true scale of American casualties in Iraq
is revealed today by new figures obtained
by The Observer, which show that more than
6,000 American servicemen have been evacuated
for medical reasons since the beginning of
the war, including more than 1,500 American
soldiers who have been wounded, many seriously.
figures will shock many Americans, who believe
that casualties in the war in Iraq have
been relatively light. Recent polls show
that support for President George Bush and
his administration's policy in Iraq has
number of casualties will also increase
pressure on Bush to share the burden of
occupying Iraq with more nations. Attempts
to broker an international alliance to pour
more men and money into Iraq foundered yesterday
when Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State,
brusquely rejected a French proposal as
US soldiers were killed last week, bringing
the number of combat dead since hostilities
in Iraq were declared officially over on
1 May to 68. A similar number have died
in accidents. It is military police policy
to announce that a soldier has been wounded
only if they were involved in an incident
that involved a death.
of the policy say it hides the true extent
of the casualties. The new figures reveal
that 1,178 American soldiers have been wounded
in combat operations since the war began
on 20 March.
is believed many of the American casualties
evacuated from Iraq are seriously injured.
Modern body armour, worn by almost all American
troops, means wounds that would normally
kill a man are avoided. However vulnerable
arms and legs are affected badly. This has
boosted the proportion of maimed among the
are also concerns that many men serving
in Iraq will suffer psychological trauma.
Experts at the National Army Museum in London
said studies of soldiers in the First and
Second World Wars showed that it was prolonged
exposure to combat environments that was
most damaging. Some American units, such
as the Fourth Infantry Division, have been
involved in frontline operations for more
than six months.
Robertshaw, an expert at the museum, said
wars also claimed casualties after they
were over. 'Soldiers were dying from injuries
sustained during World War I well into the
1920s,' he said.
soldiers are rotated more frequently than
their American counterparts. The Ministry
of Defence has recently consulted the National
Army Museum about psychological disorders
suffered by combatants in previous wars
in a bid to avoid problems.
wounded return to the USA with little publicity.
Giant C-17 transport jets on medical evacuation
missions land at Andrews Air Force Base,
near Washington, every night.
casualties are first treated at Army field
hospitals in Iraq then sent to Landstuhl
Regional Medical Centre in Germany, where
they are stabilised.
is the first stop back home. As the planes
taxi to a halt, gangplanks are lowered and
the wounded are carried or walk out. A fleet
of ambulances and buses meet the C-17s most
nights to take off the most seriously wounded.
Those requiring urgent operations and amputations
are ferried to America's two best military
hospitals, the Walter Reed Army Medical
Centre, near Washington, and the National
Naval Medical Centre, Bethesda.
hospitals are busy. Sometimes all 40 of
Walter Reed's intensive care beds are full.
with the aftermath of amputations and blast
injuries is common. Mines, home-made bombs
and rocket-propelled grenades are the weapons
of choice of the Iraqi resistance fighters.
They cause the sort of wounds that will
cost a soldier a limb.
less badly wounded stay overnight at the
air base, where an indoor tennis club and
a community centre have been turned into
a medical staging facility. Many have little
but the ragged uniforms on their backs.
A local volunteer group, called America's
Heroes of Freedom, has set up on the base
to provide them with fresh clothes, food
packages and toiletries. 'This is our way
of saying, "We have not forgotten you,"'
said group founder Susan Brewer.
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