War in the Persian Gulf would kill or wound up to 100,000 people in the first phase of full-scale fighting, military experts said today.
They said U.S. troops would suffer lower casualties than Iraqi forces but even by conservative projections, around 160 U.S. soldiers a day would come home in body bags once war broke out.
"My projection is that there would be about 10,000 American casualties in 10 days of fighting to occupy Kuwait" and dislodge Iraqi forces, said Trevor duPuy, a military historian and editor of a new military encyclopedia to be published next year.
In military terminology, casualty embraces both dead and wounded. The ratio between the two depends on the type of warfare waged.
"You can win . . . but it will be very bloody and very expensive. A lot of people are going to die," defense analyst Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institution said today.
He said the Army's own research suggested that up to half as many American and other troops in Saudi Arabia would be killed or wounded as Iraqi soldiers in any drive into Kuwait.
Taking into account data from past wars and the composition of forces facing each other in the Gulf, DuPuy reckons that 16% to 17% of American casualties would be fatalities--160 to 170 a day.
This is a lower death ratio than the 20% traditionally used as a rule of thumb by military statisticians. DuPuy said his estimate is based on the assumption that front-line U.S. troops would wear flak jackets, unlike their Iraqi adversaries.
In this projection, Iraq would suffer about 60,000 casualties in fighting for Kuwait, with a death rate of 20%. That rate would also apply to Arab and other allied forces fighting alongside the Americans.
Speaking off the record, some military officials of the Bush Administration cite substantially higher figures: 30,000 Americans and more than 90,000 Iraqis.
Such estimates are the result of computer projections, based on elaborate war games that assume the United States would soon control the air and inflict heavy damage on Iraqi positions with air strikes.
U.S. News and World Report said in its latest issue that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council estimated that the United States would lose between 20,000 and 30,000 dead and wounded soldiers in a Gulf war.
There was no official comment from the government.