The mounting death toll suffered by the US army and intelligence community in Afghanistan due to the attacks launched by the supposedly friendly Afghan military and security forces was the subject of intense debate among the US bloggers. As of September, 2012, 60 incidents of the type were reported, with over 100 US servicemen dead and roughly as many – wounded. With the tide rising, the CIA urgently took to adjusting the levels of compensations issued to the killed operatives' families – until recently, the amount used to be $1,000 narrowly intended to cover the funeral costs.
Sadly, it long became conventional wisdom that a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. Speaking of the latter, it is just as well-known that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. The current developments in Afghanistan – where NATO forces appear to be hammered on a regular basis – and the response to what is happening seem to highlight both gruesome truths. Early this October, CNN set the US loss of life in Afghanistan at 2,002 but the real figure is widely believed to be at least twice as high. In any case, that adds up to enough dead for a whole war-time cemetery…
It should be noted, first of all, that a credible source of integrated information on the Western coalition' fatalities in Afghanistan is nowhere to be found, meaning that the US masters of psy-ops have boundless freedom to manipulate the numbers. Given that, the propaganda relies heavily on the principle which can be traced to Joseph Goebbels and was permanently employed by outlets like The Voice of America, Radio Liberty, etc. in the Soviet era: whoever breaks the news gets the privilege of supplying subjective interpretations from the moment on. Reporting casualties, the US sets the numbers unrealistically low so as to prevent the morale in its forces from plummeting.
Secondly, the statistic data released by the US exclusively takes into account the servicemen who are US citizens, while other nationals also serve in the US Army on conflict-zone missions in the hope to be eventually rewarded with Green Cards. The share of non-Americans – the people you can, depending on preferences, regard as contract soldiers or mercenaries, if US residence permits should count as a form of pay – occasionally reaches 60% in the US forces' total. It must be borne in mind that the official US statistics simply does not reflect the deaths of servicemen from this category.
Thirdly, US surveys never add military journalists to the death count if they get killed in war zones, though it is an open secret that many of them are, in fact, CIA operatives. The deaths of various contractors are similarly ignored in the reporting.
Fourthly, it is a US tradition to keep the special forces and intelligence agencies' death tolls secret. The corresponding units, however, are the ones typically taking the greatest risks.
Fifthly, it transpired a number of times that the US command announced the death of its servicemen as losses outside of combat, attributing them to traffic accidents, mishandling of firearms, health problems, etc. Soldiers and officers dying of wounds in hospitals are not listed in the surveys either – back in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, the tricks were prominently in play, the result being that initially 148 US soldiers were supposed to have died on the battlefield but it transpired later that roughly ten times the number of lives had been taken by traffic and other accidents during the campaign.
Sixthly, Washington deliberately diluted the international coalition in Afghanistan by attracting to it a maximal number of countries, the point being to reduce the US fatalities by shifting a part of the burden onto others. CNN says at least 1,190 soldiers and officers from countries other than the US died in the course of the Enduring Freedom campaign. By the way, this year's NATO death toll is already twice that reported in 2011.
Seventhly, we get to hear almost nothing about the levels of severity of the wounds sustained by the coalition servicemen in Afghanistan (the same used to be true of Iraq). In practice, that means that soldiers left with no legs or arms do not end up being put on the lists of irreversible losses. Normally for the US, 10 soldiers are injured per one killed, which is a fairly high ratio owed to the extensive use of protective Kevlar wear in US uniforms. Since the protection is limited to a part of the body surface, a side effect associated with the technology is the rising number of cases when soldiers are crippled.
Psychological trauma accompanies combat as do bodily injuries. The perspective of The New England Journal of Medicine is that one out of six US veterans faces psychological problems such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. In fact, some 20% of the US servicemen have to be evacuated from the war zone due to reasons of entirely psychological character.
Already in 2004 – in the epoch the US was just getting bogged down on Iraq and Afghanistan – the number of deserters in the US army jumped to around 5,000. Some of them attempted to find refuge in Canada, but official accounts of the stories are missing. Debates did break out in the Canadian society as to whether the people should be granted political asylum.
A circumstance not to be overlooked is that no weapon poses a threat to a contract army as serious as the avalanche of “killed in battle” notices. In today's US, all the forces – from the National Guards to Navy Seals – have difficulty hiring enough soldiers and officers, and the trend will persist into the foreseeable future. Hopefully, at some point Americans will wake up to reality and finally conclude that sacrificing their lives to invade and subdue other countries is not a good idea.