Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Calculating the Costs to my Comfort of the War
March 2003

How many dead are too many dead?
What number is an acceptable number of casualties?
I am comfortable with 500 dead.
More that 1,000 dead would cause me discomfort. On the other had, if 1500 died all at once in a battle that won the war, I would be comfortable. But 1500 dying over a period of several years of unresolved conflict would make me uncomfortable.
88 confirmed dad so far keeps me comfortable. Is it 88 or 86? Of course, even one dead is too many. 2 or 3 are too many, too tragic. A sad waste of lives.
Still, I’m surprised how few have died and I think the war is going well. Most of those who died were probably killed by friendly fire or by accident.
More soldiers die each year, probably, than will die in this conflict. It makes a difference if you see the faces. I don’t want to see bodies on video. Out of sight, out of mind. I am not comfortable with pictures of American dead, dead Americans, although a couple of representative pictures of Iraqi dead are OK. I am comfortable with almost any number of dead civilians as long as I can’t see them. Collateral damage is acceptable to the degree it is invisible. Out of sight, out of mind. Its impossible to say exactly how many civilians are dead and ridiculous to speculate.
100? 500? 1000? 2800 or so? Its indeterminate, indefinite, uncountable and I can’t see them.

An eleven year old girl is tied to a hospital bed with American shrapnel in her stomach. They give her drugs and she vomits them up and she won’t stop screaming. Its tragic, of course, but to be expected. We have to be tough and one eleven year old girl screaming is acceptable. I am comfortable with, say, 50 screaming eleven year old girls as long as the war has clear goals and a sound battle plan.
As long as I can’t see them or hear them I’m comfortable. 50, 70, 100 -- that’s not even a massacre unless they’re all in one place. Maybe its an atrocity. Is it an atrocity? At least its not genocide. A massacre is more acceptable than genocide and an atrocity is more acceptable than a massacre.
I’m comfortable with a few atrocities here and there.

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