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4000 dead Americans

March 23, 2008

We knew it was going to reach the round number soon, and today marks the somber moment:

A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000. The grim milestone came on a day when at least 61 people were killed across the country.

Rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone, underscoring the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups despite an overall lull in violence.

The soldiers with Multi-National Division — Baghdad were on a patrol when their vehicle was struck at about 10 p.m. in southern Baghdad, the military said. Another soldier was wounded in the attack.

Identities of those killed were withheld pending notification of relatives.

Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, expressed condolences to all the families who have lost a loved one in Iraq, saying each death is “equally tragic.”

I would like to know about all the innocent dead bodies in this war (let’s not count the suicide bombers, or the other murders for this time), and to know whether all of them are as “equally tragic” as our American soldiers’ lives. Is the answer, “On a certain level – yes, but on another – no”?

Rather than play it rhetorically like that, Americans should also think about the 90,000+ Iraqi citizens who have died and the hundreds of thousands displaces while we mourn the deaths of Americans in this war.  We feel the deaths of those closest to us; that’s why the number 4,000 matters.  T.A. Barnhart over at BlueOregon feels similarly:

There’s a nice, round number for us: 4,000. As in: 4,000 Americans killed in a war that never should have been waged. An illegal, immoral, insane war. 4,000 men and women who did not shirk the duty they volunteered for, to serve in uniform, agree with the war not; they fulfilled their oaths and gave their lives. 4,000 patriots who should be with us still, making positive contributions to their country’s future — the country they loved. 4,000 American servicepeople whose only contribution now is to the sorrow and grief of those who loved them and will never stop missing them.

There are also tens of thousands of wounded, injuries for which many of them will spend their lives hoping to find recovery. Wounds of the spirit for which healing may never be found. Destruction of families, torn apart when all they wanted was to raise families and live their lives. The war, authorized by a cowardly Congress and waged by a criminal and his henchmen (and women), took away their chance at the American Dream, in the name of patriotism but really for power and profit.

More numbers: At least 90,000 dead Iraqi civilians. That’s one estimate based on documented sources. It’s probably a lot higher; I haven’t the heart to do more research. I know it’s a number I cannot comprehend. The number of Iraqi civilian wounded is in the hundreds of thousands. Millions displaced. Virtual genocides in many areas. Civil war waiting to explode. Not the slightest glimpse of the political settlement needed to stop further slaughter.

But the number that will grab the attention of Americans: 4,000 of our own dead. The surge has worked? Iraq is settling down? And yet we top the 4k mark? 4,000 Americans dead in Iraq. So far.

Well said.

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