Thursday, October 27, 2005

1998, 1999, 2000...

(With no shortage in sight)

In one of the more macabre countdowns of recent times, the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq has officially passed 2000 (there is talk that the Department of Defense only counts those who die in the Middle East and many more are flown out to later succumb from fatal wounds, but aren't counted as official casualties.)

With the presidential ban of coffins in the news still in effect and the concentration of death located out of the sight of the large city media centers, namely rural America; the human cost of the war is largely unknown and intangible to most. For many, the only connection is a number. With no personal ties to the military, I have tracked several sites out of curiosity. The best are Anti-War Casualties and ICasualties. With constant stream of bad news it's hard to avoid the feeling that these numbers become akin to baseball statistics.

For example, the rate it took to 18 months to get to the first 1,000; compared to 14 months for the second 1,000.

Marines disproportionately make up the most deaths.

More white soldiers died in the second thousand than the first as Blacks flee from the idea of military life at a faster rate than whites. As recruitment numbers for Blacks fall the percentage of Blacks in the military begins to reflect their real world percentage. Etc.

The liberals hype up the numbers to force awareness. There were a bunch of white activists at the Flatbush Ave. station yesterday, engaging angry Jamaican women with a banner about the Iraqi civilians (bore-ring) casualties who have no official death count and civilian casualties ranging from 10,000 to 100,000)

The conservatives cry foul, because the obsession with numbers bypasses the humanity of the losses. That is only true when there are other means to express the loss. The attempt to ban Ted Koppel of Nightline from reading the names of the war dead read last year and the fact that Americans cannot see the soldier's coffins on the news shows otherwise. These realities mean that numbers are the only way to capture a fickle American audience. That's why the death of 1,372 or even 1,500 soldiers weren’t a news story.

Like the $3.00 gallon or the 10,000 Dow Jones Average, the 2,000 casualty toll will lose its urgency as the weeks past. As with all psychological barriers, once they are broken, they lose their sense of shock and awe, so to speak.

Don't despair; the countdown to 3,000 has already begun.

And the counter is already up to 2006.
2007, 2008, 2009...

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