The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Casualties in the Iraq war:
Hidden from view

Jul 5, 2004

The Pentagon is highly selective in how it reports on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq who've been injured, disabled, have gotten sick or have serious mental problems as a result of the war. As of mid-June, it reported 5,457 troops had been "wounded in action" in Iraq, meaning hit directly by enemy fire or improvised explosive devices. But there is a much larger number of troops – double that number – not included, which the Pentagon labels "non-combatant" or "non-hostile" casualties. On the Pentagon's Website tracking casualties, this category is left blank. The figure is a carefully guarded secret.

When TV journalist Bill Moyers sent reporters to ask for clarification on casualty numbers, the Pentagon refused to give out information, claiming no one asked about it before. A blatant lie, since UPI investigative reporter Mark Benjamin has been requesting figures – unsuccessfully – for a year. Benjamin became suspicious of official numbers as he noted the numbers of troops in military hospitals or returning home with heat exhaustion or suffering depression and other mental disorders from "extreme duress."

A growing number of troops are coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One soldier, after spending months in Iraq running missions, described what it was like when he returned to the States: "Uncontrollable crying, panic attacks," feeling disoriented, useless and helpless; and further he described a "feeling of betrayal by the military." Men and women like this are not counted among casualties by the government.

So what is an accurate figure of casualties? Moyers' reporters – through persistent research and tallying numbers from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force – estimate that more than 11,000 have not been counted. But, as they say, that's a conservative estimate. The actual number may be much higher. And that's in addition to the Pentagon's figure of over 5,000, totaling roughly 16,600 casualties, one in twenty troops. And this is only the beginning. As the first Gulf War demonstrated, the largest number of casualties did not show up until months or years later when soldiers exposed to depleted uranium, used to coat ammunition, began to come down with a range of debilitating ailments. This time also, depleted uranium has been widely used.

The Bush administration understands only too well that casualty figures might encourage increased sentiment against the war and for U.S. troops to be brought home immediately. It's no surprise that this administration, which has lied about everything else in this war, is also lying about what is happening to U.S. soldiers.

There's an even bigger lie told by the Pentagon, by the politicians of both parties and by the news media. That concerns the number of Iraqi people killed by the U.S. in this 16-month war. While human rights groups estimate the direct numbers in the tens of thousands, and the indirect numbers much higher, not only does the Pentagon refuse to report these figures; it regularly lies when reporters turn up another incident of massive civilian casualties caused by U.S. fire power.

What a mockery they dare to call this murderous war "Operation Iraqi Freedom."