Iraq Coalition Casualty Statistics/Invisible Wounded

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The daily flow of invisible wounded American soldiers transported stateside from the war in Iraq serves to not only skew Iraq Coalition Casualty Statistics, but also world-wide public perception of the scope of human cost of war, particularly since "Injured soldiers evacuated to the U.S. never arrive in the light of day -- and the Pentagon has yet to offer a satisfactory explanation why." [1]

The Bush administration, "on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003, ... moved to defy the math and enforced a ban on photographs of the caskets arriving at Dover, [Delaware] or at any other military bases. But what," asks Salon's Mark Benjamin, "about the wounded? Since 9/11, the Pentagon's Transportation Command has medevaced 24,772 patients from battlefields, mostly from Iraq. But two years after the invasion of Iraq, images of wounded troops arriving in the United States are almost as hard to find as pictures of caskets from Dover. That's because all the transport is done literally in the dark, and in most cases, photos are banned." [2]

As early as September 2003, The Washington Post reported that "With no fanfare and almost no public notice, C-17 transport jets arrive almost every night at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, on medical evacuation missions. ... Since the war began, more than 6,000 military personnel have been flown back to the United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received non-hostile injuries in vehicle accidents and other mishaps, and thousands who became physically or mentally ill." [3]

"Although Central Command keeps a running total of the wounded, it releases the number only when asked -- making the combat injuries of U.S. troops in Iraq one of the untold stories of the war." [4]


  • The Stars and Stripes reported in the April 4, 2005, issue that "a group of activists are standing nightly vigils at the entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, protesting what they believe is the Pentagon’s attempt to hide the human toll of the war in Iraq." Activists included members of CODEPINK: Women for Peace.
"According to a Monday press release from Walter Reed, the hospital has treated 3,985 patients from Operation Iraqi Freedom since the war began, 1,050 of whom have been battle casualties.
"But statistics and press releases are one thing, say the activists, the reality of burns and missing limbs quite another. ... The activists say the practice seems too much like the White House ban on the filming of honor cordons repatriating war dead to U.S. soil in flag-draped coffins." [5]
  • On March 29, 2005, members of the D.C. Chapter of FReepers "and lurkers in good standing" were summoned to a "patriotic counter-demonstration of the anti-American group Code Pink" the next evening across from Walter Reed Army Medical Center "to show support for our men and women in uniform recovering from wounds received fighting the war on terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere." [6]

Increasing Number of Mental Disorders

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reported March 31, 2005, that "As many as one out of four veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals in the past 16 months were diagnosed with mental disorders, a number that has been steadily rise." [7]
  • "Records show that 20% of eligible ex-soldiers came to VA hospitals seeking medical treatment between October 2003 and February 2005. Overall, 26% of them were diagnosed with mental disorders ..."
  • "Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was most common, diagnosed in 10% of patients, followed by drug or alcohol abuse (9%). Seven percent were diagnosed with depression; 6% had anxiety disorders, such as phobias and panic. Many ex-soldiers had multiple disorders ..."

Increasing Number of Wounded

  • In April 2003, the first casualties began to arrive stateside and by the end of the first week of November 2003, more than 1,875 had been "treated at Walter Reed, an average of about 10 a day, 300 a month. On any given day during that time, the hospital ... had about 50 inpatients and another 180 outpatients from the war." At Andrews Air Force Base, the tennis court and gymnasium of the fitness center were converted into "a medical staging facility for those evacuated from the war zone, with more than 7,500 passing through there during this time frame. This was in "addition to the nearly 1,900" who were sent on to Walter Reed, with another 1,500 "sent to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., which treats the injured from the Navy and Marines. Several thousand less seriously wounded soldiers [were] sent directly to some of the military's dozens of smaller hospitals and clinics around the country." [8]
  • April 2004, a little more than a year after the war began, "the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq [was] rarely mentioned, [although] previous estimates in the media" ranged between 2,000-3,000. The Pentagon then admitted that, "in the first year of war in Iraq, the military made over 18,000 medical evacuations - representing 11,700 casualties." [9]
  • By the end of April 2004, headlines reported that the number of troops "wounded in Iraq has skyrocketed this month." Although the Pentagon did not "identify those who are wounded, ... since April 1 [the number was] approaching 900, far beyond the 200-300 wounded in most other months of the conflict. In March 291 were wounded in action. The highest monthly total before April was 413 in October 2003, according to the Pentagon's Directorate for Information Operations and Reports." Additionally, "the Pentagon's figures do not include troops who are injured in accidents or felled by illness." [10][11]
  • Mid-June 2004, PBS reported that the "Pentagon keeps a close watch on the grim tally in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest figures: 922 killed. 5,457 wounded in action. And the press reports those numbers. ... But there's another figure neither the Pentagon nor the press are talking about — the more than 11,000 soldiers coming home disabled, injured, sick who aren't on the Pentagon's casualty list because the military says they weren't injured in combat." [12]
  • In August 2004, The Washington Post reported that the war on terrorism had wounded "about 6,120 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan ... Many soldiers are treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where doctors have seen 3,358 soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom, including 741 battle casualties. The rest have suffered from non-combat conditions ranging from heat exhaustion to road accidents." [13]
  • Early in December 2004, although there were fewer American military deaths reported from Iraq, the number of severely wounded was on the rise, partially due to improvements in battlefield medicine. A new unprecedented statistic was emerging, as, by mid-November 2004, "10,369 American troops had been wounded in battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, and 1,004 had died -- a survival rate of roughly 90 percent. In the Vietnam War, one in four wounded died, virtually all of them before they could reach MASH units some distance from the fighting." [14]
  • Additionally, the good news of improved medical attention on the battlefield has given way to the bad: "A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb and rocket attacks are suffering brain damage as a result of the blasts. It's a type of injury some military doctors say has become the signature wound of the Iraq war." [15]

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