening invasion and toppling of Baghdad, 1,335 deaths have been from combat, 1,087 from roadside bombs, and 578 have been non-hostile. Check out also this interactive flash-graph with comprehensive demographics on those killed in the deployment. The data belie liberal claims that the burden of military fatalities falls on minorities. In fact, white service personnel have sustained 74 percent of total deaths in Iraq, a figure larger than the proportion of white Americans in the U.S. population. Also, while the loss of life in Iraq has been significant, the numbers are dramatically smaller than total fatalities in earlier wars, such as World War II (405,000) and the Vietnam War (58,000).

See my earlier post on media reports
that current war fatalities have now exceeded the number of deaths in the attacks of September 11, 2001. See also the front-page stories on the Iraq military death milestone in the New York Times (here) and the Washington Post (here).

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