Body count

Body count

Body count refers to the total number of people killed in a particular event. In combat, the body count is often based on the number of confirmed kills, but occasionally only an estimate.

Military use

Body count figures have a long history in military planning and propaganda. In ancient battles, the penises (and sometimes the scrotums as well) of killed and dying enemies were collected from the field to count the dead. In the case of near dead soldiers, it had the effect of accelerating their death. Usually though only the foreskins were taken, see penis removal, castration, emasculation and trophy.The military gathers such figures for a variety of reasons, such as determining the need for continuing operations, estimating efficiency of new and old weapons systems, and planning follow-up operations.

Vietnam War

Since the goal of the United States in the Vietnam War was not to conquer North Vietnam but rather to ensure the survival of the South Vietnamese government, measuring progress was difficult. All the contested territory was theoretically "held" already. Instead, the U.S. army used body counts to show that the U.S. was winning the war. The Army's theory was that eventually, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army would lose due to attrition.

Ho Chi Minh said, in reference to the French, "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." Most analysis of war casualties indicates that the allied army inflicted roughly a three-to-two ratio of communist combat deaths against allied deaths [Charles Hirschman et al; Vietnamese Casualties During the American War: A New Estimate, Population and Development Review, Vol. 21, No. 4. (Dec., 1995), pp. 783-812.] . Ho Chi Minh was proved correct in that the US eventually faced an outright defeat.

2003 invasion of Iraq

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US military adopted an official policy of not counting deaths. General Tommy Franks' statement that "we don't do body counts" was widely reported. Critics claimed that Franks was only attempting to evade bad publicity, while supporters pointed to the failure of body counts to give an accurate impression of the state of the war in Vietnam. Various conflicting reports of the number of civilian deaths have surfaced. Iraq itself claims that around 12,000 deaths occurred in 2006 [] and perhaps ~16,000 since the invasion. The United Nations has also kept track, and they report 26,782 deaths in the first ten months of 2006. [] Several independent groups of researchers have also attempted to gather accounts of civilian deaths, with the most widely circulated project based on Google rank being the [ Iraq Body Count] project. As of the beginning of 2008, they estimate between 80671 and 88095 civilian deaths since the occupation. The highest estimate at this time comes from a [ survey by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health] , which has estimated 600,000 Iraqi deaths due to the war.

At the end of October 2005 it became public that the US military had been counting Iraqi fatalitites since January 2004, though only those killed by insurgents and not those killed by the US forces [] [] .


In censorship, "Body count" has been used as a criterion to judge the 'shock value' of a movie, and hence its suitability for younger viewers. It is usually calculated by the number of deaths or bodies shown on-screen. This has led some directors to imply deaths instead of showing them, for example showing a group of unarmed people facing a villain, then cutting to the villain firing a gun and grinning. The victims' bodies are never shown, but the viewer will understand that they were killed.

Body count is also the title of a 1998 heist film starring Ving Rhames, Forest Whitaker, David Caruso, John Leguizamo and Linda Fiorentino. Critics have compared it unfavorably to Reservoir Dogs.

Body Count is a segment in the Machinima, This Spartan Life where a mix of dialogue and violence can go somewhere topical.

ee also

* Casualty estimation


External links

* [ Civilians killed in the Iraq war and occupation]
* [ - We count bodies, so you don't have to.]
* [ "Movie Body Counts"]

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