January 08, 2004

A Full Division's Worth of Casualties

David Hackworth says that we have taken a full division's worth of casualties in Iraq so far:

: ...Even I -- and I deal with that beleaguered land seven days a week -- was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me a copy of a Nov. 30 dispatch showing that since George W. Bush unleashed the dogs of war, our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq -- about the number of warriors in a line tank division.

We have the equivalent of five combat divisions plus support for a total of about 135,000 troops deployed in the Iraqi theater of operations, which means we've lost the equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total number of Joes and Jills available to the theater commander to fight or support the occupation effort have been evacuated back to the USA!

Lt. Col. Scott D. Ross of the U.S. military's Transportation Command told me that as of Dec. 23, his outfit had evacuated 3,255 battle-injured casualties and 18,717 non-battle injuries. Of the battle casualties, 473 died and 3,255 were wounded by hostile fire. Following are the major categories of the non-battle evacuations:

  • Orthopedic surgery -- 3,907
  • General surgery -- 1,995
  • Internal medicine -- 1,291
  • Psychiatric -- 1,167
  • Neurology -- 1,002
  • Gynecological -- 491

Sources say that most of the gynecological evacuations are pregnancy-related, although the exact figure can't be confirmed -- Pentagon pregnancy counts are kept closer to the vest than the number of nuke warheads in the U.S. arsenal. Ross cautioned that his total of 21,972 evacuees could be higher than other reports because "in some cases, the same service member may be counted more than once."

The Pentagon has never won prizes for the accuracy of its reporting, but I think it's safe to say that so far somewhere between 14,000 and 22,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been medically evacuated from Iraq to the USA...

The scary thing is the 18,000 "non-battle injuries" evacuated out of the theater of operations in seven months. 18000/135000 * 12/7 = .228, which means that in a year 23% of this bunch of guys and gals in their twenties and thirties are having non-war related medical misadventures serious enough to require treatment back in Germany or the USA. That's an unbelievably large accident/disease rate, and makes me very worried about what might really be going on.

The cream of the U.S. army are not military police. They should not be used as military police. Those in the Pentagon and the White House whose policies have turned them into military police should be... they should be sent to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as undercover agents in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Posted by DeLong at January 8, 2004 12:17 PM | TrackBack

Comments

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36375

- Source of article -

Posted by: lise on January 8, 2004 12:49 PM

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Fatalities

American soldiers 357
British soldiers 23
Coalition soldiers 40
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420 Since May 2

American 496
British 56
Coalition 40
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592 Since March 20

Note: American forces have fallen to 130,000
British forces have risen to 12,000
Coalition forces have risen to 12,000

Posted by: lise on January 8, 2004 12:58 PM

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This information is going to get attacked mercilessly. FIRST - clearly define casualty so we can avoid idiotic arguments about what "is" is, etc. SECOND - someone needs to say what the normal peacetime casualty rate is so that only the mission related increase is up for debate.

Posted by: Michael Carroll on January 8, 2004 01:18 PM

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Interestingly I was listening last night on NPR to a report on casualties in Iraq. A Republican Senator (Hegel, I believe), remarked that he asked for these figures sometime ago from the SecDef's office and was told they were not available yet.

Posted by: Brad Smith on January 8, 2004 01:45 PM

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If we are to use radical new ways of interpreting casualty rates, then how about this: only about 500 civilians have died in Iraq, due to the war. That is the figure cited by Saddam's own government, right before the fall.

Anti-war activists regularly put the figure in the thousands. However, when counting supposedly dead civilians, they routinely ignore the sex of the supposed civilian victim. Why? Because if they truly were accidental civilian victims, 50% of them should be female. In other words, anti-war activists inflate the figures and distort the truth by counting dead male COMBATANTS as well.

Posted by: Finnpundit on January 8, 2004 02:40 PM

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If we are to use radical new ways of interpreting casualty rates, then how about this: only about 500 civilians have died in Iraq, due to the war. That is the figure cited by Saddam's own government, right before the fall.

Anti-war activists regularly put the figure in the thousands. However, when counting supposedly dead civilians, they routinely ignore the sex of the supposed civilian victim. Why? Because if they truly were accidental civilian victims, 50% of them should be female. In other words, anti-war activists inflate the figures and distort the truth by counting dead male COMBATANTS as well.

Posted by: Finnpundit on January 8, 2004 02:43 PM

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Since the occuping authority refuses to count civilian casualties, it's not worth debating your point, finnpundit.

Brad,
The guardian reported 6000 casualties in mid-september,
In November, the Orlando Sentinel reported slightly less than 10,000 casualties for up to the end of october.
And now Hacksworth's estimate...

If Sen Hegel can't get these numbers from the Pentagon, then it's time for a Senate Inquisition.

Posted by: Patrick (G) on January 8, 2004 03:04 PM

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Michael, that might be interesting, but I read Colonel Hackworth's point to be that we have somehow managed to put an entire division out of service, which seems like a real problem to me.

Posted by: Masaccio on January 8, 2004 03:23 PM

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Half a division--remember the size of the American logistical tail.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 8, 2004 03:40 PM

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I'm surprised that Finnpundit is the only conservative to take shot at this so far. Still I think that to make a bullteproof comparison you need to look at the effect of the policy itself. And if you count everyone who gets hurt (or pregnant) then you are basically saying that normal peacetime military life is without risks and that is not true.

I am not saying the 'loss' of a division is small stuff, but this should probably be thought of as an issue of mission readiness as opposed to loss. Perhaps if these folks were at home stabbing themselves with their forks and twisting their ankles in ditches a lot of cases would be dealt with on-base and some would not even be deactivated.

My point is -- If this casualty rate DOES mean a division worth of soldiers is out of action for a while(until the Fall say) it is a very big deal because the expiration of stop-loss combined with low-reenlistment will be backing in on the supply-side so to speak.

Posted by: Michael Carroll on January 8, 2004 04:53 PM

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You don't get medevac'd for a fork-stab or a twisted ankle. Peacetime hospitalization rates -- and that's what this is, effectively, folks who have to be sent to a hospital somewhere else -- aren't one in five per annum, either.

The thing missing is the RTU numbers -- returned to unit -- and the severity ratios.

Traditional rule of thumb is one dead, four wounded; it looks like, applying onangeristic approximation techniques to the crappy numbers being made available, that the combination of partially deployed modern armor and good prompt medical care has that down to about one dead, eight wounded.

If the reports of about fifteen hundred seriously maimed servicepeople being warehoused stateside are correct, you would expect not less than four times that in less serious but still serious enough for medevac injuries and illness -- broken bones, simple bullet and fragment wounds, substantial burns, concusions, and so on.

So 1,500 + 1,500 x 4 gets us, SWAGing merrily away, into the realm of 7,500 casualties who aren't going to be RTU'd quickly or at all. If those are just operational and not incidental casualites -- if the people getting the twitching awfuls, fundamentally freaking out, and being overcome by fumes aren't making it into the figures at all -- then Hackworth's numbers don't seem at all unreasonable.

So it's quite possible the real casuality rate is that high, and the rate of deaths is extremely low by historical standards due to that combination of good prompt medical care and armor.

Which does explain the exclusive media focus on deaths; the death rate makes things sound much better than they actually are.

Posted by: Graydon on January 8, 2004 05:12 PM

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And they're still keeping the media away from the coffins and out of the hospitals! Does this not dishonor their sacrifice?

Posted by: Lee A. on January 8, 2004 06:38 PM

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Soviet statistics in Afghanistan was 1% dead / year. They probably lied though.

Posted by: Leopold on January 8, 2004 09:27 PM

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I probably shouldn't feed the troll, but...

Finnpundit writes:

"Anti-war activists regularly put the figure in the thousands. However, when counting supposedly dead civilians, they routinely ignore the sex of the supposed civilian victim. Why? Because if they truly were accidental civilian victims, 50% of them should be female. In other words, anti-war activists inflate the figures and distort the truth by counting dead male COMBATANTS as well."

It seems to me that civilian casualties would also be disproportionately male because soldiers are more likely to mistakenly confuse civilian males for enemy combatants.

Posted by: Sean on January 8, 2004 10:26 PM

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I probably shouldn't feed the troll, but...

Finnpundit writes:

"Anti-war activists regularly put the figure in the thousands. However, when counting supposedly dead civilians, they routinely ignore the sex of the supposed civilian victim. Why? Because if they truly were accidental civilian victims, 50% of them should be female. In other words, anti-war activists inflate the figures and distort the truth by counting dead male COMBATANTS as well."

It seems to me that civilian casualties would also be disproportionately male because soldiers are more likely to mistakenly confuse civilian males for enemy combatants.

Posted by: Sean on January 8, 2004 10:26 PM

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I agree w/ Graydon. Trauma care is a truly amazing thing these days. Many soldiers who would have surely died in Vietnam are kept alive today, causing a statistically higher casualty to death ratio.

Another point regarding civilian casualties. I find it hard to believe that some US department is not tracking or estimating these numbers. They should if they want to do their job right. How else can you determine the full effects of operations? Military analysts use statistics to make descisions or to show impacts of proposed, current, or historical strategies. If they are not keeping these records, why not?

Posted by: heeter on January 8, 2004 10:46 PM

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Where's the link to Hackworth? Not or not yet on his regular site http://www.hackworth.com/

Posted by: James on January 9, 2004 01:19 AM

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Oops, sorry, Lise already gave it.

Posted by: James on January 9, 2004 01:25 AM

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Graydon
Thanks for your post which seems to suggest that you have more than just a passing connection to these stats.
I am not so well informed. The taxonomy defeats me right away. Is it important for us to know how many 'Orthopedic cases' there are? Should those soldiers with arm injuries feel short-changed being lumped in with the 'General Surgeries'? Or is it true that the enemy is aiming for the feet? Don't tell me it's some kind of reading on the number that really want to come home. I need to hear something different.

Posted by: calmo on January 9, 2004 07:48 AM

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To me the story here is the degree of information control the administration has, and the abject degree to which the key media have played Bush's game. Stuff slips out here and there, often enough in seond- or third-rank papers, or on the back pages of the major media, but the actual casualty count (unable to continue serving) is not publicized.

I really expect this to continue indefinitely, which means that Bush's opponent will have to rely mostly on word-of-mouth, the Democratic party organization, and the internet. Unfortunately, for years now the Dems have concentrated their energy on media buys to the disadvantage of organizatiob on the ground.

Too many of the media write slant-first story-later, and almost none of these are Democrats or liberals. There are a lot of snarky independents in the middle who are bipartisan enough to escape the charge of being utter tools and hacks, but they, too, are writing worse stuff than they're capable of.

Sorry, but I think that there's no innocent explanation for this.

Posted by: Zizka on January 9, 2004 09:09 AM

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I want to thank you Graydon, for a very thoughtful and informative rejoinder. I consider myself corrected and am all the happier for it.

As a result think this is a big story. Perhaps not the rates themselves but like Zizka says the difficulty getting the facts. I realize we are at war and the pragmatist in me is willing to concede something to sustaining national will, but how long can we suspend democracy while we fight a ten years war.

Posted by: Michael Carroll on January 9, 2004 11:22 AM

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Graydon: thanks for the post, which helps focus the discussion so well. I wonder if you can guess whether Professor DeLong is right, that about half the lost personnel were combat troops and half part of the logistic train, and whether that is a significant factor in the context of this discussion.

Posted by: Masaccio on January 9, 2004 01:03 PM

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Zizka has a good point: this pattern of reporting has been in effect since the NYC attacks, IMO. And was so egregious during the pre-war phase that I was nearly driven batty. What's so odd is that the truth is really right there in front of us. It's said, just not much, not prominently and in the right places. How else did I know that there were no WMD's, that Iraq was basically complying, etc., etc.

I was keeping a list, during the war, of one enormous lie a day, that was basically just passed along from the military through the media to our gullible heads. It was easy to spot. I'd say, "this story about a weapons plant (or whatever) will turn out to be nothing in a few day"...and it always would.

My friends all say there is government control of the media, but I can't cede that just yet. I think it's just capitalism, the media has competitive pressures, it's gotta get the ad revenue. Fox news is #1 in the country. A slightly critical, or more objective, or more nuanced style, or reporting based on investigation isn't gonna fly off the shelves like fear, explosions, patriotism, jeering at the French, etc.

No one wants to hear that America is not necessarily the good guy, that not everything is justified by a war against "terra"...Is a major media corporation, dependent on ignorant consumers, really going to question America's right to go to war against ANY muslim country after the NYC attacks?

Instead, we have "effective" government control of the media. Since the incentives of the government (dems and repubs) and the media align here, there's no effective difference between what the govt. wants to tell us, and what the media reports. They don't need to control the media.

Posted by: andrew on January 9, 2004 10:50 PM

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For detailed information about Coalition casualties and deaths:
http://lunaville.org/warcasualties/Summary.aspx

This is the most current and accurate information I have found.

Posted by: Larry on January 10, 2004 01:28 PM

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Calmo -

A big proportion of what hurts you is what you step on; improvised explosive devices, sharp things, feet caught in rubble, twisted ankles from moving fast on bad surfaces, bad knees from running in full combat loadouts; a disproportionate number of foot injuries is only expected.

These don't look like people trying to get out of theatre injuries, at least not in any way which leaps out at me. (400 pregnancies in at least 10,000 female service people is way down in the weeds, statistically; contraception failure can explain all of that.)

Keep in mind that people in a combat zone for any length of time are always tired; if you're tired, you make more mistakes. You're making mistakes when dealing with heavy machinery, large loads, and while you're functioning in a state of haste. You're also doing it in an unfamiliar environment where many hazards aren't going to be a matter of ingrained habit. Of course people get hurt.

There isn't anything in that list of injuries that looks like anything other than overloaded troops not getting enough down time, and making more mistakes, and getting hurt more, in consequence.

This is a direct result of not deploying enough troops to do the job assigned; not only do you take more casualties from the people shooting at you (whom you lack the forces to suppress), you take more casualties from trying to do the job in an overworked, overloaded, exhausted state.

Posted by: Graydon on January 10, 2004 09:54 PM

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