US Iraq War Deaths for June – September

Here are the updated graphs for June through September. Apologies for being lax with the updates. As always, I’m comparing the US military casualties in Iraq 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). 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 comparison for the extent of the Iraq war to-date. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

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

Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing:

  • 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 were more troops in Iraq in the early going than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeds the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam. 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.

24 Responses to “US Iraq War Deaths for June – September”

  1. knarlyknight Says:

    Maybe you need more boots on the ground in Iraq, it worked so well in Vietnam.

  2. TeacherVet Says:

    We did put more boots on the ground… and casualties figures decreased, both for our troops and for civilians. Do I sense a wee bit of frustration, or perhaps even disappointment?

  3. shcb Says:

    But I’m sure Knarly supports the troops not the mission. Then we have the Democrats in congress wanting to pass a resolution against Turkey for an event that happened almost a hundred years ago. They want us to loose plain and simple.

    http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Oct14/0,4670,TurkeyUS,00.html

  4. TeacherVet Says:

    I believe many Democrats actually do support the troops’… deaths.

  5. wingzero Says:

    I would like to respectfully say that the Graphs are inaccurate. The thumbnails make it look like September had MORE than 100 deaths and the links do not show the drop in casualties from August to September. THe Thumbnails and links have different pictures, so I assume this was an accident.

  6. shcb Says:

    Yup.

  7. jbc Says:

    wingzero, that might be a case of your browser showing you a cached version of the smaller images. If you force a reload, do you still see the inaccurate graphs?

    This is the result of my lazy approach to updating the graphs in-place, using the same filenames and just replacing them with newer versions. I meant for this to make it so people stumbling on older monthly postings would not see outdated graphics. But it creates a different problem, in that the discussion in those older postings refers to a version of the graphs that is different than what’s actually shown. Another, bigger problem it causes is that in the older postings, where I included three images, the middle image (which I’m no longer updating) looks very out of date with respect to the others.

    So, add that to the list of ways in which people failed to plan properly for the true consequences and extent of the Iraq war.

    As to TeacherVet’s focus on the short-term drop in fatalities, you should look at year-over-year numbers to get a truer sense of the trend. People tend not to fight so much when it’s 115 degrees out, meaning deaths have tended to decline during the summer throughout the war. Then they’ve ramped up again after. You’re certainly free to argue that this time will be different, and attribute it to Bush’s surge strategy, but I think the jury’s still out on that. And for all your willingness to attribute ideologically motivated self-interest to the interpretations of people on the other side, I think that’s a sword that, at least in this case, cuts both ways.

  8. knarlyknight Says:

    jbc, thx for the info./clarifications, and for comments leading up to the sword cuts both ways analogy. I’ve more often thought of the nasty interpretations from people on the other side as pissers into the wind.

  9. enkidu Says:

    plus it was Magical September – who knows how the data is being manipulated?
    US casualties have been up all year due to the surge, a sudden drop the month that the general makes his report? we’ll see

    oil at $88 a barrel and climbing, heck of a job bushie!

    oh and TV, where has any elected Democrat ever “supported the troops… deaths”? The progressives and Dems and Inds want this counterproductive war to be ended and our troops brought home. Try to use fact instead of wingnut fiction. O right… more nonsensical ‘belief’ on your part. Nucking futs.

  10. NorthernLite Says:

    It really wouldn’t matter if there were zero US troop deaths happening: This war was supposed to last a few weeks, cost f*ck all, uncover the most “dangerous weapons ever devised by man” and to top it all off, the mission was actually declared accomplished over four years ago.

    But only 80 US soldiers died this month, yaaaaaaaaaay! Wow.

  11. TeacherVet Says:

    Actually, only 42 troop deaths occurred in Iraq in September due to hostile action, plus 23 others who died as a result of accidents, illness, etc. – 65 total. NL, where did you get the 80 figure? As to your “mission statement,” have we had only a single mission in Iraq?

    Inky, you know I said nothing about “elected” Democrats, so your question/statement is bogus. Also bogus – the surge has not been going on for a year, only a few months, during which casualties have consistently been on a gradual decline. You’re using “facts”? Of course, you could be right about the price of oil – if you can show evidence that Bush sets the price of crude.

  12. shcb Says:

    Since we are already falling back into our incivility let me toss something out.

    Many times these things have a natural flow to them. That isn’t saying people can’t make them better or worse, it is just that they can only be controlled to a point, our economy for instance. A coach or a quarterback gets too much credit when things are going good and too much blame when they are going bad.

    We had to start over with the Iraqi army and police, we underestimated the corruption, we maybe should have left military units intact, I still don’t agree with that, but a lot of experts I have listened to do. We not only had to teach these soldiers how to be soldiers but how to be American soldiers. To not run into machine gun fire because it is valiant to die in battle, but to flank the position, call in air support, use smoke, covering fire, whatever as long as you stay alive. Allah will get you soon enough but the people depending on you need you alive for now. Part of the reason we are winning now is because it simply took this long to get to this point no matter who was in charge or what the tactics were, within reason of course. General Petraeus is the right man for this stage of the war but may have not been at some other juncture of this campaign.

    Good News; some of the Democrats are backing off the resolution to piss off Turkey for no good reason, Pelosi lost again. Good.

    More Good News; the month is half over, if the current trend continues we may not even top 50 killed in “magic October” the wounded number for September stayed at 186, good news indeed.

  13. wingzero Says:

    JBC you are correct. An old picture was cached. CTRL+F5 worked to fix in on IE.

    I really hate the term “The Surge”. It wasn’t just about throwing numbers at the problem. Many people in the Army were trying to win this as if we were still invading Bagdhad. Petraeus and USMC Gen Amos co-wrote an entire field manual that guides, theoretically, our new strategy. Of course, it was also because of luck that the Sunni’s in Al-Anbar broke from AQI. The effects have made Anbar safer for both American’s and Iraqi’s.

    We cannot declare victory or predict the future based upon this, but understand we have changed philosophy. So have many of the insurgents/former insurgents. We have to critically think about what has changed to improve things. Thinking everything will be fine now doesn’t help. There are other things to do/change. Giving up now and assuming all the recent data is false is foolish too.

  14. shcb Says:

    Wingzero,

    That is all correct, we have to also remember we are fighting an intelligent enemy, they are plotting a method to counteract our new tactics as we speak. I have no idea what those methods might be, it may even be to lay low giving us the false impression the war is almost over.

  15. ethan-p Says:

    We need cumulative budget histograms of the two military actions. It would be interesting to see both the fiscal and human costs side-by-side.

    …and no, I don’t care enough to do it myself.

  16. shcb Says:

    Ethan,

    Off the top of my head, we lost about 50,000 soldiers in Vietnam, the wounded rate was about 3 to 1 so 150,000 wounded, the percentage of GDP of defense spending (all spending) was about 11%. The kill ratio was about 10 to 1 so we can assume we killed about a half million North Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge killed upwards of a million after we left.

    In Iraq we have lost close to 4000, the wounded rate is about 7 to 1 so we have had around 28,000 wounded, best estimates I have seen is the kill ratio is about the same as Viet Nam, so the enemy has lost around 30,000 to 40,000 with civilian loss in Iraq somewhere in the 60,000 range, and of course 4000 civilians in America and abroad not counting civilians actually fighting or helping in the fight, like Haliburton employees. I think around 6 percent of our GDP is being spent on defense now, maybe 7%. To date the enemy has killed 0 because of our pullout.

  17. knarlyknight Says:

    ethan,
    Casualties are not counted the same way in Iraq as they were in Vietnam.

    Also, shcb does not consider the deaths due to exposure to agent orange in Vietnam and nor does the militart consider any illnesses from exposure to the dust from depleted (SIC!) uranium arsenals. Both are major killers and contributors to disease and birth defects.

    In terms of $ costs between the two wars, it is an apples to oranges comparison, because it is a different army now (e.g higher tech (i.e. increase use of drone reconssance mini-aircrafts) , and civilian support doing what army used to do so the contracts and accounting will be all different) so there are a lot of factors to adjust for before a valid comparison can be made. shcb’s attempts to use percentage of gdp is a nobel effort but I suspect it is still highly misleading unless you fully understand how the make-up of the GDP has shifted since the 1960′s (move from a manufacturing to more of an information and service industrial base, with changes in trade and investment ties between countries) and how the accounting basis for “military” expenditures have been shifted (I suspect mostly so that what used to be considered military related expenses are now found elsewhere (e.g. “Dept. homeland security” expenses, and Nat’l Guard(?)) in the federal budget so that they are not so readily categorized as military related.

    That said, I’d bet relative troop strength on the ground would be the best proxy for comparing the fiscal costs of the two wars.

    By the way, we all laugh at shcb’s belief in such low civilian deaths in Iraq. One might think shcb was smart were it not for his clinging to such ridiculous estimates.

  18. shcb Says:

    Knarly,

    I can only use the numbers I have, we live in the most open society in history, is it perfect, no, deal with it. So one war had something you think they should have counted, another war had something else, sounds like it kind of evens out. Civilian deaths in this war are very hard to determine. I have included a recent article in the Boston Globe, as liberal a paper as you can get and still be considered mainstream (a curse word to you, reputable to the rest of us). The graph on the right shows a pretty consistent loss of life for Iraqi civilians, and personnel meaning military, police etc at 1800 per month times 48 (4 years) you get 86000, so I say 60k civilians, I’m just taking an educated guess, but it ain’t 700,000. I put a couple graphs on my blog to show the comparison of the two wars.

    I can’t wait to here the answer to this. Why does it matter what the make up of the economy is for these GDP comparisons? Let me rephrase, why does it matter if we are producing giga bytes, corn or Buicks?

    The cost to the military is the same whether a private is sitting in the back of the mess hall pealing potatoes for a buck an hour or a private contractor is using a machine to peal a hundred pounds a minute. It is simply a matter of efficiency. The cost either way goes into the budget.

    http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/10/02/iraqi_deaths_fell_by_50_last_month/

    http://shcb.blogspot.com/

  19. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb,
    get a degree in economics, by about the third year you might start to understand how fast and loose you’ve been playing with the numbers. Why does the make up of the economy matter in doing the comparisons? It depends what comparisons you are doing. You were doing percentages so basically the GDP denominator that you were using to compare military costs (that also has a different accounting basis) was fundamentally a different animal in 1960 that it is now, there are many reasons for those differences and you can’t assume that the differences all wash out without understanding the major changes and how our perception of what GDP measures has shifted over the decades and whether that is in line with the actual changes in the economy.

  20. shcb Says:

    I didn’t think you would have an answer.

    I don’t have an economics degree, do you?

    The GDP numbers have all been adjusted to today’s dollars. I know that is too simple of a calculation for you big brain nuanced thinkers, you would rather muddy things so no decision can be made, but us linear thinkers like to keep things simple, it makes our black and white decisions easier. Then we can move on.

  21. knarlyknight Says:

    BA Economics University of Calgary, that is about my only educational claim to fame, was enough to launch me into some well paying oil industry jobs before I moved to the west coast for a more spiritually rewarding lifestyle.

  22. shcb Says:

    very good, you are more qualified on the subject than I

  23. knarlyknight Says:

    Some good data presentation here:
    http://icasualties.org/oif_a/CasualtyTrends.htm

  24. knarlyknight Says:

    Might need another data series soon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-eyuFBrWHs

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.