Thursday, January 27, 2005


The "Deadliest Day" and the Quagmire

The loss of any human life is tragic to someone. The loss of lives of those who are innocent, or are trying to do the right thing by human civilization, all the moreso. So the news that 37 American soldiers and marines (31 of them in a single helicopter crash) died in what is the single "deadliest day" since the Iraq war began is a tragedy of larger proportions, simply because more lives are touched. But while Kerry runs around shrieking about the "Quagmire" and "Bush's Vietnam", it is useful to put this loss of life in perspective. Not to diminish the loss of any individual life, but to bring some perspective to the political rhetoric.

In a single two week period in April, 98 Americans were killed, prompting MSM hysteria amid claims that the casualty rate in Iraq is approaching that of the Viet Nam war. This was based on the claim that this was the highest number of American combat casualties in a two-week period since 1971. At about the same time, MSM reports shouted that the casualty rate was comparable to Viet Nam... IF you discounted for medical advances, better evacuation procedures, the relative number of soldiers in the theater, etc. etc. etc. In other words, if we discount the Viet Nam casualties to account for changed circumstances, the casualty rate is similar.

Somehow, I doubt that those who lost loved ones in Viet Nam would appreciate having those lost lives discounted, the way we adjust dollar values to account for inflation. So let's presume that a life is a life, and look at some numbers that put the loss of life in some historical perspective, for the benefit of those among us who are still unable to see the Viet Nam era as history.

The 98 soldiers killed in a two week period in April were the highest since 1971. However, during a two-week period in April of 1968, there were 752 Americans killed in action. You see, you have to be pretty selective to find data that makes Iraq resemble Viet Nam, or you have to apply that "discount".

In 2000, in the United States, there were 15,517 murders reported. Even allowing for the extra day in that year, this works out to an average of 42.396 murders per day. So every single day of the year 2000 in the U.S. was more deadly than the "deadliest day" in Iraq. And these are just murders, not traffic accidents, drownings, plane crashes, etc., etc.

It is impossible to overstate, in human terms, the value of each and every one of those 37 American lives lost. But at the same time, it can be very easy to overstate the level of the loss of life in historical terms.

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