September 26, 2004
Counting Combat Deaths

Some of the more knee-jerk leftie blogs display an updated scorecard of 'American Military Deaths in Iraq'. As of today, the numbers are 'Total: 1048' and 'In Combat: 800'. What I want to know is how many of those 800 were killed by enemy soldiers operating within the restrictions of the Geneva Convention. I suspect the number is less than 100. Donald Sensins of One Hand Clapping gives a convenient summary of the rules here:

To be categorized as a prisoner of war, POW, they must meet all four of these criteria:

(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) that of carrying arms openly;

(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Combatants who do not qualify as prisoners of war when captured are not legitimate soldiers when still at large, and their actions have far more in common with terrorism than with honorable combat, even when their targets are American or allied soldiers. How many American troops in Iraq have been killed by those who follow all four rules? A few dozen is my best estimate. I'm pretty sure that even IEDs aimed at military vehicles violate rule (d) when used in areas likely to be full of civilians, such as city streets. If those who plant them are violating rules (a), (b), and (c), they do not qualify in any case. So, here's a stronger version of my question for anti-war bloggers: Have any American soldiers been killed since Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" by killers who followed even one of these four rules?

The restrictions listed above are hardly onerous. Specific ranks, serial numbers, and dog-tags or military ID cards are not required, just some kind of definite command structure (a). Those who lack the time or money to come up with matching uniforms can use any "fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" (b). The Crips and the Bloods have figured out how to distinguish themselves from each other and from the general public with simple color-coded clothing, and the Iraqi 'insurgents' could easily do the same, if they wanted to.

A lot of lefties seem to think that the high rate of American casualties in Iraq proves Bush's incompetence. (That casualties are in fact quite low by the standards of Viet Nam, Korea, and dozens of other wars is worth noting, but irrelevant here.) What it actually proves is the enemy's utter contempt for even the most basic standards of civilized behavior, an attitude that makes it that much more important to defeat them, while making the job that much more difficult.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at September 26, 2004 01:10 PM

While I hesitate to draw too many parallels, lest I be accused of "un-American" attitudes, in at least one way modern lefties are similar to the terrorists: they both show "utter contempt for even the most basic standards of civilized behavior."

One needs only visit leftist web sites to be convinced of that.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic on September 27, 2004 01:20 PM

Dr. Weevil:

I suspect that some American soldiers have, in fact, been killed by people following at least one of the rules (my guess would be some kind of chain of command, especially in the first days after the end of major combat operations). Which doesn't detract from your larger point, that the majority have not.

As to what the Left believes:

I think it safe to say, judging from the Left's push for the acceptance of the first (?) protocol to the Geneva conventions, which sought to extend Geneva protections to guerillas and insurgents who would be violating the four conditions, that they are far more interested in hamstringing military operations (and according moral superiority to insurgents) than they are in actually trying to minimize the barbarity of what is, at base, an uncivilized act (i.e., war).

Posted by: Dean on September 28, 2004 07:21 PM

I've also seen the civilian casualties total abused. Most of the sites that purport to track civilian casualties attribute them all to the occupation, when it's clear (if they even bother to list the circumstances) that a great many of them are due to "insurgents".

Hell, some of them might be insurgents.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on September 29, 2004 12:47 PM