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In Case You Forgot

October 16th, 2006

Our people are still dying in Iraq, and the death toll is rising quickly. So far, October 2006 is more deadly for U.S. troops than any month since April, 2004, with an average of seven U.S. service members being killed every two days. It may count even worse than that, since other high-casualty months have included a large number of non-hostile deaths caused by helicopter crashes or vehicle accidents. So far in October, only two of the 54 U.S. troops deaths are listed as non-hostile, and they were among the six deaths on the first day of the month. All since have been casualties in combat or have been caused by roadside bombs.

This is especially unusual since the Bush administration is known for scaling back operations in the month or two before an election so as to lower the death count. Purely for political reasons, of course–right after the 2004 election, the administration ramped the violence right back up with a major operation in Fallujah. That’s why October 2004 was relatively quiet–63 U.S. troop deaths–and November 2004 was one of the bloodiest months of the war, with 137 deaths, almost all in combat–67 of them happening in the week following the presidential election, 95 deaths in the ten days following. Looking at the daily casualty listings, you can clearly see when the election ended–almost no deaths in the days before, then an explosion of carnage immediately after. As I commented at the time, how would you like to have your death choreographed so as not to inconvenience a politician’s re-election campaign?

Perhaps Bush forgot to call the troops in to hide and wait out the election campaign. The New York Times is reporting that U.S. troops are now serving in higher profile, conducting more operation than last month. I guess that Bush only feels it is necessary to manipulate the military for his own campaign purposes, but not for Senate and House races in the midterms.

However, the White House excuses for the high death toll don’t fully add up:

In contrast, the American military has not conducted any major operations this month: the military has not initiated a new urban cordon-and-search operation for more than two weeks. Instead, it has focused on patrolling the areas already swept, officials say.

This in contrast to the major offensive in Fallujah two years ago, which accounted for most of the deaths in combat that month. So, it could be that the war in Iraq is simply flaring up. If Bush decides to call the troops in to hunker down until election day, will that have much of an effect? And would Bush do it, knowing that it would allow the insurgents to gain territory, which would cost more lives of our soldiers later on? He did it before.

Update [Oct. 18]: it’s getting more violent, with 72 deaths (70 American) after 18 days; that’s 4 deaths per day this month so far.

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