US Iraq War Deaths Down in March

Deaths of US military personnel in Iraq continued to decline in March, giving us the best month (relatively speaking) in just over a year. Since Bush has previously claimed that increased US deaths are a sign of progress (because such increases show that “the insurgency is getting desperate”), I suppose a strictly logical interpretation would be that the decline in the number of US deaths is bad, since it shows that the insurgency is gaining confidence.

I don’t expect Bush to be logically consistent in that sense, though. I don’t expect him to claim the reduced deaths are a bad sign, or even a good sign; I expect him to make no public acknowledgement of them whatsoever. But they’re still happening, with the following charts giving an idea of the numerical trend so far.

Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 24 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until shortly after Johnson won the 1964 election, some three-and-a-half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above.

These graphs are not intended to show the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and these graphs let me see that. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

9 Responses to “US Iraq War Deaths Down in March”

  1. Rise Against Says:

    Probably the only reason US soldier deaths are down is because they are using more Iraqi soldiers to do the dirty work now. The more Iraqi soldiers become combat ready, the less US deaths there will be. It makes no difference to John and Jane Q. public if it’s not American deaths so I would like to see a chart tracking Iraqi military deaths and watch that sucker start to climb.

  2. TeacherVet Says:

    In order to give that change some legitimacy, the chart would have to include the deaths of South Vietnamese fighters in the first years of our “advisory” role in the Viet Nam war, and you wouldn’t like the results. Only a few months ago we heard lots of rhetoric in support of turning the dirty work over to Iraqi soldiers, and now that effort is being criticized. I fail to understand the evident disappointment that the number of U.S. deaths seems to be decreasing.

    I only post on one other blog site, run by a fellow who unabashedly voices his hope for a Gander-type incident that results in massive loss. Again, I simply don’t understand; or, at least, I hope I don’t, because I can only think of one other possible reason to wish for the worst. It’s unthinkable, but I see increasing evidence of people who would happily sacrifice lives of U.S. soldiers and citizens to embarrass a U.S. president.

    Part of the reason for the decline is certainly the greater involvement of Iraqi forces (although some still deny the existence of those forces), but there are other contributing factors: among them, (1) the growing resistance of Iraqi citizens against terrorists who are targeting the civilian population and (2) the decreasing numbers of terrorist thugs.

    As an example of the latter, we lost about three dozen troops in urban warfare during the al Fallujah campaign, while killing about 1,500 terrorists. Their numbers are thinning, their determination is waning, and their in-county support is fading. All predictions of utter failure seem to be failing, and the results should be pleasing to all of us.

  3. jbc Says:

    I’m not sure I’m seeing anyone rooting for more US deaths. But as things stand, I think it’s a little early to be calling the current downturn a permanent improvement. The month-to-month total has been highly variable; it wouldn’t shock me to see it spike up again.

    Back in month 3 a certain pro-war weblogger was making a big deal about how the trend clearly showed that Bush’s war was turning out just fine in terms of the US death total, tapering off quickly with quite-acceptable losses. I haven’t noticed him posting any updates to those earlier graphs of his.

  4. Rise Against Says:

    Ya don’t get me wrong TeacherVet, I’m not rooting for more deaths of anybody. I just don’t want everyone thinking that just because US soldier deaths are down that everything is hunk dory over there and becoming stable, because it is still far from it.

    As far as predicting failure, I say this whole mess has already been a failure. I believe 10, 20 years down the road this whole campaign in Iraq will be judged as such. The ultimate outcome may turn out to be a success for Iraq, but the way in which this war was planned and executed will go down in history as a massive failure and one that alienated America from some of its strongest allies.

  5. TeacherVet Says:

    You guys might very well be right, but I hope for only the best.

    I do have some disagreement with any statement about our “strongest allies” if they are meant to imply primarily France, Germany and Russia. The strength and friendship of each of those allies was recognized by George Patton in no uncertain terms about 60 years ago, and all three have expressed bitterness toward the U.S. for at least six decades. I have problems thinking of them as our “strongest allies.” If they are our long-standing friends…..

    John, while I often disagree with your opinions, I have always respected the diligent research that goes into your reasoning. In your article, however, your statement that “a strictly logical interpretation would be that the decline in the number of US deaths is bad, since it shows that the insurgency is gaining confidence” baffles me. I’m probably missing something here, but I don’t understand the logic. Confidence usually results in heightened activity and greater casualty rates. Please explain the basis of the logic – sorry if I’m just blinded somehow, but I’ve reread the statement many times in an effort to understand.

  6. Rise Against Says:

    Yes, strongest allies was the wrong phrase. I should have said traditional allies, like Nato members etc…

    I think John was using that statement because when the US military was experiencing high fatality rates, Bush said it was because the insurgents were desperate. So, using Bush’s logic, the insurgents must be gaining confidence, since they are attacking less. Obviously that is absurd, but so was the notion that attacks were increasing because the insurgents were getting desperate.

    I should let John answer his own questions, but i think that was what he meant.

  7. jbc Says:

    Yeah, I was being sarcastic. That statement does indeed defy logic.

  8. TeacherVet Says:

    Got it – thanks, both of you.

  9. really? Says:

    This is great news I hope this a trend. There has been more then enough death. As far as predicting failure. It way to early to even speculate really. One thing that has always been true in the past is WAR as whole is in it self a failure to the people in it. Realize when you are discussing success you are talk about a certain point of view. Success for who? For what political idiology? and compared to what?

    The problem with invasion over revolution is that…revolution is usually motivated by people wanting a choice and voice in there countries actions and there own,lives seperate from the ruling powers..where as invasion is motivated by a greater power wanting to limit or control the choices and collective voices in the people actions and lives.
    —-Who the invader is doesn’t change this.

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