Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Over 1,000 Soldiers Killed in Iraq

First, take a look at Brian's post at Pub Sociology about these deaths.

After “Mission Accomplished” was announced by President Bush, more soldiers have died in Iraq than prior to the utterance of those words. Over 1000 soldiers have died in Iraq. Two from around my hometown yesterday. The same company to which my brother is returning today after his two-week leave. Estimates of Iraqi deaths, mostly civilian, are around 13,000.

I am a member of Military Families Speak Out. These soldiers dying are real people with real families. So as Brian says, sometimes I do have an inclination to grab someone (in spite of my own nonviolent aspirations) who speaks about the war flippantly. I don't have a sense of humor about any of this. Bush’s indefinite wars, and the one consistency in his administration, misinformation, has to be voted out in November. Anything else will be read as a mandate on his policies and it has already cost us too many lives all around. The media characterization of Kerry as a “flip flopper” is telling of the mainstream media’s futility at conducting thoughtful analysis given the lack of comparison with Bush's own prevarications and hedging of the facts.

I have no earth shattering analysis to make sense of these losses. There is no sense to be made. But I do hope that you vote.


At 10:48 PM, Blogger Kitzi said...

Well said. We need to be reminded again and again of the human cost of this administration's fabrications.

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Goesh said...

I've never seen any hard data on veterans from previous wars that were controversal and unpopular, like Viet Nam and to a lesser extent Korea, which addresses their sense of committment, ex post facto. I wonder what percentage of Iraqi veterans would do it again? Our forces are all volunteers. I have heard of surveys that allude to a large percentage of Nam vets that purportedly said they would go to Nam if they had it to do all over again, but I have not seen any of these surverys. One could surmise many things from the perspective of being a civilian regarding our combat veterans of this war, and past wars, but we are not hearing their voices and real opinions. I note that few mention Afghanistan and the deaths occuring there. There is an outpouring of strong feelings about Iraq. Is Afghanistan a 'good war' because of the Taliban and terrorist training camps? Was Kosovo a good war because very few GIs were killed? I don't have answers for those questions. I do note that as I move around and listen and observe in a variety of settings, this war is not being discussed much. I have more questions than answers I'm sorry to say.

At 12:38 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Think of Iraq as a theater or a battle, not "the" war. It makes a lot more sense that way. The reduced or eliminated threats from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Pakistan (for starters) should really be thought of as victories in a long war that will be a fight to the death. Try not to succumb to the Bush Lied mantra, and you might actually come away with some insight on the world instead of just disgust for your own country. I really doubt any of this is sinking in, based on the posts I've read here that stink of academic indoctrination. But if just one of you steps back and realizes that 9/11 was not the first, nor the last, attempt to shake this country apart, and that the only way to deal with these people is through force, it will be worth my trying to convey these thoughts.

Good luck.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Mike - did you do my first suggestion which was to read Brian's post? If not, again read it.

Second, you are right academics post on this blog, which means we try to think critically about issues going on in the world. Not enough people have been taught to use a sociological imagination. We are taught to blame ourselves for our problems or "other" some racialized group that we can blame for all of our problems without looking at the various ways in which we are connected. Using a sociological imagination means having the ability to look at personal troubles and connecting them to larger societal issues.

Each one of these soldiers deaths is some family's personal tragedy, not just a numbered soldier that helped accomplish some vague mission, or a number that makes a good headline. Being able to connect these deaths to a larger societal issues, such as which soldiers are dying for instance, is a first step to understanding why these kids died and why it is acceptable for some of you.

In the case of the two from my hometown, they were from a working class area (so in large part it is rural working class soldiers dying). Many joined a National Guard Transportation unit to help pay for college, including Shawna who died Monday.

I realize this may not interest some people, but this is one way of using sociology. It gives you a way of thinking without simply taking the status quo for granted.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Goesh said...

I just read Brian's post and there are different ways to look at the 'numbers' he presents. Compare the front line numbers vs rear echeleon numbers in WW2 and the KIA action is significantly altered and higher in relation to the total count. Front line units rotated back from the lines for a few days of rest but were still subject to attack though they were not directly engaging. Massive numbers of logistical people were quite safe during the whole war, well behind the lines in Europe, AFrica, Italy and the South Pacific. This dramatically alters the KIA rate and puts it in its true perspective. Clerks and supply people well behind the advancing front lines were not not being killed. That's a fact. The dynamics in Iraq are not similiar, as there are no real lines and outside of secured compounds, our troops are subject to all manner of attacks, and those in the secure compounds are still subject to mortar and rocket attack. Our forces there are all essentially engaged and quite probably 75% or higher in WW2 were not. And isn't it interesting that the British are suffering very few causalties? One could surmise that they are just that much better than we are, or, all of Iraq is not in a state of combat and chaos as some would have the rest of us believe.

Secondly, a comparative analysis of the numbers of civilian death rates between WW2 and Iraq shows a massive, glaring discrepancy. Even a cursory examination of any war footage from WW2 shows the true nature of total war, which was used against Germany and Japan. I needn't mention Dresden, Nagasaki and Hiroshima to make this point. If a similiar mind set were being used in Iraq, the civilian death rate would probably be 30 times higher, and most likely our troops would be suffering fewer causalties as well. It seems all too evident that Iraqis are killing large number of their fellow Iraqis, so it's clearly not the bad Americans slaughtering them all.

My final comment is that there appears to be a claimed ownership of our GIS by the people most opposed to the US being there. There is a nuance that the KIAs are their victims, and I'm not sure there is a whole lot of reciprocity with this ownership on the part of our troops in Iraq. This ownership can be claimed I suppose by the fact that our troops are paid by tax dollars and are volunteers, hence they 'belong'to everyone. I just very much doubt that the troops in Iraq have much psychological bonding with people who are so worried about them, and expressing it as they do. How do you separate the common person from the politics, either here at home or in Iraq? How do you really tell a grunt(infantryman) that you are worried about him or her but say he/she shouldn't be there?

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Erin said...

Goesh - First of all I think you are confusing ownership with concern. I don't know of anyone trying to exercise any ownership over soldiers. However, I do think there are various contestations of the most "legitimate" representations of soldiers such as you tried to put forth.

I know enough soldiers to know that there are many disagreeing points of view as to what they think about this particular war. Unlike your allusion to the contrary, many of them are not the Neocons or Neoliberals that you suggest they all are. This is not to say there are many of them that take those points of view as well. But the point is even though many are voluntary soldiers, many of them are National Guard over there and most likely assumed they would be called for flood control, or cleaning up damage done by tornadoes, etc. This doesn't mean they are willing or proud to serve this cause. But it does mean that it isn't like they all signed up to be full time soldiers, when the reality is many of them are rural working class or inner city working class kids who needed and wanted help to pay for college. Their social location can't be dismissed as if it has no part in the reasons they are in the military to begin with. Also, it shouldn't be assumed their social locations don't play into the way they understand this war.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Goesh said...

We simply don't know what our troop's observations and insights are. We catch a glimpse or two, fleeting and not well defined, and that's it. I doubt any reader in these forums would think for one second that the Pentagon would allow some research/surveys to be done. How simple it would be given that entire combat divisions, the 101st and 3rd Marine Division for instance, are recently back from Iraq, intact and not dispersed all over the country. How simple it would be to disperse some short questionaires to be done anonymously and a stamped, return envelope provided. But that won't happen and we all know it. I would settle for some loose controls in a random sample to see how many grunts would say they would do it again - a one question survey.

The SES standings our of soliders is a moot point - our poor and disenfranchised have always been our cannon fodder, and probably always will be. The poor and unemployed and foolish young men will be pressed into service or convince themselves to enlist.

The Guardsmen you allude to know feast and famine, and are fully apprised that they may get sent packing off to some war. It is a risk from both end of the spectrum - doing the drills and camps and drawing the pay and benefits and not even having to fight a flood or blizzard for years, then all of a sudden they get thrust into combat and face the risk of coming home in a body bag. They did get ripped off by having their tours extended - I won't quibble about that. There is no draft and all our forces are volunteers. To assume that these men and women are not aware and informed of the potential risk they may face is to regard them as victims. It is like becoming a cop then suddenly being thrust into a long, bloody riot and claiming this isn't what it was supposed to be about.

I speculate that research would show some discrepancies between Guardsmen and the standing divisions of the Marines and Army, probably some significant differences in their perspective attitudes towards this war.

Mike - Our long term survival is also dependent on the voices of dissent that question and challenge and cast dispersions and challenge preconceived notions. Elements of the Left and Right each believe the other is trying to ram their agenda down the other's throat. The more I see of Liberals the more I see them as watch-dogs and critics and less as rabid. It is too easy to dehumanize each other, but nothing productive comes of it.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger heather said...

I want to comment on the idea that soldiers "would do it again" and why they would feel this way. First let me explain where I'm coming from. My uncle died in Vietnam. I never knew him and I grew up seeing the unresolved pain that his family had over his death. Thirty years later they still can't make peace with this loss and I don't blame them one bit. I think that soldiers who say that they would fight in Vietnam or Korea again or families who believe that their son/brother/father died for a noble cause, HAVE to believe this because living with the pain of knowing that someone you deeply love, suffered for a needless cause, is too painful. The lesson that we should learn from ANY violent conflict is that violence is never the answer.

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