The Iraq War is part of our daily soundtrack. It’s there in the background, but few pay serious attention to it. Perhaps this is why the media hasn’t noticed this fact: The period from October to December saw the highest combat death rate for U.S. troops for the entire war – more than during the invasion and aftermath, more than the Shia and Sunni uprisings in 2004, more than the razing of Fallujah and more than during the January 2005 election. U.S. military deaths in Iraq topped 3,000 last month – hundreds more, no one knows for certain how many have died in Iraq as private contractors, i.e., mercenaries.
Much of the lack of awareness is deliberate. The Bush administration keeps information and images of deaths to a minimum. The media compound the problem by relegating U.S. deaths to brief mentions buried in stories, whereas three years ago they were frontpage news.
The single biggest factor in the rising death toll is improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Despite $6.7 billion spent by the Pentagon to counter IEDs, December saw a record 71 U.S. deaths caused by the devices. This increase may be due to the growing use of anti-tank mines among the insurgents, showing how a simple tactic can foil the Pentagon’s most concerted efforts.
If little attention has been paid to increasing U.S. deaths, less has been spent on the deaths of Iraqis. It’s estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 Iraqis are dying a month, but this is a severe undercount. According to the latest Lancet study on excess mortality in Iraq, more than 25,000 Iraqis are dying violently every month. That is, there are more Iraqis deaths in any given week than all American deaths in almost four years of war.