April 09, 2004

PERSPECTIVE: You can see the World War II Memorial's Freedom Wall here. "[E]ach of the wall's 4,000 4 1/2 inch gold stars represents 100 American servicemen who died in the war."

Reader Chris Stacy observes:

Look at the single column of stars closest to you.

That single column of stars represents well over twice the number of American servicemen killed in Iraq in the past year.

That single column of stars represents the number of casualties we suffered roughly every six days -- week in, week out, for almost four years -- during WWII.

At the casualty rate we have suffered in Iraq over the past year, it would take well over 600 years to fill this wall with stars.

In your mind, line 62 of these walls up, end to end (that's somewhere close to a mile long). That's roughly the number of people who live in Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas. That's the number of people that are no longer ruled over by Saddam Hussein.

For the benefit of the esteemed Mr. Blix, that wall could also represent the estimated number of Iraqi citizens that Saddam Hussein put into mass graves in the past 10 or 15 years.

For the benefit of the Hon. Sen. Kennedy from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the great multitude of journalists who cannot seem to free themselves from the grip of a 30 year old delusion -- at the casualty rate we have suffered in Iraq over the past year, it would take almost 90 years to surpass the number of American servicemen killed in the Vietnam conflict.

Every death is a tragedy, every war a source of sadness. But when I see newspapers calling 12 deaths in a day "heavy casualties," I know that this war isn't anywhere close to the scale of past wars -- or of the war we're likely to see in the future if we falter in our efforts now.

UPDATE: Speaking of perspective, Virginia Postrel puts this better than I have when I've tried to say the same thing:

I have the same problem blogging on this topic that I do blogging on every little twitch in the economic statistics: It's too hard to separate the transient noise from the long-run trend, and the long run is what matters. Things are bad in Iraq right now, but is this a last-gasp effort by our enemies, the beginning of a quagmire, or, most likely, something in between whose conclusion depends largely on our response? Rushing to judgment, especially from afar, is a prescription for foolish conclusions and bad policies.

True enough. Jeff Jarvis offers a roundup of Iraqi blog reports, which also offer very different perspectives, from sunny to negative.

MORE: Ed Morrissey emails:

I agree with Virginia Postrel about her hesitancy to blog during this latest insurgency -- but I think the mainstream media has become so unbalanced that we have to get over that reluctance. The AP reports that the Marines are "struggling" in Fallujah when clearly they're not, and the media immediately created parallels between al-Sadr and the Tet Offensive, a parallel that says a lot more about the media than it does about the fighting in Iraq.

Moqtada al-Sadr is failing, and he knows it; that's why he's taking Western hostages.

He's got a lengthy blog post expanding on this theme. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that our enemies are expecting us to lose our nerve, and that we can frustrate their plans by not doing so. Andrew Sullivan has a good post on this, too.

Meanwhile Michael Ubaldi emails:

About 2,500 young men from the Allied nations died on June 6, 1944. 12,000 Americans died in three months' fighting for Okinawa. While some members of the press (Fox included) might consider themselves honoring the fallen by referring to 12 heroes as "heavy casualties," they in fact have done a disservice to the concept of sacrifice and a nation's endurance of it in war. Andrew Sullivan asked us to pray for the Marines in Fallujah; I think we ought to start a prayer with "Dear Lord, please lead members of the press to a doggoned history book. Or Google."

That's asking a lot from the Big Guy Upstairs. And Brian Dunn has some thoughts too. "First of all, relax, this isnít the Sepoy Mutiny. . . . Second, it is important to see the Sadr revolt as a separate event from the Sunni counter-attack in Fallujah and Ramadi."

STILL MORE: Here's an interesting report by David Aaronovitch of The Guardian, which collects a lot of news in messy good-and-bad. Conclusion:

But this is a people who we have (and please excuse my language here) fucked up for a long time now. We colonised them, then neglected them, then interfered out of our own interests, not theirs. We tolerated Saddam and - somewhat later - even supported him. We waged war on him, but refused to help liberate his people. Instead we hit them with sanctions which the regime (which we wrongly believed would fall) ensured caused the maximum damage to the people. We and the Russians and the French, and the UN, and the Turks and the other Arabs, permitted millions of people to die or be reduced to misery and pauperdom.

So, of all the things we have done, the invasion may be bloody appalling, but it is the least bloody appalling thing of all. And the only thing that has offered hope.

Now, though, is the time to support those who will be taking the next step - the Iraqi democrats, religious and secular, who have to build the new Iraq.

Read the whole thing.