4000

Yesterday it was announced that 4000 American Soldiers had been killed, in total, in Iraq. I am not sure if this counts contract soldiers (such as Blackwater; Added: See notes below. It does not.), and I do not know if it includes American deaths since the very beginning of Iraq involvement or since the current invasion (though I think the latter). It does not matter too much, as the number 4000 is a fairly arbitrary thing … if we used a numbering system other than base-10, some other number would feel like a milestone. But this does give us an order of magnitude of the sense of the size of the conflict.

This number also means less in isolation than it would in the broader context of “casualties” estimates. We Americans have all had the experience of seeing an increasingly large number of (mostly) men on the street, in restaurants, wherever, in wheelchairs missing lower limbs, or otherwise maimed, and we have to assume that this is part of the conflict as well.

It happens that over the last few days I’ve also been reading about other wars and conflicts, and I have been thinking about these numbers in a broader conflict. I have nothing wise or though provoking to say to you about this at this time, but I do think a look at numbers can be interesting. One could say that numbers mean nothing, and that it is the individual losses … to families and loved ones that matter. But the numbers to mean something, in fact, they mean a lot of things. So I’ve put some numbers together in one place for you to look at, be horrified by, to think about.


The pattern here is Conflict (duration):
American Military Dead; Total Military Dead; Total Military Casualties (dead and wounded); Total Civilian Dead.

World War I (July 1914-November 1918; 42 months):
126,000; 8,500,000; 37,000,000; 8,800,000

World War II (mid-1937 – August, 1945; 98 months)
416,800; 25,160,000; No sensible estimate; 47,000,000

Korean War (June 1950 – July 1953; 37 months)
36,516; 490,000; 1,500,000; unknown

Viet Nam War (1959-1975; ca 190 months)
60,000; 1,415,000; 2,000,000; 2,750,000

Iraq (March 2003-Present; 73 months)
5,016; 51,000; unknown; unknown (about 1,000,000)


Notes:

World War I:
57% of all mobilized military suffered casualty. Estimates vary. These numbers are rounded off.

World War II:
The beginning is set at the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The number of civilian dead is probably an underestimate as it is not clear if it includes Chinese and if it does, that estimate ranges wildly. Perhaps add five or ten million to this number.

Iraq:
In putting together the stats, I discovered that just over 1,000 American contractors have also died in the war, so I added that to the US military death count.
Sources: Mainly wikipedia.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric
    March 25, 2008

    Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace. ~ Charles Sumner

    more…

  2. #2 Tom
    March 25, 2008

    Of course the administration wants to use 4000; it is a fairly small number in the context of military action. That’s what makes it semi-palatable to the public, although the round-number milestone will doubtless generate more interest, for a while at least.

    Were I in a position to do so, I would see to it that every single family member of service age of every Senator, Congressman, and President — including direct lines of descent — were given first-level draft numbers, and that any military action, whether declared as war or not, triggered a draft of these individuals to immediate and undeferrable front-line service. Come to think of it, add the families of military contractors, too.

    As long as war profiteers reap their gains paid in the blood of (to them) faceless statistics, there is no incentive for them to face the costs they impose on the rest of us. Perhaps when the whole corrupt war machine are forced to look their own flesh and blood in the eye and send them off to die, they will be a little more careful about what causes are truly worth sacrificing for.

  3. #3 the real cmf
    March 25, 2008

    Did you once say that ‘ matrilineal, matrilocal societies wage more [external]wars than any other societies’? Here, we raise cannon fodder…

  4. #4 Alan Kellogg
    March 25, 2008

    Now think about a war where you have 4,000 dead every day. Tons more wounded and maimed. It can always be worse, and the way things are going in certain parts of the world it will get worse. The day will come when the aldershot we call the Iraq war will be remembered fondly.

  5. #5 Dunkleosteus
    March 26, 2008

    I read somewhere that about 3000 US veterans kill themselves in every year (not counted, of course). Combined with other physically maimed and more or less mentally traumatized soldiers (tens of percents of veterans) who need medical assistance, the actual number of casualties is far larger and the impact of the war will be seen even in the United States for decades to come.

    Because the soldiers are better armed, medicine has improved a lot, and the injured soldiers are moved out from the battlefield much quicker, we are not seeing similar numbers of US casualties as in Vietnam. In addition, much of the violence in Iraq is between Iraqis instead of being directed to the US troops. This can change at any moment, especially if somebody does something extremely stupid…

  6. #6 Dunkleosteus
    March 26, 2008

    …better armed…

    Read: better armored

    In putting together the stats, I discovered that just over 1,000 American contractors have also died in the war, so I added that to the US military death count.

    Many of the “military contractors” (in old days, soldiers of fortune), are indeed “Americans”, but not from the United States but from countries like Colombia, Nicaragua, and Chile. Does anyone know the total number of military contractor casualties? I suspect not, since even the total number of contractors is a mystery (it is however comparable to the number of US soldiers if not more).

  7. #7 the real cmf
    April 9, 2008

    Nearly 800 private contractors so far…but their deaths are completely voluntary, whereas the legally consigned US troops are a mixed bag ranging from voluntary to voluntary with objections…

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-02-23-contractors_x.htm

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/warriors/faqs/

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