Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Number of U.S. Dead in Iraq Reaches 3,000

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It's happened. Dustin R. Donica, 22 years old, from Spring, Texas, was killed in Baghdad on the last day of 2006, bringing the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 3,000.

My heart goes out to his family, for whom New Year's Eve will never be the same again.

The AP article says that Donica's death "was not announced by U.S. military authorities in Baghdad." I'm not sure what that means.

Via Tennessee Guerrilla Woman, the New York Times has photographs of all 3,000. You can also search for a particular person by typing the person's last name and state they come from in the search box. The Times also links to the article it published when the number of American deaths reached 2,000, which happened on October 26, 2005.

Earlier today, Juan Cole reminded us that, as grim as this milestone is, it masks an even more gruesome human toll:

Like all statistics, this one is deceptive. It does not include US troops killed in Afghanistan, that oddly forgotten war where the US still has a division engaging in active combat. Nor is it nice to ignore NATO dead in Afghanistan, including French and Canadians (yes).

The number does not include the Coalition troops killed in Iraq. The sacrifices of the British, Italians, and others should be included.

And why ignore the seriously wounded? These brave warriors have brain damage, or spinal damage, or have lost limbs or been burned and disfigured. There are probably 8000 of them. Their sacrifice should be foregrounded. Life is not going to be easy for them, and they are not goiing to get that much help from Bush.

Indeed, why not count all the wounded? The number must be near 25000 by now.

Then there are all the I raq Vets with post traumatic stress disorder and a myriad of other combat related mental diseases. There is alcoholism, domestic violence, divorce.

The true number of Americans and US allies who are in some sense casualties of war is in the tens of thousands.

3000 is a horrible number. But it is not the only dreadful number. By concentrating on it, Washington politicians and the US press hide from us the true magnitude of the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The media is also taking note of the fact that 111 U.S. soldiers died in December, the highest number for a single month in a year.

At the same time, I can't publish this post without quoting Riverbend on the subject of the grief and loss this war has brought:

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

I think that bears repeating -- in fact, I don't think it can be repeated too often, because it almost never is said at all.

That being the case, perhaps this would be a good time to revisit the recent study published in Lancet that estimated 655,000 Iraqis had died since March 2003 as a result of the Iraq war. The criticism made of the report by its detractors -- that the study's methodology was flawed and its findings uuntrustworthy -- is number 5 in Juan Cole's Top Ten Myths About Iraq 2006:

... Les Roberts [one of the study's authors] replies here to many of the objections that were raised. See also the transcript of the Kucinich-Paul Congressional hearings on the subject. Many critics refer to the numbers of dead reported in the press as counter-arguments to Roberts et al. But "passive reporting" such as news articles never captures more than a fraction of the casualties in any war. I see deaths reported in the Arabic press all the time that never show up in the English language wire services. And, a lot of towns in Iraq don't have local newspapers and many local deaths are not reported in the national newspapers.

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