What is the real number of dead in Iraq?
The media have often misrepresented the number of casualties arising from the Iraq war. Brad Tirpak does some research to try to glean what the real toll of this conflict is.
I read a piece in the New York Times that profiled a wheelchair-bound Halliburton contractor named Shaheen Khan who was paralyzed while working in Iraq. Reading that story made me realize that the casualty statistics the Bush Administration, Congress and the newspapers tally each day misrepresent the toll the Iraq conflict has taken on the United States and our allies.
As I read that she cleaned laundry for U.S. forces, I could only think that had this war been managed like past conflicts, Ms. Kahn would have been wearing a military uniform in Iraq and would be wearing a Purple Heart today. Thinking about her, I started to wonder “What is the real toll of this conflict?”
(Shaheen Khan - photo by Michael Stravato for The New York Times)
The more I looked, the harder the task got. First I started to think about the dead and injured in Iraq. I thought it would be relatively easy and I came up with five categories; U.S. military service people, U.S. Contractors, Other Coalition Forces (like those from the UK, Spain, Italy etc.), Iraqi Forces, and Civilians.
Then I realised to get a full understanding of the war, I should look at injuries, serious injuries and suicides. The data for some of this is easily accessible and it only leads to more questions.
I found three very good sources to help me along. First, www.iraqbodycount.org
attempts to tally reports of Iraqi civilian dead. Second, the Department of Defense, www.defenselink.mil
, is the source for military statistics. Third, icasualties.org tries to count contractors, coalition forces, and Iraqi forces.
This is what I found:
NY Times Reported Dead in Iraq: 3,621
U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq): 3,621
U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan): 409
U.S. Military Suicides: 116
Other Coalition Forces (Iraq): 162
Other Coalition Forces (Afghanistan): 217
Iraqi Security Forces: 7,259
Contractors (some sources say over 1000): 412
Deaths of Foreigners in Iraq and Afghanistan: 12,196
Iraqi Civilians: 67,783
U.S. Wounded Unable to Return to Duty: 12,867
When the New York Times and other newspapers report that 3,621 military personnel have died in Iraq, the number is a mischaracterization of the Iraq conflict. Casualties are four times higher and total 12,196 if all coalition soldiers and contractors are counted. If you include Iraqi dead and soldiers that cannot return to duty, the situation is 25 times direr then the press and politicians report.
Mark Twain is reputed to have said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." As officials and candidates and the press repeat the 3,621 statistic, we are presented with a nice little abstract number. When examined closer, the number just grows and grows.
*Brad Tirpak is a portfolio manager in New York City and a 'Global Nomad'.