U.S. Toll in Iraq Crosses 1,000

U.S. Toll in Iraq Crosses 1,000 Milestone (WaPo)

The number of soldiers and Pentagon civilians who have died in Iraq topped the 1,000 mark yesterday, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared that the insurgency is likely to turn even more violent in coming months as the fledgling nation heads toward democratic elections. By last night, military officials said, the death tally included 998 troops and three civilian employees of the Defense Department. The milestone came after a spate of deadly attacks over the past week by insurgents. At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said suicide bombings and coordinated attacks were claiming more lives and displaying the insurgency’s ability to frustrate the coalition with increasingly sophisticated tactics.

While offering that sober assessment, Rumsfeld was resolute when asked about reaching the 1,000-casualty mark, emphasizing the need to continue the fight against terrorism despite the sacrifices. “When combined with U.S. losses in other theaters in the global war on terror, we have lost well more than a thousand already,” Rumsfeld said. “And we certainly honor the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in uniform who has served in Iraq and who is currently serving there.”

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According to the Pentagon’s official tally, the 1,001 military and civilian casualties included 755 who were killed in action and 246 who died in such “non-hostile” situations as accidents and suicides. The number of wounded has totaled 6,916, including 3,076 who returned to duty.

Obviously, the number “1,000” will garner some attention simply because of our fascination with round numbers. As I noted in May, when the toll hit 800, the number isn’t high by any historical standard:


Source: History News Network

James Dunnigan, too, offers some historical perspective:

In Iraq, American combat losses continue at a historically low level. Since March, 2003, American troops have suffered 7,900 casualties (including 976 dead.) This is an unprecedented killed to wounded ratio of 1:7. In past wars, the ration had been 1:4 or 1:5. American combat deaths over the Summer were 42 in June, 54 in July and 66 in August. There are the equivalent of three American combat divisions in Iraq, each running several hundred patrols and other combat operations each day. Never have combat divisions, operating in hostile territory, kept their casualties this low.

Still, it’s a lot of deaths if the cause is deemed unworthy or the goals unreachable. So far, a majority of Americans seem to think that the war has been worth fighting. It remains to be seen how long that will hold.

I would also note that the inclusion of suicides in the casualty figures seems odd to me, both from a methodological standpoint (it’s not a measure of the direct toll of the war) and from a military one (people who kill themselves aren’t on the same moral plane as those who die serving).

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.