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From a recent post...
If there's any hand-wringing at all in the media regarding the lack of coverage from Iraq (the news has been overwhelmingly positive over the past several months, and monthly death tolls for military and civilians have plummeted) it's over the conclusion that Americans are no longer aware of the total body count. (That conclusion is arguable, but I'll save that for another post.)Welcome to that other post.
Here's what Pew had to say about American ignorance of the Iraq body count:
Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.Since the number actually hit 4000 this week - with much media fanfare - I suspect more Americans would get it right if Pew would repeat their survey now. (You'd think they'd have thought of that before they did their survey, but gosh, I guess not...)
In the current poll, more respondents underestimated than overestimated the number of fatalities. A plurality of 35% said that there have been about 3,000 troop deaths, and another 11% said there have been 2,000 deaths. Just under a quarter (23%) said the number of fatalities is closer to 5,000.
The number 4,000 is the correct answer. There's no arguing that point. Nor would I contend that Americans are really paying attention to the Iraq war - most who could tell you the exact body count probably couldn't tell you anything else, even the name of one of the fallen. (Office watercooler experiment: next time you hear someone cite the death toll in Iraq, ask them to name one of the 4,000 and the circumstances of their death. Be polite. If they fail, provide a couple [here's one for a start - here's another] - see how long they're willing to listen.)
It's likely that most who got the wrong answers - and even some who got the right one - did so as a result of a wild guess. But it's also likely that many who answered the question were aware that the number was "three thousand and something" and answered accordingly ("3,000"). While not sure of the exact number they know a bit more about the situation than Pew (and others) would like to give them credit for - given that "3,000" was the most common response I find this a very likely hypothesis.
But many of those who answered "3,000" might have been even more aware of Iraq casualties than the Pew researchers themselves. While 4,000 US troops have died in Iraq, the actual number who have been killed in combat is 3,261. But if they answered based on this figure they didn't read the question in the same way the pollsters wrote it - so shame on them. (I'm not arguing that this is a potentially large percentage - obviously if only 28% can identify the number of American troops who've died in Iraq, few could tell how many died from combat in Iraq.)
Combine the percentage of Americans who chose "3,000" (some of whom were "right") and the percentage who chose "4,000" (some of whom guessed) in Pew's survey and you have 63% - a number that probably at best serves as an "upper bound" to the percentage of Americans who know anything at all about the Iraq war.
Which leaves us with the numbers of folks who were completely out to lunch: "11% said there have been 2,000 deaths. Just under a quarter (23%) said the number of fatalities is closer to 5,000. "
I would expect to see 10% on either fringe of the bell curve, so I find that final figure the most curious of all. What could possibly explain why twice as many Americans significantly over estimate the numbers than under estimate?
And if only 28% can identify the number of American troops who've died in Iraq, and an even smaller number can tell how many were killed in action, how many could tell how many have been wounded there?
Back in 2005, Jack Murtha claimed "Over 15,500 have been seriously injured." He may have pulled his number from an article in the UK's Telegraph from March of that year: " While much was made of the US death toll recently reaching 2,000, little has been said of the 15,000 who have returned home mutilated." Wherever he got his information, he was wrong.
That was three years ago. Today I stumbled across this claim from someone named "Kevin" (comment dated Mar 29, 2008 2:37:15 PM) in comments on a post on an ABC News web site: "Bush murdered more than 4000 US soldiers and crippled another 50000+ US soldiers."
Now no one in their right mind would accept a comment on a blog - even one maintained by ABC News - as a reliable source. But somehow such claims have an odd way of appearing in many such places in a short period of time, and before long you have US Senators and Congressmen making the same claims, and being quoted in "reliable" news sources, and incorporated into "conventional wisdom" that shapes the national dialog on Iraq. Since Americans have no idea how many troops have even died in Iraq it's a fairly easy bluff to run.
Anyhow, since I'd debunked the claims from three years ago I knew where to get actual statistics, and did so - providing them in my own comment, along with links to the sources:
"Bush murdered more than 4000 US soldiers and crippled another 50000+ US soldiers."Oddly enough, my comment has subsequently been deleted. (Yes, I saw it posted, and later it was gone.) That's fine - the topic of the original post wasn't Iraq casualties anyway, and ABC can pick and chose what belongs on their web site and what doesn't.
To date there have been 13,189 (source) troops wounded in Iraq whose wounds were significant enough to prevent their return to duty within 72 hours. By itself that's far short of your 50k crippled claim.
But I suspect (given your use of the term "crippled") you might believe there are 50k+ amputees - this number is even farther from the truth.
"In fact, the number is 719, according to Chuck Scoville, a program manager for the military's joint amputation-care system. Add limb amputations due to accidents, training mistakes, tumors or other noncombat causes and the total is 795 as of Oct. 20, Scoville said." (source)
While "none" would be a better number, I sincerely hope you don't find the actual truth to be disappointing.
Again, what could possibly explain why twice as many Americans significantly over estimate the numbers than under estimate? I surely have no idea...
UPDATE: In her January, 2008 declaration of the failure of the surge, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi almost tells the truth about wounded troops in Iraq:
Nearly 29,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since the war began – 12,918 suffering injuries so serious they were prevented them [sic] from returning to duty.The missing phrase "within 72 hours" is what separates this statement from fact. That omission is non-trivial, as without it the statement implies "forever".
And that's not even true of all the nearly 800 amputees:
Marine who lost a leg in Iraq attains his goal to join his unit for active duty in Afghanistan
Doctors in Iraq had amputated his left leg at mid-thigh. His right leg had been scarred by shrapnel and third-degree burns. Hot metal had singed his left arm and shoulder.
Insurgents were so proud of the ambush that they posted Internet footage of Jones being thrust into the air by the blast.
Most above-knee amputees need an average of 12 to 15 months of rehabilitation, said Jennifer Town, director of the San Diego Naval Medical Center's C5 Program. She oversees an array of specialized care for amputees and other severely injured troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
An above-knee amputation makes it harder to use a prosthesis compared to losing a limb below the knee. But that didn't faze Jones, a snowboarder and extreme-sports athlete.
Jones is returning to active duty faster than any amputee ever treated in the C5 Program, said Peter Harsch, the hospital's chief prosthetist.
As he progressed with rehabilitation, Jones realized that he might be able to stay in the Marine Corps. The commanders and his fellow Marines backed his goal.
“They are committed to me and I am committed to them,” Jones said. “I would not be here without them.”
Amputees and other seriously wounded troops are allowed to redeploy to a war zone only if they insist on it, the Pentagon said. They must still be screened for physical and mental fitness.
Jones will be one of just a dozen or so U.S. troops who have returned to the battlefield after becoming amputees during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“If they weren't going back, I wouldn't be interested in deploying,” Jones, 22, said as a technician tightened a screw on one of his three artificial limbs. “It is the least I can do – to be there with my buddies.”
Pofahl said the unit is excited to welcome back Jones, whom he described as extremely positive and friendly.
“It's strange that he believes he hasn't given enough to us. He already gave a leg,” said Pofahl, who has kept in touch with Jones by phone every week or two.
Severely Wounded Troops Find Meaningful Ways to Continue ServingCaptain Dave Rozelle was first.
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2007 – Army Sgt. John Keith likes to finish what he starts. So even after a rocket-propelled grenade tore into the door of his Humvee during his deployment to Iraq, leaving his leg dangling, he wasn’t willing to give up his 15-year military career.
Thanks to a new mentality within the military, and programs to back it up, Keith is among a growing legion of severely wounded troops who are opting to continue their military service. In his case, the former medic is now serving with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier to help get state-of-the-art equipment to warfighters quickly as possible.
Sixty soldiers with 30 percent or higher disability ratings have applied to stay on active duty, and all have gotten the green light, said Col. Mary Carstensen, director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program.
Here's a rather surprising (even shocking maybe) graphic:
I see that nothing has really changed since since our rumble in the jungle. We knew we couldn't even trust the Stars and Stripes to be anywhere close to being on the right track about anything going on in Nam. The saving grace is the age of the computer, and instant info availability.
Hang in there and give 'em hell.
Those of us that saw more than a day or two of toe to toe really appreciate your efforts on our behalf. Just keep it in perspective, the name of the game is not for God and country, but to get your butt back home in one piece.
Again, what could possibly explain why twice as many Americans significantly over estimate the numbers than under estimate? I surely have no idea"
At some level...we have a "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions" going on at some level.
The VA budget has to be sold to the American Public...it is pretty pricey. I would be surprised if 5%(or 2%) of the VA budget was for OIF or OEF vets. Selling the fact that the "Bill" for the Vietnam war is about to come due is a hard sell. Vietnam Vets are reaching retirement age and will income qualify for various services.
Just as the poltico's blamed the increase in the cost of the VA when the WWII vets retired on Vietnam...they are blaming the cost of the health care obligation from the Vietnam war on OIF/OEF.
Personally, I'd like all Vets taken care of(seeing as I am one)..so while I take exception to politico's giving a false reason...I support the cause.
So one ends up with a confluence of interests...the anit-war nutters want to expose how much veterans care is going to cost...as evidenced by an larger VA budgets...and the rest of us just want our Vets to get quality care for our Vets.
I wish I were wrong...but somehow I think there are more than a few selfish Americans that would be shocked to learn how much "Rehab" costs. I'd guess that if someone if injured bad enough to get a medevac to Walter Reed or Bethesda..the tab runs pretty close to $1,000,000 by the time we have a "Rebuilt as best as humanly possible" outcome.
Try selling to the American People that we are spending almost %1,000,000 a person on Medical Care for seriously wounded troops. (The Mrs's and I look after a 97 year old woman..she fell down..broke her jaw...walked 2 miles to the Dentists office on her own...the bill was $70,000 by the time the Medico's were thru)
It's easier if they believe there are 50,000 seriously wounded troops and we are spending $5 a piece.