Numbers game not so fun these days?

I didn’t even see any headlines about passing the milestone of 3,900 US troops killed since the invasion of Iraq. According to iCasualties, it happened on the 26th.

Why haven’t we been hearing much about US troop deaths in Iraq lately? Maybe because it would draw attention to the numbers?

For the record, they report 21 Americans killed in Iraq so far this month, 13 of them from hostile causes. Only February 2004 was lower (20 dead, 11 from hostile causes), and the 0.677 per day rate is the lowest ever.

If reporting casualties and milestones when numbers were higher was merely good journalism, and not politics as many charged, it’s good journalism today, too. Isn’t it?

We should be hearing exactly the same talk we heard every day, week, and month until about September or so. All about how even one death is too many and how many have died since President Bush declared the end of major combat operations. When asked if playing up such numbers wasn’t playing political games with casualties, the typical response was that Americans had a right to know and that it was an important part of the discussion.

Or, alternatively, we should at least be hearing how casualties are down so much from previous numbers. Don’t Americans have a right to know? Isn’t it an important part of the discussion?

Am I missing something?

UPDATE: Whoops. MSNBC.com is still playing:

deadliest.jpg

And on the story page:

deadliest2.jpg

How you tell the story changes the story. If they had wanted to, they could have done something more like this:

Sharp drop in violence in Iraq in second part of 2007
Officials note year was deadliest for U.S. troops

But they didn’t. Still, I give them credit for sticking to their story.

I also want to point out that I don’t often make a big deal about casualty numbers. Events have a way of changing rapidly, and something like a helicopter crash tonight at 10PM could double the month’s total in a flash. Things are looking good, and October, November, and December 2007 are lower than the same months in any previous year since the invasion, so things look to be on track. But I thought the same thing in late 2005 and look how the following year went.

Comments

  1. Just under 5,500 AIF [anti-Iraqi forces] killed this year. Only 2004 had a higher total. Just over 20,000 AIF killed in the entire war versus 3,186 American troops KIA. An additional 716 non-combat deaths. Absent a catastrophic loss, the December deaths will be the lowest total in the war.