Friday, September 29, 2006


Remembering Sgt. Bilko

If you read the newspapers or listen to the broadcast media in the United States, you'll think that the number of deaths in Iraq on "our side" (very strong quotes on that one) is 2710, and you'll think that it's approaching, but won't surpass for a few months, the "3,000" killed on Sept. 11, 2001. But that "3,000," actually 2973, included many people other than Americans, so the proper comparison is with the total of all the coalition deaths in Iraq (and, really, in Afghanistan too, but I'm limiting this post to Iraq).

And what is that total? Iraq Coalition Casualty Count lists the number as 2945, so the quick conclusion is that deaths of the "coalition" in Iraq will exceed the 9/11 deaths in a few weeks. But if you think so, you've forgotten about Sgt. Bilko.

And who was Sgt. Bilko? If you were watching American TV between 1955 and 1959 you'ld know he was the character, played by Phil Silvers, who ran a motor pool in the U.S. Army. Yes, that was back in the days when soldiers did the driving, cooking, and all the other tasks that were needed to allow an army to function. Yes, those prehistoric days before outsourcing hit the Army, and Halliburton and Blackwater and their ilk took on, for a generous taxpayer-funded profit, those tasks.

I've been writing about this issue since back in November, 2003 when the papers reported the then-shocking milestone of 400 deaths, even then ignoring the deaths of another 72 British, Italians, and others, and most assuredly ignoring the deaths of the contractors, the "Sgt. Bilkos." In March, 2005, when the media was reporting the 1500th American death, I noted that the actual total was more than 2,000. When the supposed death toll hit 2,000, I noted that 428 contractors had to be added to that total. That number 428 comes from the Department of Labor, and as far as I can tell it isn't an openly public number (i.e., I can't find it on a website), but seems to be obtainable by reporters. I think it includes only American contractors, making it far short of the real total, but I can't be sure of that.

And now a report on ABC News (not online) says that number is up to 643 (with the attribution again to the Dept. of Labor). 643 members of Sgt. Bilko's motor pool and others in similar privatized occupations. Bringing the real number of coalition fatalities to 3353, well-above the number killed on 9/11. And that doesn't even include the soldiers and contractors killed in Afghanistan, nor does it include the uncounted thousands of other members of the coalition, the members of the Iraqi army and police who have been killed in the last three years.

And it certainly doesn't include the death toll among the Afghan and Iraqi people, both civilians and resistance fighters. But that's a subject for another post (many of them, in fact).

Why stop here? There's more...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com High Class Blogs: News and Media