Socialist Worker

Iraq's other death toll

The US government is trying to hide the scale of casualties among its forces in Iraq. It fears revolt like that in Vietnam

Issue No. 1890

'OUR ARMED forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq,' says retired colonel David Hackworth. That is the truth George Bush is desperate to hide. The US has pitted the most powerful army in the world against a country devastated by sanctions. The Iraqi people have, of course, suffered the most from the war. But Bush and his gang care little more for the overwhelmingly poor white, black and Hispanic soldiers they pitch into the hell of Iraq.

The US government admits that 547 US troops have died in Iraq-79 black, 62 Hispanic and ten Asian. And planes loaded with seriously wounded US troops land in the US every week. They are not given a hero's welcome. In fact Bush keeps them out of the media all together.

According to Hackworth, 'It's safe to say that so far somewhere between 14,000 and 22,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been medically evacuated from Iraq. Even I was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me a copy of a 30 November dispatch showing that since George W Bush unleashed the dogs of war our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq. We have the equivalent of five combat divisions plus support of about 130,000 troops deployed, which means we've lost the equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total number has been evacuated back to the US.'

Hackworth was speaking two months ago. The toll of US dead and wounded has continued to rise, despite the capture of Saddam Hussein. There is a big gap between estimates of the numbers wounded and the figure that the military officially admits. US central command claims around 3,100 US troops have been wounded in action. It says around 9,000 more have been medically evacuated from Iraq for reasons that include psychological problems, illness and accidental injuries.

Some 21 soldiers have committed suicide. But when a senior correspondent on the US's national public radio, Daniel Zwerdling, tried to pin down an exact figure last month he was stonewalled by every government and military department.

The spectre of Vietnam hangs over the war on Iraq. Bush knows that the sight of US soldiers coming home in body bags fuelled the powerful anti-war movement. In March last year, on the eve of the war, Bush's defence department ruled that 'there will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from' all US military bases. 'They are not showing us,' says staff sergeant Maurice Craft, who is in the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington.

He had his leg blown off in Baghdad in November. Two weeks ago he told Channel 4 News, 'They are not showing the number of people hit and having limbs amputated.' The Channel 4 News team also went to the Andrews airforce base, near Washington DC, which admitted that 11,000 medical evacuees had passed through in the previous nine months.

They also spoke to 24 year old Heath Calhoun, one of the wounded at Fort Campbell in the US South. He described how his legs were blown off after a grenade struck the army vehicle he was in. He still wears the tag of his friend Morgan, who was blown to pieces.

Bush and Blair want to ignore this suffering. They are contemptuous of the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in the war. But the anti-war movement across the world will not allow the dead and wounded in Iraq or in the US to be forgotten.


Bogus war

STEPHEN CLEGHORN is a former US soldier who speaks at anti-war meetings across the world on behalf of Military Families for Justice and Bring Them Home Now. Stephen was given a court martial for protesting against the Vietnam War. His stepson is currently serving in Iraq.

He spoke to Socialist Worker while on a tour of Ireland last week: 'WE ARE supporting the troops but we are opposed to the mission. They are being misused. There is a bogus case for war, about 'defending us'. All it is doing is advancing the interests of crony business partners. The real figures about the wounded are being clamped down on by Bush.

My stepson John is out in Iraq. I think about him every day. I just hope he gets home. There are obvious parallels between Iraq and what happened in Vietnam. That war wasn't about allowing the people of Vietnam to determine their own future. And it's not about that in Iraq either.

The US government shouldn't be trusted. In Vietnam they told us that would be a bloodbath and chaos if we left. But it wasn't like they predicted. It is not up to us what should happen there. Only the people in Iraq should decide.'


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Features
Sat 28 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1890
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