What's a couple of heroes, more or less?!
February 3, 2003 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Sure, they died for their country, but who's counting?! ABC has a webpage for US personnel who have died during the war on terror, but it shows only 41 have casualties. Admittedly, they have yet to update their webpage after the latest casualties, but even if they did, they would still be wrong. CNN recently said that 47 US personnel have died in Operation Enduring Freedom. That number too is wrong.

To tell the truth, I couldn't find a single story on any major news website that lists all of the US personnel who have died in operation Enduring Freedom, but these sites appear to be the closest. Neither are fully accurate, however.

A beer on me to the first person who can tell me exactly how many US personnel have died (post 9/11) as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Search the web. Find the names. Compare lists. Extra points to anyone who can offer up some compelling reasons why our media overlords can't keep score. Do we want to know these people's names? Does it matter?!
posted by insomnia_lj (50 comments total)
Deaths that occur during classified operations will not be reported, since often the identities of participants in such clandestine duties is kept classified as well.
posted by mischief at 6:25 PM on February 3, 2003


All I am asking for is the total number of deaths of US personnel in operation Enduring Freedom that have been reported by the Department of Defense.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:28 PM on February 3, 2003

The White House listed fifty-two as of October 7, not including coalition forces or CIA. Obviously this wouldn't include the four who were recently killed in a helicopter crash.
posted by apostasy at 6:39 PM on February 3, 2003

Exactly. You almost have it, Apostasy. If you look around, you'll be able to find the correct number and explain why there is a discrepency. Doing so may also lead you to why the media is underreporting the casualty figures.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:53 PM on February 3, 2003

So is this some sort of scavanger hunt?
posted by SweetJesus at 6:54 PM on February 3, 2003

Owillis - Yes, you certainly could...
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:58 PM on February 3, 2003

Do you want this number constantly posted next to the terror warning level? A scrolling marquee on Fox News?
posted by machaus at 7:02 PM on February 3, 2003

No, I just want it so that when the media announces the number of people who have died in operation Enduring Freedom, that they announce the correct number. As I already pointed out, this is something that the major media sources have failed to do.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:13 PM on February 3, 2003

Is there a website which lists all of the names of the thousands of people which Operation Enduring Freedom has killed? I think that the major media have ignored this completely. It's nice to know that we have the names of the few we've lost, though. Wouldn't want to miss anyone!
posted by krinklyfig at 7:18 PM on February 3, 2003

How many of these deaths would be from aircraft mechanical failure? In other words - how more dangerous is it to serve in the "War on Terror" as opposed to serving in the US military during peacetime? [... Although "Peacetime" is now a thing of the past given that the "War on Terror" is permanent.]....there is a steady death toll on US military personnel, NOT deployed in a combat areas, who routinely die in transport accidents. How much more dangerous (currently) is Afghanistan?
posted by troutfishing at 7:21 PM on February 3, 2003

posted by PrinceValium at 7:24 PM on February 3, 2003

Does anyone know where we can find the names of all the people Al Qadea and the Taliban killed?
posted by Durwood at 7:34 PM on February 3, 2003

Excuse my ignorance of US military practice, but can anyone explain to me why so many of the casualties listed are sergeants (or petty officers, if they're Navy)? Is there a disproportionate number of NCOs in the US military? Is this some kind of military equivalent of grade inflation?

It just seems to me that there is a somewhat different distribution of ranks from casualty lists one might see from, say, World War II (excluding airforce personnel).
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:36 PM on February 3, 2003

What happened to this guy ?

Sgt. Ryan D. Foraker, 31, Logan, Ohio, September 24, 2002, Guantanamo, Cuba.

He got bitten by Taliban prisoners or what ?
posted by bureaustyle at 7:44 PM on February 3, 2003

I don't think you mean for your post to be interpreted this way, but it kind of got up my nose. It seems to assume that there's no middle ground between a consistent and factual accounting of casualties and jamming it down peoples' throats.
Those people died in service to America (whether you support their mission or not) they're there because we sent them there; I think that's worth a reliable mention somewhere. Their wounds, or worse, are not an inconvenience, for Christ's sake.
If this public doesn't feel like looking at the numbers of casualties and wounded, or seeing their names scroll across their television screen now and then--they should get their lazy asses off the couch and do thier own dirty work or withdraw their support for war altogether.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2003

Sgt. Ryan D. Foraker
posted by reverendX at 7:47 PM on February 3, 2003

I would theorize that the media overlords are actually quite incompetent. I'm busy making/burning dinner right now so I don't have the links, but the shuttle crash has shown us all sorts of big mistakes by the big media. Washington post evidently wrote a story detailing the shuttle's smooth landing while CNN reported that the shutle was traveling at lightspeed when it entered the atmosphere, only to correct itself by claiming the shuttle was traveling at "mock 18." My thesis isn't about organized propaganda as much as stupidity.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:47 PM on February 3, 2003

In order to not get into moderating the post, I'm going to give out the answer now.


58 are listed at the DoD site that owillis pointed out, which doesn't include the remaining four whose identities were recently released by the DoD.

The reason for the discrepency, from what I can tell, is that sometime recently, the DoD broke up the casualty lists so that there is both Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan and Enduring Freedom - Philippines. Apparently, the media didn't really catch on, which is why CNN claims 47 US personnel have died in Enduring Freedom and why ABC only lists 41.

Also of note is how several media outlets have been reporting casualties with almost identical statistics. For instance, several sources reported "25 soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan since the war on terror began. Twenty-two deaths were due to non-battlefield incidents."

It seems to me, whether it is intentional or not, that the DoD - by dividing the casualty counts into subsections and divided statistics, are causing considerable media confusion on what should be a simple, straightforward cost of the war.

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?
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:53 PM on February 3, 2003

This also highlights the discrepancy that the media accords to astronauts versus servicemen regarding their relative importance risking their lives in service to their country.

Re: sergeants. This is speculation, but if most of the troops are special ops, then they would be of higher rank than basic infantry.
posted by mischief at 7:54 PM on February 3, 2003

The defense department does not want its missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere to suffer from "Vietnam syndrome"; something they attribute to openness and awareness in the media and among the American people. They are, therefore, reluctant to share casualty figures in general as they are afraid of the perceived effect on morale for their war. A corellary to this is that the media, in order to cozy up to the defense department and ensure their continued but limited access, is afraid to do anything to alienate the department of defense in any way. The lack of accurate reportage in the media of casualties in Afghanistan (and soon Iraq) is a direct result of DOD propaganda and press laziness and irresponsibility.
posted by mokujin at 7:56 PM on February 3, 2003

People die, folks. Here at my local base a paratrooper died last week in a "fun jump" (they do these to keep up their proficiency).
After investigation and an autopsy turns out he had a heart attack.
A few years ago a guy (or two-it's been several years ago) got decapitated at Simmons Field because he stood up at the wrong time under a helicopter.

I could name other events, but my point is that military personnel die during peacetime too-more than you might think. Sometimes out of stupidity, sometimes just being in the wrong place at the wrong time
posted by konolia at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2003

You're right, konolia. People die all the time, and they could do it anywhere.

With that in mind, perhaps you will consider joining the military and serving in Iraq. No big difference, right?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:01 PM on February 3, 2003

konolia: the point isn't that people die, that is obvious, but why can't the media come up with a correct number of how many. War kills, I get it, but isn't the media supposed to report the true costs of the war?
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:03 PM on February 3, 2003

Here's a link to some of these casualties.

The 1997 Black Hawk crash made a widow out of a friend of mine.
And just so you know, I have two friends and numerous acquaintances over in Afghanistan right now as we speak.
posted by konolia at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2003

And if you are expecting the media to get something right I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing.
posted by konolia at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2003

Sounds like you're implying that 47 deaths is more acceptable that 62. I can't see 15 deaths making that much of a difference in public opinion.
And if you're counting the guy missing from Cuba, it's not 62. It's 61. They haven't even confirmed he's dead yet.

This is what the Pentagon said in this press release:
Foraker's clothes and personal effects were found near the water's edge, leading the investigating officer, absent any evidence to the contrary, to determine that Foraker had died in the waters of Guantanamo Bay. An extensive criminal investigation uncovered no reason to suspect foul play.
posted by stevefromsparks at 8:13 PM on February 3, 2003

i'm not sure the sarcasm was warranted in this case, insomnia -- it looks like konolia was just trying to put forth a point of reference for this whole episode.

and no, I don't think he (definitely not I for that matter) relish the thought of going into Iraq on the ground.
posted by badzen at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2003

elwoodwiles - I'm content with an order of magnitude approximation: in the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, etc.

Konolia raises a good point - US military personnel do often die during peacetime...this is probably unavoidable. US military aircraft crash often, because there are an awfull lot of them flying around on any given day: statistics would dictate a certain death toll, as with civilian commuter auto traffic. I'm not sure (honestly) whether US military aircraft are, on average, safer than rush hour traffic (in an urban US area) or not...I'd guess that they would be at least an order of magnitude more dangerous.

For the record though, I'm strongly opposed to an invasion of Iraq (for many reasons).
posted by troutfishing at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2003

I didn't count Foraker was one of those who died while serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom -- the DoD did. As for there being no body, well, given that he has been MIA for four months, I think it's fair to say that he's not coming back anytime soon.

I'm also not saying that 47 deaths is acceptable losses and 62 aren't. "Acceptable losses" is a personal decision. What I am saying is that by the DoD's confusing divisions of the casualties and by the media's failure in factchecking, the people are being misinformed and lack all the information they deserve as citizens to make that decision themselves.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:26 PM on February 3, 2003

Nice to know their deaths are such a source of entertainment for you. How's that aborted fetus chess set working out for you?
(Oh, wait a minute, it's research. Where have we heard THAT lately?)
posted by HTuttle at 8:31 PM on February 3, 2003

The co-pilot of Flight 93 was an Air Force Reservist. He gave his life fighting enemy combatants over eastern Ohio. Where's he on the list? Or has the government disconnected the events of September 11 entirely from the so called "war on terror?"
posted by PrinceValium at 8:38 PM on February 3, 2003

I understand the risk of accidents. What is amazing to me is just how safe the deployment of ~200K troops to Iraq has been so far. Almost all of the casualties that we have heard of have been in Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, or in the Philippines.

With that in mind, I think I heard recently that the US have about 9000 troops in Afghanistan and about 1,000 in the Philippines. If you do the math, the casualties come up to about 1 casualty for every 170 military personnel, with considerably higher risk for certain sections of the military, such as members of the Nightstalkers - 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:40 PM on February 3, 2003

I don't think it's the conspiracy that seems to be suggested by the post - some of the media counts are only counting battle deaths, some are counting only Afghanistan, and some are outdated.

I guess its sort of important, but 41 and 62, given these different methods, seems inconsequential to me. All it says, in my mind, was that the military is damn good and not having its own guys killed (and getting better at not killing the civilians on the other side).

They liberated a country, known for its fight tenacity, and had, at most, 49 related deaths? That's one of the more amazing statistics in military history.
posted by Kevs at 8:41 PM on February 3, 2003

er.. Afghanistan. Not Pakistan.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:43 PM on February 3, 2003

Troutfishing: you're against the war!? Hadn't noticed. I don't know if I'm comfortable with approximations. I understand that some US casualties and deaths would be classified, it doesn't seem like there would be a need to give approximate numbers of dead (unless we're losing real real bad and they can't count exactly how many were killed - something I'd never want to see.)
PrinceValium: Yes, unfortunately, the government has completely disconnected the events of 9/11 from the "war on terror." If anything, invading Iraq is going to make prosecuting the current war even harder while ignoring the root causes of terrorism in the first place. The Saudi government likes us, but the Saudi people hate their government and view the US as being responsible for the Saudi regime remaining in power.
Htuttle: Troll.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:51 PM on February 3, 2003

The media has had a very hard time covering Afghanistan, because it is a decidely non-media friendly confrontation. We are certainly ahead of the game as far as mopping up Taliban/Al Qaeda fighters - but it is important (especially with Operation:Avenge Dad coming up) to keep a close eye on the operations of our soldiers on this front. Last week's confrontation with Al Qaeda remnants, combined with numerous Taliban-friendly warlords, and many enemy elements who have hidden in Pakistan show that the region is still quite hot.

I'm not a professional reporter by any stretch, but I intend to keep an eye on it via my blog as much as possible - what little that may help.
posted by owillis at 9:05 PM on February 3, 2003

One could see the discrepancies as a strength, insomnia_lj: a measure of how much the media remain diverse and representative of different approaches. One may choose to list only battle deaths. Another may choose to list all deaths in a combat zone. One may choose to lump all "Operation Enduring Freedom" deaths in one category, another may agree that the Philippines mission is qualitatively different and keep those figures separate. Isn't this, from a broader perspective, a better situation than all of them reporting exactly the same thing in lockstep, and it agreeing exactly with the Pentagon figures? Wouldn't the latter be even more worrisome with regard to press independence and press reliability?

Also, Military personnel by rank {PDF; cross reference with rank and insignia}. The bulk of enlisted personnel are actually in the middle, not the bottom -- E-3s, or corporals, for the Army; sergeants, E-5 and up, represent around 45% of enlisted Army personnel. The Marines, with different requirements, peak at the E-3 or Lance Corporal. The Air Force peaks at the E-5. It's helpful to remember that in the modern US armed forces, rank has more to do with expertise than with hierarchy. Those killed in Afghanistan have often been helicopter personnel or specialty ratings such as target acquisition or combat engineers. Some have been special forces, and you don't get there (in the current military) unless you've already been in the miltary a few years.
posted by dhartung at 9:09 PM on February 3, 2003

Compared to the coverage that the crewmembers of the Columbia got this weekend, this is pretty sad.
posted by moonbiter at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2003

mischief; dhartung -- thanks for the lucid explanations.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:43 PM on February 3, 2003

"Isn't this, from a broader perspective, a better situation than all of them reporting exactly the same thing in lockstep, and it agreeing exactly with the Pentagon figures?"

But that is exactly what they *ARE* doing.

Case in point -- As I previously showed, several different media sources basically reported on the same casualty breakdown between those killed in action and in accidents. The only logical way to explain this similarity in reports is that they were reporting from the same source, which was probably the daily DoD briefing. What's worse, several media sources such as CNN then misinterpreted these figures as being the total casualties in Enduring Freedom, rather than specifying "casualties in Afghanistan".

"One could see the discrepancies as a strength . . . . One may choose to list only battle deaths. Another may choose to list all deaths in a combat zone. . ."

Although I appreciate the idea of it, I also personally disagree -- war service means operating in an inherently more dangerous environment. I would appreciate it more, however, if their methods of reporting casualties were consistant with a standard set by that media outlet. However, it seems clear that the only ones setting a standard are the DoD -- the media is just accepting the figures as gospel, or even worse, assuming them to mean something they don't.

There aren't "flexible definitions" to Operation Enduring Freedom -- it has always been a global effort to eradicate terrorism. That's why the media shouldn't say things like "47 US personnel have died in Operation Enduring Freedom"; it is not factually accurate, no matter which way you slice it...

If they had said "47 casualties in Afghanistan", that would certainly have been better, but that's not what they said.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:55 PM on February 3, 2003

"media overlords"?

Well, nothing like strutting your bias while trying to make some point about.... bias.

So let me understand this, it looks like some media numbers, about something that is variable in definition, are what? As many as 10 people off?

And THIS is the smoking gun for some vast conspiracy of "under-reported casualties"?

So, like, if people knew the number was 50+ we'd say "Hey! Let terrorism run rampant, those 5 extra 10 folks are too high a price!".
posted by soulhuntre at 10:36 PM on February 3, 2003

Um... media overlords was used in a sarcastic sense. (i.e. They really screwed up. Failing to properly check their facts and report a quarter of the casualties so far isn't a small mistake. )

I'm hardly saying that there is a "vast conspiracy" on the part of the media. If there is any "conspiracy", it's an effort of the DoD to serve the press casualty figures in "bite sized" chunks in a way that confuses the media and spins the facts.

As much as I think it's distasteful, that's PR. The DoD are supposed to sell the war. However, it's the media's responsibility to sort through the spin, report the facts, and to check everything for accuracy. They've fundamentally failed to do this.

So yeah. They screwed up and I think they should be held accountable.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:33 PM on February 3, 2003

I just want to lay a claim to the beer. Why?

I think one could make a case that all military personal are part of the logistical support for Operation Enduring Freedom™ and, regardless of how they die during said operation, one could chose to add them to the count. (Just as one includes victims of training accidents.) Further, given the way Insomnia structured the post, and then jumped in with the "accurate" answer, I think he should just give me the beer anyway.

For clarification though: is not Operation Enduring Freedom™ the name for the action in Afghanistan as opposed to the whole war on terror*?

*To be named later by historians.
posted by Dick Paris at 1:17 AM on February 4, 2003

"For clarification though: is not Operation Enduring Freedom™ the name for the action in Afghanistan as opposed to the whole war on terror*?"

Nope. It's the whole ball o' wax. That's why the list at the DoD site lists those who died in places like the Philippines too.

It was originally called Operation Infinite Justice, but they changed the name to not offend followers of Islam -- only Allah can judge.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:12 AM on February 4, 2003

as opposed to the whole war on terror*?

*To be named later by historians.

substitute "on" with "of" and you're half way there.
posted by BigCalm at 5:40 AM on February 4, 2003

Nice one, BigClam, er Calm. (I like clams.)


I've been poking around the name Operation Enduring Freedom™ some and, I think, while your answer to my earlier query is correct, that the confusion your post exposes is not necessarily the fault of those trying to report the news.

I found a lack of clarity elsewhere. The whitehouse page on the subject, while mentioning operations outside of Afghanistan is heavily tilted towards it and this Air Force page adds to the confusion.

It's all moot I suppose as I still believe that everyone is in this together, being on the field of combat or providing logisitcal support from Washington.
posted by Dick Paris at 6:50 AM on February 4, 2003

I believe that the whole of the military are contributing to the war effort too, but admittedly there's a much more significant risk to travelling halfway across the world and deploying (and conducting operations) in hostile territory than in staying in the U.S.

In my search, I saw a site out there which listed some Enduring Freedom deaths that weren't considered by the DoD to be a part of Enduring Freedom -- people who had died in crashes that took place while deploying overseas, accidents related to the deployment, etc. I think those people should count too.

The problem I see with Enduring Freedom isn't that we are fighting it, but in *how* we are fighting it. The war on terror's focus has been changed from striking against terror to the occupation of foriegn lands, and the casualty reports, though not numbering in the hundreds quite yet, are significantly higher than what we've seen in Kosovo, for instance. (I think about two US personnel died there, as a result of a crash.)

When it comes to Afghanistan, the initial goal wasn't to topple the Taleban, it was to get them to turn over Osama Bin Laden and members of Al Qaeda to us. I don't think that all methods short of invasion were pursued to do this. I do think, however, that no nation on the earth would willingly stand an indefinite, escalating US bombardment without either giving in to us or being toppled in the process. It may seem like second guessing, but I suspect that if we hadn't invaded Afghanistan, we'd have Osama as a prisoner today. We'd also have far greater international support.

Instead, we are in a situation where we are forced to occupy Afghanistan. Admittedly, casualties are low right now, but casualties were low for the USSR too when it first went into Afghanistan. The US govt. back then saw the situation as a chance to create "Russia's Vietnam", and started to arm and train the rebels, however. The local warlords (who are still in power and still armed to this day) saw the situation as a chance to extend their power and kick out the infidel. That's when casualties started to mount.

Let's just say that I'm not at all convinced that there isn't this growing anger by fundamentalists in Afghanistan against being occupied, nor do I believe it impossible that countries who are hostile to the US would arm those who oppose us. In order for a central Afghani government to really control the country, they would have to disarm the warlords. I don't think the warlords will necessarily just let that happen.

In other words, we may have gotten ourselves in a situation which we can't easily get out of. I don't expect we'll lose the 14,000+ casualties the Russians lost, but I do think we're naive if we think that US occupation forces will be indefinitely welcomed with open arms wherever they choose to go.

If it didn't work that way in Somalia, I doubt it will work that way in Afghanistan... and Iraq?! That's a *really* dangerous occupation.

I can almost imagine what Custer must have thought when he crested the hills and looked down upon all the Indians camped at Little Big Horn...

"At last! I've finally got them all right where I want them!"
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2003

I've never heard of Foraker before. Thanks for the link.
posted by yangwar at 11:08 AM on February 4, 2003

Powerful link, owillis. Thanks

Last week's confrontation with Al Qaeda remnants, combined with numerous Taliban-friendly warlords, and many enemy elements who have hidden in Pakistan show that the region is still quite hot.

posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2003

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