In a nondescript conference room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside listened last week as an Army prosecutor outlined the criminal case against her in a preliminary hearing. The charges: attempting suicide and endangering the life of another soldier while serving in Iraq.
Under military law, soldiers who attempt suicide can be prosecuted under the theory that it affects the order and discipline of a unit and brings discredit to the armed forces. In reality, criminal charges are extremely rare unless there is evidence that the attempt was an effort to avoid service or that it endangered others. At one point, Elizabeth Whiteside almost accepted the Army’s offer to resign in lieu of court-martial. But it meant she would have to explain for the rest of her life why she was not given an honorable discharge. Her attorney also believed that she would have been left without the medical care and benefits she needed.
—Dana Priest and Anne Hull, ‘A Soldier’s Officer’
Blue Girl directed me to a very interesting story about Rush Limbaugh, who called veterans opposed to the war phony soldiers. Of course, this is the same Rush Limbaugh who threw a fit about the Moveon.org Petraeus ad, calling it “contemptible” and “indecent.” Apparently anyone in the military is above criticism as long as they agree with Rush’s brave belief that we should be in Iraq “as long as it takes.” And I use the term ‘we’ loosely, as I believe the closest Rush has ever gotten to combat was watching We Were Soldiers with surround sound.
— Army of Dude, The Real Deal, 28 September 2007.
Juan Cole adds:
No doubt [Rush] thinks the badly wounded among them are “phony handicaps” too; about 30,000 US troops have been killed or wounded bad enough to go to hospital, with perhaps 10,000 so very badly injured.
the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions are funded through supplementary spending bills outside the federal budget. If you added the $142 billion funnelled into those wars to the 2008 defence appropriation bill you’d arrive at $650 billion, or 25 per cent more than the US’s military budget for 1968, at the height of the Cold War and the arms race and at a time when the US was involved in the fiercest military intervention in its history, the war in Vietnam.
— Azmi Bishara, US war insanity, Al Ahram Weekly, Number 870, 8 November 2007.
Although the U.S. death toll is down in Iraq, many troops continue to perish in what the military officially announces as “noncombat” or “nonhostile” incidents. An investigation is launched but the press rarely learns the result. However, local papers often obtain information directly from family members, exposing death by vehicle accident, friendly fire, illness or suicide. It happened again this weekend, thanks to reporter Matthew Stolle of the Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Minn.
—Greg Mitchell, Local Paper Uncovers Another Mysterious U.S. Death in Iraq, Editor & Publisher, 2 December 2007.
While public anger is directed at the Pentagon for sending American soldiers ill-prepared to fight in Iraq, an equally troubling problem is rearing its head at home. Military veterans are returning from the war zone just as ill-prepared for civilian life and dozens suffering from post-traumatic stress are committing murder and manslaughter. A new study has identified more than 120 killings committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as psychologically troubled soldiers slip through the net of an overextended military mental health system.
The New York Times said its study was conservative. “This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail,” it added.
—Stephen Foleyin, Traumatised veterans ‘have killed 120 in US’, Independent, 14 January 2008.
With March 20 marking the fifth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq, it’s time to take stock of what has happened. In our new book The Three Trillion Dollar War, Harvard’s Linda Bilmes and I conservatively estimate the economic cost of the war to the US to be $3 trillion, and the costs to the rest of the world to be another $3tn – far higher than the Bush administration’s estimates before the war. The Bush team not only misled the world about the war’s possible costs, but has also sought to obscure the costs as the war has gone on.
This is not surprising. After all, the Bush administration lied about everything else, from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction to his supposed link with al-Qaida. Indeed, only after the US-led invasion did Iraq become a breeding ground for terrorists.
— Joseph Stiglitz, War Costs and Costs and Costs, Guardian, 13 March 2008
Number of cases of severe hearing loss in US Iraq Veterans: 70,000
—Greg Mitchell, Media Matters with Bob McChesney, 9 March 2008 (around the 23min mark).
Commentary on recent developments
It is certainly worth listening to a MediaMatters interview with Greg Mitchell on all the other aspects of US casualties in Iraq. The numbers are staggering – these are the “human costs”. One should also read Joseph Stiglitz’s numbers – these are the “accounting costs”. These numbers are staggering and they are likely to trigger a major US recession and the end of the US dollar as the principal world currency.
A few months ago the US engaged in an escalation of the war which the PR machine dubbed a “surge” — meant to distinguish it from Johnson’s infamous escalation in Vietnam. The escalation sought to stabilize most of Iraq and to attenuate ethnic tensions. In the Fall 2007, Bush promised that after a few months the additional troops would return. A few months later the military situation has improved for the Americans, and maybe all the walls and concrete blocks have brought some “calm” to Baghdad. These developments have been deemed a success by George Bush, and now, to sustain this it is necessary to keep the troops there! So, the troops attained the intended goal, but the consequent reduction in forces will not follow. Now, had the so-called surge not attained its objective, and had the intensity of fighting continued, Bush would certainly have justified keeping the troops there to continue fighting. So, no matter what the outcome, the result is the same. Of course, Bush/Cheney take the American public’s gullibity and indifference for granted.
Victims who won’t be counted in any tally…
When serving in Iraq, Tyler Curtis survived bullets and bombs. But once he got home, he couldn’t escape the emotional wounds he suffered. Curtis, 25, took his own life on Thanksgiving morning, three months after returning to Maine following his 2006 discharge from the Army.
— Soldier’s Death Blamed On Post-Traumatic Stress, The Boston Channel, 3 December 2007.
The stories are harrowing. About a third involve the killing of a spouse, girlfriend or other relative, among them two-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating from a bombing near Fallujah that blew off his foot and damaged his brain.
Many others implicate drink and drugs, an increasing refuge for veterans traumatised by deaths they have witnessed or caused during the counter-insurgency led by American troops. The US government is being sued by relatives of 25-year-old Marine Lucas Borges, who became addicted to inhaling ether after a tour of Iraq at the beginning of the war, and who was convicted of second degree murder for crashing his car into a vehicle while driving the wrong way down a motorway, killing the other driver and injuring four others.
���Stephen Foleyin, Traumatised veterans ‘have killed 120 in US’, Independent, 14 January 2008.
Remembrance down the Memory Hole…
Several of the “remembrance” websites are starting to neglect updating their output. The Seattle Times website has not been updated since March 2004. The Baltimore Sun stopped reporting on February 11, 2005.
Why this data sheet?
The US military doesn’t allow the compilation and publication of Iraqi casualties, and it is very difficult to know how bloody the occupation of Iraq has resulted. The only indication of the intensity of the conflict is the number of military fatalities. We can use this as a proxy measure to determine if the occupation is a bloody quagmire or if the dust is finally settling on the rubble.
Furthermore, as demonstrated elsewhere, the Pentagon and their media surrogates are attempting to hide the true extent of the carnage among its soldiers. It is very difficult to find accurate fatality figures, the classification of fatalities leads to exclusion in the official death tally (e.g., contractors are excluded), and the number of errors creeping into the official fatality reports is increasing, e.g., fatalities originally reported, but then not confirmed; long delays in reporting; excluding the subsequent deaths of wounded soldiers after they were transferred out of Iraq. If it is only the American and British fatalities that are going to stop this bloody occupation of Iraq then it behooves us to amplify the information on these fatalities – primarily to counteract the attempts by the Pentagon and its media surrogates to cover this over.
Another means to determine the intensity of the resistance against the US-uk troops is to analyze the average daily death toll for each month (first column). The center column pertains to a linear trend of the average fatality rate – enables one to obtain some (limited) perspective of how this will continue. The last column is the percentage of �������������������������������������������������������hostile” fatalities out of the total for the month.
|Average US-uk fatalities per day
(inc. hostile and other; 1-May-03 thru 19-Mar-08)
|Linear trend of av. fatalities p/day||Pct of fatalities due to hostile action|
|The trend was calculated using monthly data using a simple linear regression (using only complete monthly data). The forecast and the trends indicated in the graph were derived from daily data. There have been some amendments to the early data because CentCom recently released data pertaining to earlier fatalities.
(*) Asterisk indicates a statistic was computed on incomplete monthly data.
(†) Indicates statistic computed from May until Dec. 2003.
(‡) Indicates statistic computed for 2007 year to date.
(!!): simply not credible.
(d): long delays in reporting.
The US and British armies are professional. (NB: a propaganda-compliant means of referring to them is: �����volunteer army,” which they are not.) As soon as an army hires soldiers then there is a concern that it will not be representative of the population at large, and that it will hire minorities or poor in disproportionate numbers. The table below provides the race/ethnic composition of the US-uk fatalities, and the main objective is to determine if some minority groups are over-represented. The reader is responsible for the interpretation.
|Race/ethnic group of US-uk soldiers
(1-May-03 ��������������������������������� 19-Mar-08)
|Black / Afro-American||338||8.7%||1||0.7%|
|Classification done by author from photographs, last names, and additional archival search. This is an imperfect means of classification.
This article deals specifically with the US Army composition and that of the fatalities.
Alternative official source.
|Age of US-uk military fatalities post 1-May-03 thru 19-Mar-08|
|age <= 25||58.4%|
|25 < age <= 35||30.8%|
|35 < age <= 45||9.1%|
|45 < age <= 55||1.6%|
|55 < age <= 65||0.1%|
Statistics about the overall cost of the war (blood and money)
|The cost of the Occupation of Iraq:
US-uk Military Fatality Forecast (using data thru 19-Mar-08)
|Period from 1-May-2003 until:||Fatality forecast|
|1 May 2008||4,141|
|NB: this forecast DOES NOT include the fatalities which occurred during the “hot” phase of the war, i.e., before 1 May 2003.The forecast is based on a simple linear regression – it doesn’t attempt to be fancy in forecasting the threat potential, etc. However, even such a simple method yields good forecasts. The data used for the forecast is »daily« data – performs better than monthly data. NB: the point of this forecast is to give an indication of the terrible toll this occupation will exact; it is by no means presented in a callous fashion.|
|US military fatalities in Iraq as a percentage of the total number killed during the Vietnam War through 19-Mar-08|
|US fatalities in:||Number/Pct|
|Source: The number of US fatalities listed on the Vietnam War Memorial. For the US fatalities in Iraq, the 140 US military killed during the “hot phase of the war” was added to the total number of fatalities tallied for the occupation period. NB: In both cases the number of fatalities understates the actual number of US personnel killed. For example, US State Dept. employees or other non-DOD government employees are not counted in these tallies. In Iraq, several embassy employees were killed, but not counted. Similarly, mercenaries or contractors aren’t counted. In Vietnam, ditto.Explanation: The number of fatalities in the database used for this study includes: (1) fatalities in the US, but caused in Iraq (and not in the official count); (2) State Department personnel. There are about 20 of these in total.|
|Main foreign military forces in Iraq (in theater only)|
|United States||170,000||February 2008|
|“Contractors” & mercenaries||180,000||8 August 2007 |
|UK||4,500||February 2008 |
|Source: BBC, 20 March 2008
 DemocracyNow 8 August 2007.
 BBC, 20 March 2008. NB: it is curious that this figure is very difficult to find from official sources or the BBC. For an alternative source see GlobalSecurity estimates.
|Cost of the US-Iraq war|
|Through June 2004 ||US$151bn|
|Estimate through 19-Mar-08 ||US$463.3bn|
|As a percentage of the Cost of the Vietnam War||78 pct|
| Source: Phyllis Bennis
 Updating using the estimates from the “Times Square” cost meter which is based on the following formula: “increases at a rate of $177 million per day, $7.4 million per hour and $122,820 per minute”. Please note that Bennis’s estimate refers only to the US budget allocations, and refer only to costs once the war started (Source: personal communication). These figures exclude: lead-up to the war, increasing “security” costs in the US, reduced trade with Arab countries, etc. The true cost of this war, if it can be computed at all, is much higher. NB: The Pentagon recently reported that the cost p/month of the war had gone from US$4bn to US$5.8bn. Since these figures were reported by UPI, they will not be used until better estimates are published elsewhere. The current monthly cost estimate used to generate the current figure is about US$5.3bn/month.
The cost of the Vietnam War in 2004 dollar terms was put at US$597bn by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.Alternative estimates can be found here.
Also see Phyllis Bennis article.
Joseph Stiglitz is deriving a figure in the trillions of dollars due to the medical costs that will continue for decades, see here.
And finally: National Priorities estimate.
Is president Bush empathy-impaired or maybe callous? Judge for yourself.
|Number of times president Bush has visited wounded soldiers or been present at funerals since May 1st 2003.|
|Jog around the White House with veteran limb-amputee with leg prostheses||1|
Source: White House list of events schedule is checked regularly.
The propaganda-compliant terminology for the post-May 1st period is “after the end of major combat operations.������������������������� Of course, conceding that the US is occupying Iraq would mean that another justification for this war was a sham. This is the reason the common media terminology aims to avoid the usage of the word “occupation���.
The military fatality statistics are collated for the post May-1st period because this refers exclusively to the enforcement of the occupation of Iraq. Including the earlier fatalities would be confusing because it would include those incurred during the ���hot war”. The nature of these fatalities is different, and therefore they should be analyzed separately. Furthermore, the concern now is to end the occupation of Iraq, and therefore Americans should be aware of the cost of this current policy.
Honest accounting would dictate the inclusion of all the military fatalities enforcing the occupation, and thus include British, Italians, Spanish, etc. It would be ideal to be able to include mercenary fatalities too — alas, no data is available. However, there is much work involved in collating quality data, and hence the data was restricted to the US and “uk” (yes, lowercase �������uk��������� because they are less than 10% of the “coalition” contingent.)
NB: Whereas in previous conflicts “casualties����������� referred to both fatalities and wounded soldiers, in the current Pentagon arrogant and grisly accounting the wounded soldiers have been ignored. The statistics it makes available refer only to US military fatalities.
This analysis also aims to be as accurate as possible, and any observation about its accuracy should sent to Amplifications & Corrections.
On the data used. All entries are obtained from the US and UK military websites in the list found below. All the soldiers killed in Iraq or who were listed as “supporting the operations in Iraq” are included here — that is, some soldiers killed in Kuwait or in the Persian Gulf were also included here. Furthermore, if there is a good indication that a person was directly employed by the US-uk armies, then their fatality was also included. For example, in August a translator wearing a US army uniform was killed ��� he was included in this tally. There are a few instances where via Reuters or AP references can be found to fatalities, but subsequently these are not found in the official military sites. The unconfirmed fatalities are included if found in two or more reputable sources, e.g., Reuters, AP, BBC. All entries have been cross-checked with the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count database, and there is a less than 1% discrepancy (14 in February 2005). NB: the figures tallied here contain some suicides of soldiers that occurred outside the US – these are never counted by the usual sources. There are also some fatalities due to contagious diseases (e.g., encephalitis) contracted in Iraq.
Articles providing further background information:
- 10News, Family Upset Over Marine’s Body Arriving As Freight, 10News, Dec. 9, 2005.
- Teri Wills Allison, The Costs of War, TomDispatch, Oct. 20, 2004.
- Jon R. Anderson, Activists see deception in night arrivals at Walter Reed, Stars & Stripes, Mar. 31, 2005
- AP, Number Of Troops Hurt In Iraq Jumps, AP, 24 Apr. 2004.
- AP, High survival rate for wounded in Iraq presents new challenges: Health-care cost may total $650B, an economist says, Winston Salem Journal, 24 June 2007.
- Jane Arraf, Iraq insurgents’ bombmaking gets more lethal, NBC, 8 Dec 2006.
- Lolita C. Baldor, Number of U.S. Troops in Iraq Climbs, CommonDreams, 23 August 2006.
- Moni Basu, Foreign-born GIs have special cause, The Oxford Press, Sept. 21, 2005.
- Alan Bavley, New technology and medical practices save lives in Iraq