October 27, 2005
2,000 American Military Deaths in Iraq: Context and History
the mainstream media is talking up the "milestone" of
the 2,000th American military death in Iraq to portray the struggle
as a useless, costly quagmire.
to Iraq Coalition Casualty
Count, the total number of American military deaths in Iraq,
including non-battle deaths, now stands at 2002 in approximately
32 months of combat from March 2003 to October 2005.
It is often
said that these deaths are not simply statistics. They are real
faces and lives, each with its own story and family. Yet we do
rely on statistics sometimes, because they offer a sense of scale.
For example, according to the National
Health Center for Statistics, in the year 2003:
A total of
over 2.4 million Americans died.
Over 684,000 died from heart disease.
Over 104,000 were killed in accidents (over 44,000 in car accidents
and nearly 17,000 fell to death).
Over 30,000 committed suicide.
Over 17,000 were killed in homicides.
the annual average death rate for American military personnel
in Iraq is about 751.
there is a clear moral difference between "ordinary"
deaths at home and military deaths in war. So let's draw a comparison
to the statistics on American military fatalities in other modern
wars. According to the United
States Civil War Center, the fatalities rates, including those
killed-in-action and non-battle deaths, were:
War I, over 6,100 per month.
For World War II, over 9,200 per month.
In Korea, over 900 killed-in-action each month (non-battle death
information is not available).
For Vietnam, over 600 per month.
For Gulf War I, almost 300 in one month.
Gulf War was noted for its remarkably low casualty rate. Some
even observed that the death rate for the deployed American military
personnel was lower than that during peacetime, making it "safer
to be at war than at home."
an average of 63 died each month in the current war.
Even in the
deadliest month of the conflict (November 2004), the American
military death toll was 137, making it substantially smaller than
the anomalously low Gulf War I rate. When the overall population
growth is factored in -- for example, during World War I, the
total US population was only a little over 100 million while today
it exceeds over 260 million -- the death rate for the current
war shrinks still in comparison to the others.
during World War II, more American soldiers died in one week on
average than in all of 32 months of operations in Iraq. Despite
the tragically higher fatalities rate of World War II, the media
of its day kept respectful distance, and allowed the families
of the fallen to grieve privately in dignity.
no complaint that American soldiers were dying "needlessly
in a war of aggression" against a Nazi Germany that did not
bomb Pearl Harbor. There was no talk of a "quagmire"
as thousands of American died on the beaches of Normandy in one
day and as thousands more died in the jungles of the Pacific,
facing suicide attacks from a fanatical foe. No one was accused
of hyped intelligence when the actual German atomic weapons program
turned out to be substantially less advanced than estimated.
the families of the Greatest Generation, already having survived
a crippling Depression, quietly endured the deaths and supported
the military endeavors to defend American interests and to extend
the boundaries of freedom.
media, on the other hand, sensationalize -- almost herald -- the
war deaths in a highly partisan political effort to paint the
Iraq war as a failure, emphasizing its flaws with minimal -- if
any -- references to its successes or even its context, such as
toppling a murderous dictatorship, defeating a sponsor of terrorism
and bringing self-determination to a region crippled with corrupt
monarchies and repressive socialism.
the comparisons to the past military deaths do not imply that
the American casualty in the current war is insubstantial or less
tragic. On the contrary, every one of the military sacrifices
in Iraq was a noble, meaningful one, suffered by an all-volunteer
force that needed no draft, no compulsion to fight for our nation.
is said to have observed at the beginning of World War II: "I
have seen much war in my life and I detest it profoundly. But
there are worse things than war, and they all come with defeat."
is more important to recognize, and what these historical figures
demonstrate, is that it is fully within our national historical
legacy to carry on the struggle to protect our interests and to
extend the boundaries of freedom, all in quiet dignity without
losing our faith and determination to be victorious in the end.
J. Na, senior fellow in foreign policy at Discovery
Institute, runs "Guns
and Butter Blog" and "The
Asianist". He can be reached at email@example.com.