Sunday, April 19, 2015

Paper - "Body Count"

The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) has published an extensive study of the deaths caused by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The short name of the paper is "Body Count"; the long name is "Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 years of the War on Terror". For those that can remember (yes, I do) the term 'body count' gained much attention during the Vietnam War. One of the methods the military command in Vietnam measured progress on the battlefield in Vietnam was using a body count metric - how many of the enemy were killed during a certain operation or period. It became a focus of the military during the 'Five O'clock Follies" - the public affairs office briefings to the press that occurred in Saigon every day at 5:00 pm. The military, in an effort to show progress, would trot out charts depicting the latest body count information. Unfortunately, this public affairs practice turned into a negative. As a result, the US has learned to not release enemy casualty figures; and when they do, they are not tallied from day to day. So it is not surprising that the PSR 'borrows' the term for the title of their paper; as the negative association of the term fits their political agenda and resonates with many of their readership and will likely influence others beyond their usual audience. The paper by PSR attempts to fill the information gap of the casualties not tracked by the U.S. in Afghanistan (and Iraq and Pakistan as well). The paper is dated March 2015, is an Adobe Acrobat PDF, and is over 100 pages of graphs, charts, maps, pictures, figures, etc. In regards to Afghanistan, the paper provides estimates of the number of war deaths from October 7, 2001 to December 31, 2011. It examines the casualty figures of civilians, Afghan security forces, ISAF and OEF Soldiers, private security contractors, civilian employees of the US government, journalists, and insurgents.

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