Behind the Numbers (September Edition)
Call it Spook's Inverse Law of Iraq War Reporting: if you don't see a spate of stories on U.S. casualties at the end of the month, then there must be some good news the MSM is ignoring.
If you want proof of that, consider the latest numbers from Iraq. With only two days remaining in September, U.S. forces are on pace for the lowest number of monthly fatalities in more than a year. According to the icasualties.org website, a total of 59 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this month, compared to 79 in August--a 26% decline.
As we've cautioned in the past, casualty totals should be taken with a grain of salt. The number of military personnel killed during a certain period isn't always an accurate reflection of what's happening on the battlefield. A decrease in casualties may reflect a lull in the fighting; conversely, a jump in fatalities may portend a decisive battle that secures final victory.
Still, the September numbers from Iraq are good news, no matter how you analyze it. Not only did the overall military death toll continue its decline, the number of troops killed by hostile fire was at its lowest level in fourteen months. So far this month, a total of 36 U.S. troops have been killed by enemy fire, the lowest total since July 2006, when 35 died. The other 23 fatalities for September were attributed to non-hostile causes, including accidents and illness. The table below provides a break-out of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq over the past six months:
Month/Total Fatalities/Hostile Fire/Non-Hostile
As in past months, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained the primary killer of American troops, accouting for 26 combat fatalities in September. Still, the number of deaths attributed to IEDs has decreased dramatically over the past six months, as evidenced by the following table, which is (again) based on data from icasualties.org.
Month/Total Hostile Fire Fatalities/Number Killed by IED
In other words, the number of fatalities from roadside bombs and other IEDs has dropped by 64% in the past six months--a time when the overall ops tempo among U.S. forces has increased dramatically. During that period, Army and Marine units have entered a number of former terrorist strong-holds and cleared them, suffering fewer casualties than many analysts had predicted. And, the declining number of IED deaths shows that the troop surge is hitting the bad guys where it hurts most--in their bomb-making networks.
While the September casualty totals are encouraging, they do not mean that the Battle for Iraq has been won. But the troop surge and its accompanying operational strategy are producing desired results. No wonder Congressional Democrats are still pushing for a rapid withdrawal, and their friends in the MSM have moved on to "other" coverage angles, including the deaths of Iraqi "civilians" in a recent U.S. airstrike.
Our progress in Iraq has been hard-won, measured (in large part) by the men and women who took the fight to the enemy and gave their lives in the process. The turning tide in Iraq proves that their sacrifice was not in vain--assuming we stay the course and finish the job.