Opinion

No mystery behind U.S. casualties in Iraq

A couple of things have piqued my curiosity of late, maybe yours too, for which I have sought answers.

First, I note we carry daily updates on American casualties in the Iraq war, but we rarely ever mention what’s going on with the troops of our allies over there. Aren’t any of them being killed or is the enemy targeting Americans?

The list as of April 23 from the U.S. Central Command as provided by the office of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks seems to indicate the latter, except we have vastly more troops than the other countries so we would expect to lose the most military personnel.

We have 135,000 men and women there, and while there is talk of beefing that figure up, I’m told the total is unlikely to go up, but it won’t come down either. Then there are about 24,000 personnel from the 40 or so nations in the coalition, with the United Kingdom the largest contributor with about 8,500. Prime Minister Tony Blair at this writing is pondering whether to increase his contingent, even as three of our partners, led by Spain, are pulling out. Some, however, have furnished only a handful of troops.

Now, none of the following figures reflect Afghanistan, only Iraq where we declared “total freedom” for the Iraqis on March 20, 2003.

Total fatalities from May 1, 2003, to April 23, 2004, numbered 638. That includes all fatalities including vehicle accidents, losses in training or transit and the 20 to 30 suicides that occurred. Total fatalities since Dec. 13 (when Saddam was captured) were 266, of which 215 were hostile action.

Now the other countries: United Kingdom, 59; Poland, 2; Denmark, 1; Spain 11 (1 military diplomat, 2 army soldiers, 8 Central Intelligence agents); Italy, 17 (this was after a recent fire fight); Ukraine, 4; Bulgaria, 5; Thailand, 2; Estonia, 1; El Salvador, 1.

The war heated up right after this list was made, so we got an updated list which covers the period from the beginning of the war in March, 2003, to April 17, 2004. It divides fatalities into three groups — the U.S., the U.K., and the rest.

Total fatalities for all troops was 827. The U.S. had 723, the U.K. 59, and the other coalition partners altogether had 45.

I expect at some point there will be a breakdown made as to the cause of death, i.e. sniper, road side bomb, rocket fire, grenades, and the use of Humvees without protective armor.

There are about 15,000 Humvees in Iraq, but only 2,000 of them are armored so troop commanders are frantically searching for more. New ones are being built and there is a temporary armor job they can do on the ones they have without armor, but all that takes time.

The other matter I looked into was why now we see President Bush or John Kerry pictured at the beginning or end of their television campaign advertisements declaring that he approves of the message.

I assumed this was a requirement of the McCain-Feingold campaign fair practices act and got confirmed by the Federal Elections Commission. The law requires ads authorized by federal candidates on TV or radio to carry a statement saying who they are and stating their approval of what’s being said.

If it’s on TV, there are two options. One is to have an unobscured, full screen view of the candidate identifying him or herself, and saying that (“I approve this message.”) The other is to use a photograph with a voiceover, in which case, the photo must fill 80 percent of the vertical screen height. This applies to candidates for president, the U.S. House and Senate.

If some other party, besides the candidate, wants to run an ad in support or opposition, it must be accompanied by a statement on who paid for it and whether it was authorized by any candidate.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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