All in the Numbers

According to several major news sources, the new year also marked a major landmark: over 3,000 American soldiers have died in the Iraq war to date, The Pentagon’s most recently confirmed death is that of Spc. Dustin Donica, age 22. The Texan soldier died in Baghdad of small arms fire on 28 December 2006. Total coalition deaths are higher than 3,000, and this only accounts for “our side.”

The climbing death toll in the Iraq war has been cited by a lot of critics as a strong reason to pull out. Many columnists question the validity of the war already, and are unsure about whether or not any kind of victory can be achieved there. Victory also seems to be a very poorly defined term. The President uses the death toll as a prop to support the war, arguing that it would dishonor the dead to pull out now.

405,000 American combatants died in the Second World War. 56,000 in Vietnam. 52,000 in Korea. 116,000 in the First World War.

Many supporters of the war argue that the death toll is not as bad as it could be, pointing to the above numbers as evidence. The average daily death rate in Vietnam, for example, was much higher. While some critics might argue that any death is unfortunate, the fact is that soldiers have a much better chance of surviving in the Iraq war than in some previous conflicts. I’m not entirely sure I follow this logic, because soldiers also have a much better chance of surviving while stationed on an American base, suggesting that they might be better off at home.

There are a few things that these numbers do not reveal. For example, the number of casualties. Thanks to advances in protective wear and medical science, many more soldiers are surviving debilitating injuries than ever before. Of course…many of these soldiers also face years of physical therapy and hard work to regain any sort of real life. Getting accurate reports on the number of casualties is very difficult, making it challenging to figure out how many lives have been destroyed by the war. Estimates seem to be hovering around 47,000, however.

I’m not sure that there is a number we can point to, saying “this is enough.” It does seem rapidly evident, though, that the war is going nowhere, and a lot of people are suffering as a result. The Selective Service is doing a draft readiness exercise this month. The draft board is hiring. These both seem like very bad signs, indicating that perhaps we are again facing a national draft to cope with falling enlistment.

Perhaps the formation of a draft would result in more decisive action on the part of this largely apathetic generation…we are pretty good at marching around waving signs, but pretty damn bad at everything else. While it may seem callous of me to say it, I think that perhaps a draft might be a really great thing for this generation, and an opportunity for the country as a whole to mobilize. I am really curious to see if it can be pulled off, and now that midterm elections are over and Mr Bush has nothing to lose, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it.

How many kids did we kill today?

[Iraq war]