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The Story Behind Iraq Casualty Count
Atlanta Man's Tally More Timely, Detailed than Pentagon's
By ANNA SHEN 12/18/2006 11:36 AM ET
Michael White
Michael White
Michael White, a data analyst in Atlanta, found himself observing something interesting when the Iraq war broke out -- the numbers just didn't add up. He first noticed this in May 2003 shortly after President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech.

"I began watching reporting from Iraq, and I didn't hear as much about casualties as I had in prior months. I began to think things were underplayed, and I thought that things were just starting, and so I began to keep track of what was going on," he said.

His hunches proved correct and with careful investigation, he observed that the casualty (dead and wounded) counts were definitely underreported. As he began to comb newspapers, official counts, Web sites and other media, he began to observe oddities. "One day the number would be 125, but that was the same as it was two days ago, and since then, I read about two more soldiers killed."

So began the birth of the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that he runs that tallies the casualties in Iraq -- and does so in an extremely analytical way.

His site is unusual and different, in part because he is so methodical. But he breaks the numbers down systematically: in time periods, by U.S., coalition, and other. The site also lists non-mortal casualties, including non-hostile and medical evacuations. Other sections list contractors and the circumstances they died under.

White's numbers are so detailed that they often give a more comprehensive picture than the numbers from the Pentagon or DoD. For example, maps on the site show the number of coalition and U.S. deaths that occured in each Iraqi province. Charts show U.S. deaths and international coalition coalition deaths.

Some information on the site, such as the number of U.S. deaths listed by state, also is available from the Department of Defense. But White often updates his numbers faster and his information is easier to find. He also breaks down the number of deaths by city.

Those kinds of details attract journalists and military families, who often check his site first.

The site has become so important in the record keeping of the war that sometimes White gets calls from the army; they have requested to use graphs and other things on the site.

For almost 3-1/2 years now -- without pay -- White has kept a meticulous count of every U.S. and coalition military fatality. He posts the names on the Web site, something that adds to the "go-to site" factor.

A Google search on the number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq results in hundreds of Web sites, pages, and articles that claim to give the correct count. Most of them are incomplete and inaccurate, and do not give a full picture of the human toll.

White, who lives in Atlanta, devotes 3-4 hours a day -- before, during and after his full-time job -- to updating and maintaining the Iraq Coalition Casulty Count Web site. He combs the Internet, various newspapers, and reports, all in order to give the world an accurate picture of the true human cost of the war in Iraq.

White is offering a real public service, especially because he has a wife and child, with whom he does not spend as much time as he does with the Web site.

He says "we have no affiliation with the government, think tanks, or news organizations." The site is self-funded, though it accepts donations.

Traffic on the site is impressive for a site run by one man; page views range from one million per day to one million per month. "The hits are mostly from the U.S., England, the Middle East, France, Germany, Italy and Spain," he said, adding that, "I get correspondence from all over, in fact someone even emailed me telling me that an Italian soldier got killed. I had to translate the Italian into English."

The site is rapidly becoming a "community of people" who want just the facts and an unvarnished account. With a mantra of "the facts speak for themselves," White said that the "site provides for the public the same information a CEO running a company would want -- just information backed up by facts, so he could analyze it."

White has virtual offices everywhere, so that he can update the site constantly. He stops by Starbucks often and is always looking for wi-fi spots elsewhere.

"I want to make sure there is an accurate summation and a place that is verified and reliable. I also want to see if there are any patterns to detect -- are things getting better or worse, or are things changing, for example are IED deaths increasing?"


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