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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, January 06, 2007

Casualities and combat

Nijmegen Bridge, 2006

One of the most frustrating arguments I have heard in discussing Iraq is the idea that units in WWII and Korea took more casualities.

It's the wrong comparison for many reasons.

Let's discuss the obvious, the scale of war.

When the 2/502 went to seize the Nijmegen bridge on September 21, 1944, nearly a thousand men crossed the Waal River in canvas boats, they faced dug in SS troops over an open bank. While ships now head to the Rhine, it was clear that in 1944, this was close to suicide.

This was a battalion-sized crossing with the full support of armor, artillery and air.

The causalities that they took were in line with two industrial powers at war

Kohima-Imphal was a massive battle on the India-Burma border in 1944, with two Armies facing each other in the jungle. Both sides with massive artillery and infantry support

Saipan had been part of Japan for decades. When the US attacked in 1944, they had to face an entrenched enemy with tanks and armor and years to plan their defense

This is Bastogne, Belgium. Most people know this is where the 101st Airborne held off a German Army attacking with the most modern equipment of the time, from jets to automatic rifles to the best tanks available.

This is Algiers. In 1956, the French Army sent a full division of Paratroopers to halt the rebellion of a few thousand FLN rebels. They had to use massive police powers and torture to win their battle, while losing the French public.

When people like Joementum compare Iraq to WWII, they miss the point entirely. US forces are not fighting an industrial power, but guerrillas, yet their casualities are incredibly high

The battle of Iraq's wounded

The U.S. is poorly equipped to care for the tens of thousands of soldiers injured in Iraq.
By Linda Bilmes,

INDA BILMES teaches public finance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is the coauthor, with Joseph Stiglitz, of the report, "The Economic Cost of the Iraq War: An Appraisal
January 5, 2007

THE NEW YEAR brought with it the 3,000th American death in Iraq. But what's equally alarming — and far less well known — is that for every fatality in Iraq, there are 16 injuries. That's an unprecedented casualty level. In the Vietnam and Korean wars, by contrast, there were fewer than three people wounded for each fatality. In World Wars I and II, there were less than two.

That means we now have more than 50,000 wounded Iraq war soldiers. In one sense, this reflects positive change: Better medical care and stronger body armor are enabling many more soldiers to survive injuries that might have led, in earlier generations, to death. But like so much else about this war, the Bush administration failed to foresee what it would mean, failed to plan for the growing tide of veterans who would be in urgent need of medical and disability care. The result is that as the Iraq war approaches its fourth anniversary, the Department of Veterans Affairs is buckling under a growing volume of disability claims and rising demand for medical attention.

So far, more than 200,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at VA medical facilities — three times what the VA projected, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis. More than one-third of them have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, acute depression and substance abuse. Thousands more have crippling disabilities such as brain or spinal injuries. In each of the last two years, the VA has underestimated the number of veterans who would seek help and the cost of treating them — forcing it to go cap in hand to Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding.

The VA system has a reputation for high-quality care, but waiting lists to see a doctor at some facilities now run as long as several months. Shortages are particularly acute in mental health care. Dr. Frances Murphy, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health, recently wrote that some VA clinics do not provide mental health or substance abuse care, or if they do, "waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible."

What the wingnuts obscure is the tremendous number of wounded from Iraq. The US has nearly 30000 casualites from a war where for most of that time, no single resistance group was larger than a thousand men. Now, with various factions of the Mahdi Army up to 60,000 men, the US Army is facing a massive force on near equal terms.

The idea that a few thousand more troops will matter is insane.

posted by Steve @ 1:31:00 AM

1:31:00 AM

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