1,000 And Counting

Mark Kraft cites data from the Iraqi Casualty Count website that a combined 1000 American soldiers have died to date in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As I’ve noted before, it’s small number by historical standards. And it’s fewer than a third of the 3,047 we lost on 9/11. Still, it’s a sad milestone. What have those lives purchased? The toppling of two regimes hostile to the U.S., for starters. The deaths of thousands of our jihadist enemies, including dozens–if not scores–of their leaders.

Most of the deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan have come after the regimes were felled. The extent to which the American lives lost during that period were too dear remains to be seen. If a Taliban-like regime reemerges in Afghanistan, then the nation building efforts there are wasted. While it’s inconceivable that the follow-on government in Iraq will be more dangerous than Saddam’s, there’s no guarantee yet that it’ll be one to our liking. Certainly, a democratic, pro-Western government in Baghdad that serves as a catalyst for the spread of same in the Arab world would be worth a few hundred lives. (It would save several times that in future deaths from jihadists.) We’ll almost surely fall short of that lofty ambition. It’ll take some time to see how far and to guage whether the nation-building effort was worthwhile.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. denise says:

    It’s also important to remember that many of those 1000 lives could have been spared if the US had not been so careful about sparing the lives of Iraqi and Afghan civilians.

    In counting the benefits gained from the 1000 lost, we should not ignore the 10s of 1000s of civilians who are still alive because of our methods of warfare.

  2. vdibart says:

    denise overlooks the estimate 10,000 Iraqi civilians that have died *because* of U.S. bombing (more than 3 times the 9/11 civilian death toll in the U.S.). I’m sure they and their families ecstatic about our ‘methods of warfare’.

  3. vdibart says:

    sorry, the link in my post was supposed to point to http://www.iraqbodycount.net

  4. All the more reason to discount your comments on the matter…

  5. vdibart says:

    Yea, you’re right. Because I don’t know that this site will tack on it’s own URL to whatever HTML I write my comments are automatically discounted. I can see you’re a real free thinker.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Test URL Link

  7. Jim says:

    Vidbart is upset about the civilean deaths in Iraq as approx ~10,000. I am sure he would be one of the first to quote Chomsky’s deathcount of 2+ Million in Vietnam. Even he would half to admit that our current methods are far better….someday we may be able to prevent civilean deaths but we are trying the best we can while keeping with our security interests.

  8. Also don’t forget the over 5,000 injured in iraq, many of whom would have died if this war were fought in 1970 or even 1991, thanks to modern body armor and vehicle armor.

  9. Attila Girl says:

    How many Iraqis would have died during the same time period if Saddam had stayed in power?

  10. vdibart says:

    “Keep up with our security interests?” In the world I was raised in, violence begets violence. Is it ok if 5,000 innocents are injured instead of 10,000? It’s still 5,000 people!

    The “war on terror” (that is apparently only important enough to fight in Iraq) does not invalidate the value of an innocent human life. We saw 3,000 innocent human lives extinguihsed on 9/11 and after feeling that rage I wouldn’t want to think what people in another country feel about ours when 10,000 or so of their innocent humans die.

    How many people are dying in Sudan, Cuba, Palestine/Israel, North Korea? Are those lives less valuable than Iraqi lives? Why haven’t we taken action there?

    These are serious issues that all Americans should be thinking about and discussing. It’s not a partisan thing, it’s a human thing.

  11. James Joyner says:


    The situations aren’t really comparable. What’s happening in Sudan, Cuba, etc. isn’t a matter of US national security.

    I haven’t seen any credible figures that US military action has killed 10,000 Iraqis. (I’m not willing to count people killed by people on the other side.) Regardless, we’re not intentionally targetting innocents and, indeed, have taken extraordinary measures to avoid hitting them.

  12. vdibart says:

    Admittedly, Sudan and Cuba aren’t US national security, but North Korea and Palestine/Isreal certainly are. So those situations are completely comparable.

    And depending on who you ask, neither was Iraq a matter of national security, but I’m sure that’s a point I will get little agreement on in these parts 🙂

    I’m willing to believe the 10K number is an exaggeration, but even if it’s off by 1/2 that’s still 5K people. Anywhere else in the world this would be considered a humanitarian crisis. No, I don’t think we’re intentionally targeting civilians. What I react against is the mentality that because it happens “over there” to “those people” because of “national interests”, it’s excusable, unavoidable, and not as bad as it could be.

    We should expect more from ourselves as a free people hoping to improve the world.