"News that's not known, or not known enough." Helen & Harry Highwater's cranky weblog of news and opinion.
At least 919,967 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks,based on lowest credible estimates.
Sources and methodology are explained in the sidebar. Some questions about lower or higher casualty counts cited elsewhere are addressed in these footnotes. This page is updated about once monthly. Most recent update: Aug. 10, 2010.
Notes about varying casualty counts cited elsewhere:
Why does Iraq Body Count report a much lower number?
• From the start of the Iraq invasion and occupation, an organization called Iraq Body Count (IBC) has offered its tallies of the announced civilian death toll in Iraq.
As the cornerstone of its work, IBC counts only Iraq civilian deaths that are reported in newspapers or on television. In a nation ravaged daily by violence, it seems unlikely that reports of every man, woman, and child killed -- or even most Iraqi deaths -- would be mentioned in that nation's media.
Furthermore, as IBC states,
"We have not made use of Arabic or other non English language sources, except where these have been published in English. ... It is possible that our count has excluded some victims as a result."
"It is Possible..."? The principle languages of Iraq are Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Armenian. English is a fairly common second language in Iraq, but few of that nation's newspapers or newscasts are in English, the only language IBC is reading. Thus it's impossible to imagine that many casualties are not being excluded.
Also, IBC's methodology ignores even English-language media reports of Iraqi civilians' deaths, unless matching reports of the same casualties are published by at least "two independent [English-language] agencies."
Iraq Body Count's methodology undoubtedly leaves many dead Iraqis' bodies un-counted. Its number is lower than the estimates we've seen from any other organization, except for the optimistic reports from Iraq's Ministry of Health.
"What we are attempting to provide is a credible compilation of civilian deaths that have been reported by recognized sources. Our maximum therefore refers to reported deaths which can only be a sample of true deaths [if] one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war."
So it's dead wrong to present IBC's "maximum civilian deaths" as an accurate casualty count. But for years IBC's undercount has been widely, nearly universally cited by media and policy-makers, and IBC has done nothing to stop the misleading mis-use of its work.
Iraq Body Count's "body count" is just plain false -- they're not counting anywhere near all the bodies, and they know it. Informed and honest observers should not accept IBC's numbers as even approaching a complete or credible count of Iraqi civilians killed.
Why does TBRNews report a much higher number?
• Many readers have cited this popular article at TBRNews. It gives voice to a theory we've heard whispered since even before the attack on Iraq; in its earliest versions, the theory was that many more American soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan than the Pentagon and media had reported. Now it's about American casualties from Iraq.
In a nutshell, the theory is that the toll of American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan includes only military deaths where the moment of death is in Iraq or Afghanistan -- but ignores the deaths of American service members injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and evacuated out of country, who subsequently die in military hospitals elsewhere.
Well, we don't buy it.
First and most pertinent, the US Department of Defense has announced numerous deaths of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany, or at hospitals in Kuwait or in America, from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read for yourself, press releases announcing the sad deaths of David M. Kirchhoff, William D. Chaney, Bradley C. Fox, Tyler D. Prewitt. If you simply go through the Pentagon press releases, you'll find numerous other deaths outside Iraq and Afghanistan, included in the count of military casualties.
There could be several, or even several dozen American soldiers who have been killed in these wars but are not on the official DoD tally, due to oversight, errors, secrecy about their missions, or even an official policy that discounts certain American military deaths.
But the number can't be in the hundreds, and certainly can't be in the thousands -- because American military deaths are never an abstract number. Behind every number in the official DoD tally of Americans killed, there's an American name remembered, a American life sadly cut short, and grieving American friends and family who will never forget the loved one lost.
When Americans visit the Vietnam Memorial, they look for their dead uncle's name, their father, their friends, because they knew people who died in that war. If their names weren't there -- as has happened with a small number of overlooked American deaths from the Vietnam war -- the friends and families complain, and the missing names are added.
If thousands of American dead from these Middle East wars had been forgotten, not included in the ongoing tally of grief, there would be loud, angry, headline-making protests from the parents, wives, husbands, siblings, and friends of the dead, demanding that their sacrifice be honored and remembered.
Where are these people, understandably angry that their loved ones' deaths have been ignored? It defies credibility to believe that huge numbers of American dead have been kept off the books, when no American's friends and family have made a ruckus. Until we hear from the neighbors and loved ones of the dead, we don't believe there's a cover-up.
We're certain that TBRNews has their heart in the right place, but we're also certain they're wrong.
Special thanks to Mark Herold at the University of New Hampshire, for information on Afghan casualties. Thanks also to Cynthia Hills, Al W., Michael, Steven D., AC, and Peter B. for research assistance and error-spotting.
U.S. and coalition authorities rarely provide any public estimates of Afghan or Iraqi troop or civilian casualties or injuries. In this absence of official data, we present the latest and lowest credible estimates we've found.
About 303 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the ghastly attacks of September 11, 2001.
More than 130 times as many people have been killed in these wars and occupations than in all terrorist attacks in the world from 1993-2004, according to data compiled by the US State Department. More recent figures are un-available — after the 2004 report showed terrorism at an all-time high, numerous experts suggested that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fueling an increase in terrorism, and subsequent State Dept terror tallies have remained classified.
Sources and methodology
Where a source cites a range (for example, 2,500-4,000), we always use the lower figure.
Where a credible estimate can't be found, we use the available data to make our own estimate, and explain our math.  Afghan troops killed: Based on estimate and tracking by Mark Herold, Ph.D at the University of New Hampshire, as detailed at his website. Dr. Herold's count is 8,587, and ended in July 2004.  Afghan troops seriously injured: Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 3:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for troops during wartime.  Afghan civilians killed: Based on estimate and tracking by Dr. Herold, as detailed at his website. For casualties since Dr. Herold's last update in July 2004, we've made a crude guess based on the average of 72 monthly deaths Dr. Herold recorded among Afghan civilians during 2004's first seven months. Deaths among Taliban fighters and Taliban affiliates are included in Afghan civilian casualties, because there is no relaible way to separately tally Taliban deaths and Afghan civilian deaths. American media seems to believe press releases from the US military which routinely conclude that almost all Afghans killed in any incident were Taliban operatives, but sadly, after too many misleading press releases from US military officials we can't consider such claims plausible. We are aware, of course, that the battlefields of Afghanistan have become increasingly violent under the Obama administration, as Barack Obama's "change", insofar as Afghanistan is concerned, has meant increasing the American military presence and engagement in Afghanistan. Thus our continued reliance on Dr Herold's work from an earlier era means that this page's approximation of casualties among Afghan civilians is an under-estimate. Until there's an impartial, fact-based assessment of the current carnage in Afghanistan, the number of dead and injured Afghan civilians presented on this page almost certainly falls farther behind the actual casualties with every update we post.
 Afghan civilians seriously injured: Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 1.8:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for civilians during wartime.  U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan: US military deaths in Afghanistan are announced by US Department of Defense and CENTCOM, and tallied at Wikipedia, which notes that "the American figure is for deaths 'In and Around Afghanistan' which, as defined by the U.S. Department of Defense, includes some deaths in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, the death of a DoD civilian employee, and the deaths of four CIA operatives."  U.S. troops seriously injured in Afghanistan: To the best of our knowledge, this data is not publicly tracked (if you know a reliable source for this information, please let us know). Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 3:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for troops.  Other coalition troops killed in Afghanistan: Coalition military deaths in Afghanistan are announced by US Department of Defense and CENTCOM, and tallied at Wikipedia.  Other coalition troops seriously injured in Afghanistan: To the best of our knowledge, this data is not publicly tracked (if you know a reliable source for this information, please let us know). Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 3:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for troops.  Contractors killed in Afghanistan: A December 2009 report from the US Department of Labor cited 298 Amerivcan contractors and mercenaries killed in Afghanistan.  Contractors seriously injured in Afghanistan: Based on this July 2007 Reuters article, which cites US Department of Labor statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, 2,428 private contractors had been seriously wounded in Afghanistan from the beginning of hostilities in 2001 through July 2007.  Journalists killed in Afghanistan: Reporters' deaths are tracked by the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Journalists seriously injured in Afghanistan: To the best of our knowledge, this data is not publicly tracked (if you know a reliable source for this information, please let us know).  Iraqi troops killed: Based on an estimate of 30,000 deaths, offered by US Gen. Tommy Franks, cited by the Washington Post on Oct. 23, 2003. No estimate has been made publicly since that time.  Iraqi troops seriously injured: Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 3:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for troops during wartime.  Iraqi civilians killed:
Based on this study [pdf], published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2006. The study's mid-point estimate was 654,965 deaths, and its high estimate was 942,636 deaths, but we have used the study lowest credible estimate, that at least 392,979 Iraqi civilians had been killed in the occupation, in addition to deaths expected from Iraq's normal death rate, through July 2006.
U.S. authorities, including President Bush himself, have loudly complained that the study is based on "flawed methodology" and "pretty well discredited," but that's simply untrue. The study was conducted by Johns Hopkins University, and used standard, widely accepted, peer-reviewed scientific methodology — the same methodology used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to estimate deaths from disease outbreak anywhere in the world, the same method routinely trusted by the U.S. and U.K. when counting deaths from warfare, civil unrest, and various catastrophes anywhere in the world.
Explained very briefly, Iraqi respondants in numerous randomly selected locations were asked about recent deaths in their households, and when family members were asked to show a death certificate, about 80% of the deaths they described could be so documented. Results from these interviews were extrapolated nationwide, in the same way political opinion polls extrapolate a few hundred interviews to reflect nationwide opinions. As stated above, we have used the study's lowest estimate of 392,979 deaths occurring over the first 40 months of occupation. We have then extended this rate of civilian deaths (9,824 deaths per month) over subsequent months of the occupation since the study was published.  Iraqi civilians seriously injured: Posted number reflects our estimate, using a conservative, historically-based ratio of 1.8:1 (serious injuries to fatalities) for civilians during wartime.  U.S. troops killed in Iraq: Based on numbers announced by US Department of Defense and CENTCOM, and tracked by the good folks at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.  U.S. troops seriously injured in Iraq: Based on numbers announced by US Department of Defense and CENTCOM, and tracked by the good folks at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. (According to this 2005 article by Salon reporter Mark Benjamin, an additional 25,289 service members had been evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries or illnesses, but not included in the official numbers. These injuries are not included in the numbers presented on this page.)  Other coalition troops killed in Iraq: Based on numbers announced by US Department of Defense and CENTCOM, and tracked by the good folks at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.  Other coalition troops seriously injured in Iraq: To the best of our knowledge, this data is not publicly tracked (if you know a reliable source for this information, please let us know). Posted number reflects our estimate, assuming the same injury to death ratio suffered by American troops in the same battlefield.  Contractors killed in Iraq: Based on this July 2007 Reuters article, which cites US Department of Labor statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The article reports that 933 private contractors had been killed in Iraq from the beginning of hostilities in 2001 through July 2007.  Contractors seriously injured in Iraq: Based on the same article, 10,569 private contractors had been seriously wounded in Iraq from the beginning of hostilities in 2001 through July 2007.  Journalists killed in Iraq: Reporters' deaths are tracked by the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Journalists seriously injured in Iraq: To the best of our knowledge, this data is not publicly tracked (if you know a reliable source for this information, please let us know).
--Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News
Like the URL says, this website is about unknown news.
Our news comes only from mainstream, professional journalists or (rarely) other sources we trust entirely, with no nuttiness and no interest in the same news you see everywhere else.
What we believe
We believe in liberty and justice for all, so of course, we oppose many US government policies. This doesn't mean we're anti-American, redneck scum, pinko commies, militia members, or terrorist-sympathizers. It means we believe in freedom, as more than merely a cliché.
We believe you have the right to live your own life as you choose, and others have the equal right to live their lives as they choose. It's not complicated.
We believe freedom leads to peace, progress, and prosperity, while its opposite -- oppression -- leads to war, terrorism, poverty, and misery.
We believe it's preposterously stupid to hate people because of their appearance, their race or nationality, their religion or lack of religion, how they have sex with other consenting adults, etc. There are far more apropos reasons to hate most people.
We believe in questioning ourselves, our assumptions, each other -- and we especially believe in questioning authority (the more authority, the more questions). We believe obedience is a fine quality in dogs and young children, but not in adults.
Like America's right-wingers, we believe in
hard work to get ahead,
and stern punishment for serious crimes.
We believe big government should not be blindly trusted.
But unlike most right-wing leaders, we mean it.
Like America's left-wingers, we believe in
equal treatment under law,
war as a last (not first) resort,
and sensible stewardship of natural resources.
We believe big business should not be blindly trusted.
But unlike most left-wing leaders, we mean it.
Like libertarians, we believe it's wrong and reprehensible to arrest people for what they think, believe, look like, wear, eat, smoke, drink, inhale, inject, or otherwise do to themselves.
But unlike many libertarians, we're not obsessed with the gold standard, we don't believe incorporation is humanity's highest achievement, and we don't believe everything in life comes down to dollars and cents. We've read and enjoyed Ayn Rand's novels, but we understand that they're works of fiction.
We're skeptical, and we're sick of so-called 'journalists' who aren't skeptical at all.
A reader asks, what are our solutions?
We propose no solutions except common sense, which is never common. We like the principles of democracy, and the ideals broadly described as 'American'. The US Constitution is a fine and workable framework for solutions, when it's actually read and thoughtfully understood by intelligent statesmen and women. So, no manifestos from us. We don't dream that big, and if there's one thing the world doesn't need it's yet another manifesto.
Our suggestion is: think.
A fact-based instead of faith-based approach leads to solutions for most of the recurring issues of our time, from abortion to global climate change, pollution to universal health care, careful but real regulation of industry and economy, hunger, war, terror, human rights for humans not for corporations, science not religious doctrine in public schools, equal protection and prosecution under law, etc. Approach problems without glorifying stupidity, without demonizing intelligence, and answers usually come into focus.
These pages are published by Harry and Helen Highwater, happily married low-income nom de plumes and rabble-rousers from Madison, Wisconsin (with a few friends scattered around the world helping out).
We try to spotlight news that hasn't gotten enough (or appropriate) attention in American media, along with our opinions and yours.
We bang our keyboards against the wall, because it doesn't hurt as much as banging our heads.