The (Invalid) Comparison Gets Interesting

Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for March, with only 31 US fatalities during the month. That’s the lowest total since February of 2004.

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 some have charged is misleading; see disclaimer below). And the interesting thing to me is that for the first time, the Iraq numbers are lower than those for the “corresponding” month of the Vietnam war.

Now, I’m completely aware that the particular starting point I chose for the Vietnam numbers drives many people nuts, and many of those people have spent lots of time and energy explaining to the world what a lying fucktard I am for presenting the numbers this way. Given their views about my motivations, I wonder what they’ll think of my willingness to present these latest figures without qualification.

Anyway, 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 37 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

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

Disclaimer: Every so often someone comes along and says I’m guilty of intellectual dishonesty by comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing with these graphs:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There are more troops in Iraq today than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeded the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam, and have not chosen the starting dates for the respective graphs out of a desire to make a dishonest argument to that effect. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

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. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as having resulted from the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be better. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.

8 Responses to “The (Invalid) Comparison Gets Interesting”

  1. treehugger Says:

    Less US troops deaths. More, much more, Iraqi civillian deaths.

    Sigh. Can we just get a month without any deaths? Like it was in February of 2002?

  2. ethan-p Says:

    Yeah, why can’t we all just get along?

  3. enkidu Says:

    I hate to point this out, but the month isn’t 2/3s done and we already have around 50 US military deaths and many more wounded.

    I want you, Mr Right-wing-jingo-booyah-moonbat-wingnut to explain to that last soldier why he has to be the last man to die for W’s mistake(s).

  4. celebrim Says:

    “I hate to point this out, but the month isn’t 2/3rd’s done and we already have around 50 US military deaths…”

    The people around this blog have a serious problem with the truth. If you in fact ‘hated to point this out’, you wouldn’t have done so. In fact, you loved to point this out, but feeling a tad bit of guilt about that and not wanting people to think of you as the sort of person who loved to point out things like that, you prefaced your comment with the dishonest claim. People who have a problem being honest with themselves and others make those qualifiying statements all the time. They say, “I don’t mean to be rude…”, when they mean, “I do want to be rude, I just don’t want you to think that I’m a rude person.” My favorite author, Tolkien, got a kick out of this behavior, and has a good laugh about it in his works.

    But that in itself wouldn’t have made me bother to post.

    “I want you, Mr. Right-wing-jingo-booyah-moonbat-wingnut to explain to that last soldier why he has to be the last man to die for W’s mistake(s).”

    Talk about poisoning the well. That is clearly not a question you really want answered either. That is an insult couched as a rhetorical question.

    But I enjoy a challenge. I can’t put myself in GWB’s shoes. He has a harder job than I do. All I have to do is smack down silly little boys who lack the intelligence, education, or wisdom to know what they are talking about. He has to walk around Walter Reed and talk to some of America’s finest and explain to them why they are lying mangled in a bed missing a pair of limbs and scarred for life. He has to tell mother’s who’ve lost thier sons the answer to the question you just gave. I won’t claim that I can do half a good as job as him at least in that matter, as I lack his tenderness and warmth. However, since I’m not required here to be tender and warm to the likes of you, I’ll give it my best shot Mr. Left-Wing-Emotional-Cripple-Who-Celebrates-People’s-Deaths.

    I would admit that few parties expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. I would admit that few anticipated that one of the principle causes of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. But, I would say to the mother of the last soldier who dies in Iraq that that soldier died so that he could be the last soldier who dies in Iraq. I would remind them of the estimated 5000 Shia children dying each month before the war began, whose lives were accounted cheaper to thier overlords than palaces and bullets. I would remind them of the scores of Americans and hundreds of Iraqi’s that had died violently in Operation Northern and Southern Watch, merely trying to hold a leaky blockade against the government of Saddam Hussein. I would remind them of the 100,000 or more disappeared people of Iraq, some mere children, who had died in Iraq’s jails and been buried in mass graves. I would remind them of the terrors of war that thier child fought with great courage to end, even after those terrors ceased to be directed primarily at him and were directed at the innocent men, women, and children of Iraq. I would say to the parents of the last soldier dying in Iraq that thier child had been a part of an incredible work, that already 70% of Iraq was free and at peace. I would say that in the finest tradition of the American soldier, he had lived, and died, and gave the last full measure of his devotion to make men and women free. I would say that thier son or daughter did not depart seeking death, but yet, when faced with the choice between risking thier own lives and risking the lives of others, they choose to risk thier own and even lay down that life so that though thier risk and sacrifice, thier country might be safe and hope for the dignity of all men would be improved. I would say that the fight that they took to the heart of the Arab world was done for both the sake of America, and the sake of the whole Arab world; for I would note that if we choose to do nothing that a war not of our making might again come to our shores. I would note that unless we acted, the fundamental causes of which brought terrorism to America on 9/11 would continue. I would tell them that thier child’s life and service had made the world a better place and that that service was not diminished by thier death. I would tell them today that at long last a land that had never known freedom, which had never known peace, whose people had been largely passed by the prosperity that the 20th century had brought the world now had a glimmering hope for all three. I would tell them about the new birth of freedom and prosperity by the Kurds, and the hope that as the blood price of 30 years of hatred and dying was paid that this freedom and peace would spread through the rest of Iraq. I would tell them that through this, finally there might be hope that the Arab world would stop exporting its problems and its civil wars and its militants beyond its borders and fighting a proxy war with the West, and instead would begin taking the steps to solve its own problems with the admission that they were thier own problems and not the fantasy that blowing up buildings in the United States would end the ignorance, corruption, distrust, intolerance, violence, poverty, and failed governments that are thier real problems. I would tell them that sometimes a just and lasting peace within a nation can only be found after a trial of toil and blood, that evil is not vanquished without cost, and that thier child did not count it a thing without honor to toil and spend thier blood so that other people might not spend thiers. I would tell them that each death spurred on the living to a greater commitment to finish the noble work which had been begun, and no here thier child had with his life and death had done something of eternal note. He had bought with his life, the right to be the last to die. His death had been the harbinger of peace, the glorious attainment for which all other Americans should hold him in highest honor.

    That is what I at least would say.

    But you have, unwittingly as you do all things, given me by far the easiest task. In parroting things you’ve heard without thought, you’ve posed a question which answers itself – not that you’d ever notice unless I’d pointed that out to you. The harder task is of course to explain to the first soldier why he has to be the first to die, or to explain to the ones that live why they were spared.

    And of course the hardest task of all is to explain to the stupid why they are wrong, and for that task I am not the equal. “Against stupidity, even the gods themselves rail in vain.” I would probably not tell them that the last soldier in Iraq died in part so that enkidu could freely say all the stupid things that enter into his head, but I will tell you that.

  5. enkidu Says:

    Stating that I hate to see even a single additional life lost for dumbya’s middle-east folly is a “dishonest claim”? Talk about disconnected with reality! Put down the Tolkien (I’ve read and reread virtually everything he ever wrote btw – plus a ton of CS Lewis and the other inklings) look at the facts.

    I stated a fact: more than 50 US deaths so far this month. I find your assumption that I revel in their loss a repugnant reminder of just how narrow minded (and yes, stupid) the right wing really is. The rest of your long winded diatribe is as ridiculous as it is banal. That last soldier will have died so dumbya could get his war on and look tough for the psycho christian taken up types like, say, you.

    ps – so… sir long-winded-jackass, where is Osama?

    pps – I bet you think nuking Iran is a great idea.

  6. TeacherVet Says:

    Thanks, celebrim, for your post.

    You answered enkidu’s question thoroughly and perfectly, and his response proved your contention that his question was purely rhetorical. Precictably, the only substance to his response was the immature labeling.

    “I hate to point this out, but….” – precious.

  7. TeacherVet Says:

    BTW, treehugger, I might consider changing my username to “treehuggerII.” We got hit by twin tornados, about 10 seconds apart, on April 2nd. The damage to our home was minimal compared to the neighbors, with one wall blown out and a 90-foot oak on the garage, but I lost almost 100 large oak and hickory trees. I’ve spent 19 days cutting them into chunks, “hugging” each chunk as I wrap the chain to drag it to a burn pile. It will take months to complete the task, and it is truly heart-wrenching to see my beautiful 7-acre “park” destroyed. The smaller trees were flexible enough to escape damage, and we will recover, but Happy Hollow will not regain its beauty in my lifetime.

    On a lighter note….anyone need firewood?

  8. treehugger Says:

    Sorry to hear that TeacherVet.
    It sounds like you have some amazing property, hopefully you rebuild/replant so the beauty of your land can be enjoyed by future generations of your family.

    Or just sell it to make way for a new Wal-Mart/Home Depot >:-(

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