Counting the Cost

John Howard Yoder often asserted that a fundamental challenge in the application of just war thinking is simply that we be honest.

John Howard Yoder often asserted that a fundamental challenge in the application of just war thinking is simply that we be honest.

Since the start of the Iraq war, we in the United States have failed to speak openly and honestly regarding civilian casualties. Why can’t we investigate and articulate what we know is happening in Iraq: that innocent civilians - already indiscriminately targeted by insurgents, jihadists, and thugs - are now dying in larger numbers at the hands of U.S. forces, most notably from aerial bombing and our use of heavy attack weapons?

At the war’s outset the Pentagon announced that it had no obligation to provide information on the number of Iraqi soldiers killed or wounded. The policy adopted regarding civilians mirrored that of the first Gulf war: "We don’t do body counts," as Gen. Tommy Franks put it. The government has made this policy stick. The practice is followed by embedded journalists.

But civilian casualties are not the only ones obfuscated. This fall, the European edition of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes claimed that nearly 21,000 wounded U.S. soldiers had been treated at Landstuhl Medical Centre in Germany. On November 24, the Pentagon’s official injury count claimed that 9,300 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq. What accounts for an 11,000+ discrepancy? (Reported injuries in Afghanistan represent about 15 percent of the difference.)

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Sojourners Magazine February 2005
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