October 22, 2005 in Nation/World

Iraq death toll nearing 2,000

Drew Brown Knight Ridder

at a glance

U.S. casualties

» Nearly 2,000 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq since the war began two and a half years ago. Who are these Americans who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice? According to statistics drawn from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that compiles data on U.S. and allied casualties:

» “Combat had claimed the lives of 1,555 Americans as of Friday. Accidents, illnesses and other non-combat causes have killed 438. Only 139 of all the deaths occurred before President Bush’s May 1, 2003, declaration that the combat phase of the war was over.

» “Nearly 49 percent were soldiers; nearly 25 percent were Marines; more than 15 percent were members of the Army National Guard.

» “More than 97 percent were male; 46 women, or 2.33 percent, have been killed.

» “More than 73 percent were white; 11 percent were Latino; 10.7 percent were African-American.

» “At least 80 percent held the rank of staff sergeant or below. The biggest percentage of those, 28 percent, were either specialists or corporals. At least six lieutenant colonels have been killed by hostile fire.

» “Because of the heavy presence of National Guard troops in Iraq, the dead tended to be older. Only 18 percent were ages 18 to 20. Nearly 60 percent were ages 21 to 30, with 17.3 percent ages 31 to 40. Nearly 5 percent were ages 41 to 50, and at least six were older than 50.

» “Roadside bombs, which the military calls “improvised explosive devices,” account for nearly 28 percent of the deaths, more than any other cause. Firefights account for another 24 percent.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. military announced Friday the deaths of four Marines and one soldier, bringing the number of American servicemen and women who’ve died in Iraq since the war began two and a half years ago to 1,993.

Three of the Marines were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad and the fourth died Wednesday in a car-bomb attack in Karbala. The soldier died of wounds sustained during a mortar attack Thursday on a base in Hit, northwest of the Iraqi capital.

With deaths coming at an average of more than two per day, it appears likely that the number of dead will reach 2,000 in a matter of days.

There’s nothing inherently special about that number, but it provides a marker of sorts for the American effort to transform Iraq from dictatorship to democracy, and it’s a sobering reminder of the human cost of the U.S. presence in that country, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has suggested could last another 10 years.

The number of troops wounded in Iraq stands at 15,220, according to the Pentagon. Of those, 7,159 were so seriously hurt that they haven’t returned to duty.

As the Bush administration vows to stay the course in Iraq, a poll earlier this month by the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of American adults now think that invading Iraq was the wrong decision and 48 percent think that the United States should bring the troops home as soon as possible.

U.S. casualty rates in Iraq have averaged 2.2 killed per day over the course of the war, according to a study released Friday by Anthony Cordesman, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a national-security research center.

But according to Cordesman, the news media focusing solely on the rising death toll without including the wounded “grossly understates the sacrifice and cost of war in an era of advanced medical services and weapons” and often disguises the intensity of combat that American soldiers face.

“Frankly, anybody who watches the pattern of combat and looks at the suffering it inflicts has got to look at the wounded figures and realize they are far more serious in terms of the numbers affected than the numbers killed,” he said.

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