The four-year U.S. military death toll in Iraq passed 3,500 after a soldier was reported killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. A British soldier was also shot to death Thursday in southern Iraq, as Western forces find themselves increasingly vulnerable under a new strategy to take the fight to the enemy.This blog doesn't keep a running count of how many people have died in Iraq, nor is it a subject we bring up much except when some milestone is reached. The important fact of this number, 3500, is not that so many have died. As I'm sure many a conservative blogger has noted, this isn't a significant number compared to our losses in just about any other war. Certainly not significant compared to Vietnam, Korea, WWII, or WWI. Such a conservative blogger might ask why we belabor the point.
To this I say, the countrymen of those soldiers are rightfully not mollified by pointing out that some 58,000 good soldiers died in Vietnam. One person dying when they don't need to is a tragedy, and Iraq is a tragedy of epic proportions. It isn't important how many have died, it's important that our soldiers keep dying. And they appear to keep dying at an steady rate. According to NPR news:
At least 122 American troops died in Iraq in May, making it the third deadliest month for the United States since the war began.A simply stunning percentage are coming from IEDs. These IEDs are something we simply can't do much about. They experienced the same problem in Vietnam (although the situation was radically different - in almost all cases the soldiers were on foot outside of vehicles) and there was no simple, effective solution. Two things that Vietnam mines and Iraq IEDs have in common is that they can be (and are) concealed in ways that make them almost impossible to spot and the damage they do considered as return on investment is extremely high. According to this Popular Mechanics article from August 2005, "The main IED detector is the American soldier and Marine with sharp eyes: Approximately three IEDs are found for each one that detonates." And yet we're still taking 80% of our casualties from them!
And as more troops head to Iraq, even higher numbers of U.S. casualties are expected.
...Earlier in the spring, the improvised bombs accounted for about 60 percent of American deaths. Now it's more than 80 percent.
The simple truth is this: no matter what we do or what technology we use, as long as American soldiers are in the country, they're going to die. This is a fact that the majority of Americans (finally) now realize and they find they can't stomach the thought. I can't either. It's horrible.
Update: To see an exact count of how many casualties in May were caused by IEDs, click here.