Monday, March 24, 2008

March Madness

Here’s a little paste-up that I would normally just stick in the Carnage Catalog (my research file) and let it go at that, the catalog needing no comment and, really, building its own historical niche.
But this one is special and comes from the New York Times:

March 24, 2008 - A.P.’s Death Toll for Iraq War Reaches 4,000
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The overall U.S. death toll in
Iraq rose to 4,000 after four soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a grim milestone that is likely to fuel calls for the withdrawal of American forces as the war enters its sixth year.

I suppose it’s easy enough to say that 4,000 is no different from 3,000 or 7,000. What we really like to see are our numbers rounded off and, thus, a bit more comprehensible. So 4,000 is a nice round number, just a tad more than all the people who have bought my books, or a truly excellent crowd for a high school basketball game, or a little less than the age of the earth according to the fundamentalists, or in the neighborhood of my average annual earnings when I started graduate school, or the price in dollars of a real beater of a used car, or the price I was quoted in dollars for a dental implant for my missing #25, or, if it was only Illinois fighting this war, about 39 young men and women dead in each of our 102 counties.

Fun to play with numbers, isn’t it? But these numbers constitute the heart and soul of President George W. Bush’s legacy – a war being fought for no discernible reason to help a people who can’t figure out why we’re there. It is a war that has brought disgraceful profits to disreputable companies, that has greased the wallets of countless politicians, that has skewed the perceptions of our presidential candidates away from domestic issues screaming for attention (the economy, infrastructure, health, education), and that has gone on so long now that the average American no longer even hears the screams of anguish from families who have either lost a loved one or welcomed home a mutilated son or daughter.

Yesterday, a small group of protesters interrupted the Easter Mass being celebrated by Cardinal Francis George at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. They had covered themselves with “stage blood” and also squirted some on nearby parishioners. It was a reasonable protest, but pathetic in its size and pathetic in its incidence: the only one I heard about yesterday.

Which is to say that, unlike the Vietnam War, our protests today have more the flavor of heated discussions than angry mass demonstrations. In truth, the war is but a small blip on America’s radar screen – a truth that has to rip the guts right out of all those grieving families.

(from Cherub: An Iraqi War Diary, © 2008 by G. K. Wuori)