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2003-07-18

Number of U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq 3X Higher Than Media Reports; Troop Morale Reaches New Lows

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As American troops call for Rumsfeld’s resignation and ask to go home, Army Gen. John Abizaid declares that soldiers must silence their criticism. We go to Iraq to hear from Jonathan Steele of the Guardian reporting on the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad.

Troops in Iraq are beginning to speak out.

But Army Gen. John Abizaid–who just took over from the retired Tommy Franks–declared that American troops must silence their criticism.

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing he said, "None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense or the president of the United States. . . We’re not free to do that."

This comes after a group of U.S. soldiers Wednesday spoke out on ABC News. Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralized by their occupying role in a risky place they said they had lost faith in the Army and their country?s leadership.

One soldier, a specialist, said, "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation." Another private added, "I used to want to help these people, but now, I don’t really care about them anymore."

After months of previous delays, soldiers from the beleaguered Third Infantry Division were told that their stay in Iraq will extend into late fall. Some of them have been in the Middle East since September 2002.

The Division was the first to reach Baghdad. They were told, "The road to Baghdad is the road home." But 9,000 of them remain in the city frustrated, demoralized and anxious.

The Pentagon has persistently promised the soldiers and their worried families a quick return only to have their hopes dashed each time.

And the publication Editor and Publisher has published an article headlined "Media Underplays U.S. Death Toll in Iraq." According to E&P, the number of U.S. soldiers killed is three times higher than the counts cited by the media. E&P based its reports on a new website that tracks every the death of every U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

Most media reports claim that 33 have died since May 2 when President Bush declared major combat to over. But in fact 85 U.S. soldiers have been killed since then. The difference in reporting occurs because the media often does not include so-called non-combat deaths.

On Thursday headlines around the country read: "American combat deaths reach mark from 1991 Persian Gulf war." The papers repeatedly reported 147 U.S. had died in combat in the current invasion of Iraq. But if you count all of the U.S. troops killed the total number of killed in the current invasion is 224–about 50 percent more troops than were killed during the first Gulf War.

Jonathan Steele, the Guardian’s Senior Foreign correspondent, in Baghdad. He has just been down in the trenches with the 3rd Infantry Division talking to angry and disappointed soldiers who want to come home.


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