Grim Milestone: 2,000 dead and still counting

We all know by now that, even though the mission was accomplished back in 2003, we continue to lose more and more soldiers in Iraq, the number today surpassing 2,000 killed in combat.

The grim milestone was reached at a time of growing disenchantment over the war among the American public toward a conflict that was launched to punish Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for his alleged weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found.

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush warned Americans to brace for more casualties because the U.S. military faces more challenges before it can restore stability to Iraq.

Possibly the most infuriating reaction to news like this is from war supporters who insist, “Hey, it’s not that bad! Look at how many people die every year in car accidents.”

So while we mourn our servicemen and women, and celebrate their heroism, and thank their families for their sacrifice, let’s keep this in perspective. More people (who have been born) are murdered in the United States in an average two month period, than members of our armed forces have died in Iraq since the conflict began. And over four times as many people die every month in accidents in the United States than have died in combat in Iraq.

As further proof that we shouldn’t get too upset, the thoughtful blogger lists statistics about Americans killed by various diseases and in other wars. See? 2,000’s a drop in the bucket.

Just two words: Bull shit.

Yes, there comes a time for each of us to die (write that down in case you’re hearing it for the first time). And a lot of people have died in wars and catastrophes and epidemics. But in the case of Iraq, the anguish and frustration arises from a single sad fact: there was no need for these deaths. This was a bogus and unnecessary war. Each of the 2,000 young men and women may have died in a car accident this year or from cancer five years from now — and they may have lived into their 90s, with lots of grandchildren and a timeshare in Mexico. We’ll never know now, will we? Nor will their parents, their wives, their children who must deal with their unbearable loss every waking moment.

To further demolish such foolish “thinking”: Fewer than 3,000 people in all died on September 11. A mere pittance, a trifling number according to Myopic Zeal’s statistics. So why the outrage and the horror? Why didn’t we say, “What a shame, but more people died from the flu last year than from today’s attacks, so let’s not get carried away”? We didn’t say that, nor should we have. We were in shock for a good reason. That’s 3,000 innocent American lives snuffed out for no reason, simply because some monster terrorist thugs thought their deaths would make a statement for their sick and perverted cause. Of course we went to war. Of course we were willing to sacrfice more lives in the pursuit of justice.

The lives of these 2,000 soldiers (not to mention the many tens of thousands of innocent dead Iraqis we all carefully push out of our memories) are as valid and as sacred as the 911 victims, and to trivialize them with comparisons with how many of our soldiers died in WWII is obscene. And facile. And sick.

The blogger tells us to relax, the number aren’t so high. At what point, might I ask, do the numbers become too high? At what point do you say, “God, this is getting out of hand, especially considering the promise we’d be greeted with flowers and chocolates”? When do you acknowledge it isn’t acceptable? 10,000 dead? 1 million dead? Is it when the number goes above that of car accident victims for the year? How do you measure when we should really get upset?

The real tragedy is that even a single death from this fucked-up spectacle would be too much. As the man who should be president now once said famously, “How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?” More than 2,000 of our children have now died for a mistake — no, for an intentional lie. And a lot more than that has died over in America. Like our soul, our conscience, the reputation we built for doing good in this world (despite some terrible exceptions in our history). Lost, in a meaningless war that’s gutting our country of that which once made it great. That, plus 2,000 dead soldiers, and some people want to say it’s no big deal. To hell with them.

The Discussion: 33 Comments

Also please remember the wounded. This essay really drives the point home.

October 26, 2005 @ 4:04 am | Comment

And don’t forget “grim milestones”.

October 26, 2005 @ 4:16 am | Comment

Richard, reading that stuff is bad for your health.

I can’t believe that person actually named their blog Myopic Zeal. I’m not sure if that’s funny, scary, or both.

October 26, 2005 @ 4:17 am | Comment

Dave, I like to know what the other side is thinking, sickening though it may be.

Sam, I used “grim milestone’ intentionally in my headline, just because I know Little Green Cesspools is so upset by the phrase. Well, it really is a grim milestone, and if the shoe fits….

October 26, 2005 @ 4:22 am | Comment

Bleh. Paying lip service to mourning for soldiers and appreciating their heroism while listing the annual death rates from disease to illustrate that “hey, this isn’t so bad after all” is pretty damn disingenous. And the title, “Only 2,000”. Nice.

If MZ thinks that the deaths of 2000 soliders is such a “necessary evil” to ensure a free Iraq, why doesn”t he enlist and add his sorry myopic self to that death toll and do his part to contribute to this apparently great and just war of ours?

October 26, 2005 @ 4:44 am | Comment

The only justification given anymore by supporters of the war is “so Iraqis can taste freedom”, or such.

Since when did it become the duty of young Americans to die for the freedom of Iraqis? If Americans must die it should be in the defense of America, which is how the war was sold.

So celebrate the heroism of these young people but remember how they were sent to Iraq.

October 26, 2005 @ 6:36 am | Comment

Very well said, naussica.

Pug, I’m with you.

October 26, 2005 @ 6:44 am | Comment

Maybe the following quote would help you get some perspective…

From Dr. Abd Al-Ghani Mahmoud, head of the international law department at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University commenting on the UN Oil for Food scandal:

“Those who have the instruments to influence their peoples – intellectuals, politicians, political parties or institutions – have become in some of these countries propaganda mouthpieces for a corrupt dictatorial regime which has dragged the whole region into oblivion. This problem calls for a firm stand. Those who collected money from this regime, which destroyed its people with chemical weapons while enjoying a life of luxury in palaces during the sanctions, are partners in wronging the [Iraqi] people through their silence about the corruption…”

October 26, 2005 @ 6:45 am | Comment

Frankly, I think it’s much more sickening, seeing you guys gloat over the deaths. Oh, isn’t the war awful. Didn’t we tell you so. Weren’t we right all along. The smugness in this thread is over-powering … I don’t believe for a moment that this outrage has anything at all to do with how you feel about actual soldiers dying. It’s all about self justification and self gratification. And you guy’s talk about sickening. You’re the ones who make me sick.

October 26, 2005 @ 8:07 am | Comment

Gloat over their deaths? That is really an inappropriate thing to say, truly shocking. You really ought to be ashamed. We’re saying their lives are worth more, more than just a shrug and saying, well, more people die in car accidents. Sickening. Please don’t talk like that again in here, okay?

October 26, 2005 @ 8:35 am | Comment

FSN9, just because all your claims of what the war would bring failed to materialize, there’s no need for you to be bitter. I said what I feared would happen, and it did – and I don’t even have a PhD. I personally know one family that lost a child in Iraq; the deaths horrify me. I’ve been blogging about the deaths of our soldiers and the tortured innocents of Abu Ghraib for many, many months, always consistent. How dare you accuse me of gloating over the deaths of my fellow Americans?

October 26, 2005 @ 8:49 am | Comment


I can’t speak for the others, but as for myself, my outrage over 2000 US war dead comes from experience and consequent empathy with anyone who’s ever been treated as expendable cannon fodder by his own country and then shit upon by all of the armchair “patriots”

So, FSN9, you can take the AK-47 I once had aimed at my American head, and shove it up your ass.

October 26, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment

Thanks a lot, Ivan.

TO, I know all about Oil for Food; are you aware of why the investoigation went no where? Because along with the greedy French and Russian and Iraqi blooduskcers there were plenty of Americans in high places involved. In any case, was the Oil for Food scandal worth sending 2,000 of our young people todie? I was so glad to see Saddam fall, and I lost a lot of readers when I at first supported the war as a lot of liberals did (mistake, I know), and was so quickly disappointed and stunned at our incompetence. Those soldiers, most of them didn’t have to die.

October 26, 2005 @ 9:09 am | Comment

I don’t believe for a moment that this outrage has anything at all to do with how you feel about actual soldiers dying.

I’ve got a brother and a nephew in the service right now. You?

It’s all about self justification and self gratification.

Do you any reason to believe that .. other than that you want to?

October 26, 2005 @ 9:34 am | Comment

I cited this poem on another thread, a few months ago. It’s appropriate again here. “Tommy Atkins”, by the way, is the British equivalent of the US “GI Joe”, an enlisted infantryman. Rudyard Kipling wrote:

“I went into a public house
To get a pint o’ beer,
The publican he up and says,
“We serve no Red-Coats here!”
….Oh it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that
And “Tommy, go away!”
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins!”
when the band begins to play….
…You talk of better food for us,
And schools, and fires and all:
We’ll wait for extra rations
If you treat us rational!
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops,
But prove it to our face!
The widow’s uniform is not
The soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that
And, “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of his country”
When the guns begin to shoot.
And it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that,
And anything you please:
And Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool,
You bet that Tommy sees!”

October 26, 2005 @ 9:48 am | Comment

My brother was a tanker in the first Gulf War, in the Marine Reserves, so he was driving the shitty tank. Thank god that war didn’t go on as long as this one because he was pretty messed up by what he did and saw there. After the Gulf his unit went to Bangladesh to help with the flood victims there – he said once that this really helped him, getting to do something positive after riding around and blowing shit up.

Add to the 2000 plus deaths the tens of thousands of wounded – severely wounded, in many cases, wounds that would not have been survivable a few years ago – add the tens of thousands of men and women who are having significant adjustment problems due to their experiences, and while we’re at it, add the financial disasters this has brought upon tens of thousands of National Guard, who never anticipated they’d be called to serve in a war thousands of miles from home for over a year…and just for the hell of it, why don’t we pile on the ruinous expense of this enterprise to the entire country?

Just how was this war worth it?

War should be fought when there is no other choice, for the defense of the nation. I’ll agree that there was justification to go to war in Afghanistan, but Iraq?

There is none, and that the war’s supporters are reduced to calling us names and hurling insults is just another example of how morally bankrupt it is.

October 26, 2005 @ 10:22 am | Comment

As a p.s. to Richard’s post, it’s not just our children who’ve died in this war – it’s our parents – over a quarter of the deaths have been National Guardsmen – generally working men and women.

October 26, 2005 @ 10:34 am | Comment

Actually, what’s said is reading all of you pretend you care about the service men and women. You obviously don’t care about the Iraqi’s, hundreds of thousands of whom were murdered by their own government under Saddam. You only hate Bush, that’s all.

The writer of Myopic Zeal’s point was obvious – the casualties of this war are historically low. Its simply a fact, deal with it.

October 26, 2005 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

I note the people highlighting this death toll never both to highlight the death toll among troops in peace time. Were these deaths less worthy of note? Were their lifes somehow worth less?

Or perhaps such deaths just don’t fit into their agendas.

October 26, 2005 @ 3:19 pm | Comment

John, do not presume to tell me how I feel and who and what I care about. You know nothing. And I’d like to know what YOU’VE done to demonstrate this caring you claim.

And yeah, I DO hate Bush, as a matter of fact. I hate him for what he’s done.

TJ, your argument is almost too stupid to warrant a reply. Just about every death leaves sorrow in its wake. And anyone who dies while serving others deserves recognition and remembrance.

October 26, 2005 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

I note the people highlighting this death toll never both to highlight
the death toll among troops in peace time.

Oh my. I didn’t know our troops died in battle during peacetime. I guess TJ knows something we don’t. Thank God he’s comne to enlighten us. TJ, go ahead, enlighten away. What the fuck are you talking about?

October 26, 2005 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

the casualties of this war are historically low. Its simply a fact, deal with it.

I could deal with it if they had died for something meaningful and if they hadn’t been lied to in a carefully constructed web of deception acknowledged by no less than Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft. I am glad some Iraqis are feel liberated (particularly the Kurds, who are truly grateful), but am deeply concerned by the fact that 50 percent of those we liberated feel it is justifiable to kill us in acts of terrorism. What do you think of that, John?

October 26, 2005 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

John and TJ don’t get out of mommy’s basement much.

October 26, 2005 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

Richard, I agree with your well made points that the casualties of this war should not be trivialized. Our dead deserve otherwise. Troops do not die in battle during peacetime, but a certain percentage do die in training and exercises designed to prepare them for battle, and that is the inevitable (sad) price of maintaining an efficient war machine. Add to that the non “line of duty” deaths of recently returned war vets, usually in car accidents sustained while driving long distances during post-combat leave or transfer to a new station, and the number climbs up slightly. I recall a 58 year old New Hampshire Marine Reservist who died of heart failure a week after returning from Iraq. So the true death toll is probably closer to 2,500. None of those deaths should be trivialized, and I do not see that you have done so. Indeed, you have the same rights as any other American to mourn those deaths. They sadden me as well.

That said, I still support this war. Not for any great love or admiration of this very flawed but legitimate President, not because I expect the eventual outcome to be any better than we did in earlier 20th Century “nation building” efforts in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Nicaragua. My attitude is more akin to: This little asshole got us into this mess, now it’s up to us to stick it out and see it through. We will leave when there is a viable Iraqi government capable of governing the country on its own. Hopefully, there will be enough residual anger left to prod our political class to standing up and defining one and for all the war making powers of the executive. They must be clearly delineated, and limited to those contingency operations that do not require the call-up of either the Guard, or any but specifically designated Reserves, and do not commit the resources of this nation to anything more than that already budgeted for operations by regular forces.

October 26, 2005 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Richard, there is a price to pay for being a superpower. You are paying it. England lost 2 million dead in the first world war before it decided the price was too high. After WW1 the preservation of their soldiers’ lives became the number one priority for British generals. That ‘concern’ conincided with the Great dropping out of Great Britain. I’m afraid that in any other country than the US, with its pampered and indulged baby boomers, 2000 is considered a risibly low price.

October 26, 2005 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

Dan, it all depends on what they are dying for, doesn’t it? Since when do we sacrifice so many American lives to bring free elections to other countries? Why didn’t we start doing this in countries that really might threaten us, like Iran, North Korea and China (since Rummy keeps telling us what a threat they are)?

Lirelou, as always I appreciate your very literate and intelligent comments even if we disagree. I would be right there with you if I wasn’t so sickened by how porly we planned for this operation, that began with a noble intention, and how we pushed blame for our senior-level crimes down onto the “little people,” the very soldiers we are supposed to care about so deeply.

October 26, 2005 @ 9:57 pm | Comment

From today’s LA Times:

A year and a half ago, at the first anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the death rate for American troops accelerated. Since then, none of the political milestones or military strategies proclaimed by U.S. officials have succeeded in slowing the toll.

This is among the most striking conclusions of a Times analysis of the fatalities, which have reached 2,000, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.

• The number of deaths attributed to roadside bombs has sharply increased. * The bombs have overtaken rockets, mortars and gunfire as the greatest threat to U.S. troops and were responsible for more than half of combat deaths in the last year.

* The war has taken a growing toll on National Guard and reserve units. Their soldiers now account for nearly one-third of the deaths, up from one-fifth earlier in the conflict.

Another thought for those idio, er, guests who point out how the death rates are wondrously low compared to our other wars: In those other wars, we had a draft, so the pool of soldiers was far greater. This time, with recruitment at its lowest ever and with more of our soldiers being picked off (“bring ’em on!”), we have finite resources. Where will the new batches of young lives come from? ‘Cuz we know you and FSN9 aren’t enlisting anytime soon.

October 26, 2005 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

“….you and FSN9 aren’t enlisting anytime soon”…..

….very few creatures are more contemptible to me than armchair intellectuals who arrogate to themselves the presumed privileges of “analyzing” the rightness of violent conflicts in which they are not willing to fight…….

October 26, 2005 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

(PS, notice the complete absence of “academic” jargon in my above comment…..)

October 26, 2005 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

I want to second what Richard said, Lirelou. I don’t agree with you here, but you state your opinions like a grown-up, without resorting to puerile insults. Before I was always the sort of person who wanted to look for common ground, to discuss rationally. Then when I took over for Richard in his absence, I found myself being attacked in really nasty, personal ways by people who disagreed with me. This was really shocking to me, and it’s made me hard and impatient. I really appreciate someone like you who presents views with which I disagree, but who does so in a respectful way. I will always respond in kind.

October 27, 2005 @ 12:29 am | Comment

Reading some of the comments here, I’m struck by a phenomenon I’ve noticed on other Internet forums where any criticism of the Iraqi war is interpreted as treason or not showing support for the troops. Any criticism is harshly attacked in very bitter langauge. The offending party then has to declared he’s a 100 true blue supporter of the troops but he’s just critical of the government.

You can see this in American politics where every politician has to declare he or she is a die hard supporter of the army. Any criticism is taken as treason or pulling down morale which is political suicide. Therefore the Democrats have to be very cautious when talking about the war and so far there has been no unified opposition. The Republicans have used the war to push for a huge defense budget around $400 billion dollars. This doesn’t include the supplemental budget addons where the Republicans tack on around $80 billion dollars to actually fight the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I don’t know but do the Democrats actually vote against these addons?

As an armchair strategist, I like to be neutral on the war in Iraq. From what I’ve read, it seems to me the Bush administration believed too much into their own hype about being the world’s sole Superpower with the finest military in the world. With hubris blinding them, they invaded Iraq with a small force believing advanced weaponry and technology will prevail over anything. Realistic war plans developed by the military and other departments called for a minimum of a ground force of 250 000 men. In a worst case scenario, it was estimated that a ground force of 500 000 men would be needed to pacify Iraq. The US ground force in Iraq has been around an average of 130 000 men which is the main reason why law and order was never restored. Sadly enough with a volunteer army, even today the US could not muster the necessary men. You would need the draft in order to do the job.

October 27, 2005 @ 7:21 am | Comment

Thank you Other Lisa, and ditto for my comments. Good point on the draft, wkl. Perhaps one unintended benefit of the Vietnam War was that we did do away with the draft. And under the present circumstances, I do not believe a draft could be reimplemented without a delcaration of war. Now what we need is a Congress that will serve notice on this and all future presidents that they cannot commit this country to a war without a formal declaration of war. No American should ever be involuntarily be put in danger of loss of life or limb without that single act of acquiescence (or disagreement) by his duly elected representative.

October 28, 2005 @ 1:36 am | Comment

Remember 9/11, the Washington Snipper, and the Colombine shootings. Put them all together and magnify them by 10. Now inmagine that one or two of them were happening every week in the neighborhood where your children play.

That’s what a war feels like.

If America understood this, it would not be so quick to say ONLY 2000 American dead, ONLY 25000 Iraqi dead, and it most certainly wouldn’t be believing that those deaths were worth while sacrefices.

Ameirca has not had a real war on its soil for so long that people forget how terrible they are.

October 29, 2005 @ 8:21 am | Comment

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