Americans need to decide how many deaths are too many

Nate Graff

Nate Graff

This article is not a call to support staying in or leaving Iraq. It is a call for Americans to make a value-judgment.

Arguments about the amount of money spent in Iraq are not salient because Americans are not paying for the war-it’s all on borrowed credit. It is part of a large deficit and an obscene debt.

Arguments against the length of involvement in Iraq are flawed as well. The U.S. is still in Korea after 50 years, and it spent more than a decade in the Balkans.

At issue is the death of Americans. Americans need to ask themselves how many soldiers they are willing to have killed to achieve their goals. This needs to be a non-partisan endeavor. Instead of timetables, the nation would be best served by death-tables.

Some reading this will find that statement obscene. Some may be shaking with anger. But it doesn’t change that it is a sad reality. The question of how many soldiers dead as being “too many” is already a part of military operations.

Before any military conflict, the Pentagon briefs the president with an estimate of the total dead to be expected. The president then weighs that info and decides whether to proceed or not. The public is not privy to this briefing, and it is a sad fact that when the public begins to ask itself “how many is too many,” it is usually too late. Americans need to ask themselves if that number has passed, and if not, what that number is.

Some may argue that the benefits of achieving our goals in Iraq cannot have a life value attached to them. Yes, they can. Would a completely democratic and free Iraq with no ties to terrorism or Iran be worth a million American lives? Few, if any, would say yes.

But that number is an exaggeration. So how about fifty or twenty thousand? Twenty thousand dead Americans to achieve everything we want to achieve in Iraq. That is less than 35 percent of the number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam. Does that sound like an acceptable deal? Even if it were, it is a false choice. We are nowhere near a complete victory in Iraq.

So how many dead to achieve peace in Baghdad? To rid al-Qaida from Anbar province? To quell some of the terrible horrors committed in a civil war? Would six thousand American dead be acceptable? Or maybe five?

These are questions that all people reading this article need to ask themselves. Every day in Iraq equals, on average, two more American dead and nearly 17 wounded. No amount of war protesting, flag-waving or general apathy can change that. Regardless of how long America stays, or how much treasure is spent, in the end we must determine if the benefits of our goals, if reached, can ever outweigh the lives lost to achieve them.

Nate is a junior political science major who served a year in Iraq as a medic. Reach him at [email protected].

#1.883540:2281801070.jpg:graff,nathaniel.jpg:Nate Graff: