Don't Stiff the Reaper

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The Pentagon is short on the $574 million it expects to need this year for survivor death benefits for soldiers who don't make it home from the wars for Middle Eastern democracy. The good news: February was the least deadly month for American soldiers–with 33 Army members and seven Marines killed–since July 2004.

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  1. Gee, I missed the “Least Deadly Month” headline in the Times…

  2. O frabjous day! Callooh, Callay!”
    He chortled in his joy]

    ‘Twas brillig…

  3. Yeah, I can see the headlines now.

    Good News–40 American soldiers and Marines killed in February!

    Alexandria, VA–Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld celebrated the low casualty count in Iraq last month. He said “There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns, and February’s body count is a former unknown that is unknown.” In response to questions about a shortage of funds for survivor benefits, he said “You reimburse widows with the funds that you have, not the funds that you wish you had.”

    White House officials, speaking off the record, said that Rumsfeld’s continued habit of saying things that really sound bad in the news is a “gathering problem” and “all options are on the table.” When asked if “all options” included pre-emptively wiring his jaw shut, unnamed sources said “absolutely.”

    If the editors of The Onion are reading this, the answer is yes, I am interested! ;->

  4. CORRECTION:

    …and February’s body count is a former unknown that is now known

  5. “The good news: February was the least deadly month for American soldiers–with 33 Army members and seven Marines killed–since July 2004.”

    Is anyone other than IraqBodyCount.org tryin’ to keep track of the civilian casualties? I’m still curious.

    …I know, I know, now that bombing, invading and occupying Iraq saved not only the people of Iraq, but the people of Lebanon too, the worm has turned on the ratio of dead Americans and Iraqis to free people in the Middle East.

    I thought it would be interesting to see where that ratio lands with the American people, I mean how many dead Americans per free Middle East person they’re willing to swallow, and we were gettin’ pretty close to figurin’ that out there for a while.

    …and the civilian dead are part of that equation too. I remember we went to Somalia to help people, for a while anyway, so Americans must care about dead Iraqis too–to some extent.

    So, we’re like–what–um, 1,500 dead Americans. And then there’s all the ones that are maimed and stuff–some of ’em are probably gonna come back all disturbed too–but we won’t count any of that. So IraqBodyCount has 16,171 dead Iraqis as the minimum number–to even out that ratio, I’m gonna say that dead Americans are worth–what–um an even number to hit that minimum Iraqi number…

    …So you take that 16,171 dead Iraqis and divide it by 1,500 dead Americans…and I’m gonna round that answer off to 10.8. I mean that’s a one-to-one ratio! Theoretically, those Iraqi dead were just as valuable to Iraqis as American dead are to us, right? No, wait…I was lookin’ at this from the American perspective; besides, I don’t think the multiplier’s gonna work that way anyway–I mean, nobody’s gonna believe that we would sacrifice that many Americans!

    Now let’s see…according to my data, Iraq’s got a population of 25,374,691. So that’s 25,374,691 divided by 1,500–I’m gonna round that to 16,916.5 Iraqis freed per dead American. Okay, here’s wher e it gets a little tricky…

    Now this is all gonna depend on how many third party nations find themselves free as a direct result of the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq, but we do have a ratio. So, if you’re just gonna throw a free Lebanon in and its 3,777,218 people well, we’ll just consider them free already! So you’ve gotten all the way up to 19,434.6 free people in the Middle East per dead American. …not bad, I guess.

    Okay, now, there’s a whopping 76,117,421 Egyptians over there, 25,795,938 Saudi Arabians, 69,018,924 Iranians and 18,016,874 Syrians–why we could free the whole region and it would only cost us 9,722.6 dead Americans!

    Now that’s makin’ a few assumptions.

    First, we’re assuming that civilians casualties aren’t worth a damn, and that’s an important assumption to make. Otherwise, Americans are gonna hear about those–okay let’s take that 16,171 divided by the population of Iraq–potentially 120,415.1 dead people if you’re gonna free those four countries.

    Next, we’re assuming that the people who know those 9,722.6 dead Americans don’t get too upset about things. I know a little bit about that, I knew someone who lost someone as a result of the Vietnam War. Thing about it is, she’d ‘ve let the Communists have Vietnam if she could’ve gotten him back. That’s the funny thing about the math, when you look at the value of individuals–people you know–it’s like division by zero–the math just doesn’t work the same anymore.

    And last but not least, we’re assuming that invading one country makes liberal movements in third party countries overthrow dictators. …but who questions that logic anymore?

  6. See, the elections DID accomplish something!

  7. “If the editors of The Onion are reading this, the answer is yes, I am interested!”

    I’m still laughin’ at the one about the ill-tempered sea bass.

  8. Then there is this clusterfuck: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7089948/

  9. I read this somewhere, but I don’t know if it’s true: supposedly, the number of Americans “killed in Iraq” refers ONLY to those who actually died there, not those who were, say, injured in Iraq, and then shipped to the Army hospital in Germany to die. Has anybody else heard this?

  10. Jennifer,

    I have seen that mentioned too. I believe the San Francisco Gate had an article on this subject some time ago, but their archive search engine is the pits and I can’t locate it. The controversy, as I recall, particularly concerned brain dead soldiers who were being brought back to the States before having life support disconnected, that way they die “off the books”, so to speak. The article estimated that 100 to 200 American dead had been disappeared in that manner. There’s also the related problem of labeling injuries and fatalities from landmines and similar explosive devices as “accidents”, so they can be kept off the combat dead/wounded lists: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1205-13.htm

  11. As Rummy would say, you count your dead with the criteria that you would like to have, not with the criteria that you should have.

  12. At any rate, the numbers game seems a bit beside the point to me. Perhaps it’s a bit of a cliche’ but, remember the part in Slaughterhouse Five when Pilgrim finds himself in a hospital bed next to the general that ordered the fire bombing of Dresden?

    …As I remember, the old general was writing a book defending the fire bombing. Indeed, even as the old man recites the real world statistics, Pilgrim slips in time again–back to the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden. That is to say, Vonnegut goes into a completely fictionalized account of the aftermath of the bombing that gets much closer to the true reason why the bombing was wrong than any than any statistically accurate measure ever can.

    The magnitude of a given tragedy doesn’t always correspond to the size of that tragedy statistically.

  13. So I wonder what’s the real number of Americans who actually died so that we could bring fundamentalist Sharia law–whoops, I meant to say “freedom”–to Iraq?

  14. Body bags.
    They’re not just for bodies anymore.
    They can be recyled into burhkas?

    I almost signed this as “Body Count,” flashing back to my VN days.

  15. Ken, you made the point I was thinking while reading all of this. Unless you are a strict utilitarian, the numbers game is rather pointless unless you are fairly anti-war (like myself), in which case it is only useful in so far as showing the number of senseless deaths involved in war. If you raise the issue of deaths to anyone that lived before the 70’s that happens to be for the war in Iraq (like my parents) they will start quoting the death statistics from Vietnam to justify this war.

    I don’t need to see that 1,500/1,700/etc soldiers were killed, or that 15,000/50,000/100,000 Iraqis were killed to know that I’m against this war. One is too many when the premise of the war was wrong.

    (And no, I’m not a pacifist.)

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