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Underreporting casualties in Iraq
October 23, 2003 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Press underreports casualties I had never heard of "Editor & Publisher" before, but I came across this link, and thought the news was rather shocking.

So while 106 troops were killed since the "end of hostilities," 1927 have been wounded since the war began, 200 have been killed from all causes, and over 4,000 troops have been medically evacuated from Iraq.

The article says the stats are easily obtained from the Pentagon web site - though all I could find was press releases which just mention casualties one by one. Can anyone out there find a comprehensive listing on the Pentagon's page?

The article suggests that the media are at least in part to blame here (along with the administration's general reluctance to focus on bad news). Why wouldn't newspapers want to cover injuries to the troops? I, for one, would like to see this covered. What do you all think?
posted by jasper411 (41 comments total)

 
Jasper, why do you hate America so much?
posted by Espoo2 at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2003


Wait... So the Bush administration lied to us? Now I'm pissed!
posted by keswick at 5:13 PM on October 23, 2003


CENTCOM will give you a list of their casualty reports by month (killed and wounded), but if you want it all added up for you, the folks at lunaville do it (including wounded). If you'd rather see their faces, go to the Washington Post (only fatalities).
posted by anewc2 at 5:41 PM on October 23, 2003


Obligatory remark re excessive length of post creating extra work for site owner when inevitable post reduction surgery is performed.
posted by y2karl at 5:41 PM on October 23, 2003


"nearly 4,000 soldiers had been medically evacuated from Iraq for non-combat reasons. " What's up with that? Do they just not treat anyone there?
posted by smackfu at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2003


So while 106 troops were killed since the "end of hostilities," 1927 have been wounded since the war began, 200 have been killed from all causes, and over 4,000 troops have been medically evacuated from Iraq.

200 dead
1927 wounded
-------
2127
(4000) medically evacuated
-------
1873 new section 8's or "weren't asked, but told anyway".
posted by quonsar at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2003


Obligatory remark re pot and kettle.
posted by yerfatma at 6:06 PM on October 23, 2003


How does this compare with casualty rates for military personnel during peacetime, I wonder?
posted by blueshammer at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2003


"nearly 4,000 soldiers had been medically evacuated from Iraq for non-combat reasons. " What's up with that? Do they just not treat anyone there?

Alan Alda didn't want to get involved this time.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:13 PM on October 23, 2003


The rules for determining KIAs (soldiers killed in action) are pretty strict. Whether that's just the military being precise or the military helping minimize public outcry over the cost of the U.S.'s Iraq adventure is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

Example: Early in the war, journalist Michael Kelly and a Marine died when the Humvee they were in was targeted by mortar fire and flipped into a canal trying to escape.

The drowned Marine was listed as a "non-combat" death, not a KIA.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:47 PM on October 23, 2003


My intention (I know, the road to hell...) was to have the post be about the media, not the administration or America hating, baiting, etc.

Thanks for the great links, anewc2. Very helpful!
posted by jasper411 at 6:48 PM on October 23, 2003


I've been writing about this chronic underreporting for a long time -- it existed in Afghanistan before it ever even began in Iraq -- but it has only become newsworthy somewhat recently.

There are a few factors at work here.

1> Newspapers are frankly more than a bit worried about rocking the boat, even if it means reporting the facts. (Look what happenned to the boycotts against the LA Times, for example...)

2> The US military keeps breaking down casualty figures into smaller and smaller chunks. See my comments on this here.

As I said before the invasion of Iraq began:
"So, do you think when "Enduring Freedom - Iraq" kicks off, they'll start counting again from zero until the press forgets about the 62 who have already died?"

Well, if you take a look at how the DoD reports casualty figures, that's exactly what they've done. They even break it down further in their press conferences, saying things like "___ soldiers have died in combat since the cessation of hostilities."

When you start breaking down the stats like that, you might as well say that 20 soldiers have died in Iraq of gunshot wounds that took place after Labor Day... it's just as meaningless, and even the media tends to get confused and shorten the headlines to "20 soldiers have died in Iraq". I have seen this happen all too often.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:04 PM on October 23, 2003


Obligatory remark re excessive length of post creating extra work for site owner when inevitable post reduction surgery is performed.

LOL Comedy gold!
posted by rushmc at 7:12 PM on October 23, 2003


"Army of One" [Flash.]
posted by homunculus at 7:22 PM on October 23, 2003


Since when are dead US soldiers the only issue anyway? Let's talk about the number of US soldiers who have died as a result of Bush's war on terror. I put that number at around 435.

Don't forget to honor the approximately 2000 severely wounded, many with brain trauma, broken bodies and useless limbs. Our ability to save soldiers from bleeding to death or from infection has advanced considerably since Vietnam, but that also means that more soldiers than ever before will have to live the rest of their lives with the most severe injuries imaginable.

Feel free to add the deaths of our coalition partners. Another 51 British killed in Iraq, the Canadians we accidentally bombed in Afghanistan, the Kurds, the Spanish, etc. And don't forget about our more pigmented allies -- you might know them best as Kurds, Afghanis, Iraqis, Pakistanis, etc., but you don't know their names or how or where they died -- somehow their deaths didn't matter much, but I'm sure once you add them in, we're talking about numbers which could easily exceed US casualties.

And don't forget about all the volunteers from the UN, some who died in the bomb blast in Baghdad, or those who still die regularly in Afghanistan. Don't forget the aid workers and Red Crescent volunteers who died trying to help others. They're still risking their necks too.

We should also remember the 37 journalists who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan so far...

And then there are the innocent civilians -- approximately 13,000 of them -- killed during the assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan. This doesn't count the thousands who died after these conflicts as a result of lawlessness, instability, lack of clean water, poor sanitation, lack of access to medical care, landmines, unexploded ordinance, or just plain being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But we're still overlooking the bulk of the casualties -- those of the soldiers who fought for Iraq and Afghanistan. We associate them with the sins of their leaders, but we don't talk about many of them being teenagers -- some as young as 14 -- many forced into military service. They were young, scared, and had families too, and though we don't have any available figures on their casualties, we know they were slaughtered by the tens of thousands. Of course, more Iraqis and Afghanis die every day, trying to repel the infidel...

Start looking at the true cost of the war on terror, and it becomes pretty obvious that the United States has compounded the death of 3000 Americans by a greater tragedy which has killed somewhere around 30,000 - 50,000 people and probably wounded over 100,000 more in the process.

And, last but not least, let's not forget the sanctions against Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Numbers which easily exceed the number of Iraqis which Saddam killed himself during his reign, most of which died in the uprisings following the Gulf War.

And yet, terrorism still exists, Saddam and Bin Laden are still on the loose, and and al Qaeda is growing once more. Once more, the warlords rule over much of Afghanistan, which, after the fall of the Taleban, has once more become the world's leading exporter of opium.

Jimmy Breslin got it right.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:23 PM on October 23, 2003


Wait... So the Bush administration lied to us? Now I'm pissed!


I bet if someone said this in every thread, it'd be even funnier.

First!
posted by The God Complex at 7:29 PM on October 23, 2003


Gee. Let's only wage military campaigns where no one dies or gets injured. Go stuff some more Dean (loser) envelopes, won't ya?

Not good to see how far to the pacifist left lists Metafilter.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:34 PM on October 23, 2003


Gee. Let's only wage military campaigns where no one dies or gets injured.

cool! can we please?
posted by amberglow at 7:49 PM on October 23, 2003


Let's only wage military campaigns where no one dies or gets injured

Not that I want to be tarred with the "pacifist left" brush or anything, but I really can't see why you would make the above statement sarcastically ... as if a lack of casualties would be a bad thing?
posted by nomis at 7:49 PM on October 23, 2003


insomnia_lj, right on! fight the good fight.
posted by poopy at 7:49 PM on October 23, 2003


Paris Paramus - So are you saying that mainstream media censorship of the plight of US troops who are wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq should continue? Doesn't this mean that those Americans who have paid a terrible price for their patriotic commitment are being denied a voice even as they live in pain?

Here's a Guardian story from over a month ago who quotes US military personnel attesting that as many as 8,000 wounded US soldiers have passed through the US military's medical facilities.

There seem to be many more US troops - who have become casualties in the invasion and occupation of Iraq - than officially acknowledged. And these wounded soldiers, further, are being treated with far less care than most Americans treat their pets:

"FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait -- sometimes for months -- to see doctors.

The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day.

"I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Buckels, a truck master with the 296th Transportation Company. Buckels served in the Army Reserves for 27 years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first Gulf War. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen."

posted by troutfishing at 7:55 PM on October 23, 2003


"Let's only wage military campaigns where no one dies or gets injured."

Oh, you mean like the much smarter war that Clinton fought against Bosnia that minimized civilian casualties? Frankly, we could use more boring wars.

As for effectiveness, Milosevic, who ruled a country which had weaponry that was far more advanced than Iraq, is currently in custody, isn't he?!

Unlike those who favor stupid, senseless, unnecessary ground wars, I can't be accused of being repugnant and inhumane for the value I put on human life.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:57 PM on October 23, 2003


"If you ever get a war without blood and gore, I'll be the first to go." - Phil Ochs
posted by PrinceValium at 8:00 PM on October 23, 2003


er.. To clarify, I should say "against the Serbs in Bosnia", but I'm sure you all got the point.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:01 PM on October 23, 2003


And if you agree that Iraqi civilians are people too, then they're getting counted (or at least estimated) as well.

Iraqi soldiers? Haven't found it yet.
posted by anewc2 at 8:11 PM on October 23, 2003


Not that I want to be tarred with the "pacifist left" brush or anything

You can tar me with it. It's better than the feathers of the chickenhawks.
posted by anewc2 at 8:21 PM on October 23, 2003


"Iraqi soldiers? Haven't found it yet."

I doubt you will, because they aren't being counted by anyone I am aware of. They may never be counted, frankly.

I do remember reading an estimate a few weeks after Baghdad fell on an Arabic website. They estimated that around 25,000 were killed. There was also a report during the war which mentioned an armed incursion into Baghdad that killed around 3,000 Iraqi soldiers in a single battle. The US even lit a prominent hill on fire with a napalm-like substance in southern Iraq which apparently had somewhere around a brigade of defenders on it. Certainly, there is no denying the reports from the press that the US killed a helluva lot of people along the way and that the road to Baghdad was littered with destroyed army vehicles, troop emplacements, etc.

Under such circumstances, 25,000 dead Iraqi soldiers alone sounds like a good beginning for an estimate. Add about half that for the number of Afghani soldiers killed and you have the beginnings of a good estimate. Much more work needs to be done to find out the truth, of course, but I have a feeling that it will be left to the historians, because the facts of the matter are too inconvenient to investigate right now.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:30 PM on October 23, 2003


This site includes reports on military casualties (killed and wounded), but you have to add them up yourself.
posted by anewc2 at 8:55 PM on October 23, 2003


Not that I want to be tarred with the "pacifist left" brush or anything

You can tar me with it.


*liberally slapping tar on anewc2*

I've heard it's good for the complexion too!

Seriously though, I just don't think that ones locus on the political spectrum should have any bearing on ones response to the basic fact that when people are killed or maimed, they and their loved ones are horribly affected, for a long time.

Also, thank you for the links anewc2!
posted by nomis at 9:04 PM on October 23, 2003




From Iraqi Body Count's website:

"The single most notable fact about (the Iraqi casualty counts) is the almost complete absence of any official or semi-official agency from the scene .... Considering the importance of this work, this is an astonishing state of affairs."

"On balance our judgement is that the work is just not being done, and that the parties most closely involved just don't want to know."

posted by insomnia_lj at 9:23 PM on October 23, 2003


For what it's worth, Editor and Publisher is, along with the Columbia Journalism Review and the American Journalism Review, one of the most popular (print) media trade magazines. It's classifieds were, back in the day, the default job bank for the entire industry. There wasn't a news office in the nation that didn't subscribe. Although their reportage is not known for it's groundbreakingness, they're not hacks by any stretch of the word.
posted by UncleFes at 10:08 PM on October 23, 2003


Oh my God. I just clicked into this thread by chance, and I'm amazed. That article was written by Seth, my best guy friend.
posted by jennanemone at 11:40 PM on October 23, 2003


How many non-American "allied" soldiers have died as a result of American friendly fire?
posted by MiG at 12:54 AM on October 24, 2003


Editor & Publisher are very well respected, and although they haven't reported extensively on Iraq, what they have done has been ahead of the curve when it comes to reporting on how the media has covered the war.

Before this most recent article outlining the underreporting of wounded soldiers, they published another article outlining how the media underreported casualties. Thankfully, there have been some improvements since then, but you still see the same problems pop up regularly.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:03 AM on October 24, 2003


How many non-American "allied" soldiers have died as a result of American friendly fire?

At least 48 U.S., Afghan and other friendly fighters died of fratricide in Afghanistan alone.

As for Iraq, it's still hard to tell, but here is a partial list the army maintained for the first few days of the war. There is also an archive of fratricide-related news articles here that should list many other cases.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:59 AM on October 24, 2003


I arrived late to this thread but I am amazed by the very first response to the link. "Jasper, why do you hate America so much?" From espoo2.

I have tried very hard to understand what this link has to do with either hating or loving America. It has to do with the media - and this BTW would appear to also include most of the UK Media - has underreported the casualties in this war.

So I wonder if epoo2 would care to explain why he asked this question? Or why he believes that Jasper hates America?
posted by donfactor at 4:00 AM on October 24, 2003


Why wouldn't newspapers want to cover injuries to the troops?

Because stenographers only print what is handed to them. Actually investigating and writing your own story is way too much work for a lazy whore media.

I, for one, would like to see this covered.
I, too, would love to see this properly covered. But then that would place the media on the wrong side of the current cabal in DC.

So I wonder if epoo2 would care to explain why he asked this question? Or why he believes that Jasper hates America?
Not that I would presume to speak for espoo2 but I think he was being humorous as a response to all the recent right wing nut crap instigated by the White House regarding the "negative" press coverage of Iraq. Something that is ridiculous on its face but effective in subduing the cowardly press.
posted by nofundy at 5:14 AM on October 24, 2003


further to nofunday's comments you might be interested in looking back at a recent thread - search: 'politics & science'. It covers just another category of this administration's - with the connivance of the media - attempts to hide and/or pervert the truth. Then, of course, there is the depatment of justice, the environment, and who knows what else. I suspect they're all at it.

Although I am an American - I don't hate it - I live in the UK where the press does not pander to the power structure. Here, they seem to go to the other extreme, but it makes for a good balance.
posted by donfactor at 7:47 AM on October 24, 2003


I think the American media at this point is so sensitive to being tagged as "liberal" that they are bending over backwards to be "fair and balanced" - even when, in the end, they become nothing of the sort.

On one hand, the casualty counts in Iraq have been vastly underreported. During the war itself (before "major combat action" ceased), the death of one soldier was guaranteed to lead the news. Now you can have three, four killed a day, and it gets played inside.

In one sense it's because the story isn't so new anymore. In another sense, the administration's position is that it really shouldn't be headline news, that - and tell me how many times you've heard this one in recent weeks - the situation in Iraq is better than it is being portrayed in the media, and thus any newspaper that carries troop deaths on Page One is therefore showing its "liberal" stripes.

On the other hand, in this media culture, I wonder how, say, D-Day might have been reported. And you really do wonder if we as a nation would have the fortitude to wage another war like World War II - not necessarily because of "negative" media spin but because of pervasive coverage. Do you think live footage on every network of soldiers getting mown down on Omaha Beach or Okinawa might have prompted the country to have accepted something other than unconditional surrender from the Axis?
posted by kgasmart at 8:10 AM on October 24, 2003


donfactor, the "why do you hate America" meme/joke comes from this cartoon. Don't take it quite so seriously, or rather, maybe you should?
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2003


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