I originally posted this at Klintron’s Brain but I’m posting it here to get more feedback/correction/additions. I’m working on an expanded version that goes back to Carter and is more comprehensive.
One of the arguments I frequently hear when debating whether Democrats are actually any better than Republicans, or whether Bush is really in worse than Clinton, is that Clinton waged many wars of his own. I decided to do a little digging to find out whose wars were most fatal, and based on what I’ve found: George W. Bush’s wars are by far more fatal, but my data on Clinton’s wars is incomplete. I’ve posted my findings below. Please let me know if you have additional information or corrections to this data.
It’s always terrible to make these things into a numbers game, but I still hope this is useful in evaluating the scale of warfare under Clinton as opposed to Bush.
US military deaths under Clinton and Bush:
While calculating civilian deaths is very difficult, getting numbers for US soldiers killed is easier. However, these numbers are total active duty deaths, including deaths from illness, so they might not be a good reflection of combat related deaths.
Clinton: 7500 (total military active duty military deaths from 1993-2000)
Bush: 8792 (total military active duty deaths from 2001-2006)
Source: Department of Defense report (PDF). Note: This doesn’t include this year or next year. Bush isn’t done yet.
Civilian deaths under Clinton:
Because there were several different small military actions ordered by Clinton, tallying everything is rather difficult. If I’ve forgotten anything here, or if you have sources with different numbers, let me know.
Battle of Mogadishu: “More than one thousand.”. I could only find info for this one particular battle, I don’t know how many more died during the Somalia missions.
Operation Uphold Democracy – I can’t find any statistics for this one. The Department of Defense only indicated 4 “non-hostile” deaths of a US military personnel in this operation, so it’s not completely inconceivable that no civilians were killed. (As always, more information is welcomed).
Operation Desert Strike – ???
Operation Desert Fox – 600-2000.
Note: My understanding is that there was ongoing bombing in Iraq throughout Clinton’s presidency, mostly over “no fly zones.” I don’t have any information on how many civilians deaths may have occurred and that’s where the numbers comparison really falls apart. Depending on how fatal these raids were, they may tip the scales towards Clinton being the more lethal president.
Update: Iraq claimed that 323 civilians were killed in between Desert Fox and February 2001. They also say the bombing was escalated during this time period. So 162 deaths per year from the no-fly bombing is would be a high estimate of total civilian casualties during these campaigns.
1998 missile strike against Afghanistan – 21.
1998 missile strike against Sudan – Unknown (So far as I can tell, Sudan never reported a number).
Kosovo War – Yugoslavia claimed that NATO attacks caused between 1,200 and 5,700 civilian casualties. NATO acknowledged killing at most 1,500 civilians. Human Rights Watch counted a minimum of 488 civilian deaths.
So here are some approximations:
Iraq (Desert Fox): 2000
Iraq (Ongoing bombing): 1296
Civilian deaths under George W. Bush:
Iraq: 74,689 – 81,394.
Total: 81,989 – 95,394
It would certainly take a lot of civilians deaths under Clinton’s bombing campaigns in Iraq to come close to Bush’s numbers.