2,000 deaths -- just the nature of the beast?
The number of U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq just passed 2,000. I thought this was a significant mark, but I found out via television that it was not all that significant. "That's just a number the media can hype on. There is such a minor difference between 1,990 and 2,000. Why didn't the media raise a cry before the number reached 2,000?"
Just a number? Well, it still was significant to me. When the war against Saddam Hussein began in March 2003, I was keeping a journal. Along with entries I made, I kept a tally on the coalition casualties. This was from a motive arising out of curiosity more than anything else. When we found out we had won the Combat Operations phase, accentuated by President Bush's victory proclamation on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, I was grateful the war had required a relatively small sacrifice of 175 troops killed. We got off quite easy, so to speak.
In June '03, about one a day was killed; in July, 1.5 a day were killed. Somewhere about this time, arrogance stood up, faced the enemy squarely -- in something like a parody of "High Noon" -- and issued an invitation to a turkey shoot: "Bring 'em on." The invitation was accepted and on they came. By the end of 2003, 500 had been killed. Wait a minute, I thought. Nearly three times the number of people have died since the war ended than when we were engaged in combat operations. I was really scratching my head for answers. But I couldn't make sense of it.
In 2004, Americans had gotten used to the bloody scenes in Iraq flashed across our TV screens; we had come to accept the deaths of our troops. After all, what is 600, 700, even 1,000 dead soldiers compared to the 58,000 who give their lives in Vietnam? The president and a consenting Congress poured out more billions into the Iraqi sands. The American public was made to believe it had to "stay the course." America would show itself to be weak if it listened to the war protesters and withdrew from the fray.
The year 2005 began with the casualties still rising. The president continued to play on the good will of the nation as he explained the situation: "We have to expect things like this to happen. We are at war."
So, we've passed the 2,000 mark. And it is still going up. As the media attention briefly acknowledged this milestone, one comment caught my attention: Yes, it is lamentable that we have lost 2,000 troops, but "we are at war and that is the nature of the beast." The nature of the beast! If we know the nature of the beast, and we cannot rein it in, what have we done? We are the ones who unleashed the beast. In response to terrorists' acts, we unleashed a beast we cannot tame, a beast that has claimed more lives than the beast of terrorism. We, America, the freedom lovers, unleashed the beast and we continue to feed its rampage.
Two thousand deaths (not to mention 15,000 injured, many of whom returned home horribly maimed and emotionally scarred) is a significant number for me. Is it for you? If so, please raise your voice to stop the war in Iraq. Bring our troops home now.
Pat Murray is a member of Military Families Speak Out, Hawaii.