[star]The American Mind[star]

September 23, 2006

Obsessing over Numbers

How many Bush-bashing, Leftist shibboleths can one reporter put into an "objective" news story? Count along with we go through the Associated Press' Calvin Woodward:

Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now surpass those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,974th to die in conflict. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

An Associated Press count of the U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 2,696. Combined with 278 U.S. deaths in and around Afghanistan, the 9/11 toll was reached, then topped, the same day. The Pentagon reported Friday the latest death from Iraq, an as-yet unidentified soldier killed a day earlier after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad.

Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed.


I was waiting for this number to come up. For some reason Woodward doesn't bother to explain what 2,974 battlefield dead has to do with anything. The only thing interesting about that number is it provided Woodward a reason to write his anti-war "news" story.

Historians note that this grim accounting is not how the success or failure of warfare is measured, and that the reasons for conflict are broader than what served as the spark.

The body count from World War II was far higher for Allied troops than for the crushed Axis. Americans lost more men in each of a succession of Pacific battles than the 2,390 people who died at Pearl Harbor in the attack that made the U.S. declare war on Japan. The U.S. lost 405,399 in the theaters of World War II.

Despite a death toll that pales next to that of the great wars, one casualty milestone after another has been observed and reflected upon this time, especially in Iraq.

There was the benchmark of seeing more U.S. troops die in the occupation than in the swift and successful invasion. And the benchmarks of 1,000 dead, 2,000, 2,500.

Now this.


The only ones obsessing over body count numbers has been a sensationalist MSM and Bush-bashing, war protesters who wish they lived in a world where we could sing "Kumbaya" with Osama bin Laden and ask him nicely not to attack us again.

While each American death in the Islamist War is awful all of us must stay focused on the goal: defeat the enemy and secure the nation from future attacks. Many have already died, and many more will perish in this mission. Afghanistan and Iraq have been two places, and expect other places where the U.S. military will extend its sword in defense of the homeland. War is hell, yet we shouldn't shudder from the fight because of a body count.

Woodward is so obsessed with numbers so I'll give him a more important one. The number of Islamist terrorist attacks since Sep. 11, 2001: zero*.

[UPDATE: I made a mistake. I meant the number of Islamist attack on U.S. soil since Sep. 11. My apologies.]

Do you think President Roosevelt cared when the number of Americans killed in World War II equaled the number dead at Pearl Harbor? I doubt it. He was too busy commanding conflicts on both sides of the world. Did it matter to the Founding Fathers that the deaths at Lexington and Concord were greater than that of the Boston Massacre? No, they were a little busy organizing a resistance to the British.

"There's never a good war but if the war's going well and the overall mission remains powerful, these numbers are not what people are focusing on," said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University. "If this becomes the subject, then something's gone wrong."

Beyond the tribulations of the moment and the now-rampant doubts about the justification and course of the Iraq war, Zelizer said Americans have lost firsthand knowledge of the costs of war that existed keenly up to the 1960s, when people remembered two world wars and Korea, and faced Vietnam.

"A kind of numbness comes from that," he said. "We're not that country anymore — more bothered, more nervous. This isn't a country that's used to ground wars anymore."

Almost 10 times more Americans have died in Iraq than in Afghanistan, where U.S. casualties have been remarkably light by any historical standard, although climbing in recent months in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

Hey Woodward, casualties have also been "remarkably light by any historical standard" in Iraq too. Before the war in 2003 I fully expected 10,000 troops to die. I thought Saddam's vaunted Republican Guard would put up a tougher fight, and chemical weapons--that the whole world thought Iraq had--would produce grotesque injuries and deaths. Despite my fears of so many deaths I firmly supported the invasion because I thought the cause was true. Thankfully, the invasion went well. The occupation and Iraq's rebuilding has been the real challenge.

The Pentagon reports 56 military deaths and one civilian Defense Department death in other parts of the world from Operation Enduring Freedom, the anti-terrorism war distinct from Iraq.

Altogether, 3,031 have died abroad since Sept. 11, 2001.

The toll among Iraqi civilians hit a record high in the summer, with 6,599 violent deaths reported in July and August alone, the United Nations said this week.


Wouldn't it be better to lump these tragic deaths to Iraq's liberation and ascension into civilization? No, because Woodward wants to pull at his readers heartstrings. If anyone should be blamed for those deaths it's the resistance who reject a democratic regime.

Among the latest U.S. deaths identified by the armed forces:

_Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, 23, Fort Washington, Md., who died Sept. 12 in Kifl, Iraq, from an explosive device detonated near her vehicle. A former high school sprinter who sang in her West Point gospel choir, she was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

_Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Zimmerman, 28, Stephenville, Texas, killed Wednesday in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.


These are all patriots who deserve nothing but gratitude.

A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time.

Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34 percent have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17 percent from the highest income level.

That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.


Now, we get into Woodward's bit of class warfare. He mentions the income distributions of casualties in a number of wars but "forgets" to note that there's no longer a draft. We have a voluntary armed forces. Men and women are free to enlist and now renew their enlistment when their service time in done. But that important piece of information would unravel Woodward's "rich man's war, poor man's fight" canard.

Eye-for-an-eye vengeance was not the sole motivator for what happened after the 2001 attacks any more than Pearl Harbor alone was responsible for all that followed. But Pearl Harbor caught the U.S. in the middle of mobilization, debate, rising tensions with looming enemies and a European war already in progress. Historians doubt anyone paid much attention to sad milestones once America threw itself into the fight.
Yes, because we don't have an MSM and Bush-bashing Left obsessed with making President Bush look bad instead of seeking victory over our enemies.
In contrast, the United States had no imminent war intentions against anyone on Sept. 10, 2001. One bloody day later, it did.

To Calvin Woodward and those Bush-bashing, anti-war protesters I give you this from Victor Davis Hanson:

Today I finish the last class of a five-week course I taught this late summer at Hillsdale College on World War II. What is striking is the abrupt end of the war, whose last months nevertheless saw the worst American casualties in Europe of the entire struggle. 10,677 of our soldiers died in April 1945 alone, just a few days before the collapse of the Nazi regime— about the same number lost a year earlier during the month of June in the 1944 landings at Normandy and the slogging in the Hedgerows. Okinawa saw our worst casualties on the ground in the Pacific—and was declared secure only 6 weeks before the Japanese surrender. 1945 was far bloodier than 1939, a reminder that in the midst of a war daily losses are not necessarily a barometer of how close or far away is the end of the carnage. Ask the Red Army for whom the final siege of Berlin—361, 367 Russian and Polish soldiers lost—may have been their worst single battle of their entire war, itself characterized by killing on a scale unimaginable in the West.

I don’t know how close or far away we are in Iraq from securing a chance for Iraqi democracy to stabilize, but I do know—despite the recent spate of doom and gloom journalistic accounts—that, as in all wars, it is almost impossible to tell from the 24-hour pulse of the battlefield.

For more reaction there's Allahpundit, Tigerhawk, and Chad the Elder.

"War Price on U.S. Lives Equal to 9/11"

*Since we don't know who was responsible for the anthrax attacks soon after Sep. 11 I don't count that. Even if it is discovered to be al Qaeda's or some other terrorist group's doing I will include that with Sep. 11 since the nation was only in the beginnings of responding to the Islamist threat.

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Posted by Sean Hackbarth in War at 03:05 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)
Bizzyblog linked with To Calvin ‘Grim Accounting’ Woodward of AP: Read the Linked Post
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