The Blog

The Greatest Story
Never Told

Military progress in Iraq goes unnoticed by the press.

12:00 AM, Oct 23, 2007 • By DEAN BARNETT
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

MOST PEOPLE DON'T know about the website Icasualties.org. Icasualties.org is run by a bunch of lefties who have dedicated themselves to aggregating all the bad news out of Iraq over the past few years. Each day for the past thirty-four months, Icasualties.org has documented every Coalition military death as well as every violent civilian death in Iraq.

The people who run Icasualties.org obviously have little fondness for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Among their many tendentious metrics is a tally of all the deaths since President Bush announced "Bring them on." Yet, in spite of a clear political agenda, Icaualties.org plays it straight--they just report the numbers. It's important to note that all the discussion regarding how David Petraeus classifies deaths has nothing to do with Icasualties.org's figures. If six bodies are found in Baghdad, they get added to Icasualties.org's butcher's bill. David Petraeus doesn't get a vote.

Since Icasualties.org is an ideological fellow traveler of most mainstream media outlets, you'd figure the site's reporting would occasionally get noticed. In the past, Icasualties.org's numbers and mainstream media reports have sometimes marched in lockstep. Who can forget all the "grim milestones" that the media purportedly mourned during the past four years?

IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, the story in Iraq has changed dramatically. The numbers on Icasualties.org have reflected that change. The metric that most animates the mainstream media and the American public is the count of American casualties. In the spring, with "the surge" just being rolled out, over 100 American soldiers a month died between April and June. Even though the surge was just beginning, it was about that time that Harry Reid asserted, "As many had foreseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results." As an analysis of our military prospects, Reid's comments were risible. Of course, Reid didn't intend to provide a serious military analysis. Rather, he tried to cynically capitalize on American deaths for political gain.

Since Reid's ill-timed comment, the situation for American soldiers in Iraq has taken a sharp turn for the better. The accompanying graph clearly shows the trend, but the situation can perhaps be best summed up by looking at the numbers in May compared to the numbers so far from October. In May, 120 American soldiers died in combat, and six more died from non-hostile causes. With October three-fourths complete, 20 American soldiers have died in combat while eight others have died non-hostilities related deaths.


It would be one thing if this improvement transpired because American commanders, spooked by the relatively high death tolls in the spring, decided to focus their mission on force protection. But that hasn't been the case. American troops have been engaging the enemy more actively over the past several months than at any time during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and they've done so to spectacular effect.

The results of the surge, or "the escalation" as Harry Reid derisively called it, have been obvious in the Icasualties.org numbers. Before the surge, a bad month would claim the lives of roughly 3,000 Iraqi civilians and security force members. In February '07, the exact number was 3,014 Iraqi casualties. In March, the figure was 2,977. As the surge began to have its effects, that number dropped to 1674 in August. In September, with the surge taking full effect, the numbers showed a profound change--the Iraqi death toll plunged to 848.

Happily, September's figures don't appear to be an aberration. October has seen 502 Iraqi casualties so far. If the trend continues though the end of October, the final number should be around 650 for the entire month. That represents better than an 80 percent improvement from the war's nadir.

YOU'D THINK THIS would be a big story. After all, the mainstream media makes such a show of "supporting the troops" at every turn, you'd think it would rush to report the amazing story of our soldiers accomplishing what many observers declared "impossible" and "unwinnable" not so long ago.