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Benchmarks: Iraq's Black August Continues

Staff Sergeant Daren Tolley from Klamath Falls, Oregon, of Ironhawk Troops of 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment gestures during a cache explosives searching mission on the outskirts of Baghdad, 21 August 2005. More than 1,800 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and thousands more wounded in a conflict with a price tag in the tens of billions of dollars. A recent poll found that a majority of Americans - 57 percent - believe that the war has made the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, despite Bush's frequent arguments that the conflict has made them safer. AFP Photo by Liu Jin.

Washington (UPI) Aug 19, 2005
"Black August" continued in Iraq last week with no relief in sight for American soldiers there.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in a bomb attack on their vehicle in Samarra 75 miles north of Baghdad Thursday and 34 Iraqis were killed in three suicide car bomb attacks Thursday in a Baghdad bus station In one of the worst suicide bomb attacks this year.

Feuding Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni representatives failed to meet the Monday deadline for agreeing on a new constitution - a major diplomatic embarrassment for the Bush administration that had pushed relentlessly for the deadline to be met.

And although paper agreement over the constitution might yet be reached by Monday, the huge gaps of distrust and entrenched positions between the three groups was wider than ever, with thousands of supporters of young, popular Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marching in Baghdad Friday denouncing the federalism that the Sunni and Kurdish communities insist upon.

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, up to Wednesday this week, and before the deaths of the four soldiers killed in Thursday's bomb attack, 25 U.S. soldiers were killed during the week of Aug. 10-17 alone, bringing the total U.S. military dead in Iraq through August so far to 69, of whom 65 were killed in hostile incidents.

Currently, Iraqi insurgents this month have been killing U.S. soldiers at an average rate of almost four a day.

By Wednesday this week, Aug. 17, the total U.S. military dead in Iraq from the start of major combat operations on March 19, 2003 was 1,861 of whom 1,447 were killed in action and 414 in non -hostile incidents, the IIP said.

This latter, widely overlooked statistic means that accidents of all kinds have accounted for almost one-quarter of all U.S. military deaths in Iraq.

The number of U.S. troops killed during the week of Aug. 10-17 was significantly less than the figure of 44 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in the first 10 days of August alone, but back on par with the still grim figure of 28 killed the week of July 28 through Aug. 3.

Currently, the rate of U.S. combat fatalities is confirming the grim projection made in this column last week that August could see more than 130 U.S. troops killed, the worst death toll per month there since last November. In July, which seemed to be a bad enough month at the time, 54 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, according to Department of Defense figures.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through Wednesday, Aug.17 was 14,021, an increase of 144 on the previous week, the IIP said. This was a very significant and ominous increase on wounded figures for the previous two weeks that ran at 108 for Aug. 3-Aug. 10 and 112 for July 28 to Aug. 3.

Even more than the more often reported fatally figures, this remorseless rise in the number of wounded confirms the warnings of U.S. military intelligence officers that the insurgency is metastasizing, and growing in scale and violence.

The figure of 144 injured from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 remained far below the figure of 293 U.S. soldiers wounded from July 6 to July 13, but still above the grim average of over 100 U.S. soldiers injured per week, many of them losing limbs or suffering other permanent disabilities.

The rate at which Iraqi police and security forces were killed by the insurgents was down a little compared with the previous week: 48 killed from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 compared with 56 killed the previous week.

But the figures remained very much around 50 a week being killed, apart from the spike of 80 killed during the week of July 28-Aug. 3. That brought the total number of Iraqi police and military killed from June 1, 2003 to Wednesday of this week to 2,901 according to the IIP figures.

Up to Aug. 17, 131 Iraqi police and troops were killed by the insurgents, roughly twice the number of far better armed and protected U.S. troops killed during the same period, an average of seven or eight per day. If maintained through the rest of this month, this figure projects a death toll of 230 killed for the entire month of August.

Bad as this figure would be, it would still a very significant improvement on the 304 killed in July or the 296 killed in June. But it still points to a nationwide insurgency inflicting casualties severe and consistent enough to render any national army or police force ineffective in such circumstances.

The figures for the first 10 days of August also confirm that the numbers of Iraqi police and military whom the insurgents are managing to kill per month has been rising since January when it totaled "only" 103.

There was a marginal improvement in April compared with March, but so minimal as to be statistically insignificant. In all, 199 Iraqi security force members were killed in April compared with 200 the previous month according to the IIP figures.

Apart from that minor fluctuation, this casualty figure has risen remorselessly upward over the past six months and still shows no signs at all of leveling off. In July, almost three times as many Iraqi security troops were killed as in January and February.

This also contrasts with a monthly average of only 65 Iraqi security force members killed per week from April 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2004 according to the IIP. Currently, the vastly expanded Iraqi security forces are being killed at a rate that is four-and-a-half times greater per month than they were then.

In all, another every bad week; In terms of casualties suffered by U.S. and allied Iraqi forces, it was not quite as bad the week precedeed it. But it could certainly not be called good.

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Outside View: Ink Blots For Iraq
Cleveland OH (UPI) Aug 19, 2005
The past couple weeks have been a hard time here in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio. Third Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit headquartered just 10 minutes from my house, lost 20 guys in two days in Iraq. It was a kick in the stomach for the whole city.

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