March 30, 2003

Coalition Casualty Watch Regular readers

Coalition Casualty Watch

Regular readers may recall an earlier post where I had expressed some surprise at the amazingly low casualties during the hostilities in Najaf--with reports of 1,000 Iraqis dead compared to a single U.S. soldier in fighting described by U.S. GIs as "Apocalypse Now" in intensity. Rusmfeld was asked a related question at last Friday's Pentagon briefing:

Q: And I had one follow-up, sir. The casualty figures currently officially released by the U.S. military show 28 dead and 40 wounded. Now the proportion of wounded and dead would be -- would seem to be historically way out of skew, because the number of wounded is usually far more than the number killed in action. Is there -- can you explain why that would be, or -- and is there any effort to either unreport or underreport casualties from the battlefield?

Rumsfeld: "Oh, my goodness! Now, you know that wouldn't be the case. There's no -- no one in this government, here or on the ground, is going to underreport what's happening. That's just terrible to think that. Even to suggest it is outrageous. Most certainly not! The facts are reported. (Pounds fist.) When people are killed, they're killed and we face it. When people are wounded, we say so. When people are missing and we know they're missing, we say so. And when we're wrong and they wander back into camp, as several have recently, having been lost or with other units, we say so. Absolutely not!"

Myers: "The only thing I would add to that is that there can be reporting lags. And with embedded media, you know, you can hear reports, but before the families are notified of either wounded or killed in action or missing, we don't release the figures. So, there could be some lag time. But we never -- we're never going to hide those numbers."

Rumsfeld's argument appeared a bit 'he doth protest too much' in nature, but I have to assume he is being completely honest. In addition, I take Myer's point regarding "reporting lags."

But the suspicions regarding casualty totals are, nevertheless, continuing to percolate, most recently, courtesy of the Week in Review section of the NYT:

"Snippets of news from Nasiriya give us a picture of chaotic guerrilla warfare, replete with hit-and-run ambushes, dead civilians, friendly fire casualties from firefights begun in the dead of night and a puzzling number of marines who are still unaccounted for."

I trust this administration to give the American public the unvarnished truth when it comes to casualty totals. What concerns me, however, is that firefights may have been more intense than we perhaps realize at this stage. And that, in the chaotic aftermath of myriad engagements, we are not yet fully aware of the human toll to date.

Posted by Gregory at March 30, 2003 09:38 PM
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