Another fantastic column from Saturday's Lewiston Tribune by Michael Costello:
It’s easy to tell when we’re a long ways from the Iraq war’s next “grim milestone.” With the last grim milestone receding into the past and the next grim milestone a year or more away, the mainstream media are forced to concoct such silly headlines as Tuesday’s Associated Press story, “Death Toll Keeps Rising...” as though it might actually go down. It’s probably no coincidence that grim milestones are all multiples of 10, as I’m sure that the same lively minds that cook up headlines like the one noted above still need their fingers to count on.Bravo, Michael for puttng things in perspective and infuriating our local sufferers of BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).
Trust me. The 2999th life lost was just as precious as the 3000th.
Grim milestones could be tabulated another way, without abandoning the powers of ten rule. For example, if our losses continue at their current pace, we’ll reach 1% of the lives lost during the Civil war in another 18 months or so. The same goes for World War II. And keeping the math simple, later this year, we’ll approach half of the losses we suffered during the Philippines anti-insurgency effort of 1899.
It’s worth remembering that nearly twice as many servicemen died in accidents during the final full year of the Carter Administration than died in Iraq last year.
Considering how terribly underfunded the military was during his reign of error, it’s likely that many of those deaths were attributable to poorly maintained equipment. I don’t recall any newspapers declaring a grim milestone when the 2000th active duty serviceman died in 1980.
Although the “Greatest Generation” that fought so nobly during World War II deserves its notation, this country has never produced a better quality of men and women than those who have volunteered to fight this war. The threat that challenged the Greatest Generation was more immediate and less abstract than the challenge this generation’s finest have volunteered to engage. For most Americans, the threat we face is just as remote and theoretical as global warming and just as easy to ignore in our daily lives. Every time I see a public service announcement warning us of the threat of global warming, I have to wonder if just once in a while the threat of radical Islam might deserve such mention.
And this generation’s warriors are sacrificing a much more comfortable lifestyle than the Greatest Generation left behind. While most of this generation chooses to accept challenges no greater than the seventh level of some video game, a small fraction so values a country that can provide most of its citizens with such untroubled lives that they gave up their share of it to defend it for the rest of us. That such a decadent society can still produce warriors of such valor undoubtedly challenges our enemies’ preconceptions.
This is particularly amazing as so much of our popular culture and our education establishment is dedicated to convincing young minds that America is at its core a corrupt, evil and oppressive place not worth defending. We have entire academic departments within our universities devoted to poisoning young minds.
In spite of all the institutions dedicated to demoralizing our youth, today at least, we still produce enough of these fine young men to keep our nation secure. We will have reached a genuinely grim milestone when we no longer can.
Nevertheless, this war has certainly not been without its grim milestones.
A recent opinion poll revealed that only 51% of registered Democrats actually wanted the United States to win this war. More than a third (34%) actually wanted failure and another 15% were uncertain. I’m not sure when it happened, but surely we have long ago passed a grim milestone when barely half of the majority party still wants this nation to win on the battlefield.
Recently a New York Times reporter was publicly scolded by his newspaper’s ombudsman and its managing editor for stating on the Charlie Rose show that he hoped for a US victory in Iraq. Surely it was a grim milestone when the nation’s historically premier newspaper crossed a line that considers patriotism in time of war inappropriate.
For a time last year, the French government was unable to convince the French military to fulfill France’s obligations to the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. When the US military views its primary task as marching in parades, then we will have truly reached our last “grim milestone.”