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American Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan: Cooking the Books?

The author is a well-known academic historian of Russia and Ukraine, which he approaches from a Christian (Russian Orthodox) and nationalist perspective, arguing that nationalism and Christian Orthodoxy are inseparable. He also writes widely on current affairs. Rare for contemporary Western historians of Russia, he sources original materials in Russian, pulling back the veil on much misunderstanding, ranging from modern history back to Russia’s very beginnings in the Middle Ages.

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American casualty statistics for its war in Afghanistan and Iraq are false. In Afghanistan, the Taliban, according to the press, were destroyed with ease. The US said 800 Taliban were killed in the initial attack in 2001, while Iranian and Afghan sources said eight. The Taliban are battle-hardened veterans and most of the Americans were green and far from home.

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The Iraqi story made no sense from the start. The Iraqi army was a first class, Soviet-trained machine of over a million soldiers, most of whom were combat-hardened in the war with Iran. That war ended in 1988, giving more than two years for that dynamic economy to recover and replenish its losses. They were deeply dug in and waiting for the American assault. Their anti-aircraft batteries were Soviet made and well manned. Yet, the green American army rolled over all of this with no difficulty, showing almost no casualties. Has this happened ever in the history of war?

In 2003, the Russian-language Foreign Military Review published its own intelligence statistics for the Iraq war. The author was a Colonel A. Svidirov. The argument he made was that the US has an accounting method that wildly underestimates losses. Losses are understated due to the presence of paid mercenaries fighting for the US taking a large percentage of the loss (Sviderov, 2003).

  Interestingly, those killed “in terrorist attacks” are not listed among official casualties. What might a “terrorist attack” be is defined by the commander of the unit where the dead soldier served. For example, up to half of the losses in patrol against Iraqi guerrillas do not appear in loss statistics (Bulochnikov, 2016). 

Further, it was non-Americans who bore the brunt of the major assaults. Whether it be newly minted “Iraqi soldiers” or other coalition members from the Middle East, these were the majority of the first wave attacks. The Kuwaiti force was 140,000 at America's disposal. The Turks had  5,000, Bahrain had 3,000 (Svidirov, 2003).

The suppression of the Shiite uprising in Fallujah were Muslims fighting for the Americans. All NCOs were non-Americans. The thought was that this would make more sense than “white men” attacking a non-white city. Local collaborators and PMCs have been studiously ignored by the press, but they were significant. 

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Friendly fire statistics are not reported as official casualties either. Soldiers dying without the presence of bullet or shrapnel wounds are also ignored and not included in the casualty lists (Svidirov, 2003). Soldiers who die later in the hospital are not included in casualty figures either. 

Remember too that receiving death benefits requires the family signing a “non-disclosure” agreement with the government. “Embedded” journalists also contribute to the misreporting of casualties. How “embedded journalism,” an oxymoron, became acceptable is a separate paper. Deserters are not counted at all. Tanks damaged by enemy fire were taken for repair and destroyed once repairs were deemed impossible. These were not counted among materiel losses. The difference here is between 30 and 850 pieces destroyed. Col. Svidirov writes:

The performance of the US military in the first phases of the Iraqi war were disastrous. They failed to perform well against Iraqi air defenses. The result was to move the operation to attack civilians. Only with the support of the media could US authorities its enormous losses (in six days of fighting, the US military has lost 15 thousand soldiers, 600 tanks and 18 pieces of the latest-bomber aircraft in 1991). The convincing victory of the Iraqi armed forces were associated with well-trained and experience personnel, as well as the availability of reliable and modern military equipment purchased in Russia, Ukraine and China (Svidirov 2003).

This makes more sense than the official story. American exceptionalism also stretches to the claim that its media alone doesn't exaggerate the enemy's losses and downplay its own. No, the American press is far worse than the state-run press elsewhere. Anatoly Matviychuk, initially writing in Russian Soldier magazine in 2012, stated:

[The war's] results for America were deplorable. The ground battle was gained at a high price, in six days from February 24 to March 1, about 10 thousand “coalition” soldiers (data from Konstantin Kolontayev, historian and journalist, dated May 2, 2009) were killed and 60 tanks were destroyed. The US managed, with the support of the whole Western mass media and Gorbachev of the USSR, to convince the world that this was a victory.  There was no victory, since the main goals set for this war were not reached. Iraq's ground forces were not surrounded and destroyed in Kuwait and southern Iraq and [the US] failed to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime and install liberal puppets (Matviychuk, 2012).

This is a slightly different set of figures than the official ones we hear of daily. Iraq's air defenses destroyed the myth of American “stealth technology.” Soviet-era radar picked them up. In the first seven months of fighting in Iraq, the US and Britain lost more than 300 of their newest aircraft. Naturally, reporting on this would be a problem. 

The Iraqi air defense suffered significant losses, primarily her radar stations, which were very quickly detected and, as a result, hit from the air. In addition, US satellites and reconnaissance aircraft had top notch equipment for removing electromagnetic radiation from communication cables, therefore, they very successfully recognized the location of Iraq's air defense command posts.  

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That is why in the late 90s, Iraqis, with the help of Chinese engineers, replaced the old wiring with fiber, which does not produce any electromagnetic radiation. Later, in 2000, Iraq bought four location observation stations of the Kolchuga type from Ukraine. This step damaged American dominance in the air. The “invisibility” of the F-117A and B-2s is a common myth, as it applies only to NATO radar. However, Soviet-made radar from 40 years ago operate at a different radiation frequency.

The Kolchuga are technically not radar systems. They are very sensitive radio direction-finding stations, which in themselves do not emit anything and therefore cannot be detected. However, they recognize airborne targets even by the rather weak radiation of their onboard electrical and electronic equipment. Kolchuga has only one drawback: this station alone cannot clearly detect the target. In this case, it can only determine the direction from which it is moving. Therefore, for accurate detection, three stations must operate simultaneously, thus forming a single “triangulation coordinate system.” Then they will give out complete and very clear coordinates of the target: speed, direction, distance and altitude. 

Iraq purchased four direction-finding stations so that if one of the installations failed, the state of the “triangle” could be restored very quickly. The Kolchuga, along with the latest fiber-optic communications system, made Iraq’s air defense systems almost invulnerable to air strikes. Proof of this invulnerability was the defeat of the USAF offensive in August 2002-March 2003. In the course of the battle, 200 aircraft were attacked simultaneously by Iraq’s air defenses.

During the air attack on Iraq, which lasted more than seven months, the United States and Great Britain lost 300 airplanes, of which 250 were American, and the Iraqi air defenses did not suffer at all. The United Kingdom during this offensive lost more than half of its aircraft. Military reference books claim that in 2001, the RAF had about 300 combat aircraft, whereas in early March 2003, statistics showed that the UK had only 110. Where did they all go?

From the end of March to the beginning of April 2003, during the centralized control of the Baghdad air defense, 3-5 aircraft were shot down only in the capital, as various news agencies reported. However, in wartime conditions, journalists were very limited in their movements, therefore the approximate real figure of the downed aircraft over the capital and its surroundings per day were more like 10-12 units according to Russian intelligence sources. 

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Few outside of Russia realize that it was Yugoslavian tanks, the M-84 (the licensed version of the T-72) with Czechoslovak crews, that were the first to enter Kuwait.  The American M1 went, as always, behind. According to the testimony of Russian soldiers from the peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia, the real American army is radically different from the well-known image of the “Iron Soldier of the 21st Century.” Basically, these are people with poor physical training and a substantial number of men with pronounced physical and mental defects. 

On April 9, 2004, the Fallujah assault, or the Second Battle of Fallujah, lasted four days, with the Americans being repulsed. The US responds by dumping many 200 kilogram bombs on residential areas. Yet, even with that, 4000 guerrillas defeated 25,000 American soldiers several months later at Al-Rahmani under the code name “Ghost Rage.” When Fallujah was finally taken, defenders' bodies exhibited burn marks consistent with chemical warfare.

Another Russian military analyst gives an example: 

An American convoy in Iraq was attacked by partisans. They blew up the front and rear vehicles and started spraying trucks with gunfire. The soldiers jumped out of the trucks and lay down. Drivers, in order to bring the cars out of the fire, began to drive through ditches and crush their soldiers. However, some vehicles with soldiers in bodies that did not have time to jump out from under the assault, turned over and caught fire. Losses were high. So all the corpses on which there were no traces of bullets and shrapnel, recorded victims of accidents (Bulochnikov, 2016).

This was an actual event, though the author doesn't give a date. Almost all the soldiers were not reported killed by the enemy, but by accident. This is only one way the US hides its embarrassing losses. 

In January of 1991, the Washington Post wrote in a now forgotten article:

A Pentagon spokesman told our reporter Paul Parkinson that logistical information about body bags, coffins and other preparations to handle the dead is “classified.” He explained that by releasing the numbers, the Pentagon would “give the enemies an advantage.”
Documents we have obtained show that one Marine mortuary unit and two Army Reserve mortuary units have been deployed to Saudi Arabia, but the specific number of people in those units, and the number of casualties they can handle is “classified.”
The men and women of those units would clean, dress and prepare the bodies of dead soldiers for return to the United States. Other advance work for the dead has included the installation of several large refrigeration units to preserve bodies in the heat of the Saudi desert until they can be flown home.
One Pentagon source went so far as to tell us that there is a worldwide stockpile of 63,000 body bags in the Pentagon inventory, but he refused to say how many have been allocated for use in Operation Desert Shield or how many have already been shipped there. . . Apparently the Pentagon and the White House now fear that the American people's support would wane if they knew how many empty body bags had been sent over. We reported in November that President Bush had been sobered by the top-secret casualty estimates the Pentagon gave him. Those figures say that as many as 10,000 Americans could die in the first week of a war with Iraq, and as many as 30,000 could be dead if the war lasted 20 days (Anderson, 1991).

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This proves how concerned the US government was on the impact of heavy losses on the morale of the soldiers and taxpayers. Those of us who were following the new at the time were daily reminded about the American desire to keep all casualty figures secret. In 2003, the Global Policy Forum ran an article about the banning of cameras from flights carrying the remains of American soldiers. This was the policy as early as 1991, though its enforcement has been spotty. The article quotes Prof. Simpson:

“You can call it news control or information control or flat-out propaganda,” says Christopher Simpson, a communications professor at Washington's American University. “Whatever you call it, this is the most extensive effort at spinning a war that the department of defense has ever undertaken in this country.” Simpson notes that photos of the dead returning to American soil have historically been part of the ceremony, part of the picture of conflict and part of the public closure for families - until now. “This White House is the greatest user of propaganda in American history and if they had a shred of honesty, they would admit it. But they can't” (Harper, 2003).

There can be no doubt that the US has gone out of its way to misreport casualty figures. The term “body bag” was given a new name, the “transfer tube.” CBS claimed at the time that the “families” are the ones who want these images banned from the press. Photos of American caskets coming home from Vietnam were run ad nauseam to destroy confidence in the war. The Pentagon will not make that mistake again (Roberts, 2004). 

The New York Times said in January of 1991, “Lite Industries has a rush order for 4,000 body bags, part of a contract for 16,099 that suppliers say was let by the Defense Department on Dec. 11. Other companies, including C. R. Daniels of Ellicott City, Md., and Rubbercrafters of Smithville, WV, are also filling orders” (Kifner, 1991). 

According to Russian military website, the US army lost 400 tanks and about 600 combat aircraft in the second Iraq war, whereas during the first war, 600 tanks and 150 aircraft were lost. Huge lair losses were not reported in the American press. The media reported that 20 F-117A Stealth light bombers were the first to fly to Baghdad. After some time, there were reports that two F-117A dropped bombs on strategic facilities in Baghdad. They were the only two left. 

It is not by chance that two days after the start of hostilities, any mention of the participation of B-2 strategic bombers in the war also disappeared. Such unprecedented effectiveness of Iraq’s air defense is due, firstly, to at least a decade of experience in conducting military operations, when in the period 1992-2002. it almost daily had to engage in battle with British and American aircraft in the so-called “no-fly zone” in the north and south over Baghdad. 

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The first part of the war was from January 17 - March 1, 1991. The US lost the number of men expected for such an operation. Having lost about 10 thousand soldiers (data from Konstantin Kolontayev, a historian and journalist, dated May 2, 2009), they managed convince the world of its victory over Iraq. Although, of course, there was no victory, since the main goals set before this war were not achieved: they failed to destroy Iraqi ground forces and, as a result, failed to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

If in May-June 2003, 20 attacks on Americans were committed daily in Iraq, by the end of the summer their number had grown to 100, and by the end of autumn, more than 200 per day. This is why reservists were called up in huge numbers. A fact few Americans even noticed. By August 2003, 185,000 reservists were called. If these are replacement troops, then the number of casualties must be around that figure. The Pentagon says there was no increase in troop commitments in the country. What other conclusion could be made? If the defeat of Iraq was so easy and complete, why were so many reserve units activated? As of 2012, the VA announced a 800,000 backlog of injury claims from servicemen. From where?

The US destroyed about half the schools in Iraq. From 1990 to 2003 the number of functional school sin Iraq fell by over 75 percent. For a country on the verge of first world status, Iraq lost over 75 percent of its GDP in the same time frame. The Russian media alone pointed out that the American population hasn't the slightest clue of the American role in Iraq or even what the major issues are. As it turns out, almost 90 percent of young Americans cannot find Iraq on a map. Only 11 percent of adults can, which should surprise nobody. Without too much of a surprise, “to satisfy the sexual needs of the troops,” the US military furnished over 30,000 prostitutes. These were “enlisted” in the Army as “auxiliaries” (Ali, 2003).

Contrary to the darkened wit of the American newspaper reader, only three percent of Iraqis see the US in the positive light. A Russian military site, Zerodinu, stated, 

The considerable damage to the US Army in Iraq can also be explained by the low level of intellectual development of soldiers and officers of the US Army, the complete absence among them of such notions as “professional ethics” and “duty to the Fatherland.” In armed conflicts, American soldiers show low military training and inability to use the main means of weapons, ignorance of the simplest skills fortification works, the failure to build a simple field fortifications (Zerodinu, 2012).

American servicemen are wildly overpaid. This is why they enlist. The level of money allowance of American troops more than in other NATO countries and unreasonably high. The initial salary, for example, of a corporal of about four and a half thousand monthly. This does not include getting everything for free and bonuses for danger, being away from home and all the rest.  Military pay goes into a special bank account where during combat operations the interest rate is 10 percent yearly. In addition, soldiers and sergeants are fully exempted from payment of all taxes. I've detailed the salary issue elsewhere. 

Not surprisingly, even the kept American press has leaked that most American soldiers are experiencing stress not during the fighting or military operations, but at the prospect of reducing allowances and deprivation of benefits. Soldiers are not joining the army.  As a consequence, a catastrophic rise of suicide among NATO troops and the US Army in particular developed and continues to be a problem. Within five days of fighting, the unit begins to break down. Within a weak, accidents begin to occur as soldiers become demoralized. 

Mental strain is the main cause of desertion, suicide and unprovoked aggression. The number is growing from year to year. So in 2013, more than 350 servicemen killed themselves, but in 2011, there were only 278. The sharp jump was in 2010, where 468 soldiers committed suicide. In 2008, the number was 128 and a year before that, 115. 

From 2003-2007, desertion rates in the Army and Marine Corps rose 80 percent (Center, 2014). In Afghanistan, there are 2000 cases of desertion, though few believe that's the real number. About 20,000 US soldiers have dropped out of service. states that only 1 percent of desertion cases are prosecuted. The UK Independent has called it a full blown crisis. As of 2005, there were over 5000 soldiers missing from duty, either AWOL or deserting. They write

Campaigners have also drawn attention to the often scurrilous tactics used by US military recruiters, who for three months have failed to meet their targets for recruits. After several cases where recruiters had illegally covered up recruits' criminal and medical records, threatened one prospect with jail for failing to meet an appointment and provided another with laxatives to help him lose weight and pass a physical, the Pentagon is halting all recruiting on 20 May for a day of retraining (Independent 2005). 

The Center for Conscience and War reports 30,000 calls from deserters and those on the brink. The Russian Newsland site interviewed an American deserter Andre Shepherd. He states,

None of the soldiers do not want to participate in this war. Most soldiers have families. Protest is seamless. Servicemen understand that trapped, have become dependent on the US government, because they need money to feed their families, to give education to their children. Therefore, they are extremely difficult to protest against the war. Nobody talks about it openly. On this subject, soldiers in Iraq do not lead the discussions, because everybody is afraid to become a traitor, afraid that thinks he alone. US soldiers in Iraq are afraid of problems, because in the army there are a number of hard unspoken rules that can not be broken.

The online journal Russian Myths reports that Russian intelligence estimates US desertion in the Mideast at 9000 since 2003. Official government statistics in 2005 state that 5500 have deserted. Yet in Afghanistan alone, the taxpayer is paying $4 million an hour to maintain the failed army of occupation. In Iraq, that number is $117,000 an hour. All told, American wars since 2001 have cost the US almost $2 trillion with nothing to show for it. That's only from 2001. The total bill is over $5 trillion.

In his article “On the Role of Disinformation in Modern War,” Russian Colonel R. Serov exposes the Pentagon's new approach to the media

The Pentagon at the end of the 20th century developed a new model of interaction with the media, the essence of which is the formation of a group of privileged journalists who are granted priority hen covering developments. For example, the CBS company has always been an integral part of the military-industrial complex and gradually supplanted its main competitors – NBC and ABC. [CBS] has become a major supplier of products to the Pentagon, and its regular advertisers are such well-known military corporations as General Electric Company, Ford Motor, General Motors, Boeing, AT&T and others. These companies finance sensational reporting in various “hot spots” (Serov, 2011).

The author notes that early footage of the “riots” against Bashar al-Assad in Syria from both the BBC and CNN were taken from the 2008 riots in Lebanon. The pro-Assad protests, even early on in the American press, outnumbered his opponents three to one. Today, they're forgotten. This is a very effective means by which the Regime can keep a lid on such things as casualties and military failures. Few know any better.

At the end of the Vietnam era and into the middle 1980s, to be an American serviceman was not a prestigious position. It was a liability. Suddenly, when regimes hostile to Israel become the target, the military man was recast as a “hero,” an almost perfect knight-figure for peace and justice. Not until roughly 1995 or so did an American hear the now common, nonsensical “thank you for your service” refrain. Today, its even a title of a movie. If you were to read the back issues of Vietnam Vets Against the War, you'll see how they were treated upon returning home. One article, written by Dante Ciampaglia, says

The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service member and wounded more than 150,000 more. And for the men who served in Vietnam and survived unspeakable horrors, coming home offered its own kind of trauma. Some, like Wowwk, say they had invective hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. As a cohort, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s “greatest generation” (Ciampaglia, 2018).

What changed? Only the nature of the enemy. In both World War II and recent wars, it was “right wing” regimes that have been toppled. This is the only distinction. The article goes on to say:

It would take nearly 20 years after the end of the war for America to get right with its Vietnam veterans. The dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 began the process, but many identify the Gulf War of 1990-91—with its national flag-waving, yellow-ribbon cultural mobilization and the grand celebrations of a successful campaign—as ending Vietnam Syndrome. “The Vietnam veterans, we couldn’t believe it. We could not understand getting letters from school kids,” says Langenus, also a veteran of Desert Storm. “You couldn’t believe that people were cheering you” (ibid).

Well, the US lost both wars, so why is there such a distinction in treatment? And this was long before 9/11. It was not only the nature of the economy, but the nature of the service itself. It's a left-liberal institution. And in the UK Guardian:

No one said “thank you.” My tour of duty in Vietnam ended in August of 1972. I flew back to my family in Maine; they were glad to see me, but not even they said "thank you" or "welcome home". Even if they had, I wouldn't have known how to respond.

Being in the military then was inherently suspect. ROTC centers went up in flames in many universities and most threw them out to the cheers of the press and the deafening silence from the “silent majority.” They were silent because they were scared – if they existed at all. There were no “thank you for your service” slogans then. Why? Because the enemy was Marxism, not nationalism. 

Furthermore, abroad, the CIA and MI6, as well as Mossad, the most experienced in the region, had penetrated the Iraqi armed forces. Once this was made known, few in the high command trusted any other. This is how the US eventually won the war in Iraq. It took a decade, but it was the defection of the high command. 

Diseases, sexually transmitted infections, pose a real threat to the US military's readiness, said Bill Calvert, chairman of the US Department of Defense's Committee for the Prevention of STDs. The probability of this in the army is almost five times higher than among the civilian population, since the majority of military personnel are young, physically strong people popular with girls. The likelihood of infection is even greater during military conflicts abroad, where the rate is 50 or more times that of the civilian population. Servicemen deployed abroad regularly receive information about the risk of infection from various sexually transmitted diseases. 

In the US, such a probability is ignored, and some defenders of the homeland, feeling safe, then suffer from a loss of vigilance. The rate today is such as to render the combat readiness of the military compromised.  

Several writers have noted that the reason for high losses and PTSD has been the quality of the men recruited. One of the worst aspects of new recruits is the loss of patriotism and disregard for national values. “The quality and discipline has decreased, because most of today's young people are weak or even unruly,” a sergeant-instructor complained during an interview. “Young soldiers,”  he said, “have practically no moral values, and their physical form is terrible.” Instructors at basic training facilities expressed strong dissatisfaction with the fact that they can not get rid of newcomers who do not meet the army requirements. They are  forbidden to raise their voice or otherwise verbally encourage recruits to improve. 

Many junior officers of the US Army do not trust their commanders and are dissatisfied with the new humanitarian and peacekeeping role of the armed forces play. They have family problems due to frequent changes of address and long stints abroad. “The loyalty of subordinate officers to their superiors no longer exists.”

No one really believes that the army serves abstract ideas like “freedom.” No one really makes the connection between fighting Saddam and preserving American liberties at home, liberties which have long since eroded under the massive weight of debt and political correctness. 

In the broadest terms, the wars since Korea have been failures. Tiny conflicts like Grenada or Panama hardly count for a superpower. Panama had a small military that long removed itself from General Noriega. The casualty figures for both Iraqi campaigns was far higher than has been reported. At first “embedded” journalists was met with outrage, now, its the order of the day. Can you imagine if that had been pulled in Vietnam? There, the defeat of the VC at the Tet Offensive was reported as a victory by the American press, Walt Cronkite chief among them. Today, since the opponents are nationalists of various stripes, suddenly, there's no anti-war movement and still, no victory. Suddenly, the military is cool again and women throw themselves at soldiers, rather than being repulsed by them 45 years ago. 

This paper hopefully has given a small dose of correction to Americans who think the US just rolled over a battle-hardened, heavily dug in Iraqi army. It never happened, and the first war was a defeat for the US and the UK. The second war finally ended in victory, largely because of three factors a) Turkey put twenty divisions on its border with Iraq, forcing Hussein to split his forces; b) the benevolent neutrality of both Syria and Iran, longtime foes of Baghdad and finally, c) the bribing of high ranking Iraqi generals to jump ship. These factors alone permitted the capital to be taken and Hussein to be murdered in secret.  


Bulochnikov A. (2016) About the Real Losses of the American Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. (in Russian) 

Matviychuk, Anatoly (2012) Is the US Army Invincible? Military Industrial Courier (in Russian)

Ciampaglia, D (2018)Why Were Vietnam War Vets Treated Poorly When They Returned?

Serov, L (2011) On the Role of Misinformation in Modern Conflicts and Wars. Foreign Military Review 7, 15-21 (in Russian)

American Deserter: I am Considered a Traitor in the USA. Newsland, November 2011 (in Russian)

Thousands of American soldiers Desert in Afghanistan and Iraq. Center for Current Policy, 2014 (in Russian)

The Deserters: AWOL Crisis Hits the US Forces. UK Independent, May 2005

Ali, MA (2003) Lifting the Iraq Embargo After Almost 2 Million Deaths: What Have We Learned From the Embargo's Lessons? 

Roberts, J (2004) Pentagon: Families Want Photo Ban, CBS News 

Kifner, J (1991) War Supplies; Somber Workers Press to Fill A Rush Order for Body Bags. New York Times

Harper, T (2003) Pentagon Keeps Dead Out of Sight. Global Policy Forum

Anderson, J. 1991 Pentagon Classifies Talk of Body Bags. Washington Post

Sviderov, A (2003) Some Features of “Operation Freedom” in Iraq.  Foreign Military Review 4: 2-7 (in Russian)

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