A few days ago, I posted on a piece in Slate by Phillip Carter and Owen West arguing, without merit I thought, that Iraq in 2004 looks like Vietnam in 1966. Carter and West made one subsidiary point that I didn’t address. They claimed that “U.S. losses in Fallujah [were] almost equal to those” incurred during the famously bloody Vietnam War battle of Hue. Carter and West stated:
In the three-week battle for Hue, 147 Marines were killed and 857 wounded. In the twin battles for Fallujah, more than 104 soldiers and Marines have been killed and more than 1,100 wounded.
And, they noted, the fatality numbers do not adjust for the fact that, in Iraq, advanced technology and medicine prevent many more wounded from dying than was the case in Vietnam.
This didn’t sound correct to reader Helen Wells. So she googled the battle of Hue and obtained better information. It turns out that, yes, 147 Marines were killed at Hue. Along with 74 Army soldiers and 384 ARVN. Thus, total deaths on our side at Hue were nearly six times higher than in Fallujah. And even if, in Kerryesque fashion, one decides to exclude the deaths of our Vietnamese allies, the ratio is two to one.
Moreover, the claim of Carter and West that they are understating the comparative intensity of the fighting in Fallajuh by not adjusting for technological advances can’t withstand scrutiny either. At Hue, Wells points out, we had a forward based surgery facility staffed with eight doctors. Wounded soldiers who made it to the facility alive had a 99% chance of surviving.
In my first post on the Carter-West piece, I wondered why the authors went through contortions to try to show that Iraq 2004 looks like Vietnam 1966. Now it may be fair to ask, in addition, why they engaged in distortions to make this point.