Sunday, September 19, 2010

...and counting...

(Occasional sobering thoughts.) Perhaps the most poignant story to appear since our last post on casualties came out of Baghdad, where, active hostilities having subsided, survivors of the Iraq War are going through the painful process of finding lost loved ones -- identifying them via morgue photos made years ago.
After telling of one sad moment of recognition, New York Times writer Anthony Shadid continued:
On the charts that the American military provides, those numbers are seen as success, from nearly 4,000 dead in one month in 2006 to the few hundred today. The Interior Ministry offers its own toll of war — 72,124 since 2003, a number too precise to be true.
Shadid added that "even sober estimates suggest ... 100,000 or more" dead -- an estimate consistent with our own count below.
For the family chronicled in Shadid's story, identification enabled a visit to pay respects at a grave bearing a number but no name. It is an ending-of-conflict journey that many family members have yet to make:
At the morgue, more than 20,000 of the dead ... are still unidentified.
Matters are rather different in Afghanistan.
In that country, the United States and other NATO forces continue in a combat role, and U.S.-led drone attacks along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have surged.
This weekend, Afghans went to the polls to elect members of the national parliament. Balloting was marred by incidents of violence, the absence of voters, and allegations of electoral fraud:
At least 10 people were killed, scores of polling stations were attacked and hundreds of them apparently never opened.
Even where there was no shooting, turnout appeared to be unusually light. Many polling centers were largely empty for most of the day, in sharp contrast with presidential elections a year ago, where voters waited in long lines to vote. And where there was voting, there were numerous reports of fraud, from vote-buying to ballot-stuffing.
Afghan governmental officials endeavored to spin this news in a positive direction by noting that "in most places" there was no "major incident."
With these developments in mind, here's our count since our last such post 5 weeks ago:
► The U.S. Department of Defense reports that coalition military casualties in Afghanistan stand at 1,280 Americans, 335 Britons, and 463 other coalition servicemembers. That's an increase of 54, 4, and 29 casualties, respectively, in the last 5 weeks. The total coalition casualty count in the Afghanistan conflict is 2,078 service women and men.
► Respecting the conflict in Iraq, Iraq Body Count reports that between 97,994 and 106,954 Iraqi women, children, and men have died in the conflict in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. That represents an increase of at the low end, a decrease of 17 at the high end reported on that website 5 weeks ago. That latter discrepancy underscores a point in the Shadid article quoted above: Iraq civilian-casualty numbers inevitably are imprecise. Still, the consistency between the Iraq Body Count numbers and the estimates of others serves to convey the magnitude of the loss.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, 4,421 American servicemembers have been killed in Iraq, representing 7 servicemember deaths in the last 5 weeks. (As posted, U.S. troops are the only foreign forces remaining in Iraq.)

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