Sunday, December 03, 2006

By the numbers

While official Washington awaits its imagined deliverance in the form of the Baker-Hamilton commission report, nine American troops were killed in Iraq this weekend, bringing the total for the war to 2,900. An additional 21,572 American troops have been wounded since March, 2003. 92% of all fatalities suffered by Coalition forces were Americans. 346 foreign contractors, mainly Americans, have also been killed.

Estimates of Iraqi deaths vary wildly, from a controversial high estimate of 655,000 to a very low (from the Shiite government of Iraq) of 24,418. By the Iraqi government's estimate, 66% of all Iraqi deaths have occurred since February of 2006. I've found few attempts to document or even estimate the number of wounded Iraqis.

In Afghanistan, 356 American troops have been killed and another 962 wounded to date. So far this year, 187 Americans have been killed there, the highest total by far since the war began late in 2001. 70% of all Coalition fatalities in Afghanistan have been Americans.

Estimates of Afghan casualties are very outdated and therefore low, though by one account the combined total for Iraq and Afghanistan is 717,381 killed and 1,376,559 "seriously injured" as of November 13th.

Numbers, like words ("civil war"), have become highly politicized. Those who acknowledge the full cost of the war are accused, like "Nightline" in May of 2004, of making an ideological statement.

But even the enormous numbers described above understate the effects of war. Each one of these numbers represents not only an individual victim but also a family and a circle of friends whose lives have been changed forever. With no end in sight.

In Iraq, each violent death and injury has a profound ripple effect on those thousands of family members and friends, and across their society, generating hatred and a desire for vengeance against the country that brought a war of choice to Iraq. The U.S. will be dealing with the effects of those ripples for generations.
Source (except as noted by links): Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (which also includes Afghanistan). This site is extremely detailed and well-documented.

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