2004 September 28 Tuesday
Civilian Death Toll High In Iraq

Writing in the UK Spectator Richard Beeston, stationed in Iraq for the Times of London reports on the growing popularity of beheading DVDs in Iraq, the widespread hostility toward foreigners, and the death toll.

So why is it that the snuff movies, which are being deliberately distributed by the killers, are being snapped up in their thousands on DVDs across Iraq? A year ago Iraqis liked nothing better than buying illicit pornography or video footage of Saddam Husseinís henchmen torturing and killing their victims. It was assumed that this lurid fascination would wear off now that, after 40 years of state television, Iraqis have access to 24-hour satellite television. But no, something more disturbing is at work here.

What is amazing is the death toll from car bombs.

The car bombs, which explode almost daily and have killed more than 100 Iraqis in the past week, are barely worth a mention unless the death toll climbs into double figures.

Think about the death rate from bombs exploding along roads. If this killing rate continues then times 52 weeks in a year then that is a death rate of over 5,000 per year. Iraq has a population of about 25 million people. This compares with 293 million people in the United States of America. If America was losing that many people per year to car bombs we'd be experiencing 58,600 deaths per year from what are basically acts of terrorism.

Death rates in Iraq spike even higher.

In Baqouba, north of Baghdad, another roadside bomb reportedly wounded four police officers and a civilian.

The attacks brought the death toll in and around Baghdad to 150 in the past four days, in a campaign by insurgents to destabilize the interim government

The rate of hostile attacks has increased dramatically.

Attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 250 Iraqis and 29 U.S. military personnel, according to figures released by Iraq's Health Ministry and the Pentagon. A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.

If that rate of deaths for Americans continues then we will lose another 1,500 soldiers in Iraq in the next 12 months. The article also quotes a US Marines officer near Fallujah claiming that attacks on US Marines are lower because the Marines do not patrol as much and hence are not as vulnerable to attacks. I see this as part of Bush's attempt to keep casualty rates down until after the US elections. Once the elections are over with expect to see US forces go on a broad offensive into the current "no-go" zones in order to create more areas where elections can be held in January.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 September 28 01:42 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Mike Nix said at September 28, 2004 9:30 PM:

Re: Parker comments on U.S Military action in no-go zones: From news reports over last two days, seems like the "broad offensive" has already started. Sadr City and Fallujah appear to be primary targets. Maybe the strategy is not as political as you thought.

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2004 11:05 PM:

Mike,

Back in April the White House ordered the US Marines into Fallujah in a manner that undermined the strategy the Marines were pursuing and forced on them a style of fighting that alienated the Fallujans more than the Marines thought necessary. Marine officers have made a number of candid remarks about this (but I haven't posted links to these comments mostly because Iraq is such a demoralizing debacle I can't bring myself to post supporting evidence outlining every mistake - though I ought to go digging and put together some quotes). Then after incurring a political cost in terms of more widely angered Fallujans the White House called a halt to the offensive for political reasons that the White House decided on.

Since then US soldiers have had their patrols cut back and this has reduced US military casualties even as an increasing number of places in Iraq have become "no-go" zones. Sadr City and Fallujah are just the tip of the "no-go" iceberg. My guess these places have become such large sources of trouble that it was decided they couldn't wait until after the election.

Yes, I think the strategy is very political.

Invisible Scientist said at September 29, 2004 2:59 AM:

As far as the US casualties are concerned, the word "casualty" includes not only dead soldiers,
but also wounded and/or with severe psychological damage.

Some articles suggest that the percentage wounded and psychologically damaged, is very high.
Even though "only" 1 % of the soldiers are dead in one year in Iraq, perhaps a total of
10 % are damaged one way or another, either sufficiently wounded to be sent back to the US,
or else psychologically damaged enough to be dismissed.

If it is true that the US casualties are that high, then this would be at least as bad
as Viet Nam, meaning that in the long run, this cannot continue. Either the war will end
very soon, or else it will escalate dramatically. The second possibility is something to worry
about.

MichaelA said at September 29, 2004 9:04 AM:

The post above worries me in a way that I had not been before. The creation of a "death" culture in Iraq is a terrible development that bodes very ill for any resolution of the conflict that is satisfactory to US interests. The Chechen culture is one that has become a death culture, deeper than mere Islamism. If this is what we have created in Iraq, then we have truly opened the door to a dark future.

Rob Sperry said at September 29, 2004 10:28 PM:

"The car bombs, which explode almost daily and have killed more than 100 Iraqis in the past week, are barely worth a mention unless the death toll climbs into double figures.

Think about the death rate from bombs exploding along roads. If this killing rate continues then times 52 weeks in a year then that is a death rate of over 50,000 per year. "

Thinking about it, I believe you added an extra zero. 52*100 = 5200 :)

This about the same as the US rate of car death where "A total of 42,643 people died, and 2.89 million were injured in 2003"

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2004 10:53 PM:

Rob,

Thanks for catching that. Really big oops. I fixed it.

So they are losing a number approximately equal to the number we lose from car accidents. Not so bad.

Invisible Scientist said at September 30, 2004 5:33 AM:

Randy,

The car bombings are not the issue, the real issue is, as I said above, the total percentage
of U.S. casualties per year in Iraq.

Although the death rate is only 1 % per year of the US soldiers in Iraq, the casualties include
those ho are sufficiently wounded or psychologically damaged enough to be sent back home. Most of
these casualties suffer significant long term damage, significant enough to ruin their careers and
familiy lives.

If you include the wounded and psyhologically damaged, the net US casualty rate per year is close
to 10 % according to various articles. This is the untold story. The US may not be able to prosecute
this war for too long after the elections, regardless of who wins the elections, unless, of course
if there is another September 11 type attack. Thus after the elections, things will start happening.
Either the war will escalate to official war proportions where there will be a national mobilization
against "evil", or else the US will abandon Iraq like in Viet Name. So far, there has not been a national
movement by the families of causalties, but if this escalates, things will change, unless there
is a new September 11 type attack.

Randall Parker said at September 30, 2004 10:40 AM:

The issue in Iraq is that we are losing soldiers to go productive end. The Iraqis are not going to come out and vote when voting means getting hunted down and killed by the insurgency.

Invisible Scientist said at September 30, 2004 7:33 PM:

The efforts of the US to help a successful democratic election process in Iraq,
are doomed to fail, since that neighborhood is not ready for such a democratic system.
This is because in a democracy over there, the majority is likely to vote to kill the minority,
and this was one reason they were happy to have a dictator like Saddam Hussein, which
protected the minorities from getting killed by the majority.


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