Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Numbing Statistics of the Iraq War

Case professor Mano Singham has
this illuminating post about civilian casualties in Iraq. It's worth reading and thinking about. I was drawn to it in part because of a telling moment on the HBO Bill Maher program the other evening. One of the guests was former Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart, who is still taking victory laps (appropriately, I think) for having been a key part of a federal advisory panel that warned we should be preparing for impending terror attacks not long before 9/11. It was ignored, of course. Anyway, at one point of the program, Hart referred to 25,000 U.S. "casualties" from the war, and was corrected by Maher: "you mean 2,500." No, Hart responded, there have been about 25,000 casualties, which is a combination of those who have died and also been wounded (and remember, that's only on the U.S. side). The Bush administration, he went on to say, wants to keep the focus only on the deaths (to the degree they want anyone to focus on anything over there at all), because it's a far smaller number.

He's right, of course. It made me think about calling an English professor at Hawken School who once told me something shattering about the war, back when this conflict, now about to enter its fourth year, was only a year old. He said his mother, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, is a volunteer at the Walter Reed military medical center, where her role is to comfort the wounded. She has been serving in this way since the 1950s. And she told her son, who subsequently told me, that she had never seen the same kind of horrible wounds, on the same scale, in any other war, stretching all the way back to the Korean conflict.

Two years later, I'm left wondering what this woman might say now.


At 7:46 PM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

As someone who might have been in harms way at one time, I can tell you that this is a direct result of improved battlefield medicine.

Just as Mayor Guiliani dropped the homicide rate in New York City by improving EMS response times, the death toll in Iraq is being kept low in part because soldiers who would have died ten years ago are surviving to be medivac’d to Germany and back to the United States.

We can expect to see a new generation of men and women without legs, without arms, without faces.

I am reminded of Bob Dylan's John Brown when I consider the legacy of Bush's Bamboozle.



At 9:57 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a good point, Jeff. I think you're right. We'll have to discuss this sometime at 3 a.m. at IHOP (just teasing you).


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