Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2000 Dead. So what?

I'm a bit bemused by all the carefully orchestrated outrage and assorted histrionics over the “magic number 2000” as the death toll in Iraq. Why is one number any different than another? Is this some sort of line in the sand, some sort of doctrinal milestone whereby planners, critics and historians can say that Iraqi Freedom was or wasn’t a “success?” Was the 13th death in Iraq less important, valuable or shocking than the 2,000th?

If 300, or 800, or 1,023 die it’s a grim statistic, but now that there are 2000, well, lordy we’ve really got ourselves a quagmire, an abattoir, a killing field for American servicemen and women. CLEARLY Bush/The United State has failed. We’ve lost 2,000 dead. So we’ve lost, period, right?

Can I give you a little bit of insight from the military side of the fence? The number 2,000 is utterly meaningless in the context of evaluating the efficacy of a campaign. To try and make a numerical determination of success or failure like that is not only useless, but actively stupid.

As a Marine, and a leader of Marines, let me assure you that even in the military, EVERY life is precious. As a Christian and as a father, I KNOW that the lives of our sons and daughters are without price, not as a resource, not as a commodity, but as the hope and future of our country.

I also know that in war, people die; lots of people. Good guys, and bad guys. Soldiers and civilians. The evil, the corrupt, the noble, the valiant, the innocent. War is a terrible thing. But you know what? People die even in peacetime. Training accidents, drunk drivers, and motorcycle crashes. Maybe a forklift crushes a logistics guy or a HMMWV rolls over killing the driver. The military life is inherently dangerous. It has to be, or our training won’t be as realistic and aggressive as it needs to be to keep us alive in combat.

The sad truth is that sometimes war is necessary. Sometimes the evil of war is outweighed by the evil it seeks to expunge.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the space of a few hours on September 11th, 2001. Innocents, unarmed civilians. ON. OUR. SOIL.

In the battle for Okinawa, 12,000 soldiers, sailors and marines were killed in just three months of fighting. During the Battle of the Bulge in Germany during WWII, 19,000 US fighting men were killed in a month and half of fighting. All told, in 5 years of conflict, WWII cost the United States 413,000 dead. In nearly two and a half years of fighting in Iraq, we have lost…2,000.

Even during WWII, there were those pacifists and apologists who counseled capitulation, compromise, said that the conflicts “weren’t our problem.” Even after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, in which 2,472 people died, there were those who said that we had brought it on ourselves. Sound familiar? Maybe we did, maybe we didn’t, but did our actions warrant that level of response? Did we really have THAT coming?

And what if we had bowed our head to the attackers? What if we had let them have their way in the Pacific? Today there would be no Australia, no New Zealand. No Alaska. No Hawaii. Who knows what our country might look like today?

Can a country of 250,000,000 people absorb the loss of 2,000 of its military men and women? I propose that this is the wrong question.

In a fight against a zealous, global enemy, one that has declared unrestricted war on us, an enemy that knows no restraint, sees no value in the Geneva Convention, one who sees our very culture and way a life as a threat to their own, can we afford NOT to risk the loss of 2,000 to save 250 million?

Remember, they attacked us first. Beirut. Saudi Arabia. Yemen. Dar es Salaam. Tanzania. Kenya. New York. Washington DC.We must in all honesty add THESE names to the rolls of those killed in the War on Terror.

If we are serious about fighting this enemy, if we are serious about preserving our way of life and protecting our national interests from a violent and committed enemy, then we need to understand that 2,000 dead is really a meaningless number; and that the "Number 2,000"-- God rest his soul -- won’t be the last.

Every life is precious, valuable, and dear to those who have lived it or shared it. And yet, lives must sometimes be spent to defend those who cannot defend themselves, both here and abroad.

If we make 2,000 lives more valuable than freedom for an entire country, that country might someday be our own.

UPDATE: The Fallen Warrior is apparently Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas, who died Saturday in San Antonio of injuries sustained Oct. 17. Hooah and Semper Fi to a fallen comrade.
h/t to George Roper at GM's Corner for the info.