Patrick Cockburn / The London Independent – 2005-10-26 09:11:43
BAGHDAD (October 24, 2005 ) — The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq was climbing inexorably towards 2,000 yesterday, with the announcement of the 1,996th casualty since the invasion in 2003. US forces suffered 15,220 wounded over the same period.
Many of the 7,159 soldiers too seriously wounded to return to duty have injuries that would have killed them in previous conflicts.
The significance of the milestone is that it comes at a time when support in the US for military action in Iraq is dwindling. There is no sign of insurgent activity diminishing, with 23 US military personnel killed in the past week, mostly by roadside bombs.
The most severe fighting is confined to Sunni provinces, with 23 percent of the Americans having been killed in Anbar province and 22 percent in Baghdad. 28 percent died as a result of bomb attacks, and 24 percent through gunfire.
Confidence in the US and Britain that soldiers are dying to protect the great majority of Iraqis from a minority of insurgents will be damaged by a leaked Ministry of Defence poll. It shows 45 percent of Iraqis think attacks on occupying troops are justified.
The poll, commissioned by senior British military officers and published by The Sunday Telegraph, reveals a very high level of hostility towards the occupation. It is striking that resistance is common to Shia and Sunni communities.
The survey, carried out across Iraq in August, shows that 82 per cent of Iraqis say they are “strongly opposed” to coalition troops in Iraq. Less than 1 per cent say the troops are responsible for an improvement in security.
The figures help to explain why the armed resistance has found so many sympathisers. Some 72 per cent of Iraqis say they feel no confidence in the coalition forces, 67 per cent feel less secure because of their presence, and 43 per cent say conditions for peace and stability have got worse.
Washington and London have hitherto drawn comfort from the fact that the insurrection is confined to Sunni Arabs. The Ministry of Defence sought to portray the flare-up in Basra last month, when two British soldiers were captured then freed, as a conflict with a few rogue policemen and their supporters.
But the poll, carried out by Iraqi academics who did not know they were working for the British, shows that 65 per cent of people in Maysan province, supposedly controlled by the British army, say that attacks on British and American troops are justified. In Basra the figure shrinks to 25 per cent, but that is still sizeable.
Given that the Kurds, 20 per cent of the Iraqi population, largely welcome the US and British presence in Iraq, the survey reveals negligible support among Iraqi Arabs.
One of the reasons for the verdict is evident from figures on social conditions. Some 71 per cent of people do not get clean water, 70 per cent say their sewerage system does not work, 47 per cent are short of electricity and 40 per cent of southern Iraqis are unemployed.
WASHINGTON (October 23, 2005) – US Army Sgt. Joey Bozik remembers coming out of a coma at Walter Reed Army Medical Center not fully understanding why he was there. “I knew something had happened to me, I just didn’t know what,” Bozik said.
He first inquired about his family, then about himself.
“I had an above-the-knee amputation of my right leg and a below-the-knee amputation on my left leg. I had a below-the-elbow amputation on my right arm. And on my left hand, my thumb and pinkie were fractured and the metacarpals in my hand were fractured and I fractured my wrist,” Bozik said.
The human toll for the US military in the Iraq war is not limited to the nearly 2,000 troops deaths since the March 2003 invasion. More than 15,220 also have been wounded in combat, including more than 7,100 injured too badly to return to duty, the Pentagon said. Thousands more have been hurt in incidents unrelated to combat.
Bozik, a 27-year-old from Wilmington, North Carolina, recounted what happened to him, as he used his left hand and a prosthetic right hand to pedal a stationary hand bike in the physical therapy room at Walter Reed. His 25-year-old wife, Jayme, stood watchfully behind.
On October 27, 2004, Bozik was in the front passenger seat in a vehicle on patrol south of Baghdad, checking for insurgent roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Coming down a highway overpass, his driver steered the truck more widely than the two vehicles in front.
It rolled over an anti-tank mine with two mortar rounds attached. The explosion blew two other soldiers free of the vehicle. But Bozik was trapped inside.
Military doctors say US troops are surviving wounds in Iraq that would have been fatal in previous wars due to advances in medical care and body armor.
Military statistics showed that while 23 percent of US troops wounded in combat in World War Two died and 17 percent in the Vietnam War, 9 percent of those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan died. Without the advances since Vietnam, the US death toll in Iraq would be nearly double the current total.
But military doctors said some troops who may have died in previous wars are surviving, but with grievous injuries such as multiple limb amputations. More than 300 troops have undergone at least one limb amputation. By far the single biggest cause of combat wounds are blasts from IEDs.
“We look at patients oftentimes and feel like it’s a miracle that they’re alive,” said Lt. Col. Paul Pasquina, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Walter Reed, which has treated more than 4,400 troops hurt in Iraq.
“Someone who loses one limb is a challenge to get back to a meaningful, functional lifestyle,” Pasquina said. “But somebody who loses three limbs, on top of other types of soft tissue wounds, fractures, head injury, spinal-cord injury, paralysis…?”
Pasquina and Lt. Col. Warren Dorlac, chief of trauma surgery and critical care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany cited several factors for why a larger percentage of wounded US troops were surviving:
— advances in body armor, with torso armor better protecting the chest and abdomen, heart and lungs and helmets better protecting the brain;
— better trained and prepared battlefield medics;
— improved in-country surgical capabilities allowing patients to be stabilized so they can be quickly flown out of Iraq.
Moving patients to US hospitals usually took 45 days during the Vietnam War, but has been reduced to as little as 36 hours now. Most troops flown out of Iraq are then treated at Landstuhl before being sent along to facilities in the United States including Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas or Walter Reed in Washington.
For the first anniversary of the blast that wounded him, Bozik and his wife are planning a celebration with friends.
“We’ll call it my ‘life-day,”’ Bozik said, wearing red shorts and a white T-shirt with an athletic gear manufacturer’s slogan, “Just Do It.”
“He’s always got that positive attitude,” his wife said.
“The way I look at it is I’ve been given a second chance on life,” Bozik said. “Everybody always wants to know what the meaning of life is. I’m not saying I have the answer. But I can tell you one thing, I have a better understanding of what life’s about.”
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