Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Ghouls, the lot of them.

"U.S. deaths in Iraq near 1,000"

Deaths stand at 998, as of 0930 Tuesday. I'm having trouble posting today (gremlins in the servers), so by the time this posts we may already have hit 1,000, and I'm sure CNN will then revise the headline.

Yet, while it's there I'd like to speak about that original headline: How is this really news?

Aside from the awful life-shattering tragedy it will be for the families and loved ones of dead Americans 999 and 1000? Something tells me CNN won't obsess about those particular details, however.

I guess they'll instead make lots of worried sounds about "growing casualties" and "quagmire" and "bloodiest war since Vietnam." They won't actually say those words, of course-- they'll resort to quoting "some people think" or "senior officials allege" or "the American people believe."

We are at war. If the war is wrong, it is wrong. If the war is right, it is right. This daily casualty count implies that there is a standard of measurement, a bar that's been somewhere set in, where the moment the casualties go over that level, it will become self-evident to everyone that this war has cost too much in American blood, and is now wrong solely on the account of the price being too high. As if this is a price anyone wants to pay to begin with.

Where is that bar for Iraq? I don't know. Is it worth 110,070 dead, the price paid by the Union to end slavery and restore the country? Is it worth 53,513 dead, the butcher's bill to make the world safe for democracy?

But wait, 1,000 deaths includes both combat and non-combat deaths, so to be fair, the tallies for our other wars would be far higher. Is the war in Iraq worth 407,316 deaths from all sources, as we suffered to crush the German and Japanese war machines?

I don't know. I believe it's worth our terrible sacrifices to date, but I really don't know if there is a number out there that, once reached, will hit me in the gut and tell me this was all a waste. Because the trouble is, if we hit that number, not only is the war suddenly no longer worth that one soldier's sacrifice, but now those who fell before him will have also died in vain. And I don't believe that anyone who's given their lives in this war has died in vain. Others may disagree; it's their right.

All this reminds me of something my brother said to me, back in April when fighting got heavy. He said he could actually feel the glee from some in the media as they counted down the casualties. Many reporters seemed eager to be the first to report the three thousandth death in Iraq, because that would represent a major milestone, given how 3,000 people had died on September 11th, and now that more had died in Iraq, we would all know the answer to the question "Was it all worth it?" and that answer would be a resounding NO.

2996 dead, to be exact, but 3,000 is such a nice round number.

Just like 1,000.

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