Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Blind Rage

U.S. deaths in Iraq have surpassed 2,000, which the White House and other Republican partisans are calling inconsequential, an arbitrary landmark. Arbitrary it may be; the President calls for more "sacrifice," an apt word for once.

It's worthwhile to remember that 15,000 soldiers have also been badly injured or permanently maimed. That's a ratio of 1 dead to 7.5 seriously injured. The bare minimum of Iraqis killed is put at 30,000 by most news organizations; if the ratio holds true, we might assume 225,000 serious injuries to Iraqis.

The Republicans are correct that by the standards of most wars, 2,000 dead and 15,000 maimed is paltry. More soldiers died on single days in many of America's wars. Even Iraqi casualties pale by comparison with the wholesale slaughter of Iraq's war with Iran.

There are really only two cases in which the 2k/15k numbers should be significant to us: 1. If our soldiers are dying for a just, pressing, and noble cause; or 2. If they are dying uselessly. In the former case, their sacrifice becomes disproportionately important to the rest of us, on whose behalf they are fighting. (For instance, 507 pilots and aircrew died in the Battle of Britain, an immeasurably meaningful sacrifice. Those dead are still greatly honored in Britain, and probably always will be.)

It is case #2, however, that opponents of the war invoke to claim significance for the 2,000 "mark on the wall." It seems a shame for Americans to have to die for nothing. Or for them to die for some arcane and/or radical notion of oil-related Geopolitics. And if they are indeed dying for a poor cause, then the 2,000 number becomes significant--because it is an outrage, a pity, an affront to decency.

History will record, I believe, that America's leaders were cynical in the extreme in instituting this war--and that the American people, for their part, were merely striking out blindly in a rage over 9/11, not mindful of who was long as someone was.

That is not something anyone's child should have to die for.

The Quotidian Meander

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