(CNSNews.com) - U.S. combat casualties in Iraq were down almost 79 percent in the month of October from where they were a year ago and approached a historic low for the entire war, a CNSNews.com analysis of Pentagon data shows.
The seven reported combat deaths took place in the Maysan, Ninawa, Salahuddin and Diyala Provinces in October 2008 – but there were none in Baghdad. By comparison, there were 33 combat casualties in October 2007, with 18 casualties in Baghdad.
July 2008 marked a historic low in terms of total casualties and combat deaths since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003, according to the CNSNews.com database. Only five combat casualties were reported for that month, out of a total of 11 deaths.
Over the past several weeks, non-combat incidents have been running roughly even with combat casualties, with U.S. soldiers as likely to die from vehicle accidents, helicopter crashes, illness or other non-hostile events, according to the analysis.
In terms of combat deaths, there were two soldiers who died when their vehicles hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Maysan Province. Although military experts continue to view IEDs as the “weapon of choice” for terrorists in Iraq, October 2008 marked the lowest month for IED-related casualties recorded for the entire year. (See Related Story)
Most combat deaths in October 2008 occurred as the result of gunfire.
On another note for October, the U.S. Defense Department reported the combat-related deaths of two soldiers who had previously been listed as missing in action in July 2008.
Army Staff Sgt. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Army Spc. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., were part of a patrol that was ambushed south of Baghdad in May 2007.
However, Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk, a Defense Department spokesman, told CNSNews.com that Jimenez and Fouty should not be included in the casualty count for July because they most likely died some time ago, and there is no way to determine the exact time of death. The month they went missing would probably be the best guess, he speculated.
Tom Korologos, a former ambassador to Belgium who served in Iraq in 2003, said recently at a Heritage Foundation forum that President Bush deserved credit for “planting the seeds of democracy” in the Middle East and for “calling an audible” that has allowed for progress in Iraq.
“I’m one who thinks the president’s policy in Iraq has prevented another attack on American soil,” said Korologos.
He also told the audience at Heritage that prior to 9/11 policymakers in both parties had identified Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States. President Bill Clinton, for example, signed off on the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which made the goal of regime change official policy.
The ambassador also said that critics of the surge strategy have been proven wrong. With violence now reaching its lowest point since the beginning of the war and with U.S. casualties down from the pre-surge time period, the success of the president’s strategy is now undeniable, Korologos said.
Combat Casualties in Iraq - October 2008
Army Pfc. Tavarus D. Setzler, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., died Oct. 2 in Majar al Kabir, a part of the Maysan Province in Iraq, when his vehicle collided with an IED.
Army Sgt.William Rudd, 27, of Madisonville, Ky., died Oct. 5 in Mosul, a part of the Ninawa Province in Iraq, from small arms fire.
Army Sgt. Reuben Fernandez, 22, of Abilene, Texas, died Oct. 11, in Majar al Kabir, a part of the Maysan Province in Iraq, when his vehicle collided with an IED.
Army Sgt. Michael Clark, 24, of Sacramento Calif., died Oct. 7, in Mosul, a part of the Ninawa Province in Iraq, from small arms fire.
Army Spc. Christopher McCraw, 23, of Columbia, Miss., died Oct. 14 from small arms fire sustained in Nasar Wa Salam.
Army Spc. Heath Pickard, 21, Palestine, Texas, died Oct. 16 in Baquaba, a part of the Diyala Province in Iraq, from indirect fire.
Army Pfc. Cody Eggleston, 21, of Eugene Ore., died Oct. 24, in Baquabah, a part of the Diyala Province, from indirect fire.
Non-Combat Casualties in Iraq - October 2008
Marine Col. Michael Stahlman, 45, of Chevy Chase Md., died Oct. 5, in the Anbar Province of Iraq from injuries sustained in a non-hostile incident. The incident is under investigation.
Army Spc. Geoffrey G. Johnson, 28, of Lubbock, Texas, died Oct. 12, in Baghdad, Iraq, from a non-combat incident. Family members quoted in other press reports said Johnson died from complications after an emergency appendectomy surgery.
Army Spc. Justin Saint, 22, of Albertville, Ala., died Oct. 15, in Baghdad, from a non-combat incident that is under investigation.
Marine Lance Cpl. Stacy Dryden, 22, of North Canton, Ohio, died Oct. 19, in the Anbar Province of Iraq, from injuries sustained in a non-hostile incident.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Hause, 29, of Stoystown, Pa., died Oct. 23, at the Balad Air Base in the Salahuddin Province of Iraq from non-combat medical causes.
Army Sgt. Scott Metcalf, 36, of Framingham, Mass., died Oct, 29, in the Balad, a part of the Salahuddin Province in Iraq, from a non-combat incident.