Thursday, September 09, 2004


Our distinguished colleague Thomas Schaller of The Gadflyer calculates that the daily casualty rate for coalition troops in Iraq in 2004 is already more than twice as high as the figure for 2003, and rising fast. The official tally of American troops dead in Iraq has just reached 1,005. Judging by press coverage, however, American deaths are not nearly as newsworthy as they were a few short months ago -- and on that sour note, we link (via Cursor) to a PBS NewsHour interview with Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, a longtime Pentagon consultant who teaches military operations and planning:
MARGARET WARNER: What do these new figures say, Gen. Trainor, about the state of play, the balance between U.S. forces and the insurgency? I mean, we heard Secretary Rumsfeld say, 'well, it's a sign of the progress the U.S. is making and they're desperate.' Is it that, or is it a sign of rising instability?

LT. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR: Well, I think, Margaret, that anybody that tries to put a good face on this situation-- that they're desperate-- I think that they're just whistling in the dark.

This insurgency is going on, it's growing, it certainly has no indications of being an act of desperation at all. And the 1,000-casualty mark, you know, it's a milestone. It has a psychological effect, and obviously is going to have some partisan political interest. But of itself, you know, it's somewhat irrelevant . . . .

But it's well to remember what Stalin once said: "One death is a tragedy. A thousand deaths is statistic." There's a certain element of that. I think the American people are starting to become hardened to the reality of this war . . . .

MARGARET WARNER: You're saying in the meantime this is about the level of deaths-- I mean, they go up and down-- of U.S. deaths that we can expect.

LT. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR: Yes. We see the statistics going up. But that doesn't deal with the intensity of each of those events. And that's somewhat of an erratic sort of line.

But the thing is you're not going to stop them. You're only going to be able to manage them the best you can. You're still going to take the casualties.

MARGARET WARNER: What's your view of the fix for this?

COL. SAM GARDINER: The fix is, I think, the fix administration has picked, which is to get it off of the newspapers. The strategic communications objectives right now, as I read them, are to take this off of the radar screen of the American people.

In July, you can... we were seeing roughly 250,000 articles in the world press per day about this. It's now down to 150.

MARGARET WARNER: What about the fix on the ground?

COL. SAM GARDINER: There is no fix on the ground.

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