Iraq

Fewer American Dead Points To Possible "True Trend," Says Top General

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From the AP via Cincy Enquirer:

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top day-to-day U.S. commander in Iraq, also expressed cautious optimism over a decline in the number of American troops killed this month. At least 60 U.S. troops have died so far in July after the death toll topped 100 for the previous three months, according to an Associated Press tally based on military statements.

Odierno said it appeared that casualties had increased as fresh U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds as part of the five-month-old security operation aimed at clamping off violence in the capital, but were going down as the Americans gained control of the areas.

"We've started to see a slow but gradual reduction in casualties and it continues in July," he said at a joint news conference with Iraqi military commander Maj. Gen. Abboud Qanbar. "It's an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it's a true trend."

More here. How much more time is necessary to know if the trend line really is going down, Odierno doesn't say, but he notes "noted a 'significant improvement' in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone."

Here's cause for pause regarding any optimism (besides the fact that July isn't over yet): In 2005 and 2006, U.S. military casualties dipped significantly during the month of July before ramping up again:

Military Fatalities: By Month
PeriodUSUKOther*TotalAvgDays
7-20076171692.6526
6-2007101701083.630
5-2007126321314.2331
4-20071041211173.930
3-20078110822.6531
2-20078131853.0428
1-20078330862.7731
12-2006112121153.7131
11-20067062782.630
10-2006106221103.5531
9-20067232772.5730
8-20066510662.1331
7-20064312461.4831
6-20066102632.130
5-20066991792.5531
4-20067615822.7330
3-20063102331.0631
2-20065530582.0728
1-20066220642.0631
12-20056800682.1931
11-20058411862.8730
10-20059621993.1931
9-20054930521.7330
8-20058500852.7431
7-20055431581.8731
6-20057814832.7730
5-20058026882.8431

More on that here.

 

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  1. The mere fact that he is trying to claim a one month reduction at all is telling. That isn’t even a whole data point.

  2. So, we’re back to our “average” amount of dead as when this whole thing started. People forget that the recent triple digit body count wasn’t the norm. He makes it sound as if things are getting better…but they’re just returning to the way they were.

  3. I guess I should read the comments before I post. Team America up there pretty much beat me to it…

  4. Did it occur to Gen. Odierno that temperatures in the region top out at 120 degrees in July and August?

    You think maybe the terrorists are too fucking hot to have the energy to attack?

    I am now experiencing my first summer in Miami, and I feel like doing very little once I get home from work. The heat really drains one’s energy.

  5. So, we’re back to our “average” amount of dead as when this whole thing started. People forget that the recent triple digit body count wasn’t the norm. He makes it sound as if things are getting better…but they’re just returning to the way they were.

    This kinda reminds me of the Democrat’s slogan of “rolling back tax cuts” rather than saying they’re raising tax rates. No a direct correlation, but kinda strikes me similar…

  6. If we thought about it, I’m pretty sure we could come up with a plan to reduce that number to 0 and save $2 billion a week on top of it.

  7. This sucks. How can I possibly make a point with less death?

  8. You can’t read anything in casualty trends. Look at it this way, in January of 1945, the US was taking more casualties than at any point in the war, but the war was essentially won. In April of 1945, the Russian took nearly a million casualties taking Berlin. In 1942, the US wasn’t taking that many casualties at all and was loosing the war. When you go after the enemy, you are going to take casualties. The fact that the casualties go up does not necessarily mean you are loosing. At the same time, since the object of war is to kill the enemy, taking casualties is the only way you lose a war.

    In an environment like Iraq, the casualty numbers only mean something if they are lined up with the number of troops there and the nature of the operations going on. The US increased the number of operations and the number of troops the last few months, so casualties went up. If they are still running the same number of operations this month and taking fewer casualties, then maybe it is a good sign. If the number of operations is down, then the number doesn’t mean anything.

  9. Taktix?,

    That’s why Miami has such a great night life; people stay in during the days to avoid the heat and come out at night when the temps cool down a bit.

    I was going to drive down there this last weekend, but other issues came up.

  10. The headline is misleading. Top General says we don’t know if this is as true trend yet.

  11. joe is right as I look at this again. Nick, this seems unfair.

    If friends pick up friends eating habits, does the same apply to writing habits?

    Not to be nasty, but this is the sort of thing Weigel was doing a while back.

  12. The headline is misleading. Top General says we don’t know if this is as true trend yet.

    I disagree. A drop in casualties is not a “positive sign”, which implies either a trend or an indication of improvement. It simply tells you that less people died recently. That’s obviously a good thing, a “positive” in fact, but not a “positive sign”. There’s nothing in the number that, outside of any larger analysis, remotely hints that the number is a “sign”.

  13. Ah, the armchair generals at Reason are at it again. I love it when magazine writers, who are also evidently clairvoyant, think they know more about the facts on the ground than the generals. Reason is particularly egregious in this regard.

  14. Sort of off topic, but I think it’s amazing that, with just a few clicks on the table, one can view the names of those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.

  15. Here’s cause for pause regarding any optimism (besides the fact that July isn’t over yet): In 2005 and 2006, U.S. military casualties dipped significantly during the month of July before ramping up again

    And, in fact, the casualties were lower in those previous years’ July’s. So the main (only?) thing really making this July’s casualties look good is that this June’s casualties was so much higher than the previous year’s Junes!

    That said, I take John’s point that a higher casualtiy rate is not in and of itself and sign of “losing”. That said, it would be nice if there were any clear or consistent signs we were maybe winning by means of these casualties. If we’re accomplishing nothing, be nice to have less of our own killed in the non-process. And anyway, it was the Major General who called the casualty dip a “positive sign”. Maybe John should explain the meaningless of casualty trends to him.

  16. Ah, the armchair generals at Reason are at it again. I love it when magazine writers, who are also evidently clairvoyant, think they know more about the facts on the ground than the generals.

    Huh? The article is about body counts that are known to everyone. So, the Reason writers do know as much about these body counts as the generals.

  17. “It’s an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it’s a true trend.”

    —-Six of One

    Fewer American Dead Points To Possible “True Trend,” Says Top General

    —-Half a Dozen of the Other

  18. When you go after the enemy, you are going to take casualties. The fact that the casualties go up does not necessarily mean you are loosing. At the same time, since the object of war is to kill the enemy, taking casualties is the only way you lose a war.

    The military should let us, the voting public, know how many are being killed by the Coalition then. It sounds like relevant and important info.

  19. Ken,

    It doesn’t read that way to me, even presented like that. It seems unfair to couch the general’s position as optimistic based on those words.

  20. Seems like they’ve been preteding things were “turning around” throughout the course of the war. So I’m not really surprised they would grasp at a meaningless statistic to support that. Although I’m sure the “next six months are key.”

  21. Ken,

    The general’s answer is “Yes, but…” He’s not postulating that it is a trend, but pooh-poohing someone else who suggests that there is a trend.

  22. I’m not going to say Gillespie doesn’t have a point he’s trying to make–that’s kinda what this place is all about.

    …but he didn’t misrepresent anything.

    And, yeah, if a General suggests that there’s a possibility that a blip could represent the begining of a trend, I think that’s worth commenting on. …even if he says in the same statement that only time will tell.

    And the general did suggest a trend.

    “We’ve started to see a slow but gradual reduction in casualties and it continues in July”

    I don’t see any misrepresentation.

  23. I’m sure we won’t know Odierno’s real opinion until he retires.

  24. I vote for the “it’s too fucking hot in Iraq in July to be blowing shit up” hypothesis.

  25. I’ll second (third) the “damn, it’s hot” postulation

  26. Excuse me, but to this “armchair general” it appears the number of dead in every single month of 2007 to date, more have been killed in the same month in 2006.

    This is an improvement?

  27. Prompted by Aresen, I looked closer at the numbers. July 2007 is the second to worst month so far- when judged based on year-to-year increase in same month deaths per day, with a 79% increase in the death rate over July 2006. March 2007 was worst with a 150% increase over the year before- coinciding with the first full month of “surge”.

    June & May 2007 are 3rd (71% increase) & 5th (65% increase), respectively. Positive trend, my ass.

    Disclaimer: None of this has been normallized for force strength. This analysis was done in 2 minutes with Excel and this limited data set. Your mileage may vary. Do not taunt happy fun ball.

  28. Boy we really have become “Girlie Man Nation.”

    Sheesh! How many died in one day at Normandy? What was the figure 10,000 or so?

    Antietam? Twice that I believe?

    58,000 died in Vietnam.

    Shi-yaat! The Russians lost over 1 million dead in WWII.

    Have we become such a bunch of pussys that we cannot even tolerate 3,500 dead in a War?

    Obviously, I’d guess that near 100% of the posters here on this Forum are non-Veterans who’ve never served in the Military.

    Hey, you pussy-boy non-Vets here’s a Newsflash for ya.

    Some of us join the Military cause we believe giving our lives up for our Nation is the highest honor that any young man could ever attain.

    But then again, you wimpy-ass no-biceps, feminzed, computer nerds, wouldn’t have even the slightest concept of such a notion. Why am I even bothering.

  29. Why am I even bothering.

    I have no idea, why are you?

  30. 4 years spent slinging hash on a carrier doesn’t make you a man, especially back in the days of the Village People “In the Navy.”

  31. Yeah, you’re right. But I was on a Guided Missile Destroyer half my enlistment. Was only on the Carrier less than 2 years.

    And umm, our Destroyer, the USS Luce DDG-38 was written up in Newsweek for being in the War Zone escorting bombed out oil tankers that had been hit by Saddam’s forces. 9 months in a War Zone in the upper Persian Gulf, with only occasional port calls in shitty-ass Bahrain, 130 degree temperatures every day, and sea snakes by the millions in the Gulf waiting to sting and kill any sailor who fell overboard.

    Not what I would call “pleasant duty,” thank you.

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