26 March 2008

‘Milestone’ death toll in Iraq, some perspective

That’s how the news of the death toll in Iraq was described on my local radio station, a “milestone”.

The news media are keen to compare the “failed” policy in Iraq with the failed policy in Vietnam. (Indeed, Tom Palaima, on the truths that were not told at the outset of the war, included the fact that our soldiers were not told that this war was going to be like Vietnam. Makes me wonder: Were Union soldiers during the Civil War told that it was – or was not – going to be like the Revolutionary War? Were soldiers during the Revolution told that the Revolution would be like the French and Indian Wars?) I’d like to do the same. The war in Iraq has lasted from March 2003 to March 2008, five years thus far, and has resulted in 4,000 dead, or an average of 800 per year. The Vietnam War lasted from 1959 to 1975, sixteen years, and resulted in 58,209 dead, or an average of 3,638 per year. Three thousand six hundred thirty-eight. Per year. For sixteen years.

Vietnam also resulted in a loss, rather than a victory. My sources (for example, The Tanker Brothers and their comrades) lead me to believe that we are not losing in Iraq. I live just about right next to a military installation. (By that I mean that my house is close enough that I can hear various training exercises as they take place. Indeed, some of those exercises rattle my windows. It’s a beautiful sound. But I digress.) The wife of our most recent casualty, when interviewed by the local news, said her husband truly believed we are winning; and she made very clear that she believed him and still supported the war in which he died.

There is, as I’ve mentioned before, a striking similarity between Iraq and Vietnam: the role that the news media and various politicians enjoy playing – a role very similar to that of Ephialtes, the traitor at Thermopylae. They enjoy undermining the war effort, motivated, it seems to me, by a conviction that our “national sins” deprive us of the entitlement of self-defense, especially a self-defense which includes pre-emptive war. I also think their domestic dreams induce in them the fantasy that our enemies can be bribed into leaving us alone, thus freeing up funds for those aforementioned domestic policy dreams. Hence the mention, at any and every opportunity, of the economy, with a view to connecting each and every economic problem to the war in Iraq, and with no attending explanation of just how government spending on the war has caused our latest economic malaise: the foreclosure crisis, as if the war is the reason banks offered loans to people who really shouldn’t have got them, as if the war is the reason people who shouldn’t have applied for such loans (and no one really should have!) did in fact apply for such loans. Blaming the economy on the war – as if we never experienced economic difficulties until the President started this war. Besides, any war will eventually have economic repercussions, if that alone were a reason not to go to war then no nation would ever have a reason to go to war.

The same is true for casualties. If four thousand dead are reason enough for a cease fire then one dead is enough. This war should, therefore, have ended when Marine 2nd Lt. Therrel S. Childers and Marine Lance Cpl. José Antonio Gutierrez were killed on 21 March 2003. (I include them both because there was some confusion about which of them were killed first. Something else the aforementioned Palaima mentioned.)

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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