August 24, 2005

The Human Cost of Freedom

On the Huffington Post, Cindy Sheehan announces her return to Crawford, Texas to the anti-war vigil she holds to protest her son's "meaningless death" in a "senseless war." She still cannot understand what noble cause her son sacrificed his life for. She laments:

"...every death is now a meaningless one. And the vast majority of our country knows this. So why do more young men and women have to die? And why do more parents have to lose their children and live the rest of their lives with this unbearable grief?"

I can answer it in one word: Freedom.

John Hinderaker of Powerline wrote this morning, Some Thoughts on Casualties in Times of War and Peace, and in it he said:

Sometimes it becomes necessary to state the obvious: being a soldier is a dangerous thing. This is why we honor our service members' courage. For a soldier, sailor or Marine, "courage" isn't an easily-abused abstraction--"it took a lot of courage to vote against the farm bill"--it's a requirement of the job.

Even in peacetime. The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.

That's right: all through the years when hardly anyone was paying attention, soldiers, sailors and Marines were dying in accidents, training and otherwise, at nearly twice the rate of combat deaths in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to the present. Somehow, though, when there was no political hay to be made, I don't recall any great outcry, or gleeful reporting, or erecting of crosses in the President's home town. In fact, I'll offer a free six-pack to the first person who can find evidence that any liberal expressed concern--any concern--about the 18,006 American service members who died accidentally in service of their country from 1983 to 1996.

The point? Being a soldier is not safe, and never will be. Driving in my car this afternoon, I heard a mainstream media reporter say that around 2,000 service men and women have died in Afghanistan and Iraq "on President Bush's watch." As though the job of the Commander in Chief were to make the jobs of our soldiers safe. They're not safe, and they never will be safe, in peacetime, let alone wartime.

What is the President's responsibility? To expend our most precious resources only when necessary, in service of the national interest.

His post got me thinking about what the cost of freedom really is. After hearing Cindy Sheehan announce yet again this morning that her son "died for nothing," I thought I'd crunch some numbers to see what Casey Sheehan's mortal sacrifice, his most precious resource, really bought.

More than he wound have dared imagine.

War# of U.S. Soldiers KilledPopulation Freed
# of People Freed Per U.S. Soldier Killed
World War I
115,00039 million339.13
World War II
(France, Belgium)
116,99148 million410.29
1991 Gulf War
4722 million8968.60
223*30 million 134,529.15*
1,865*26 million13,941.19*
2,088*56 million26,819.92*
* On-going. GWOT=Global War on Terror

The numbers above are simplistic, but prove a point: Casey Sheehan and the other 1,800+ who have given their lives in Iraq so far have made their sacrifices very worthwhile.

Casey Sheehan, who re-enlisted to join an all-volunteer Army and who volunteered for the rescue mission that led to his death, gave his life to bring freedom to almost 14,000 people, or roughly the size of a small town.

He gave his life so that a few hundred teachers, a few thousand students, and couple of dozen physicians and thousands of ordinary people could taste freedom for the very first time.

That doesn't sound like a "meaningless death" in a "senseless war" to me.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 24, 2005 06:08 PM | TrackBack

You should have included the figures from Vietnam, because that war was lost as a DIRECT result of the liberal hippie peacenick anti-war movement. They first insisted upon a "moral" battlefield which was impossible to sustain in a gorilla warfare environment, and then exploited the protraction that resulted - turning the popular support against the effort. They successfully orchestrated a phenomenon I refer to as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They also cost many thousands of Vietnamese their lifes due to our withdrawal. Adding in the Vietnam numbers would make the point of what happens when we don't let the generals prosecute the war and demand too much political "morality" in fighting the war. War is not a gentleman's sport. It should not be entered into lightly, but once engaged, we should visit so much violence upon the enemy, that he has no choice but to surrender. (That folks is what your military is paid to do, and they will do it very effectively if you will let them.) Capitulation is not an option - victory is the only acceptible outcome. The job in Iraq is not yet finished, and the war on islamofascist terrorists is just beginning. We must retain the intestinal fortitude to win this war - or God help us all...

Posted by: John Yetter at August 24, 2005 10:52 PM

Thank you John... We need to say that and more every day. No use ceding the moral high ground to people that would defeat this country and make all of us more at risk from terrorism and the threat of Islamofascism.

Posted by: Mike on Hilton Head Island at August 25, 2005 12:28 AM

John, I left Vietnam out to get JUST the response you made (thank you).

In Vietnam we wasted tens of thousands of American lives, and millions of Asian lives once you consider our pullout from Southeast Asia enabled Pol Pot to have his killing fields in which 2 million died. That should be our new slogan:


Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 25, 2005 05:46 AM

The war makes perfect sense, if you look at number of barrels of oil freed.

Where are the WMDs? Where is there any relationship whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden (Bush himself told the press that there is no connection)?

Is this war about freedom really? Aren't the Iraqi people saying "No thank you" to having freedom imposed from outside?

Have we won the "hearts and the minds" of the Iraqi people? Apparently not. Have we spent more than half a trillion dollars -- an amount that continues to rise -- on a war that King Abdullah advised Bush against because it would disrupt the entire Middle East? Apparently so.

What does it mean to win this war? When do we call it done?

Posted by: Steve at August 25, 2005 07:42 AM

Steve, I've got to hand it to you: I have seen so many easily discredited talking points in one place since... well, my last liberal poster.

But just to save time, I've decided to turn you into an example, by fisking your nonsensical (but typical) "reality-based" comments in a post this evening.

Hey, you'll be semi-famous. Kind of like a mental John Wayne Bobbitt...

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 25, 2005 08:37 AM

Don't forget to count the Israelis we freed, since that was one of the countries Bush cited in his 2002 U.N. speech (check the text).

The GWOT should also take credit for creating a Islamist state, since all evidence point in that direction. Hopefully the GWOT will also take credit for improved Iraq-Iran relations (something going on right now).

Surely the Administration planned for the case that after we removed a largely secular tyrant, boiling-over Islamist zealots would see the chance sieze power and likely take take aim at the nation which helped put said tyrant in power in the first place? It seems the U.S. can claim credit for Radical Islam being on the March, no?

Posted by: Emily Dobson at August 25, 2005 10:19 AM

Confederate Yankee, I have a question. Would you be willing, instead of stooping to attack nonsensical people like Steve, to address how the U.S. plans:

1. To prevent Civil War in Iraq
2. To prevent an Islamist Iraq
3. To prevent an Islamist Coalition between Iran and Iraq

I'm curious to see your perspective. Personally, I don't see how you can since all of these phenomena have already started to occur. Don't you think any (or, worse yet, all) of these developments bodes badly for our policy of spreading freedom and democracy? Don't you think they pose a threat to the success of the GWOT? I'd just like to know what you think the U.S. plan is to stop them.

As far as I can tell, the only plan is send more troops (Pentagon announced yesterday) and keep them there for 4 years.

Posted by: Emily Dobson at August 25, 2005 10:28 AM

Gosh, I missed one more thing too, a minor point. Sorry for the additional post.

It's difficult to compare world population estimates from 1918, 1939-45, and 2003-05. Your formula doesn't account for the growth of the global population (I mean, we do have more people in the world today than back then, right?). Also, in 1918 we didn't have cruise missiles and Predator drones, so you had to have feet on the ground to win a war, right?

Lastly, in those cases, I think there is a difference from the GWOT since there actually was a benchmark for success: FDR didn't say "We won because we freed alot of people," it was "We won because we beat the Nazis and Imperial Japan," hence why we have V-E and V-J Day, as opposed Victory-of-Freedom day. Freedom was the motivation, but defeating the Nazis and Japanese (people who were denying freedom) was the goal.

Seems to draw the comparison, you'd need to say the goal with the GWOT was the removal of the people who cause Global Terror, right? Like, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and even Saddam Hussein, I suppose. Well, where is Victory-over-Terror day then? Isn't mission accomplished?

Posted by: Emily Dobson at August 25, 2005 10:39 AM

CY - what an interesting post and perspective. The article you reference was very enlightening.

As for Steve's comments, the MSM outlets do not report on the positive news and occurrences coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. You have to seek the information - i.e. milblogs. I think this was proven when Matt Lauer interviewed an officer in the U.S. Army at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Matt was dumbfounded when the officer told him morale was high. Matt continued to question the officer, and finally the officer's reply was something along the lines of being depressed if he got his news from MSM.

Yes, the world looks much more bleak when you watch any of the MSM outlets. That's why I don't watch them.

Posted by: Jen at August 25, 2005 10:52 AM

Confederate Yankee, I have a question. Would you be willing, instead of stooping to attack nonsensical people like Steve, to address how the U.S. plans:

1. To prevent Civil War in Iraq
2. To prevent an Islamist Iraq
3. To prevent an Islamist Coalition between Iran and Iraq

Hey, I'd love to, but the last I checked, the State Department and the Pentagon doesn't rely upon my for advice (well, not offically. A few folks there read my posts, though, according to my server stats). Anyway, here you go:

To prevent Civil War in Iraq
Civl War in Iraq wasn't in my opinion ever much of a threat, and despite a concerted effort by terrorists to trigger one for the better part of two years, it doesn't seem likely to ever come about. I think the threat of a civil war died in the January elections. Now ever 6 of 7 terrorist groups in Iraq are calling a truce for the up-coming elections. Civil war? Wishful thinking by terrorists and those who want to conjure up and excuse for withdrawal. Few on the ground seem worried, and even the Sunnis are comfortable enough that they mention "civil war" as a political tactic. When it becomes political rhetoric instead on a real possibility, it's dead.

To prevent an Islamist Iraq
It is called a constitution, and the draft cites Islam as but one source of law, and one that cannot infringe upon democratic principles of human rights onte national level. To think Islam would have no influence at all in an Islamic country is childish, as even Christianity had a hand in shaping America. But Iraq's constitution specifically safeguards other religions and human rights. All you have to do is read it.

To prevent an Islamist Coalition between Iran and Iraq
We don't have to do squat. Many of the Shiites working in the Iraqi government now, fled to Iran while Saddam was in power, and they experienced the tyranny of the mullahcracy of Iran firsthand, and vehemently do not want to bring it to Iraq. The Sunnis and Kurds, of course, which make up a significant portion of the Iraqi population, are the natural enemies of Iran. Again, a little education about the population goes a long way.

It's difficult to compare world population estimates from 1918, 1939-45, and 2003-05. Your formula doesn't account for the growth of the global population...

I did not use population estimates from today, I used population data from the time periods cited. These are hard number comparisons: X soldiers died to free a population known to be Y. Easy math even us English majors can understand.

Seems to draw the comparison, you'd need to say the goal with the GWOT was the removal of the people who cause Global Terror, right? Like, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and even Saddam Hussein, I suppose. Well, where is Victory-over-Terror day then?

We can define "victory" as the day all conventional forces collapsed or were defeated, or you can define them as when enemy governments were deposed, or new governments were formed. In all of these cases, the day has passed for all concerned.

Saddam surrendered, Osama is completed divorced from operational control, Hitler commited suicide, and Hirohito surrendered (even though some Japanese refused to).

In that regard, yes, we have conventional victory dates. But we are fighting an assymeterical war. We may "defeat" some enemies without firing a shot (Lybia turning over its hidden WMD programs, out of fear, for example) and others may simply collapse from pressure (Lebanon). A real end to this asymetical war may be difficult to define for some, but it shouldn't be.

When states no longer find it cost effective to use terrorism as a political tool, we win. There will probably always be terrorism from certain groups, but terrorism can be defeated as a method of diplomacy by making it too costly a price to pay for a government. Right now, only a handful of North African and Middle Eastern countries still seem to be willing to give direct support to terrorism, and they are going to be forced to rethink their positions as well.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 25, 2005 12:12 PM

Confederate Yankee:

Where did you get 472 as the number of U.S. service people killed in the Gulf War? And is that just battle deaths? The numbers I have seen are less even including non-battle deaths.

Posted by: Don Miguel at August 25, 2005 01:30 PM

Confederate Yankee -

I appreciate the responses. However, I have some more questions. What about the Mehdi Army, or the Kurds in the north? You don't think they are aggitating for statehood? In fact, the Kurds have already said they won't accept an Islamist state, which leads to my next point ...

Also, on the Iraqi Constitution: "Also, an agreement was reached that Islam is the religion of state, and that no law shall be enacted that contradicts the agreed-upon essential verities of Islam. Likewise, the inviolability of the highest (Shiite) religious authorities in the land is safeguarded, without any allusion to a detailed description. The paragraph governing these matters will specify that Islam is the fundamental basis for legislation, though there will be an allusion to the protection of democratic values, human rights, and social and national values." I'd like to know what those words mean to you, if you have a moment?

Also, what does it mean then, when Iran is assiting in the re-development and repair of Iraq? You don't think that leads to a thaw between the nations, especially cousin Islamist nations?

I don't know about yout statement regarding Osama. For instance, we don't know his or Al-Zawhiri's involvement in the London bombings yet, right? Might be a lot, might be a little, might be none at all. We should avoid jumping the gun; remember, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Ah, you're right! I'm sorry, hadn't realized that you'd already factored in the nation populations. However, what about modern technology usage (e.g. cruise missiles, tanks)? How did you factor that into the equation?

Also, I'd draw one distinction between state sponsored terror and Islamist terror. The latter exists independent of state sponsorship. Sure, state sponsorship helps, but Al-Qaeda pre-dates the Taliban. Islamic terror and separatist groups have been around for decades, probably centuries. To say that terror will stop when states stop sponsoring it is a non sequitur. Terror has always been around.

Posted by: Emily Dobson at August 25, 2005 02:01 PM

From Wikipedia, which claims that that the DoD cites that "US forces suffered 147 battle-related and 325 non-battle-related deaths."

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 25, 2005 02:11 PM

Some Kurds want a divorced, seperate statehood, but their leaders know that to do so would result in an invasion by Turkey. It isn't going to happen.

The Mehdi Army of al Sadr is against federalism, period. You have his position 180 degrees off.

You don't seem to grasp the differences between an Islamist state practicing Sharia, and a state that has Islam as one component of its law. there is a huge difference between the two, and you can't seem to grasp that. You seem to think that unless they copy our Constitution verbatim, then they are a failure. You are wrong. The Kurds aren't asking the constitution to be devoid of Islam, they just don't want to be the sole source of legislation. It isn't:

Article One

The Republic of Iraq is an independent state.

Article Two

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

_ a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

_ b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

_ c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

These are the first two articles of the Iraqi Constitution.

Islamist it is not.

Emily, you certainly have a lot of questions, and yet while I don't mind answering a few, it isn't my life's work. Please, conduct some research on your own.

I'd advise you to use different sources than you currently use however. As this comment thread has shown, they seem to be wrong most of the time.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 25, 2005 03:01 PM

Your WWII, at least, are fraudulent.

Many people in Germany, Austria, Italy, and other axis-aligned countries were freed.

It is not precisely the same after WWI, but certainly Germans were "freed" to live under the excessively-Entente-punished Weimar Republic.

So, once you re-adjust your numbers, maybe we can start taking this seriously.

Only a fool, I argue, can confuse the war in Iraq with the war against terrorism. But that's beside the point of your fudging the WWI and WWII numbers.

Posted by: Josh Narins at August 28, 2005 02:00 PM

And you didn't mention the Japanese, liberated by WWII, also.

Well, liberated is a strong word. After the Korean War started, we put the old Class "A" war criminals like Sasakawa back in charge and encouraged them to stifle all dissent.

Posted by: Josh Narins at August 28, 2005 02:01 PM

By the way, Hinderaker is ALSO using fraudulent numbers to prove his point.

He says "between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one."

But there are only about 150,000 people in Iraq, while there are about 1,500,000 total personnel.

Earlier in the Iraq war, people claimed that living in California was more dangerous than being a servicemember in Iraq. Again, the fraud in the numbers was very basic. There are about 30,000,000 in California, but only (again) about 150,000 in Iraq.

Posted by: Josh Narins at August 28, 2005 02:22 PM

These "false" numbers Josh... they wouldn't have anything to do with your political leanings, would they? Pardon me if I am somewhat suspect of a person that prefers to link to far left radicals and Baathists.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 28, 2005 10:34 PM

Those who posit the question, What if Iraq turns out Like Iran have not factored into the equation the effect the Liberation has had on IRAN.

I don't know the Aug figuures but in July there were over 280 demonstrations, protests and riots in Iran.

They paid a lot of attention to what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. I put up quite a few posts on this subject I think the most pertinent would be.

What IF
Iraq turns out like Iran?
That is the doom and gloom scenario, that is propagated in some circles.

My question is well what if that happens, what does it really mean?

It is not like the Mainstream Media covers much of the action in Iran these days.

For real information, you have to go to the Free Iran networks.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at August 29, 2005 12:08 AM