Monday, September 08, 2003

A morbid entry that is generally unrelated to anything else, but that I found interesting.

Cryptome have published a calendar of US Military Dead during Iraqi War, which includes those in Afghanistan. Whether or not the numbers are shocking, repulsive or nowt is a different question. What amazes me is the number of soldiers that have died in non-combat. And yes, I'm aware that the "war" ws officially declared over quite some time ago. But here's what I mean.

For the month of August, there was a total of 37 US militia deaths. Of these, 18 are claimed as deliberate, hostile deaths. This leaves 19 that do not fit directly into this category (see below), although a small number of these could be either deliberate or accidental.

By deliberate, I mean that they were killed by a meaningful attempt to cause damage to an enemy. These are mostly the result of a collision between a vehicle and an "improvised explosive device," but there is also one account of a rocket-propelled grenade, one of the inspection of a suspicious package, and one of sustained combat injuries.

Of the remaining 19, there are a few potentially counter-militia instances - car crashes for instance, and I am not completely sure what is meant by "non-hostile injury". Some of them are just a bit odd - Pfe. Michael S Adams "was participating in a small arms fire exercise on the range when a bullet ricocheted and ignited a fire in the building." A number of men apparently died in their sleep. There are a couple of accounts of people being thrown from, or caught in vehicles that were swerving or invovled in a chase. And one man jumped into a river and never resurfaced. All incidents are under investigation.

I am sure that this ratio of non-hostile to hostile deaths must be increasing with each month - I intend to look through the months preceding August to find out.. But it would make sense. It does, however, worry me that somewhere around half of the fatalities appear to be either an avoidable "accident", or simply a result of being out there. I suspect there are sums and calculations that work out the number of non-hostile fatalities to be expected from endurance and accident, and it's fair to say that in any large number of people involved in dangerous activities, in an enduring location, there will be a percentage of casualties. But it certainly makes me wonder just what is "necessary" and what isn't.

Should we worry less about what the enemy will do, and more about the simple facts of being in the army? Do families know that there is an "acceptable" risk involved?

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