Last week White House spokesman Tony Snow said the watershed number of 2,500 dead American soldiers in Iraq was “just a number.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that US deaths in Iraq had reached 2500, with more than 18,000 Americans injured in the war since the US invaded in March 2003.
A White House spokesman, Tony Snow, called it “just a number”, then added that it was a “sad benchmark” but that President George Bush was determined to ensure that the men and women who had died in Iraq had not died in vain.
People across the world cringed at the lack of compassion from policy makers where soldiers appear to be functionaries for a quantifiable end instead of people with mourning families who volunteered their lives for an ideal with a qualitative emotional value.
The recent kidnapping of two American soldiers by Al Qaeda in Iraq caused a media circus and a public White House hand-wringing that immediately made one wonder how the kidnapping of two soldiers became more valuable and more urgent than the deaths of 2,500 soldiers before them.
Now that both soldiers are reportedly dead — and no longer kidnapped — will Mr. Snow now make their deaths “just a number” to be added to the 2,500 or have those two soldiers become more human in their graves because the entire world was left to worry — however briefly — for the well-being of their lives?
It reminds me of the quote from Joseph Stalin who said: “A single death is a tragedy, are million deaths is a statistic.”
We can wrap our minds around the image of one or two people in jeopardy or peril. Thinking of 100 or 1000 is a lot harder.
In the grand scheme of anything dealing with armed conflict, 2,500 deaths over a period of years isn’t that high, especially when compared to historical and current death totals, including those from American cities and towns.
Any death is one too many, but in the history of warfare, for one side to only have 2,500 deaths over a span of years is a remarkable accomplishment in improving troop safety.
Compared to the Battle of Normandy where 53,700 allied troops died in that single portion of WWII, the Iraq War barely measures up in the same intensity.
Even worse, the American Civil War killed 360,000 Union Troops and 258,000 Confederate Troops.
More recently, the Vietnam War saw 58,191 American troops die.
The urban warfare that destroys American communities is greater and just as intense as any military invasion. Almost 17,000 people were killed in American cities and towns last year.
According to Cleveland’s NewsNet5.com:
I’m always amazed that people aren’t more shocked over the number of Americans killed right in our own cities, towns, and villages.
I agree with you on the urban deaths. Compare big American cities with big European cities and you’ll see gigantic differences in killings by guns.
Why did we go into Iraq in the first place?
WMDs … that may have been there before and moved, or might have been figments of Saddam’s imagination that were passed along to various intelligence agencies to scare us.
If I was in charge and wanted to go into Iraq, I would have based it on the human rights atrocities that Saddam committed against his people.
There was enough horrible stuff that happened in Iraq that makes me feel okay with stopping Saddam on a purely moral basis, even if everything else that was said about him turned out to be figments of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf‘s (a/k/a “Baghdad Bob”) and the Iraqi Information Ministry’s imaginations.
Here are two items that show that it was morally right to have overthrown Saddam’s reign of terror.
Per the BBC:
Or from USAToday:
Of course, if attacked places based on atrocities committed against innocent civilians, we’d be going everywhere else in the world, such as many places that need help in Africa, such as Darfur in western Sudan.
According to allAfrica.com:
We don’t want to be the world’s police officer, so we politely decline to get involved in other matters, unless there is some compelling interest vital to our economy or national security, such as oil.
More about Saddam’s anti-social behavior from Wikipedia:
Being very cynical here – 2500 dead not good PR brush off as quickly as possible. Just reinforces the human cost and waste of lives in an unwanted war.
2 kidnapped – good PR – can be used to garner sympathy and give weight to the belief that they are the enemy and “infidels to be crushed”.
I direct you to The Downing Street Memo for evidence the war against Iraq was invented:
You are right! Their reasons are so transparent that it would make one laugh if so many lives were not being lost in favor of big money, revenge for a father’s failed invasion and access to oil.
Even if reports of WMDs were false, it still doesn’t negate the evil nature of Saddam’s regime and his willingness to kill Kurds and others who presented a threat to his power.
Of course, we wouldn’t have gone to war if it was just to save the people of Iraq, just as we didn’t go to war to save Rwanda, or the victims of Pol Pot, and won’t go to war to save the people of Darfur.
I say we should break free from our oil dependence so we don’t have to fool around in the Middle East.
Hi Chris —
I agree there are places in the world that demand our closer attention than Iraq. This was a war of revenge instead of one in the nation’s best interest.
You are probably right about the motive.
That’s the bad thing about having family members creating political dynasties — it doesn’t matter which party or political philosophy. There’s too much risk that actions will be taken out of family pride or gain, rather than the national interest.
Hi Chris —
I agree political dynasties belong to history and in no country’s future. The fact there’s another son and a nephew being “primed” for our greatest national post is worrisome to the core!
Many Americans have always been star struck, though. Fame over deeds has always been the greater cause.
Ah, but it is â€œjust a number.â€ The administration has prevented media coverage of the rows and rows of caskets that would make the number real for the American public.
While those two soldiers were alive, there was hope. Sadly, there is no hope for the dead and it is left for their family and friends to grieve in private.
It was also known that those men would be made to suffer horribly every moment they were alive. The dead no longer suffer.
Even callous people know better than to count the living soldiers as just a number, because it would not be acceptable to the public.
Hey Antoinette —
Why can’t we see the caskets? Are we too tender? Or would we be too outraged? Or is a casket always greater than “a number” even though the amount of dead remains the same?
Where do you count the severely physically wounded and the psychically wounded: Among the dead, the living, or somewhere in-between?
PBS’s Frontline is planning to air an interesting program tonight about the decisionmaking surrounding the Global War on Terror.
From http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/ :
That’s a show I’m going to watch, Chris!
John Kerry was on Imus this morning. They had a wide-ranging discussion about the war and immigration and doing the right thing in Iraq. If Kerry had been as human and as angry as he was in today’s interview during the campaign, he’d be President Kerry right now. Here’s a bit of the fascinating conversation:
The whole transcript is here:
The voting system is very fragile and is subject to attack.
We’ve had voting problems and allegations of voting problems in my county.
From the Indiana Law Blog:
I agree the voting system is immature and inadequate. Virtual voting only invites deception. We need a paper trail or some other independently verifiable system of permanent vote archival.
Very true. A permanent vote achival record is always important, especially when allegations can always be made that the digital machines may have been subjected to hacker attacks.
What do you think about foreign companies providing U.S. governments with voting systems?
From the LA Times:
Diebold is a big maker of voting machines and the company owner is a big Bush supporter:
Nebraska’s ES&S seems even more insidious:
I remember hearing that Chicago’s election was hampered by their voting machine difficulties.
New York Times