[mosaic by NICO PITNEY/HUFFINGTON POST]
INDEPENDENT: The number of US troops who have died in Iraq since the invasion five years ago has hit the 4,000 milestone following a roadside bomb in south Baghdad that killed four American soldiers. US military fatalities are half those suffered by the Iraqi army and police, of whom 8,037 are known to have been killed. American losses are even more limited compared to Iraqi civilian casualties, which are unknown but are likely to total several hundred thousand.
But in the US it is the number of American soldiers killed which is politically important because it is used as a barometer showing how well or badly the war is going for Washington. The fall in fatalities from two or three a day to one a day in recent months has therefore had an exaggerated political impact as evidence that the US is at last on the road to success.
The latest US casualties occurred late on Sunday night at the end of a day when 61 Iraqis died, underlining the extreme violence still continuing in the country. In the northern city of Mosul a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives blew himself up in an Iraqi army headquarters, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 42 other people. The Green Zone in Baghdad was hit by mortar rounds and rockets, igniting fires that sent up clouds of black smoke over the city.
In reality US military losses in Iraq have never been very great compared with Vietnam, Korea or the Second World War and have averaged 800 to 900 dead a year in the four years to 2007. Most have been in the Sunni districts of Baghdad or in provinces where there is a large Sunni population such as Anbar, Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala.
Many of the wounded – who number more than 29,000 – would have died in previous wars and have been saved because of medical advances. This means, however, that a larger proportion of the wounded have suffered incapacitating injuries. Though the military casualty level has not been very high it has been politically unsustainable in the US because George Bush declared the war won in 2003. There is also no sign that the war is likely to come to an end in the near future. MORE
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