US death rate in Iraq is not decreasing, it is increasing
Although I rarely seem to get around to posting on this blog (I probably should call it: "not a blog" in the vein of George RR Martin), and no one reads it, I still think it’s valuable to post information here when I think it is relevant. This way if people stumble upon it in a Google search they will, perhaps, have found something of interest.
In any case, the post today has to do with US military deaths in
I was inspired to redo this analysis because the US military stated this week that the death toll for July was the lowest in eight months and then spun it to say that the security conditions are getting better. While the factual statement is true, when put into context, this spin is at best meaningless and at worst misleading.
So what is the real picture of US deaths? To answer this question I used data from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. I also use
Trends by period (thin solid lines): these show that with the exception of the invasion each period has gotten deadlier for US troops from the beginning of the period to the end. Also transitions between periods usually coincide with the drops in death rate, especially when the transitions involved elections. A possible explanation for these drops is the heavy security and use of strict curfews surrounding the elections. Of course, there may be other explanations for this phenomenon, but it is nevertheless thought provoking.
General trends (linear: heavy dot-dash, three factor polynomial: heavy dot): both general trends are shown for the occupation only and do not include the initial invasion. Both the linear and the three factor polynomial trends show an increasing rate of fatalities throughout the occupation period. The linear regression (R2 = 0.23, P = 0.00039; translation: the trend explains 23% of the variation in death rate and has a 99.9% probability of being a true description of the data) shows a change from 1.55 deaths per day at the beginning of the occupation to 3.02 deaths per day at the present time. I think this is an important point, because the media has focused on the fact the mean for July 2007 is consistent with averages for the years 2004 and 2005. As you can see there is a lot of variation in the death rate from month to month. A low death rate in a single month may be due to any number of factors that are not indicative of changes in the overall conditions of the war. Clearly the overall trend for the war is an increasing rate of US military deaths. The three factor polynomial is not significantly better in explaining the overall trend than the linear trend, but it does give a fairly good general description of changes in the overall death rate over time. The death rate of US soldiers rose sharply from the beginning of the occupation to June 2004 (mean 1.69/day) at which time it leveled off and remained fairly constant until August 2006 (mean 2.25/day). Since August 2006 death rate has again risen sharply (mean 3.12/day). These trends clearly show that the war has gotten increasingly deadly for US soldiers.
July trends (thin dot-dot-dash): one of the most interesting parts of this graph is that July 2007 has actually been the deadliest July on record for US troops. This may be coincidental, in that other Julys just happened to have lower death rates. It may also be caused by external factors that modify the death rate; July is the hottest month in
Conclusion: this analysis demonstrates 1) the strong overall trend has been for a steadily increasing death rate from the beginning of the occupation to the present, 2) the death rate for July is not out of character with this trend, and is therefore likely to not be indicative of a change in conditions on the ground. From this I can say that media hype and Pentagon optimism for July’s “lower” death rate are unfounded, and in fact may be deliberately misleading. To end, I sincerely hope that the July death rate is indicative of actual conditional changes in