Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When Iraq Passes 9/11

As of today, the United States has lost 2816 soldiers in Iraq. According to Wikipedia, 2973 people (excluding the hijackers) died as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks. This excludes the 19 hijackers and twenty-four listed as missing.

So. Not to get too grim and all, but we're 157 deaths away from the Iraq war costing more American military lives than the total of confirmed non-hijacker lives lost as a result of the 9/11 attacks. When will Iraq pass 9/11? Over the last six months, U.S. forces lost an average of 68-69 soldiers per month. If trends continue -- and they're getting worse -- the date of passing will occur sometime near the beginning of 2007. In real terms, of course, we're long past that bitter milestone. 9/11, after all, was an international tragedy, with victims from dozens of countries (it was the World Trade Center, after all); by comparison, total coalition deaths today number 3055. And military deaths are just the beginning: hundreds of contractors have died and close to 45,000 military personnel have been injured. Don't even get me started on the Iraqi victims of our arrogance and stupidity; finally a U.S. diplomat is honest, only he has to apologize later.

The Iraq war was an American invention, a product of particularly American hubris. And we remember our own victims before we remember others. (This is a common human trait.) So it seems worthwhile to mark the date when Iraq passes 9/11 in this one measure. The numbers tell the story of our failure more powerfully than argument can. Shouldn't we mark it somehow -- a national day of contrition, perhaps?

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