THE REAL COST OF THE IRAQ WAR: 50,000 U.S. CASUALTIES
By Michael Munk
** Death is not the only measure of loss in Iraq. What about all of the lost limbs, bloodshed and other casualties that aren't being reported? **
January 4, 2007
To bring the human cost to Americans of the invasion and occupation of Iraq home, antiwar groups across the country are marking mark the 3,000th death of a member of its military components (at this writing the total is 3,004).
But by focusing only on the number of dead Americans we are being manipulated along with the media and public by the administration's determination to minimize the cost in blood of establishing permanent military bases in the heart of the Middle East oil patch.
That public relations strategy consists of prohibiting images of the dead and wounded returning home and those of U.S. casualties in Iraq in the U.S. media as well as aggressive efforts to prevent such coverage by foreign media -- including deadly attacks on Al-Jazeera reporters and offices. It also plants stories and interviews, leaks to FOX and other Pentagon-friendly reporters and provides generous payola to foreign (especially Iraqi) news sources.
Still, the most consistent propaganda effort since the invasion aims to keep public attention away from the actual amount of blood being shed by American military victims of the war and their families. That cost now exceeds 50,000 casualties -- a far cry from the 3,000 to which most of the public is restricted to know.
"Casualties" in the military sense is the total number made unavailable for duty from all causes, including deaths and wounds suffered in combat as well as injuries, accidents, and illness in a war "theater" such as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (the official Pentagon name for the invasion and occupation). So whether caused by "hostile" (24,965 as of Dec.27) or "non-hostile" (25,406 as of Dec. 2) causes, the Pentagon's own web sites record a toll of more than 50,000 so far in "OIF."
However, for most Americans who depend on mass media for information, the approaching number of only 3,000 is the only measure of the loss of life and limb the media allow them to know. For the rest of us, here are the facts: The Pentagon reports deaths on a daily basis although its own total always lags behind the wire services number because it insists survivors must be informed before a dead solider, marine, sailor or airman can be added to the casualty lists. But the Pentagon only reports the wounded on the weekly basis (usually on Tuesdays) at the same site and it reports the non-fatal casualties from non-hostile causes only monthly and on another website.
From those sources, we can count U.S. military occupation forces casualties as more than 50,371 as of Dec. 27. The total (as above) includes 2,400 killed and 22,565 wounded (which includes both severely and less severely wounded) by what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes. By that date, another 583 military personnel had died from "non-hostile" causes such as accidents, suicides (there were 99 "self-inflicted fatalities") and illness and, as of Dec. 2, another 24,823 had been injured or become ill seriously enough to require medical evacuation. According the excellent site Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, another 147 U.S. "contractors" have also been killed since they invaded Iraq.
I urge opponents of the war to make the public aware that the actual human cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq exceeds 50,000 troops and their families who have suffered death and often life-long disability -- of whom the 3,000 are just one tragic part.
--Michael Munk is a retired political scientist in Portland, Ore., where his Portland Red Guide is to be published by Ooligan Press on May Day.