It has been a systematic policy of the western media to underplay the coalition death toll. Since the full awakening of the insurgency approximately one year after the fall Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, US, UK and other Coalition forces have been killed at a rate of over 2 soldiers per day, sometimes much higher. This trend (www.icasualties.org , not in itself an anti-war site, does an excellent job of recording US & Coalition fatalities) has continued regardless of whether the media has reported an ‘upsurge in violence’ or ‘period of relative calm’. Regardless of reporting and misinformation, the casualties roll on at the same, predictable rate; averaging at two per day every month, unless the US army launches a major ground offensive. In these cases the US death toll rises dramatically. To give examples of the two largest and most infamous of such assaults- the April’04 and November ’04 attacks on Falluja, the coalition lost 140 and 141 troops respectively during these months. Armed resistance to the occupation never ceased in Falluja, before, during or after the US re-invasion. Despite this, the November assault widely reported as a success.
The media ‘tweaks’ the coalition death toll to suit leaders’ ends. All the major ‘milestones’ mentioned only count US dead, thereby undercounting coalition casualties in ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ by over two hundred at present. Obviously, given the tenaciousness of the insurgency this can be little more than a delaying tactic, but a useful one nonetheless.
Generally, US casualties are only reported nationally and internationally when the insurgents are particularly successful, causing 4 or more coalition fatalities in one attack (the smaller attacks may make local county news). Strangely, and counter-intuitively in a world inured to the deaths of non-whites, suicide bombings of Iraqi civilians are more likely receive press coverage than the deaths of US troops.
These facts require certain questions to be asked. Firstly, why the underreporting? When westerners are killed by dark-skinned foreigners this is normally major news, inside and outside of war zones. Indeed, these attacks by the various insurgent groups did make the news during the ‘beginning’ of the insurgency in 2004, when it looked like this might be a temporary setback to the Coalition. Could it be that after so many attacks the story of (mostly American) troops being killed in their ones and twos is simply boring? Could it be that after a certain number of insurgent attacks they cease to become news? This is possibly a factor, but I would like to posit a different answer. The story of US/Coalition troops, part of the most advanced military machine on earth, being systematically targeted, day in day out, by a ‘guerrilla war of attrition’ by the Iraqi resistance, would be even more demoralizing to the American and British public, and would increase the voices of those calling for an immediate withdrawal, swelling the ranks of the anti-war movement from beyond those who object to the war on moral grounds (pacifistic or anti-imperialist) and include those American, British, Polish, Italian and other patriots who simply do not want to see their countrymen killed for a country and a cause that the care little about.
By combining these casualty statistics: 2,296 US, 103 UK and 103 from other coalition countries, we reach a current running total of 2,502 coalition casualties. If we add to this the 341 casualties of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ (the invasion and colonisation of Afghanistan), we reach a total of 2,843 coalition fatalities in the ‘War on Terror’.
To put this in some sort of context, 2,996 people were killed in the September 11 attacks, one hundred and eighty three more than number of western soldiers (excluding mercenaries) killed during Bush Junior's military adventures. Given the relentless two-per-day logic of the insurgency, this figure will be exceeded in May 2006. In other words, Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ will have been directly responsible for a loss of western lives equal to that on 9-11. This figure does not include foreign mercenaries working for the Coalition, journalists, UN staff and NGO workers (not even mentioning the Iraqi civilians, whose dead currently number between 100,000 and 300,000 according to the Lancet) who have all been caught up in Iraq’s violence. It remains to be seen whether this will be reported by our press. If it is not, then once again it is the job independent media to tell the news.