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American military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan
now exceed 500,000 (Part 1 of 2)

Pentagon fudges the numbers to placate American public
Kabul press
18 June 2010
Matthew Nasuti
Since 2001, the Pentagon has sought to downplay overall U.S. military losses by artfully redefining what is a combat-related "casualty." It has published and then changed the rules several times regarding the reporting of casualties. Currently the Pentagon uses DoD Instruction 1300.18 to arbitrarily separate out "wounded in action" from non-battle injuries. Wounded in action is narrowly defined to essentially be an injury directly caused by an adversary. So called "friendly fire" injuries and deaths would apparently not be counted. The emphasis is on acute injuries caused by enemy munitions which pierce or penetrate.
Under this scheme, chronic injuries and many acute internal injuries such as hearing impairment, back injuries, mild traumatic brain injuries, mental health problems and a host of diseases suffered by personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are usually not counted as being war-related regardless of how debilitating they are. They are either generally lumped into the category of "non-hostile wounded" or simply not counted at all.
Officially, the Pentagon admits that approximately 5,500 troops have been killed and only 38,000 wounded, amounting to 43,500 total casualties. What is left out (according to such sources as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the New England Journal of Medicine and the U.S. Navy) are:
- 170,000+ cases of hearing damage;
- 130,000+ cases of mild traumatic brain injuries; and
- 200,000+ cases of serious mental health problems.
If these data are included, the total well exceeds 500,000. Even that total would not include:
- over 30,000 serious disease cases, including a disfiguring, parasitic disease called leishmaniasis, which results from bites of sand flies;
- hundreds of thousands of minor disease cases which can be generally characterized as gastrointestinal (i.e., resulting in diarrhea, headaches, stomach cramps etc.). They are all the result of bacterial, viral or parasitic infections which usually have limited, short-term consequences, but not always;
- hundreds of accident injuries. For example, roadway accident injuries suffered by members of a quick reaction force heading to an ambush location are apparently not counted as combat-related;
- thousands of cases of respiratory disease linked to exposure to toxic burn pit smoke;
- hundreds of suicides;
- thousands of cases of back, spinal and foot injuries due to the wearing of cheap and unnecessarily heavy body armor (when lighter titanium layered Kevlar is available).
In a March 25, 2009, report by Hannah Fischer of the U.S. Congressional Research Service on American military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, she included the following initial statement:
"This report presents difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF, Afghanistan), including those concerning medical evacuations, amputations, and the demographics of casualties. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense's (DOD's) website, whereas others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD."
Casualty data should not be "difficult-to-find" for the U.S. Congress and especially for the American public. There is unquestionably a serious transparency problem within the Pentagon on this issue which problem should not exist in a democracy.
If the Pentagon told the truth to the American people about military casualties, the public would learn that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been stunningly effective adversaries and that both wars seem more akin to defeats than victories. Such revelations might prompt a public discussion over the value of preemptive (and unnecessary wars) and even worse, raise the issue of the competence of Pentagon generals and admirals to wage such wars. To forestall such a public review, the Pentagon has opted to endorse the maxim that truth must remain the first casualty of war.
Kabul Press: News, Discussion& Criticism 2003 -2010
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| Ander Nieuws week 26 / Midden-Oosten 2010 |