US Iraq War Dead for November

Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for November. There were a total of 84 US fatalities during the month. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which many have charged is inherently misleading; see disclaimer below).

The data come 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 33 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 some three and a half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above. The starting point for the Vietnam graphs is the death that was identified (years later) by Lyndon Johnson as being the first of the war.

These graphs do not address 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 how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

17 Responses to “US Iraq War Dead for November”

  1. macromayhem Says:

    it give you the feeling that something is coming… don’t it?

  2. treehugger Says:

    84 more families that will be celebrating the holidays without their loved one.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. trg34221 Says:

    There are those who want to prevent Iraq from becoming another Vietnam. There are those who don’t care if it does, and those Howard Dean who are doing their level best to ensure it will be! His problem 11 Million Iraqi’s told Dean to **** off….

  4. enkidu Says:

    Dean was misquoted – I read that TIME article and Joe Klein left out the unfortunately from Dean’s quote… Nice ‘non-factual’ manipulation of th truth to achieve political axe-grinding ends. yeah, Dean was saying that unfortunately it may not be possible to win big… lets bring our troops home where they belong. Fascinating to watch the chicken hawks screech at Murtha’s suggestiong we start moving out troops out. I predict a 20 to 30% force reduction will happen just before the ’06 elections and all the right whiners will go ape saying how brilliant dumya is for this masterstroke. Yeah, using our troops as political tools… brilliant.

    Dean was right all along, there was no urgent threat from Iraqi WMDs. We shouldn’t have invaded in the first place. So trg where are all those gigatons of gigadeath? And if Clinton were illegally tapping America’s telecom? yeah

    The facade of competency is crumbling fast.

    Good luck in ’06 – maybe we will finally get some investigating done when the Dems surge back. Chimpeach!

  5. treehugger Says:

    And then there are those that refuse to accept the basic fact that this administrations’ Iraq policy is a massive failure – on all fronts.

    In doing so, they harm both counrties even more, because how can you fix your mistakes when you won’t even acknowledge that they exist?

  6. celebrim Says:

    “which many have charged is inherently misleading; see disclaimer below”

    Well, allow me to repeat the charge by nothing that the disclaimer is pretty much irrelevant. You claim, “I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime.” You don’t claim to be comparing conflict intensity. I understand. That’s fine, but at least then do what you claim.

    The starting points for when you claim each war’s political ‘birth’ would seem either to be abitrarily chosen or else would seem to be chosen to deliberately conceal the facts.

    It’s not just merely that you cite as the beginning of the Vietnam conflict a disengenious speech while ignoring that the US had had troops in Vietnam and dying in Vietnam for years before that point. It’s not even just merely that you are comparing apples and oranges in terms of the US commitment to the war in terms of money, troops on the ground, or political openness. It’s that you are totally ignoring the history of both conflicts, and choosing rather bizarre starting points when there are much more intuitive points to begin the comparison.

    For example, you start the Iraq War in march 2003, which roughly corresponds to a time in which the US openly committed itself to a ground war involving 100,000′s of US troops. But, as long as we are casting about for unofficial starting points of the conflict, we might well note that prior to 2003, going all the way back to the end of the last Iraq War, there have been 20,000+ troops in the Iraq theater and that the US air force during the enforcement of the no fly zone flew 10,000 sorties, 2,000 of those in combat, and engaged 500 targets leading to an unknown number of Iraqi military deaths and about 200 Iraqi civilian deaths, and that US aircraft were fired upon in this period. Whether that was an unofficial war or not, it certainly it some sort of armed conflict. Surely this ‘unofficial war’ needs to be lined up against the ‘unofficial war’ in Vietnam if we want to make an honest comparison. As an aside, this level of commitment in Iraq corresponds well to the level of commitment of US resources in Vietnam during the first 4 years of your graph. So why not pick the 1998 Operation Desert Fox or even some earlier point as the start of the unofficial war in Iraq, if in fact what you want to do is make a fair comparison?

    For that matter, why not start the Vietnam graph with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, and the Iraq graph with the October 2002 Joint Resolution of Authorize the Use of Force? Surely those situations are far more analogous than the March 2003 beginning of the ground war and some arbitrarily selected and politically disengenious speach. Surely this represents a better comparison between the political ‘lifetimes’ of the two conflicts? Incidently, doing so would largely silence those critics that say you are not comparing apples to apples, since after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and after the Joint Resolution authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq, the US first committed large bodies of troops to the theater. Thus, you wouldn’t even need to normalize the graph for the number of troops on the ground, because you’d have clear evidence that you were in fact comparing two politically similar events.

    But you aren’t going to do that are you? You aren’t even going to consider any of those things, because its pretty darn clear that you didn’t start out to create a fair comparison. You started out with something you wanted to demonstrate and you picked numbers that would help you demonstrate that.

    My question for you is this: what are you going to do when the brown line and the green line cross? Are you then and only then going to take steps to ‘correct’ the problem, perhaps redoing you graph so that the start of the Vietnam conflict is comfortably moved back even farther into the past to avoid that increasingly likely point where the data is going to betray your thesis?

  7. enkidu Says:

    errrr wth was all that?
    I think jbc is just trying to compare our last big war with our current big war (grenada, panama and bosnia don’t really count). Shift the starting dates around a few years either way, they are still comparable.

    You seem to presuppose that jbc has some nefarious evil plan.

    I think we are having fewer combat fatalities because our medevac capabilites and general medical skills are much improved in the last 30 years (battlefield ultrasounds, MRIs, MASH type facilites mean that we are having fewer deaths and more wounded).

    But then again, how do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?

    oooops, sorry, the right wing views Kerry as a traitor and a coward (despite still carrying around his ‘nam souveniers (shrapnel in his leg? ass?) The left just views him as an incredible bore…

  8. ethan-p Says:

    The facade of competency is crumbling fast.

    Hell, I didn’t know that there was anything left to crumble.

  9. enkidu Says:

    touché

  10. celebrim Says:

    “Shift the starting dates around a few years either way, they are still comparable.”

    I didn’t say that there were not comparable. Sure, they are wars; they are comparable. Certainly, some allowances must be made for inherent differences in every conflict, for example the increased medical technology which you point out is available during the Second Gulf War compared to the American phase of the Vietnam war. But those differences do not mean that they aren’t comparable. There is some reason to try to choose which war the Iraq war is most comparable too, and some reasons to suggest Vietnam isn’t it, but then again no two wars will make for a perfectly apt comparison. However, when comparing any two wars, at least try to make the comparison between them apt.

    I’m not suggesting that they are not comparable, but rather that the comparison has been rigged, distorted, or muddled (take your choice). Whether this was done through conscious art, or unconscious bias I don’t know, but such speculation is irrelevant to my main point. I do not know whether lies.com is well named, or simply ironically named, and I really don’t care. I do not know whether they is a plan, nor do I care that much, though I’d hazard that there is no conspiracy because its almost always a mistake to suppose evil motivations were simple stupidity would suffice. I simply know that the comparison as made masks both the similarities and the differences between the two conflicts. Thus, the comparison as made is useless, and indeed worse that useless because rather than illuminating the truth it hides it.

    I pointed out that the defense of the oft criticized comparison is bogus. So what if you are not making a comparison between battlefield intensity? Whether you were making a relative comparison or an absolute comparison, the graphs must line up in sensible fashion. They don’t.

    Instead of choosing an obvious starting point for both conflicts, an obvious starting point was chosen for one and an obscure and debateable one was chosen for another. Why? What reasonable justification has ever been offered for that? Simply because LBJ identified some casualty as the start of the war? What does that prove other than the fact that LBJ was frequently wrong? The casualty so cited was not the first death of the Vietnam conflict in any official records, nor was it the start of the war either metaphorically or militarily or anywhere else except perhaps retrospectively in LBJ’s mind. December 1961 is not an obvious date at all, nor does it remotely compare to March 2003 militarily or politically. March 2003 is the official start of the Iraq war militarily, just as the October 2002 Authorization is its official political declaraction. In other words, as long as both apples and oranges are available, why not compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges?

    Are you arguing that politically and militarily, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the Authorization of the Use of Force are not similar and comparable “points in each war’s political lifetime”? In what way is the December ’61 death actually similar to the the March ’03 operations so that one could honest say that they are comparable “points in each war’s political lifetime”? If you note that prior to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that there were already troops in combat in Vietnam in an (even more) unofficial war, I can easily note that prior to March ’03 there were troops in combat in Iraq in an (even more) unofficial war. If we wish to include the more unofficial portion of the wars in the comparison, surely these two periods are more comparable than less comparable. If you are going to (reasonably) date the beginning of the Vietnam war to before the Gulf of Tonkin resolution made Vietnam a defacto war, why not (reasonably) date the beginning of the Iraq war to before the joint authorization by Congress on the use of force made Iraq an official war? Why not date it to the first combat operation following Saddam’s noncompliance with the terms of the March 1991 provisional truce that ended the first Gulf War? Why not date it to the beginning of the December 16, 1998 Operation Desert Fox? Why not date it to the October 31, 1998 Iraq Liberation Act?

    Past objections to the comparison based on the fact that the troop levels in Veitnam were significantly different in Dec. ’61 and March ’03 are important primarily in that they are simply additional proof that in no fashion are Dec. ’61 and March ’03 similar points in “each war’s political lifetimes”.

    And as long as you are looking for speaches, why not date it to Clinton’s February 17 1998 speach in which he said, “reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals..predators of the twenty-first century..will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

    “I think we are having fewer combat fatalities because our medevac capabilites and general medical skills are much improved in the last 30 years…”

    I think you are right. But I also think that we can compare these technologies from 30 years ago with today meaningfully simply by looking at the ratio of wounded in action to killed in action. IIRC the ratio of wounded in action to killed in action in Vietnam was something like 7:1. The the current Iraq war the ratio is something like 9:1. So, we could easily extrapolate the number of fatalities that we’d have in Iraq if we had only Veitnam era medical technologies. (As a quick estimate, it would be something like 400 extra deaths by this point, or ~20% increase in the number of deaths.) Or you could simply compare total casualties in the two conflicts instead of just fatalities. There is no mystery to this.

    “Shift the starting dates around a few years either way, they are still comparable.”

    And lastly, yes, shift the starting dates around a few years, THEY ARE STILL comparable. In fact, my point is that THEY ARE MORE COMPARABLE. The ability to compare them doesn’t go away if I compare Vietnam post the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to Iraq post the beginning of major combat operations in March 2003. Instead, the comparison is drawn more clearly and more sharply. We start comparing apples to apples, instead of apples to oranges. It’s not that apples and oranges aren’t comparable – they are both fruit afterall, but surely when you have the oppurtunity you should compare the things which are alike to the things to which they are most alike. If you do not, if you see someone comparing the three years post March 2003 (more than 150,000 troops in theater, frequently conducting major combat operations) to the three years of low intensity conflict (less than 10,000 troops in theater most of the time, mostly acting in an ‘advisory’ role) post December 1961, then you can’t help but think that the comparison’s are utterly inept, and the conclusions that that person draws from such comparisons equally valueless.

    Dismiss my points with a wave of your hand and no logical refutation all you like, but sooner or latter you are going to have to start comparing the Iraq war to the war in Vietnam post the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, and at that point the falacy of your comparison will be on display for even the stupid and ignorant to see. You won’t be able to carry on this trick forever. At some point, the mountain will have to be compared to the molehill, and at that point you’ll have to stop pretending that the molehill is the mountain. The idea that at some point in the future the intensity of the conflict in Iraq is going to scale up in the same fashion that the Vietnam conflict did – the very thing said to be ‘viewed with alarm’ – becomes laughable alarmism if you consider what actually happened in Vietnam over the course of the graph. History is going to bite back. Do you really think that American commitment in men and material to Iraq is going to increase by an order of magnitude in the next year? The underlying cause of the trendline of American deaths in the Vietnam conflict was the American hijacking of the conflict. But this only reveals the intellectual barrenness of your comparison, since its easy to show that the conflict in Iraq is increasingly not about the Americans.

  11. celebrim Says:

    Since history doesn’t seem to be a strong point of some on this site, I thought I might make this simple and propose pairs of obvious dates to mark the beginning points of the two plots. I believe that the following correspond well to similar points in the “political lifetimes” of the two conflicts.

    The start of the ‘unofficial’ wars:

    Vietnam: July 8, 1959 – US ‘military advisors’ Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sargeant Chester M. Ovnand become the first official casualties of the Vietnam War when they are attacked by guerillas at Beinhoa.

    Iraq: December 27, 1992 – US pilots shoot down an Iraqi MiG-25 in violation of the US imposed southern ‘no fly zone’ (Operation Southern Watch), marking the resumption of hostilities between Iraq and the US following the break down of the Safwan truce that ended the first Gulf War.

    And the start of the official wars:

    Vietnam: August 7, 1964 – US Congress approves the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’, granting President Johnson and his successors virtual carte blanche authority to wage war against the North Vietnamese government

    Iraq: October 22, 2002 – US Congress approves the “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq”, granting President Bush and his successors virtual carte blance authority to wage war against the Iraqi government.

    The start of major air campaigns:

    Vietnam: February 24, 1965 – The US launches Operation Rolling Thunder, the first intense coordinated bombing campaign of the war. Originally scheduled to last 8 weeks, it will continue for three more years.

    Vietnam: March 20, 2003 – The US launches a ‘shock and awe’ air campaign against Iraq as part of the onset of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’.

    And the start of major military ground operations:

    Vietnam: November 14, 1965 – The start of the Ia Drang Valley campaign marks the first conventional battle of the war in which one side is primarily US forces.

    Iraq: March 20, 2003 – Operation Iraqi Freedom (US Name) a simultaneous land and air invasion of Iraq is launched by a multi-national coalition.

    By all means, make your comparison. But make a fair and valid comparison between two like things.

  12. jbc Says:

    Hey, if you want to redo the graphs based on some particular alternate set of starting points, more power to you. For all your zeal in alleging stupidity and/or nefarious motives, you’re being kind of sloppy yourself in terms of failing to distinguish between the various people you’re taking issue with. Enkidu, ethan-p, treehugger, and I are all different people, who have argued different things. You seem to want to mash us all up together into one composite intellectual opponent. While that might make it easier to win some sort of pedantry contest, I’m personally not very interested in that game.

    In terms of the portion of your argument that seems most likely to be pointed at me in particular, I’m not seeing any compelling reason to shift the starting dates, at least not for the particular comparison I’m making. I’m mostly interested in US politicians’ response to wartime deaths as a political problem, and to me, for that purpose, these dates make as much sense as anything you’ve suggested.

    I’m well aware of the ironic aspects of the domain name, and had been for a number of years already when it was first suggested by someone who found my political views offensive that I might be ignorant of it — and that was a number of years ago.

    You seem to think you’re smarter than everyone else you encounter. Personally, I think that’s more likely to be a sign of a personality disorder than off-the-charts intelligence, but what do I know? Maybe you really are the smartest guy on the planet. If so, congratulations, and thanks for gracing us with your insights. If not, you’re still helping to add to the mix of wackiness that makes the site what it is, so again, thanks.

  13. celebrim Says:

    “For all your zeal in alleging stupidity and/or nefarious motives, you’re being kind of sloppy yourself in terms of failing to distinguish between the various people you’re taking issue with. Enkidu, ethan-p, treehugger, and I are all different people, who have argued different things. You seem to want to mash us all up together into one composite intellectual opponent.”

    I do not recall addressing ethan-p or treehugger. My original post was addressed solely to the blogger, which I guess would be you. My latter posts were addressed to jointly Enkidu, who had addressed me in what would appear to be a defense of your position, and loosely to you. I mashed you and Enkidu together only in the sense that in defending your graph, he had positioned himself on the same side of the debate. I was addressing a thesis. If you mean to disentangle yourself from anything Enkidu said, or if Enkidu meant to distance himself from anything you said, then either of you should have made it much clearer. If neither of you intend to distance yourself from the other in any meaningful way, you’ll pardon me if I save a small ammount of space by addressing you (and anyone else siding with you) collectively. Think of me as attacking not you, but the thesis you defend. (If I attack you directly, its only as a kick in the pants to try to encourage you to defend your thesis rigorously.) I’m verbose enough as it is without having to repeat myself to several different people.

    “I’m not seeing any compelling reason to shift the starting dates, at least not for the particular comparison I’m making.”

    That’s the point I admit to being fuzzy on. Exactly what particular comparison do you think you are making anyway?

    I come here by way of what I assume is your original post on the subject: (http://www.lies.com/wp/2003/10/20/us-deaths-in-vietnam-and-iraq-by-month/)

    In it you claim to be interested in the domestic perception of death totals, and you seem terribly facinated by the fact that to this point in the war you claim that the death’s in the Vietnam War exceeded those of a similar period of the Iraq war. You repeatedly claim that you are interested in comparing the two wars when they are at a similar point in what you call the war’s “political lifetime”. The problem is of course that you do not in fact seem to be interested in the things that you claim to be interested in. The two ‘starting points’ you have chosen don’t at all represent similar points in the two wars ‘political lifetimes’. You don’t at all seem interested in comparing, examining, or discussing the domestic responces and political rhetoric surrounding the two wars as a function of mounting casualties. You comment about the differences in the ‘scenarios’ that the two wars have followed, but your particular comparison actually serves to accentuate that differences in the ‘scenarios’ rather than highlight the similarities. Pretending that the Vietnam war begins at some point prior to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution but that the Iraq war begins with Operation Iraqi Freedom is no better or more insightful than pretendign that the Vietnam war begins with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (and ingnoring the political and military cycle that led up to it), but that the second Gulf War begins way back in 1992.

    In short, you show almost no real couriousity at all. You are intellectually lazy, and that makes it really hard to believe such assertions as:

    “I’m mostly interested in US politicians’ response to wartime deaths as a political problem, and to me, for that purpose, these dates make as much sense as anything you’ve suggested.”

    You are? I see no evidence of that interest at all. What I see is the latest incarnation of a graph which seems intended only to show that the Gulf War is in some fashion ‘worse’ than the Vietnam war. It says nothing about public responce to the war. It says nothing about a politicians responce to the war. It says nothing about the wavering approval ratings of any politician. It’s not a graph about political reality at all. It’s a graph about military reality, and you show no apparent couriousity about those numbers – no sign that you are really trying to learn anything from them. How do you think that this graph illustrates “US politicians’ responce to wartime deaths as a political problem”? In what sense do you think that this graph is useful? What do you see in it? Do you still see in this graph what you saw when you first posted it, namely “I can’t see any reason to believe it isn’t happening again today?”

    Why do these dates make sense to you? What common thread of political reality do you find in a date retroactively made the ‘start’ of the war in a speach by a failed President but which is not at all seen as the start of the war historically nor would it been recognized back in 1961 as the start of the war by the public, and March 20, 2003? Superficially, these dates seem to me to be just about as far removed from each other in terms of the political lifetimes of wars as it is possible for them to be, but perhaps you could explain yourself?

    Why are these two dates so suitable to your line of inquiry?

    “You seem to think you’re smarter than everyone else you encounter.”

    No I don’t. That is the sort of stupid thing people say when they aren’t used to talking with intelligent people. In fact, I know many people a great deal more intelligent than I am. Some of them I speak to on a regular basis. And I do not accuse them of having a ‘personality disorder’ for thinking that they have well trained faculties, nor would it occur to me to do so because I consider intelligence to be, well normal in my social circles. What I do think is that the number of people who are less intelligent than I am greatly exceeds the number of people who are more intelligent than I am. This is factual observation. It doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. It does however tend to make me more correct than other people within my narrow fields of interest.

    In the future, you can dispense with reflexive mental defenses people use when they aren’t comfortable with there own intelligence. It is a playground comeback which a childish person uses when they’ve been corrected on a point of fact. Basically, you said, “Oh yeah, well, well … you’re a know-it-all.” Ok, maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am right. I’m not asking you or anyone else to like me, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t. I’m asking you to think, something you so far seem ill inclined to do. I suspect however that you have it in you, or I wouldn’t bother posting anything.

  14. nescient Says:

    celebrim, I think that your dec28th 2:00pm post was interesting and on target. I am not personally as knowledgable about the relevent dates in the Vietnam war as you seem to be, but the dates that I am familiar with, I agree are quite nicely correllative. Since jbc does not seem interested in redoing his graph (and really who can blame him – it is a pain-in-the-ass to redo stuff), I was wondering if you have a website where you might put up your version of the graph, or if you know how many years into the Vietnam war (on jbc’s graph) the gulf of tonkin resolution took place. I am a little fuzzy on the date on jbc’s start date. Also, instead of posting here, feel free to email me directly:
    nescient314@hotmail. com

    Thanks.

  15. jbc Says:

    God save us from Mensa members.

  16. BabyBoomer48 Says:

    It appears that the only wars that are supported by the American public are those that, if not fought, would somehow directly endanger the American public. We used to be, I thought, a country of freedom for all, but if it means a sacrifice to achieve this goal for others, well we just aren’t that interested.

    Regarding the American press, well their beliefs are where the money is..simple isn’t it?

  17. treehugger Says:

    Well, there are about 40 other countries that need to be “freed”, so you had better get the troops rallied.

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