BAGHDAD -- The number of American troops who have died in Iraq since the war began in March is nearing 500, more than the US losses in other regional conflicts of the past several decades: the Gulf War, Lebanon, Somalia, Panama, Grenada, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
So far the Iraq conflict has cost the lives of 494 American service members, including nine who were killed Thursday in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter believed shot down near Fallujah. Most of the deaths, both combat and noncombat, have occurred since President Bush declared an end to major fighting May 1.
Already, the loss of American life in Iraq has surpassed the US death toll of the first Gulf War of 1991, when about 315 Americans died in the operation to drive Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait. That figure includes combat and noncombat deaths suffered during the military buildup and the war itself.
Ninety-nine American forces have been killed in the ongoing operation in Afghanistan, less than a third of them by hostile fire.
The number of American battle deaths since the Iraq war began on March 20 -- at least 333 -- is approaching the figure of 385 Americans killed in action during the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899.
US officials dismiss most of the attacks by Iraqi insurgents as militarily insignificant, and the Bush administration strongly defends the US role in Iraq. Bush said during a visit to London in November that the failure to build democracy in Iraq "would throw its people back into misery and turn that country over to terrorists who wish to destroy us."
Iraq casualty figures are small compared with the horrific bloodletting of some of America's past conflicts. About 19,000 American soldiers died in one month alone in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, a conflict in which more than 290,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were killed in action.
An estimated 620,000 Americans -- both northerners and southerners -- died in the Civil War, America's bloodiest conflict. More than 58,000 US troops lost their lives in Vietnam, both in combat and from noncombat causes.
Nevertheless, the rising death toll after 10 months of military operations in Iraq is significant, especially in a country where many citizens have little appetite for their sons and daughters dying in battle in distant, unfamiliar lands.
The United States ended its participation in a peacekeeping operation in Somalia after 18 US troops were killed in a battle in the capital, Mogadishu, with forces loyal to warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid.
President Reagan pulled US peacekeepers out of Lebanon after a suicide truck bomber killed 241 Marines and other service members at Beirut's airport in 1983.