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Froomkin begins: "Reports about the end of the war in Iraq routinely describe the toll on the US military the way the Pentagon does: 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded. The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole. The true number of military personnel injured over the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands - maybe even more than half a million ..."

Casualties and the injured during the Iraq War, 12/30/11. (photo: US Navy Seals)
Casualties and the injured during the Iraq War, 12/30/11. (photo: US Navy Seals)

How Many US Casualties in Iraq? Guess Again.

By Dan Froomkin, Nieman Watchdog

30 December 11


eports about the end of the war in Iraq routinely describe the toll on the U.S. military the way the Pentagon does: 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded.

The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole.

The true number of military personnel injured over the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands - maybe even more than half a million - if you take into account all the men and women who returned from their deployments with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, depression, hearing loss, breathing disorders, diseases, and other long-term health problems.

We don't have anything close to an exact number, however, because nobody's been keeping track.

The much-cited Defense Department figure comes from its tally of "wounded in action" - a narrowly-tailored category that only includes casualties during combat operations who have "incurred an injury due to an external agent or cause." That generally means they needed immediate medical treatment after having been shot or blown up. Explicitly excluded from that category are "injuries or death due to the elements, self-inflicted wounds, combat fatigue" - along with cumulative psychological and physiological strain or many of the other wounds, maladies and losses that are most common among Iraq veterans.

The "wounded in action" category is relatively consistent, historically, so it's still useful as a point of comparison to previous wars. But there is no central repository of data regarding these other, sometimes grievous, harms. We just have a few data points here and there that indicate the magnitude.

Consider, for instance:

  • A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is "highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.") Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.
  • A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 percent of soldiers reported an injury during deployment that involved loss of consciousness or altered mental status, and 17 percent of soldiers reported other injuries. (Using that ratio would suggest that 480,000 Iraq vets were injured one way or the other.) More than 40 percent of soldiers who lost of consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that nearly 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.
  • The single most common service-connected disability is actually hearing loss. A 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs research paper found that one third of soldiers who had recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq were referred to audiologists for hearing evaluations due to exposure to acute acoustic blasts, and 72 percent of them were identified as having hearing loss. Richard Salvi, head of the University of Buffalo's Center for Hearing and Deafness announced recently that "as many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus" because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs' list of potential deployment health conditions includes chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, hearing difficulties, hepatitis A, B and C, leishmaniasis (also known as the "Baghdad boil"), malaria, memory loss, migraines, sleep disorders and tuberculosis.
  • The VA's web page on hazardous exposures warns that "combat Veterans may have been exposed to a wide variety of environmental hazards during their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. These hazardous exposures may cause long-term health problems." The hazards include exposure to open-air burn pits, infectious diseases, depleted uranium, toxic shrapnel, cold and heat injuries and chemical agent resistant paint. The VA provides no estimates of exposure or damage, however.
  • A 2010 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called "difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties" offers one indication of how the "wounded in action" category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq, more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.
  • The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center's most recent monthly report found that the proportion of returned deployers who, around 3 months after their return, rated their health as "fair" or "poor" was 10 to 13 percent. More than 20 percent said their health was worse than before they were deployed; a similar number had "exposure concerns" and more than 27 percent reported depression symptoms.
  • A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans' lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later.

There are surely many other data points out there. But a comprehensive tally escapes us. In the meantime, the figure for "wounded" constantly cited by politicians and the media does not come close to reflecting the real cost to the servicemembers who went to fight in George W. Bush's war of adventure and will never be the same again.

We owe it to them to make a full accounting of their sacrifice - and then never forget it. your social media marketing partner


+38 # paulrevere 2011-12-30 14:35
Like most of us, you have purchased a bunko line from DOD..."The death count is accurate"...You conveniently forget the quickly disposed of mention just after the Iraq assaninity started that the Pentagon declared that only counted as dead will be those who die on the battlefield. The total number will not reflect those who died from the point of being attended to or in transit or after being hospitalized... please do your homework sir, for you appear to be somewhat of a deflector for the powers that be by being so decisive on the death count.
+24 # John Locke 2011-12-30 16:21
paulrevere: You are correct, the actual number may be three and even 5 or more times the reported number, the problem is that this government feels a need to lie to us at every turn, a soldier killed from or during the Iraq conflict is still a life lost but they don't want the public to know for fear we would retaliate and demand an end to the conflict... which has already begun with anti war movements,
+4 # billybookworm 2011-12-30 17:19
My experience says you are wrong. Go to or any other list and type in Jensen. A West Point grad Drew was wounded May 7, 2007 by a sniper in Baqouba. He died September 7, 2007 at PSVAMC in Seattle when he requested his ventilator be removed so he would not spend the rest of his life paralysed from the neck down and unable to breath on his own.
+3 # Merschrod 2011-12-30 18:18
Billy, who is wrong, you seem to be offering support for what John and Paul said before you?
+3 # billybookworm 2011-12-30 22:01
It is not true that only those killed outright on the battlefield are counted. Drew died long after he left the battlefield and he is listed and counted by the DOD as KIA Iraq. I will admit my sample is thankfully small. Maybe a beloved West Point grad with many friends received special treatment.
As for the wounded it is every other war all over again, only those subject to immediate medical attention in theater are counted. The VA will count the rest over the next 50 years +. To quote the great sage John Rambo,"He was killed in the [insert war here] and didn't even know it." There will be tens of thousands of those casualties. Many will die but none of them will be moved to the KIA column.
+5 # Rick Levy 2011-12-30 21:06
I was about to make this same type of response before I read yours, paulrevere. And what about those who died from there wounds, physical and mental, days or years later?
+1 # BobbyLip 2011-12-30 14:44
And likewise, what are the odds that we haven't misunderestimat ed Iraqi casualties by a factor of 10 or 20 or more? It was worth it though--right?- -to get rid of Saddam. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Of course, nobody asks the opinion of the eggs.
+18 # X Dane 2011-12-30 15:14
This is no surprise to me. I saw an interview with a woman, who was working with wounded service people. This was in the beginning of the war....liberati on of Iraq, as Bush liked to call it. The number this woman mentioned was more than 3 times higher than the number released by the military.
+35 # womyn 2011-12-30 15:20
As a very active peace and justice activist, I opposed both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. I bear no burden of responsibility or karma for being complicit in supporting these illegal unnecessary wars.

I am greatly concerned about the US decision to pound the drums for war with Iran.(Read the blue print for these Middle East wars, in Project for A New American Century, PNAC, published prior to 9-11, to understand more about US' imperialism and foreign policy in the Middle East.)

I knew well Bush's White House propaganda machine and their complicit corporate media's campaign to convince the gullible, ignorant, ill informed, non-critical thinking Americans was total BS. I did my best to educate Americans but most preferred accepting Bush's propaganda instead of
facts, truths and documentation. These Americans will carry a huge burden the rest of their lives for being complicit in these wars. Without their support to go to war, these wars would never have occurred.

The warmongering of US government with no end in sight is why my husband and I left the US and made a nicer kinder country our new home. We're proud to be ex-pats of the US.
+32 # maveet 2011-12-30 15:52
Yes, living in Australia the second half of my life, where voting is mandatory instead of disenfranchised , medicare for all is a given, and guns don't rule, is something for which I'm grateful each and every day. Thank you for your activism.
+8 # X Dane 2011-12-31 01:12
Womyn, I am also extremely worried. The Neocons are at it again, they are itching to go to war with Iran, and all the chicken hawks in the house and senate are too.

McCain that old fool has not had enough. More than 10 years of war. Our country is on it's knees. And still he wants to attack. What in the world can we do to stop this madness and shut up the fools.

We can't all leave the country. We have to work at preventing the insane warmongers fom destroying our country and maybe the world, for an attack on Iran will certainly bring a lot more disaster with it.
+4 # John Locke 2011-12-31 17:53
X Dane; Educate young adults about our country and its wars of choice for corporate interest and that this government won't stand behind them if they are injured. Show them photos of soldiers missing arms and legs wake them up any way you can, even using fear if you must. The only way to stop the madness is through our youth...if they won't fight, there won't be a war!
+3 # X Dane 2011-12-31 19:49
Thank you John, I agree, I am even ahead of what you said. My youngest grandson talked about going into the military last year, He was 20. I sat him straight, and told him, there are a hell of a lot better ways to learn diciplin. I simply didn't stop till he promised to continue in college.(Where he is now)
Thank God my two grandsons respect me and believe me.

I also talk with all the young people I know, and impress on them the importance of voting, and tell them to be informed about what goes on.
I make sure they understand that THEY need to be involved, for it is THEIR FUTURE.

That was the young. But how do we stop the neo-cons, the congress and the media??
+2 # John Locke 2012-01-01 13:16
X Dane: I can't suggest any one does this but to answer your question, a mass exodics from the tax rolls, a national Tax Rebellion with assets fully protected and either file returns or don't but do not pay any income taxes...that is more difficult for individuals who receive pay checks from employers, but there are ways for them also... if property owners they can increase exemptions on their W4- paying much less into the system... again I am not suggesting this only answering your question!
+17 # LML 2011-12-30 16:13
Not news for anyone involved in Veterans for Peace.
+12 # Activista 2011-12-30 16:52
"4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded. The death count is accurate?"
these wars were Privatized - how many CONTRACTORS (Black Water etc.) were killed? This is force in thousands - now "guarding US embassy".
They were quite active in Fallujah re -USA Terrorism in Iraq, Fallujah Genocide - search
+19 # walt 2011-12-30 17:08
And the greatest tragedy: Who will be held accountable for this illegal invasion and occupation based on LIES???
+2 # X Dane 2011-12-31 00:09
B U S H & C H E N E Y
+34 # aljoschu 2011-12-30 17:17
Sorry, I'm a RSN reader from Europe and I'm not that much interested in the number of American casualties and wounded. Sorry. Since you, Americans, have been the attackers.

No, I am rather interested in the number of people you killed in Iraq or who got killed as a consequence of this war that you started - and ended - absolutely irresponsibly. I would like to know how many men, women, children - young and old - you killed there. How many people lost their homes and had to flee from their home land as a consequence of your chauvinistic, militaristic, bigotred adventure.

It used to be different during the Vietnam war - at least we learned about the daily headcount. This gave you the impression that the "Vietcong" - at least in some sense - still counted.

The Iraqi "insurgents" obviously don't count any more - according to your standards.

This is definitely a new low point the American civilization (culture beware) has reached at last.
+12 # paulrevere 2011-12-30 18:32
B R A V O!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!
+20 # irvingwood 2011-12-30 18:49
As a fellow European I too am furious at the US for trashing the world in another of it's reckless adventures. But don't forget that many of the European states failed to stand up to the US, and, like Britain, joined in with equal enthusiasm. It could never have happened without the US military, but by the same token the US would not have felt so emboldened if at least some of the European States had opposed it. Now we must look forward to massive casualties and even a general nuclear war when Israel, the US, Britain and the rest of the pack attack Iran. This folly never seems to end.
+7 # historywriter 2011-12-30 21:47
yeah, what is all the other nations had stood up and refused to join in? Along with millions more Americans who knew this was phony?
+5 # X Dane 2011-12-31 00:47
Don't blame the countries who "joined" Bush's war machine. Remember historywriter?? we all sneered at the countries of "the willing". We knew very well, that they had been cajoled and threatened to join.
The stronger, and more courageous, like Germany and France refused. You remember how they were scorned??... Freedom fries ring a bell?? There is a price for standing up to THE MIGHTY US on the warpath, not all countries have the guts , and many need our help, and know that it will not be given unless they "follow order."
+11 # Activista 2011-12-30 19:57
American civilization ? - is OXYMORON -
Greed, militarism, fear - can you call it culture?
+14 # Christo 2011-12-30 18:12
Paul Revere is right but he didn't go far enough. They also do not count car accidents not involving IUD,s, plane and helicopter crashes not shot down, suicides, friendly fire, accidents like the electricutions in the shower and on and on. As the war memorials will soon start to be erected I feel very sorry for the families that will not see their loved one engraved in marble because they died the "wrong way". If you used any war business model there isn't any way to wage war for nine years and loosw only 4,400 soldiers. I'm a Vietnam veteran. We lost 54,000 soldiers in less than nine years. It does not compute. As the questions mount sooner or later the real death toll will come out. The writer said maybe a half a million wounded. I'm sure many of those didn't all survive.
+4 # lexx 2011-12-30 18:14
aljoschu, how right you are. Sadly, a new low but not the lowest yet.
+13 # mrbadexample 2011-12-30 18:31
Really. We 'only' had 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded in Iraq. The banks 'only' got the TARP money, not the trillions the Fed handed out. Unemployment is 'only' nine percent right now, and we don't count those who are discouraged or have exhausted UI benefits. NAFTA and GATT didn't cost us more than a few thousand jobs. The 535 in the congress and senate and the two at the top all need to go, along with a system that is so used to lying, it doesn't even bother to defend itself when found out.
+9 # irvingwood 2011-12-30 18:41
Instead of all this counterproducti ve bickering, it is time that a responsible and credible organisation commissioned a thorough study to arrive at an accurate total of killed and wounded , in the broadest sense. First they must define what is meant by 'killed' and 'wounded'. That would be the hardest part. I see no mention of the suicide victims following from combat in the ME. For the Vietnam War it doubled the official death count of 58,000. The same seems to be happening today, since the number of returning veterans who commit suicide now equals or exceeds those declared dead in combat. Of course the Pentagon will lie. That is in it's nature. So others need to warn America's youth with the true toll.
+11 # grouchy 2011-12-30 19:04
At one time it was reported that there were more contract personnel in Iraq than military (due to the need for the Bushies to not officially start up the draft which would have cause hell to break loose here) so I note that the death/injury count of these contractors is not reported in the press--which would likely more than double the military count. The Iraq mess will continue to be spun in whatever way it is needed to be to avoid true accountability for it, especially by those responsible for directly starting the mess by all their spinning of lies--actions which are increasing at this time.
+1 # fhunter 2011-12-30 22:21
The Iraq war started with lies (WMD) and ends with lies (number of casualties). Bush(43) did not count with all that and he did not count that he removed the only counterweight for Iran, with possibilities of a nuclear action with greater number of casualties. Criminal stupidity!!!
+2 # Obwon 2011-12-31 07:21
People do what people do when they're caught lying, they try to cover up. It's the old adage: "Either we hang together or we hang separately". So they hang together.

I was against Bush before the elections, during the elections and after the elections. It was easy to see that what he offered was impossible, silly or fantasy, but pundits et als went along with a straight face and let the lies slide.

Well, they have damaged the nation, and that damage is going to roll over them, there is no mechanism in nature to stop it. Any inattention to these problems in the near term, in the effort to hope them away, is merely the kind of foolishness they need to grow worse day by day.

You cannot expect unaccountable people who haven't been called to account, to account on their own for their failures, so they must continue to fail. All that's left is to wait for the equal and opposite reaction that must come.
+3 # USA2012??? 2011-12-31 07:42
I've never been able to understand how people running governments can wade in wars that that kill so many people, and destroys so much property: in most cases on both sides. However, if you've noticed through history, despite most countries economic status for providing basic needs for their citizens they can seemingly always find some bank to lend them money to launch a war.

Why is this the case?
0 # paulrevere 2012-01-01 11:42
profit in property, lucre and power.
+1 # humanmancalvin 2011-12-31 07:57
This war was built on lies so where is there absolutely any surprise to this article? American exceptionalism is the greatest propaganda line ever created. The government covers up any & everything it can to propel the myth.
Help the country, vote straight Democrat(ic);at least it will give us a scintilla of a chance versus any Gop'er of any stripe.
+2 # Carolyn 2011-12-31 09:01
"The only thing to fear is fear itself." FDR
there is no nobility in war. Nobility is in the instinct to sacrifice one's life to save lives, so brilliantly displayed by Americans, in the atfermath of the crashing of the planes into the Twin Towers.
Mobilizing Americans to destroy our inborn reverence for life on earth and the creativity of earth itself is not our highest calling as human beings.
As this article and our comments make clear, war is the victimization of all.
+3 # Dale 2011-12-31 09:19
Well, how about an accounting of the death, wounded and exiled among the real victims, the people of Iraq. What 100,000 dead? 1 million wounded? 3 million in exile? Probably worse than that but no media accounting. Only Americans matter.

The American soldiers who were sent to Iraq and Afganistan had head wounds prior to being sent there to be killed and wounded by the Imperial Command, they were brainwashed to believe that only the military could land them a future and that they were fighting a patriotic, just war for democracy. What Bullshit and they fell for it.
+4 # Activista 2011-12-31 12:46
Psychological war again Sadam - followed by real war started Israel (US branch AIPAC). The same is now with Iran and Syria.
My hypothesis is that without Israel in the Middle East - there would not be American presence there.
remember - "(The Niger yellow cake documents) Which were horrible forgeries."
and now:
" The Alleged Iran Saudi Envoy Assassination Plot: Mossad at Work. by Ismail Salami october 17/2011 Despite its evidently make-believe facade..."
We should look at the causes for the war - but it seems that we will use the same lies in Iran as we did in Iraq.
0 # RICHARDKANEpa 2011-12-31 21:34
the rumor was that soldiers were spit upon when thh returned from Vietnam. More acurately they got some hostle stares. Guess what a returning soldier would much rather be spit on then ignored. People around them thinking that it is a time of peace, and they are imaging things
0 # Billy Bob 2012-01-01 01:55
That rumor was a big fat lie told by right-wing war enthusiasts to guilt trip the country into skimming over the facts.

Check out the movie, "Sir! No Sir!"

I've seen that movie do more to challenge the political beliefs of right-wingers than anything else I've ever seen.
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-01-01 01:53
Also not included are the secondary and tertiary injuries incurred from the returning soldiers themselves on their wives, children, crime victims, etc.

What about the crimes committed in the future by children of psychologically damaged soldiers? How much of our current murder rate and crime rate in general is an indirect result of previous wars such as Viet Nam? Even 1% would be substantial.

One thing is for certain. We are living in a deeply diseased society. Don't believe me? Google any major American city with the key words: "murder map". You'll find the repulsive fact that murder is so widely spread throughout American society that you can scarcely find a murder free zone.

I believe more Americans were murdered in Detroit alone over the past 10 years than were killed in Iraq. That's not to make light of the b.s. going on the Middle-East. It's to point out the fact that much of the barbarism was brought to the Middle-East by our own citizens.

What about the long-term affects associated with the extreme moral decline of a country proudly justifying the use of torture?

War and murder are symptoms of a broader disease. It's like a virus infecting our entire host country. There's very little difference between the moral decay of a child watching hour after hour of springer vs. one playing Pentagon-funded war mongering video games like "Call of Duty".
+1 # Glen 2012-01-01 08:07
Great, Billy Bob. Good essay and illustrates numerous issues in the U.S.

Probably everybody reading RSN has something they could add to your list of the symptoms of moral decline. I personally have known both Vietnam vets and their children, and yes, many are so alienated they have no means of connecting even with co-workers. Amazing some of them are fit enough to work. They lose friends due to tempers, paranoia, and much more. And these are the CHILDREN of the veterans.

Imagine what the country faces as Middle East military comes home, beyond what is being lightly reported.
0 # bobjbax 2012-01-02 05:22
Personal article notes, transcribed to article’s comments: The author, RSN’s Dan Froomkin, completely missed the ‘Gulf War’ vets, half of whom have been maimed and dieing of their u$aInc inflicted wounds for many years. Scarce mention of u.s. ViêtNam and Cold War ‘kids who served’ and no mention whatsoever of the 2.6 million of us sickened and dead ‘after service’ of ‘slow bullet’ HCV and countless other blood-borne diseases knowingly ‘Air-Jet Vaccination Gun’ crossinfected between or outright introduced into u.s. Sent home sick and worsening, undiagnosed, unacknowledged, and BioHazard Level III BioHorrorBombs injected into our communities and families. We’ve been maimed and dieing of these covert study diseases and the elements in the homeless alleys and ditches we’ve had to hide in for decades right here in the country we thought we had defended. But Amerikans despise ‘Johnny when he comes marching home’ and leave us to die of malnutrition and Vampire Agency labrat ‘medical care’. The ‘terminal end’ of the MedCo DrugCo PsyCo mil/va/corpseor ate spinning firewall door PAPERCLIP. (cont)
0 # bobjbax 2012-01-02 05:23
(cont) As one who knows all this very personally, for once, just once only, I’m going with the NeoCon asswipes responsible for all this criminal horror and who demand a “re-do” if a judge and jury don’t give them what they want. Not to overly criticize D. Froomkin and his “The death count is accurate.”, good perspective and article fundamentally, but he has missed a great deal, our hidden and ignored dead, and why. Clearly Dan needs to hook up with some ‘old crow’ vets who do know and will talk about it, show evidence. Dan, if you are of sufficient facility and strength of mind to take it in, I guarantee you will shit yourself on the spot. Live in absolute fear of the thought of ever repeating what you find, much less print it. Oh.. your kids are getting their shots updated next week? “Re-Do” time, eh Dan?

BobbyBaxter HCVeteran&Marih uanaFelon
United States Army Security Agency 69-72
Founder Alternative Energy Systems SV.74
-1 # bobjbax 2012-01-02 05:25
Reviewed huh? And character limits? Is that the same as censorship? I'm a bit surprised given the reputation and caliber of the folks responsible for this excellent website.
+1 # fredboy 2012-01-03 16:50
Don't forget, most were not rich kids. So the current national GOP mindset believes we owe them nothing.
+1 # kimenglish3 2012-01-04 06:06
since when does the rand corporation ever tell the truth?

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