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Thursday, September 16, 2004

9/11 Every Day 

Via Cursor: Baghdad Burning blogger Riverbend spent 9/11/04 watching a bootleg copy of Fahrenheit 9/11:
Ah, that mother. How she made me angry in the beginning. I couldn’t stand to see her on screen- convincing the world that joining the army was the ideal thing to do- perfectly happy that her daughter and son were ‘serving’ America- nay, serving, in fact, the world by joining up. I hated her even more as they showed the Iraqi victims- the burning buildings, the explosions, the corpses- the dead and the dying. I wanted to hate her throughout the whole film because she embodied the arrogance and ignorance of the people who supported the war.

I can’t explain the feelings I had towards her. I pitied her because, apparently, she knew very little about what she was sending her kids into. I was angry with her because she really didn’t want to know what she was sending her children to do. In the end, all of those feelings crumbled away as she read the last letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a sympathy I really didn’t want to feel, and as she was walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans around her would never understand her anguish. The irony of the situation is that the one place in the world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We understand. We know what it’s like to lose family and friends to war- to know that their final moments weren’t peaceful ones… that they probably died thirsty and in pain… that they weren’t surrounded by loved ones while taking their final breath . . . .

I know I'll be getting dozens of emails from enraged Americans telling me that so-and-so statement was exaggerated, etc. But it really doesn't matter to me. What matters is the underlying message of the film- things aren't better for Americans now than they were in 2001, and they certainly aren't better for Iraqis.

Three years ago, Iraq wasn't a threat to America. Today it is. Since March 2003, over 1000 Americans have died inside of Iraq... and the number is rising. In twenty years time, upon looking back, how do Americans think Iraqis are going to remember this occupation? . . . .

We have 9/11’s on a monthly basis. Each and every Iraqi person who dies with a bullet, a missile, a grenade, under torture, accidentally- they all have families and friends and people who care. The number of Iraqis dead since March 2003 is by now at least eight times the number of people who died in the World Trade Center. They had their last words, and their last thoughts as their worlds came down around them, too. I’ve attended more wakes and funerals this last year, than I’ve attended my whole life. The process of mourning and the hollow words of comfort have become much too familiar and automatic.
On the American side of the ledger, the Moonie Press Service reports that the Pentagon, by fudging its own criteria, has excluded seventeen thousand wounded, injured, or sick troops from the official casualty count:
Nearly 17,000 service members medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public Pentagon casualty reports commonly cited by newspapers, according to military data reviewed by United Press International. Most don't fit the definition of casualties, according to the Pentagon, but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.

The Pentagon has reported 1,019 dead and 7,245 wounded from Iraq.

The military has evacuated 16,765 individual service members from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries and ailments not directly related to combat, according to the U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for the medical evacuations. Most are from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Pentagon's public casualty reports, available at www.defenselink.mil, list only service members who died or were wounded in action. The Pentagon's own definition of a war casualty provided to UPI in December describes a casualty as, "Any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status/whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured."

The casualty reports do list soldiers who died in non-combat-related incidents or died from illness. But service members injured or ailing from the same non-combat causes (the majority that appear to be "lost to the organization")are not reflected in those Pentagon reports.
UPDATE: In today's Article That Everyone Else Has Linked To Already, Sid Blumenthal asked several retired generals and military strategists to describe the current situation in Iraq, and all their responses can be boiled down to a single two-word phrase: "Charlie Foxtrot":
General Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and the senior military officers over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen with any previous government, including Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."

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