90,000 Casualties, but Who’s Counting?Submitted by RonPaulLIVES on Tue, 11/10/2009 - 14:25
"Veterans Day arrives tomorrow, and with it, the anticipated harvest of heartbreaking anecdotes driving the press coverage and our ever wandering attention back to less desirable realities: the disfigured but persevering hero, the homeless warrior, the unemployable sergeant, the father or son or daughter who came home a stranger and cannot be reached.
Usually, there is nothing more powerful than a personal story to pound home the cost of eight years of war overseas, but I think today there is something even more disturbing to bear.
It’s the number 90,591 [.pdf].
As of Oct. 15, that’s how many American casualties there were in Iraq and Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, when the Afghan war officially began. That includes a tire-screeching 74,782 dead, wounded-in-action, and medically evacuated due to illness, disease, or injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and 15,809 and counting in Afghanistan, or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
That it may sound incredible – even unreal – is understandable. Early attempts to effectively count casualties (outside of battlefield fatalities) had been in earnest, then erratic, but finally dead-ended, frustrated by the Department of Defense, which has always been loath to break down and publicize the data on a regular basis.
One stalwart has always been Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to advancing the health and readjustment of returning soldiers and veterans. They’ve been diligently aggregating the statistics over time, and thanks to their diligent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, they can provide casualty reports at a level of detail not currently seen on the DOD’s publicly accessible Web site, DefenseLink.mil.
If we could access the data more easily, more people would know that 196 servicemembers took their own lives while serving in Iraq between March 2003 and Oct. 3, 2009, and there were 34 such suicides in Afghanistan. (These figures, of course, do not include the skyrocketing cases of suicides among all active-duty soldiers and veterans and cases of self-inflicted injury outside both war zones.)
More people would also know that 48,552 servicemembers had to be medically evacuated from the battlefield due to hostile and non-hostile injury, disease, and other medical issues since the beginning of the Iraq War [.pdf]. As of early October, 10,748 were evacuated for the same reasons from the war zone in Afghanistan [.pdf].
What the DOD does say, is that as of Nov. 4, there were 13,880 servicemembers wounded in action in Iraq who had not returned to duty, while 2,619 had left Afghanistan under the same conditions [.pdf]. That number is climbing faster. According to the Washington Post on Oct. 31, more than 1,000 were wounded in Afghanistan in the last three months, accounting for one-third of the total American casualties in OEF overall.
Thus, the troops are coming home, but in drastically varied degrees of wholeness. In Vietnam, there was one soldier killed for every 2.6 wounded. The vast majority of soldiers are surviving their injuries today (approximately one killed in action for every 11.5 wounded in action, according to current stats for Afghanistan and Iraq), thanks to advanced body armor, better medevac transport, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. But in tens of thousands of cases, their journey has just begun."
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