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Thursday, May 29, 2008


Counting deaths in Iraq: 108 <> 2

A report today says there were 108 Army suicides amongst active duty troops (by the way, note that that includes Army and Army National Guard only, not Marines or other forces), of which we are told that "about a quarter of the deaths occurred in Iraq."

Now take a look at the DoD confirmed death list, from which the conventionally cited count of (currently) 4084 U.S. military deaths in Iraq is taken. In 2007, you will find exactly two deaths listed as "suicide." There are four listed in 2006, a year in which we're told that by the current report that 102 suicides actually occurred (no breakdown on how many happened in Iraq or Afghanistan). Interestingly enough there are eight listed in 2005 (and one in 2004 and five in 2003). Sounds to me like pressure is being brought to bear not to list such deaths at all. Actually, today's report provides some evidence of that:

Preliminary figures released in January showed as many as 121 troops might have killed themselves, but a number of the deaths were still being investigated then and have since been attributed to other causes, the officials said.
Sure, "other causes." "Accidental discharge while cleaning weapon" is a big one, I'm sure. Who's to say it wasn't (except for the missing cleaning cloths or whatever else you use to clean a weapon)? But clearly, even when they apparently are being classified as suicides, the vast majority are not being added to the DoD fatality list, and hence the total most people associate with the U.S. death toll in the war.

The story repeats itself in Afghanistan, which is included in the 108 (and similar numbers from previous years), although we aren't told how many of that number occurred in Afghanistan. In the official accounting, there is exactly one death by suicide listed for 2007, and that's a Canadian. In 2006, one Dutch soldier and one American, in 2005, one, and in 2004 and 2003, none whatsoever. Believable? Hardly.

All in all, in five years of war (six and half in the case of Afghanistan), that's a lot of dead people who aren't being counted, whether they were officially classified as a suicide, or whether it is being passed off as something else.

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