Count the dead

This is the spot in which you’d normally see SN&R’s monthly Iraq War Timeline, featuring the numbers on U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians estimated to have died this month in that war.

For the last couple of years, I’ve compiled the figures. I used U.S. Department of Defense records to determine the number of U.S. service members reported dead in Iraq, and I used Iraq Body Count’s Web site to compile the deaths of Iraqi civilians. IBC, so named because, at the start of the war, a U.S. military officer refused to place a number on dead civilians, saying, “We don’t do body counts.” But IBC does, using news reports and information obtained from Iraqi hospitals and morgues, poring over the numbers to eliminate instances of deaths being counted twice. They have a high number and a low number, and I’ve always used the lower of the two. That’s called erring on the side of conservatism.

But we’re at war in another nation as well. It’s been going longer, and it’s heating up now; as the United States stands down in Iraq, we surge in Afghanistan. In fact, deaths among U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been climbing steadily, with more U.S. troops dead in August than in any month since the war began.

You’d think we’d just add a couple of columns for casualties in Afghanistan; U.S. soldiers and civilians. But no one’s yet counting the Afghan civilian casualties as far as I’ve been able to tell; at least, not in the reasonable and accurate fashion that IBC has used for Iraqi civilians. There are a number of estimates out there but no way to verify the numbers.

So there’s no Iraq War Timeline this month. And no Afghanistan war timeline, either—not until I can find a trustworthy source for data on the number of civilians dead.

But just for the record: As of press time, the Department of Defense reports that nine U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in September, and 68 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan.