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How the US Conceals American Military Combat Casualties in Syria and Iraq

The US Central Command (USCENTCOM) announced the death of an American soldier in Syria last week. According to the Pentagon this is the first time a US service member lost his life in combat in this country, however such claims are questionable given that the US troops have been illegally present in Syria since a long time.

From the beginning of the international coalition’s involvement in the Syrian campaign US Special Forces were operating on the Syrian soil without UN Security Council mandate or invitation by Damascus and participating in large scale combat, Their actions were by no means limited by training the Syrian opposition, supporting the Kurdish forces and conducting reconnaissance.

The US authorities have used their expertise in manipulating the public opinion to develop numerous ways to conceal real combat casualties long before.

First, the data on the number of dead and wounded of American private military and security companies (PMSCs) is never made public. The PMSCs were specifically created for the purpose of concealing the official casualties. According to TTU, a French defense and strategy newsletter, the number of PMSCs’ employees in Iraq has increased from 250 to 2000 since January 2015. Another 5,800 contractors in Iraq were hired by other US government agencies and services. It is worth taking a moment to examine why such a surge in recruitment happened and how many of the military companies’ employees have not returned from their missions.

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This is only the official data of the contractors KIA and WIA published by the US Department of Labor

Second, all the bodies of deceased that have no traces of bullets and shell fragments are classified as victims of road accidents which is a common practice. In addition, if a soldier survives the impact but dies of wound in a hospital he is not considered killed in action.

To make it difficult to count the victims a complex system of sanitary battalions and hospitals was created. The wounded are constantly moved depending on the course of treatment and the severity of a trauma. US Army’s hospitals are spread out all over the world. The meaning of this transportation is to distort the real casualties’ rate among the US citizens.

Third, some of the casualties are registered as deaths of personnel serving outside conflict zones, for example somewhere in the neighboring countries or special missions. They are also not considered combat casualties. In addition to the official death pension, US authorities pay relative of the killed military extra compensation for non-disclosure of the circumstances of death, preventing them from spoiling the statistics by contacting the media.

The Pentagon strongly prefers to deal with the media itself. It prohibits dissemination of any data directly or indirectly pointing to the identity of the killed servicemen and. It is forbidden to publish the name, surname, photo and video of servicemen and their families, their date of birth, place of residence, etc. The US military who serve in conflict zones are not allowed to blog and use social media.

Fourth, only the US citizens are included in the statistics. No less than 2/3 of US troops serving in conflict zones do not possess US citizenship. The promise of gaining it is the main reason for joining the ranks in the first place. This is explicitly demonstrated by the infantry and armored units data, where up to 80% of the personnel participating in combat are not US citizens. That’s why only 1/5 of the actual number of casualties is recorded. Will the White House feel sorrow for the unaccounted?

Fifth, victims of terror attack do not fall under combat casualties either. Only the victim’s unit commander decides what can  be considered a terrorist attack and what can not. For example, up to half of the casualties goes unmentioned if caused by attack on a patrol or landmine explosion.

With this in mind, the real number of the U.S. soldiers killed in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones could be as high as tens of thousands. However, the Department of Defense refrains from any comments, and does not admit such estimations. At the same time the increasing intensity of combat situations raises a concern about the death toll that is expected to increase as well. Washington likely intends to continue concealing casualties among its citizens to bend the public opinion in favor of the US military involvement all around the Middle East.

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