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US Iraq Deaths Down, AP Stresses Suicides

From a distraught Associated Press:

US death toll in Iraq lower in October

By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – The monthly toll of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq is on track to being the lowest in nearly two years, with at least 34 troop deaths recorded as of Tuesday, but the military cautioned it’s too early to declare a long-term trend

At least 34 American service members have died so far in October, nearly a third from non-combat causes.

It is the lowest number since 32 troops died in March 2006 and the second-lowest since 20 troop deaths in February 2004, according to an Associated Press count based on military figures.

That would be the second consecutive drop in monthly figures, after 65 Americans died in September and 84 in August

Maj. Winfield Danielson, a military spokesman in Baghdad, pointed to a number of likely reasons for the decline, including a U.S. security push that has driven militants out of former safe havens and a change in strategy that has placed troops closer to the population. That, in turn, has caused a rise in the number of tips from residents about roadside bombs and other dangers.

He also singled out the cease-fire call by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who in August ordered his fighters to cease attacks against U.S.-led forces and other Iraqis for up to six months. Danielson said Iraqi forces also were increasingly taking charge of security operations.

He welcomed the lower numbers but stressed it was too early to say it was a downward trend.

“Have we turned a corner? It might be a little too early to say that,” he said. “It’s certainly encouraging.”

Ten of the American casualties, or nearly one-third, were listed as non-combat so far this month, compared with 19 of the 65 American troop deaths in September.

He said he could not immediately discuss whether the numbers of such deaths were unusual, although he calculated that about 82 percent of the overall casualties since the war started through Oct. 19 were from hostile fire or bombings.

The U.S. military usually doesn’t provide details about the causes of non-combat deaths in its releases, and Danielson said they could comprise anything ranging from vehicle accidents to suicides.

“Either way it’s a tragedy. We want to prevent both,” he said.

In August, the U.S. Army expressed concern that repeated deployments and tours of duty that have been stretched to 15 months were putting increasing pressure on military families and creating record suicide rates among soldiers.

There were 99 Army suicides last year — nearly half of them soldiers who hadn’t reached their 25th birthdays, about a third of them serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The 2006 total — the highest rate in 26 years of record-keeping and the largest raw figure in 15 years — came despite Army efforts to set up new programs and strengthen old ones for providing mental health care to a force stretched by the longer-than-expected conflict in Iraq and the global counterterrorism war entering its sixth year.

The current pace of civilian deaths also would put October at less than 900. The figure last month was 1,023 and for August, 1,956, according to figures compiled by the AP from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths are not included…

The Associated Press slays me.

That would be the second consecutive drop in monthly figures, after 65 Americans died in September and 84 in August.

Why wouldn’t October be the third consecutive drop?

But it would appear that the real motive for this article was to give the reporter an opportunity to speculate that all of the non-combat deaths were suicides. And all caused by the military’s heartlessly cruel treatment of the soldiers, of course.

Never mind that only a third of the suicides occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can’t be having good news from Iraq, you know.

That violates AP policy.

By the way, according to an August 16, 2007 MSNBC article:

In a half million-person Army, the [latest suicide] toll translated to a rate of 17.3 per 100,000

But what both the AP and MSNBC neglect to report this niggling detail from an April 15, 2004 report from the Defense Department:

[T]he national average of 21.5 [suicides] per 100,000 for males ages 20 to 34 the age span for most U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

So even this terrible rate is still much lower than the national average. But we can’t have context like that from the AP.

They have an agenda to push.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, October 30th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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