WASHINGTON April 8 —
The death toll of Iraqi soldiers is in the thousands, but
precisely how many have died is anyone's guess.
The Pentagon isn't doing estimates. The International Committee
of the Red Cross says hospitals in Baghdad where "one emergency
arrival follows the other" have gotten too busy to count the
Military analysts are divided: One says more than 10,000
uniformed Iraqi soldiers will be dead at war's end. Another suggests
the death total will be half that. Others won't venture a guess.
"These are extremely rubber numbers," said Dana Dillon, a senior
analyst and retired Army major at the Heritage Foundation. "It's
difficult to verify, especially when you're dropping bombs on people
and you don't go back and count bodies."
Adding to the confusion are claims by Iraq's minister of
information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who says American and British
soldiers are the ones being killed. They're so demoralized, he said,
that they're "beginning to commit suicide at the walls of
U.S. military officials say 114 American and 28 British troops
have died in the war.
Most information about Iraqi troop casualties has dribbled out
after individual fights or suicide bombings.
"We can't keep count of how many we've killed," Col. David
Perkins with the 3rd Infantry Division inside Baghdad said Monday.
He guessed his troops killed between 600 and 1,000 Iraqi soldiers on
their way into the capital on the west side of the Tigris River.
"We have had a lot of suicide attackers today," Perkins said.
"These guys are going to die in droves."
That assault on Baghdad followed weekend incursions into the
capital a show of force that the Pentagon says left 2,000 to 3,000
Iraqi fighters dead.
"It's a pure guesstimate," said Dan Goure, a military analyst at
the Lexington Institute. He said the Pentagon issued the number to
convince Iraqi fighters that the battle was lopsided and they should
put down their weapons.
"It may never be known how many Iraqis were killed by coalition
forces," Goure said. "It would have to be over 10,000 uniformed
Iraqis and more if you include the irregulars."
Before the war began, government officials and independent
military think tanks estimated Iraq had 389,000 full-time,
active-duty military, including about 80,000 members of the
Republican Guard. Iraq also was believed to have 650,000 reserve
troops and 44,000 to 60,000 paramilitary and security forces.
William Arkin, a private analyst and expert on the Iraqi
military, said the estimates, particularly about the Republican
Guard, could be misleading.
"They were undermanned as we saw by the ease with which we went
through them," Arkin said.
Arkin would only say that the Iraqi military losses would be in
the "many thousands." But he predicted the total would be lower than
in the first Gulf War when 10,000 to 15,000 Iraqi military deaths
In the Gulf War, 300,000-plus Iraqi soldiers exiled in the desert
were bombed by U.S. and coalition forces for 39 days with 10 times
as many weapons as have been used so far in this war, he said.
"There is no way to do the math and get to the number (of Iraqi
soldiers) killed in 1991," he said.
Still, Arkin believes the Iraqi military death toll will be
higher than expected, and the number might have postwar implications
for the Bush administration.
The coalition has worked to strike military targets and minimize
civilian casualties, Arkin said. But if Iraqis perceive that their
troop losses are disproportionate to the number of American and
British soldiers killed, they may think "the United States was
bloodthirsty" in its efforts to change the government in Iraq.
"This is very important politically because the whole point of
this war is to topple Saddam Hussein's regime with minimal cost,"
Arkin said. "Every one of those military casualties is going to be
equally a problem in the postwar period. These are angry
|A shattered picture frame with a
photograph of Iraqi President Sadam Hussein lies in a pile of
rubble in Basra, Monday, April 7, 2003. (AP Photos/Tony
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