U.S. Casualties In Afghanistan Examined
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
The remains of six U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan were brought home today. They were transferred from a military plane at Dover Air Force Base. The Army identified the men as Sergeant Joshua Kirk of South Portland, Maine, Specialist Michael Scusa of Villas, New Jersey, Specialist Christopher Griffin of Kincheloe, Michigan, Private First Class Kevin Thomson of Reno, Nevada, Sergeant Vernon Martin of Savannah, Georgia and Specialist Stephen Mace of Lovettsville, Virginia.
Those names will be added to the Web site icasualties.org. That Web site has been tracking the number and nature of troop deaths in Afghanistan, going back to 2001 and in Iraq starting in 2003. Michael White created and runs icasualties.org. And he joins us to talk about some of those numbers from Afghanistan. Michael White, welcome to the program.
MICHAEL WHITE: Well, thank you very much. Thanks for asking me back.
BLOCK: And those six names that I mentioned, among the U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan, that you've already been tracking for this month, which brings the total for this year, U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan to how many?
WHITE: The total this year is 239 American deaths.
BLOCK: American deaths. And that would be more than half of coalition fatalities in Afghanistan for this year, which is now 400.
BLOCK: Let's look at the total U.S. casualties since the U.S. invasion in 2001. How many is that right now?
BLOCK: U.S. casualties. And then if you include the coalition members, you're up to 1,445.
WHITE: That is correct.
BLOCK: You know, I'm looking at your Web site icasualties.org, and you plot these deaths on a curve. And it is quite striking because in the last year or two, those numbers, as expected, have taken a steep, steep rise.
WHITE: Ever since 2006 there's been a slow increment and then in 2008, a high increment and then a very high increment this year.
BLOCK: You have different ways of filtering these numbers on your Web site and you can sort the casualties by date, by nationality. The names that I just read will be added, along with their age. You also have maps of Afghanistan and you can chart where the deaths occurred. Why did you add that feature?
WHITE: I think that Afghanistan as a country has kind of been a big question mark in people's head as to where it is and where the fatalities actually occur. So, I sought out to find a way just to easily, and I had this on my front page, for you to look at Afghanistan and say, oh, I can see from the red on the map that most of the fatalities are occurring in Helmand province down in southern Afghanistan. And then right beside it in Kandahar.
BLOCK: Michael, when we talked four years ago, it was when the U.S. death toll in Iraq was approaching 2,000. It's now more than doubled that. And we talked at the time about whether focusing on numbers and statistics like this was numbing for you. And you admitted back then that it was. So, I wonder, four years later, with so many more deaths and injuries, how numb you must be by now?
WHITE: It's a hard question to answer because it was very nice last year and there are parts of this year not to have to report on daily deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan. And as this last week has shown us, it's getting back to the point where it touches a nerve every day, where you have to wake up and say, oh my goodness, two soldiers were killed or we lost eight soldiers in an IED accident.
It's just - it's troubling. It brings at home. And that's the thing, each one of these deaths as they occur, you know, it affects not just what happens in Afghanistan, but it affects our nation as a whole and everyone needs to take time out and remember these soldiers and servicemen.
BLOCK: Michael White runs the Web site icasualties.org. Thank you for talking with us.
WHITE: Well, thank you very much.
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