Last August, I did a post titled Some Thoughts on Casualties In Times of War and Peace, which later became an article in the Orlando Sentinel. In it, I pointed out the little-known fact that the number of soldiers killed in action in Iraq since the beginning of the war, on a per-month basis, is actually lower than the historical rate of accidental death in the armed forces. Being a soldier is a dangerous profession, even in peacetime.
Today, reader Peter DeCaprio brought our attention to this chart created by the Manpower Data Center at the Defense Department. It runs from 1980 through 2004, and shows the number of armed forces personnel killed annually in various categories. Say Anything commented on the data, noting that the total number of active duty deaths during the first four years of the Bush administration was only slightly higher than during the first four years of the Clinton administration: 5,187 compared to 4,302. The difference, of course, is that we fought two major wars and liberated close to 50 million people during the first four years of the Bush administration.
I would add this comparison: more active duty service members (2,392) died in 1980, Jimmy Carter’s last year in office, than in either 2003 or 2004, when the Iraq war was being fought (1,410 and 1,887, respectively). No military actions were conducted during 1980 other than the failed effort to rescue the hostages in Iran, in which eight servicemen lost their lives. Keep that in mind next time you hear Carter pontificating about the “carnage” in Iraq.
Every death of a serviceman or woman is a tragedy. Funny how different it seems, though, when every death is also a front-page news story.