Friday, September 11, 2009

Undercounting of Casualties by Omission and Exclusion

The military death tolls generally reported for in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are notable for two omissions. Firstly, the casualty burden suffered by the large number of combatants fighting against the US/UK/NATO presence are never fully considered. Secondly, the toll exacted on mercenaries working for private companies is usually excluded.

Bernd Debusmann, in a column for Reuters reports, for example, that the US military death toll in the two wars stood at 5,157 in the second week of September. However, to get the true picture he argues that at least 1,360 private contractors working for the U.S. should be added to this figure. There is a growing dependence on private contractors in the conduct of both these wars and mercenaries now outnumber the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

Similar data for British forces seems hard to obtain but these exclusions from official statistics must be born in mind when assessing the human cost of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.