Tuesday, September 7, 2004

A horrible milestone

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.


  1. You're ignoring an important fact. We did soundly defeat Saddam Hussein's Iraq quickly and without significant casualties. We're now dealing with terrorists (further evidence this war in Iraq was part of the overall war on terrorism) and those terrorists are continuing their standard operating procedures - roadside bombs, car bombs, RPGs into hotels and other 'soft targets'.

    The casualties we're suffering now are at the hand's of terrorists, not Saddam's regular army. These thugs are no different than the cowards in Afghanistan, Chechnya or the ones that flew planes into New York and Washington.

  2. Rick --
    Actually, I believe we reached that milestone some time ago. Today just marks 1000 servicemembers killed. Counting American employees of contractors, journalists, etc. we hit more than 1000 Americans killed before today. And the contractors and journalists wouldn't have been there if the military wasn't there....

  3. Well, since everybody seems to be undergoing the narcosis of the numbers, instead of indicating 1000 is too high, it would be interesting to know what would be an acceptable number. 902? 437? 66? 5? 0? +20?

  4. Who is a terrorist in Iraq? Is it someone that kills american servicemen? No, thats not a terrorist. Terrorists strike fear into society with deft actions, such as new york, and the Cole. These amassed deaths aren't causing fear to much of society. I personally don't think to consider these insurgents as terrorists, just groups that detest the American occupation for the last 16+ months. So, they're more like bees that have stung, thousands of times.