Sometime today or tomorrow, the 1,000th American will die in Iraq since the beginning of the war. Reflecting on this sad milestone, I thought back to a report I remembered hearing on NPR last March about casualties. On the eve of our invasion of Iraq, NPR reporters asked people on the street in various cities about their expectations of what would constitute “significant” casualties. Some quotes:
- “Unless there’s an accident, I don’t think we’ll lose 25 people.”
- “Significant? Significant would be more than 100. If we start breaking into the hundreds then something went wrong.”
Two quotes doesn’t establish that the entire country expected less than 25 casualties. But if you reflect back on where the country’s head was 18 months ago, it’s safe to say that the conventional wisdom saw two scenarios: either Saddam was going to use his WMDs on our troops and casualties would be extraordinarily high, or we’d beat him quickly and casualties would be light (as they were in the first Gulf War when we lost 147 soldiers).
That we could “win” quickly and still have more than 1,000 deaths (and climbing) in Iraq was an extremely unlikely possibility. Perhaps this is why President Bush now calls Iraq a “catastrophic success”?
Update: We have now had 1,000 Americans die in Iraq.