Guess how many Iraqi National Guard troops have been killed in the war. Whatever your guess was, you might be right -- because nobody knows how many of those poor suckers have died. It's weird. If you to the Iraq Coalition Casualties website http://icasualties.org/oif/ you'll get an exact count on how many US soldiers and Marines are dead so far. You can get the count broken down by home state, date of death, location in Iraq, whatever you want. You can even find out how many civilian contractors have been killed (at least 157 when I checked).
And thanks to a leaked report from the Iraqi Health Ministry, we have some figures on how many Iraqi civilians have died: about 3,500 in the last six months. That's a minimum, and sounds pretty low to me. Another 14,000 or so have been injured. The Ministry says these stats include "an unknown number of ING troops and police." So even they aren't keeping track. It's a tough life, being a native auxiliary. You don't even make it onto the casualty lists.
One of the problems with making an exact count of ING casualties is that hundreds of men have died when they were waiting in line outside ING offices, trying to join. Do they count or not? After all, they weren't really in the force yet. "Applicant rejected on grounds of death." These poor guys keep flocking to the recruiting offices, and the insurgents just keep bombing them. On September 25, six ING recruits were killed as they walked out of an ING recruiting office in Baghdad. There they were, with about 30 seconds seniority toward their pension plan, when a car full of masked jihadis pulled up and sprayed them with rifle fire and RPGs. Some poor secretary had probably just finished putting their files in order, and now she had to write up their job termination reports.
But they were lucky; at least they made it inside the office for the interview. Hundreds of guys have been blown away just standing in line waiting to fill out the forms. In Baquba last July, a car bomber drove into a crowd of 500 men waiting to apply for ING jobs and blew up. He killed 70 of them. On July 17, a car bomb killed 30 applicants outside an ING office; on July 19, 10 dead outside another ING office... and the beat goes on. Damn, with all the billions we're putting into Iraq, you'd think we could spring for a few kevlar waiting rooms outside these ING HQ's.
It has to be the worst way in the world to die, while you're applying for a job. It's bad enough worrying if your tie's straight, or what to say if they ask where you see yourself five years from now -- but you have to keep an eye out for Pontiacs full of nitro coming around the corner too. "Um, I'm a very hard worker, and -- shit, what was that noise?
The insurgents have added a new wrinkle lately: the Copymat killing. At least twice, suicide bombers have targeted photocopying shops near ING recruiting offices. Apparently all the recruits go in there to get their resumes copied -- in color, double-sided, you want to really stand out -- and somebody in the insurgency figured out that you could just send in a pedestrian in a dynamite vest, without having to waste a car. Pull the string and kaboom, the pool of new applicants is instantly smaller. Just a few days before the Sept. 25 attack, a copy store right next to the ING station that got car-bombed was hit. Six men, all ING applicants, were killed.
And yet a couple of days later there were dozens of them standing in line, making a perfect target for Christine the Death Car.
It does make you wonder, are these guys stupid or are jobs really that hard to come by in Iraq? I don't really think they're stupid. If there's one thing the insurgency is showing us, it's that Iraqis are a lot smarter and tougher than we gave them credit for. People don't realize how hard guerrilla war really is. It's not easy hitting the enemy in a crowded street, when he has all the air power and armor. And they're doing it with precision. One of the scoops in that leaked Health Ministry report is that our air raids are killing twice as many civilians as the insurgents' attacks are.