Friday, November 11, 2005

Notes on Veterans Day

In observation of the 2,000th Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) American servicemember's death, the Notes on Veterans Day
In observation of the 2,000th Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) American servicemember's death, the Army Times last week published a fairly comprehensive statistical breakdown of who has been killed, by age, race, grade, hometown, branch of service, reserve, guard, active, etc... The figures for each of those categories are sobering and sad. The graphics above, however, are the ones that put the biggest knot in my throat. The numbers show that while 17 - 19 year old "men and women" make up only 6.9% of the total Department of Defense population, they represent nevertheless 46.1% of the total killed thus far in the conflict (918 Americans who'll never see their 20th birthday). This group is closely followed by the 20-24 year olds, who comprise 33.2 % of those who've died, meaning that 79.3% of the total dead attributed to this war were 24 years old or younger, representing as of last week, a total of 1,579 young Americans. And of course, even looking at these staggering numbers, we're leaving behind the number of men and women who have been seriously and permanently injured (or damaged) since the hostilities began, a figure that dwarfs the numbers outlined above. The numbers aren't quite so sterile when you try to put a face and a family behind each of them, which I hope we'll all try to do. This seemed a fitting approach for Veterans Day, when we're exhorted to remember, and hopefully, to think critically about what this all means to us as a country...b/20051210030810/http://www.armytimes.com/">Army Times last week published a fairly comprehensive statistical breakdown of who has been killed, by age, race, grade, hometown, branch of service, reserve, guard, active, etc... The figures for each of those categories are sobering and sad. The graphics above, however, are the ones that put the biggest knot in my throat. The numbers show that while 17 - 19 year old "men and women" make up only 6.9% of the total Department of Defense population, they represent nevertheless 46.1% of the total killed thus far in the conflict (918 Americans who'll never see their 20th birthday). This group is closely followed by the 20-24 year olds, who comprise 33.2 % of those who've died, meaning that 79.3% of the total dead attributed to this war were 24 years old or younger, representing as of last week, a total of 1,579 young Americans. And of course, even looking at these staggering numbers, we're leaving behind the number of men and women who have been seriously and permanently injured (or damaged) since the hostilities began, a figure that dwarfs the numbers outlined above. The numbers aren't quite so sterile when you try to put a face and a family behind each of them, which I hope we'll all try to do. This seemed a fitting approach for Veterans Day, when we're exhorted to remember, and hopefully, to think critically about what this all means to us as a country...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Progress is a four letter word

Sunday morning news shows, because they're basically outlets for the administration to repeat its questionable assertions, adding to that process by which they're able to re-write history by repeating falsehoods over and over, until it becomes the standard wisdom. And of course, it works. I watched Mr. Rumsfeld talking about the "progress" we're making in Iraq on the morning talk show circuit. Then, later in the day, I checked the online version of the New York Times and the Washington Post and of course, they repeated Rumsfeld's mantra in headlines, and so it goes.

Love him or hate him, almost all of us can agree that the Secretary of Defense is a pretty smart guy. That's why it seems so odd to me that with his understanding of the English language, he hasn't found another way to say "progress" without actually using that word. If it wasn't completely discredited during the war in Vietnam, then certainly those of us who were around to watch the Salvadoran Armed Forces in El Salvador, and the contras who fought the governing Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980's, remember the Reagan administration's assurances, year after year, that the sides we were backing in those conflicts were continuing to make "progress." Of course, after 11-12 years of protracted civil war, both conflicts were resolved through negotiated settlements, and not through the military superiority of any of the combatant forces.

And, of course, the positions that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld continue to take publicly on the war in Iraq rule out the diplomats or the military generals from coming to any such terms there. The mere suggestion of resolving that war by any means other than destroying the insurgents -- whoever they are -- is viewed as treasonous. So, we'll go on with the same dance until the American people reach that tipping point where they can no longer stand to watch the inexorable attrition of our young men and women, who will continue to die or be maimed while we make "progress" that only those in power in the administration and the congress seem to have figured out the metric that leads them to that conclusion.

As an interesting aside, on the very same "Meet the Press" that featured Donald Rumsfeld today, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) had this comment: "I'm absolutely convinced that we're making no progress at all," said Mr. Murtha, who served nearly four decades with the Marines and the Marine Reserves. "Until we turn it over to the Iraqis, we're going to continue to do the fighting. Our young men and women are going to continue to suffer."

But we all know that Congressman Murtha has no credibility on the subject, since the smear machine has already established that he's a "coward" and is giving aid and comfort to the enemy while undermining the morale of our own soldiers and marines....