February 7, 2005
Counting the costBy Douglas Hanson
The anti—American left and the legacy media continue to highlight our losses in the Iraq War rather than focusing on the successful elections, which were a stunning vindication of GW's strategy in the region. The most recent example is their coverage of the recent crash of a US Marine helicopter on January 27. Of course CNN couldn't resist reminding us that it was the single worst day for casualties since the war in Iraq began. Yet, it appears that the crash was accidental and not due to hostile fire.
Not only does the left continue to reveal their spiritual emptiness in relation to our battles to defeat our Islamo—fascist enemies, they naturally display a huge level of ignorance, or they deliberately neglect to provide the American people any historical context. If the no—war—at—any—cost crowd cannot understand the dire nature of the threat we face, or simply cannot come out of their liberal cocoon long enough to realistically examine the situation, perhaps a cold, logical look at the numbers may open their eyes — or maybe not.
So for those myopic, nihilists who can rationalize anything, I present the numbers of GI deaths in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and compare them to years past, based upon historical data. I apologize in advance to family members who have lost loved ones in the war, or to those who have been wounded in protecting our freedom. This analysis is not meant to trivialize your losses, but to put the importance of their profound sacrifices in perspective.
Data on US service member deaths are provided at The Center for Military History's Military Casualty Information web page [Ed. Link has gone dead. This is a substitute link.] Here we can find a number of casualty statistics, but I focused on only two sources. The WAR ON TERRORISM — OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM depicts casualties by month and is current to January 29, 2005. This data provides the baseline for a historical comparison.
Since the Department of Defense (DoD) has established 'deaths per 100,000' service members on active duty as its criterion, it is simply a matter of mathematically calculating the ratios for GI deaths in the 23 months of OIF to arrive at the deaths per 100,000 rate, which I will refer to simply as the death rate. I used the latest DoD figures available (2004) for active duty strength as 1,418,731. This figure will of course, fluctuate due to mobilization and de—mobilization of reserve component units.
The important numbers for the comparison:
Note the last two numbers as they are key in comparing GI death rates for the last 24 years and the rates from OIF. Statistics going back more than two decades are provided on the chart U.S. ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY DEATHS PER 100,000 SERVING — 1980 through 2002 . The rest of this exercise is, as they say, a matter of running the numbers.
Right at the top of the table are the death rates for all causes in 1980, the last year of Jimmy Carter's Presidency. Note the accident rate alone is nearly twice what is today. The total yearly death rate for Carter's last year is 110.7, which is more than double the OIF yearly death rate! Note to the major press: we weren't even at war in 1980, yet DoD had an accident rate among GIs that was almost 20 points more than our yearly rate in Iraq.
We can't tell from the chart how many of these accidents were off—duty or happened during training. It's a safe bet that many occurred during training exercises due to the loss of experienced officers and NCOs during the Carter 'hollow' military years. Also note that when President Reagan took office in 1981, the accidental death rate started to decline even as troop strength increased.
Other significant events occurred that affected the death rate. In 1983, hostile action in Grenada resulted in a 0.8 rate, while the terrorist attack on the Marine Barracks in Beirut far surpassed our deaths on Grenada with a rate of 11.6. Overall, our death rate in 1983 was 108.5, which is still far above our OIF rate of 52.5.
By 1989, the accidental death rate had declined almost 29 points from 1980 while uniformed end—strength had increased by almost 144,000. Also in 1989, Bush '41 ordered US forces to conduct Operation Just Cause, which had a death rate of 1.0 due to hostile action. Still, 1989 saw a total death rate of 71.0 which is almost 19 points above the yearly death rate of OIF.
The next big event was in 1991 when the US conducted Operation Desert Storm (ODS). This operation resulted in a death rate of 6.9 per 100,000 service members. But the actual operation lasted about 1.5 months. Therefore, a monthly rate for ODS would be approximately 4.6. This is slightly above the monthly death rate for OIF at 4.4.
In 1993, the accidental death rate continued to decline, but under Clinton's watch the suicide rate peaked out in 1995. At a rate of 15.0, it was the highest self—inflicted death rate of any president over the 22—year time period depicted on the chart. This contributed to an overall death rate of 62.5; still 10 points over the rate for OIF.
Thankfully, the suicide rate dropped in 1996, but this was also the year we suffered a hostile action death rate of 0.1 due to operations in Bosnia. The rate works out in raw numbers to be about two people. It is difficult to get exact casualty figures for Bosnia, but the number of KIA as being two makes sense from a scanning of available reports. These two were killed from mines, while an estimated 50 were also wounded from mines and from unexploded ordnance.
Also note the sharp increase of terror attacks during Clinton's Presidency. The last big terrorist attack came during Reagan's first term on the Marine Barracks, then attacks tapered off to zero in 1990 and 1991, and were 0.1 in 1992, Bush 41's last year in office. Starting in 1993, the death rate due to terror attacks climbed to 1.6, then 0.4, 1.2, 0.2, and in Clinton's last year in office it was 1.1. During Clinton's eight years in office the total death rate was 4.5 due to terror attacks, which was far below the 11.6 of 1983, but exceeds the rate of 3.6 due to the attack on the Pentagon on 9—11.
Finally, there is no uniformed death rate due to hostile action shown in 2001, which was the start of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan. This is more than likely due to the small numbers of troops initially employed, and the type of operations that were conducted. Large conventional forces were comprised of native Northern Alliance formations and Pashtun tribal units. Also, these DoD figures do not count casualties sustained by CIA operatives and paramilitary personnel such as Johnny Michael Spann. However, in 2002 there was a hostile action death rate of 1.1 as more Soldiers and Marines were deployed to Afghanistan. The yearly death rate total for 2002 was 58.2, which is still above the OIF rate of 52.5.
Of course, we can't tell from this data how many accidents were training—related, off—duty, or if they happened in a theater of war. Therefore, any OIF death rates would have to be added to incidents at home station. Nevertheless, what these figures should tell the American left is that just training for war, even in peacetime, is a very dangerous business. And, in case any of the aging hippies from the 60s in the press rooms across America are wondering, the yearly death rate for our 'conventional' involvement in Vietnam from 1964 to 1973 was 176, more than triple the current rate in OIF.
Ultimately though, this kind of rational examination of the numbers is not going to convince many people on the left. Even if you show them that when Jimmy Carter was in charge that he had an accidental death rate almost 20 points higher than the death rate in Iraq, they would probably just scoff and say something to the effect that 'well...at least we didn't have to go war.' This view betrays their true agenda.
They don't give a damn about our troops, no matter what phony sympathy they express about the deaths of our heroes. If they did, they would have had Carter's head on a pike.
In reality, they're just scared they'll be asked to help join the effort to protect our freedom, because they simply don't want to have their nice, safe cocoons punctured.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent