Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Iraq Index, Part One: U.S. Troop Casualties

I learned of the Brookings Institute Iraq Index through our good friend the MinuteMan. Essentially, it's 41 pages of statistics in chart and graph format related to our progress with 'reconstruction and security in post-Saddam Iraq'. There is much valuable information contained, too much to cover in a single post, so if you will indulge me, I'd like to take a series of looks at the numbers over the next several days.

The report covers U.S. troop casualties first, and so will we. Fatalities among our armed forces peaked in late 2004, with 137 in the terrible month of November, and have been declining lately at a fairly rapid pace (though we lost 14 in a single day just this week). Roughly 70% of the 1,800 U.S. fatalities have been white males, and the bulk have been active personnel from the Army.

1,397 troops were wounded in November, 2004. In retrospect, the losses of that month, in a low-intensity guerilla war, are pretty stunning; it's a sober reminder to even staunch supporters of the war like myself that the human cost has been high. (That same month saw 30 attacks on Iraqi oil and gas pipelines, by far the worst month on that score, as well).

Is there any good spin to put on these horrible numbers? Yes, there is; the frequency of the attacks on coalition forces has barely declined since then, but the lethality, as far as United States personnel are concerned, is way down. A stunning 77 daily attacks were recorded in November on our men and women, and that number has only receded to about 70 a day, and yet there were 39 deaths and 467 wounded in July, versus the aforementioned November numbers.

In other words, a 10% decrease in daily attacks has resulted in about a third less casualties. By such grim yardsticks is progress measured in times of war...

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