AUGUST CASUALTIES….I’m really, really going to try to avoid getting sucked into posting endlessly about Iraq casualty data, since I genuinely believe that day-to-day changes don’t tell us much about long-term trends. And as near as I can tell, the long-term trends in Iraq haven’t changed much in the past few months, surge or no surge.

However, since I’ve been posting quite a bit about this lately, here’s one more data point: McClatchy has the latest figures for U.S. combat deaths today, and they show a welcome decline. They also show why these numbers are tricky to tabulate and track. The August total of 57 fatalities includes only combat deaths, which is why McClatchy’s number is lower than the one I posted on Friday. My chart is based on Juan Cole’s figures, which are taken from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, and the ICCC totals include 19 fatalities from a pair of helicopter crashes. These don’t count as “combat” deaths, but obviously they are troop casualties. Whether you count them is a matter of methodology, not a disagreement over the numbers themselves.

In any case, those are the numbers for August: 57 combat fatalities, 81 total U.S. fatalities, and 85 total coalition fatalities. Combat deaths are down compared to last August, while total deaths are up. And with that, I’m going to try to cool it on the casualty figures and go back to spending my time on the underlying political, confessional, ethnic, and tribal issues that are driving the violence in Iraq.

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