30 August 2006

News from Iraq

Tonight's Iraq news was especially grim. By the end of the day, nearly 60 people had been killed. This week (keep in mind it is only Wednesday), 200 Iraqis have died. Two hundred people in three days. It's hard to comprehend living in the middle of that violence. It's hard to not be numb to a number too big to really make real.

On a similiar note, the week began with the sobering comparison that U.S. casualties in the war
(2,639) are approaching the same number of people that were killed in the 9/11 attacks (2,752). In addition to the fatalities, 19,773 soldiers have been wounded.

If that's not hard enough, this will be. I started wondering about what the Iraqi body count is as a result of our invasion and the ensuing violence.
Iraq Body Count is a organization that collects and maintains a database of incidents in which Iraqis are killed. Each incident has to be corroborated by three different news agencies. The low estimate of Iraqi casualties is 41,041; the high estimate is 45,613.

Do the math: 41,041+2,639=43,680 people have died in this war (at a very conservative minimum). Add another 20,000 U.S. wounded. And, if the proportion of wounded to killed was similar for the Iraqis (nearly 8 people wounded for each person killed), over 328,000 Iraqis would have been injured.

So what's the point of all this grim calculation?

While visiting Bagram Air Force Base (Afghanistan) in March 2002 in General Tommy Franks responded to media questions about U.S. military success by saying: "we don't do body counts." Vietnam taught us a hard lesson that counting the number of dead enemies is not a good measure of success. As a Christian, I think there is some value in "doing body counts." While not a measure of success, it certainly stands as a measure of cost. We value life. We value it consistently--regretting its loss whether by war, abortion, murder, suicide, or accident. Thinking about just how high the cost of this war has been has prompted me to wonder. If I think life is so valuable, what am I doing to protect it? If I think life is so vulnerable, will I be as quick to support a war in the future? If I think life is worth protecting, how many is too many to kill to protect it?

These are questions Christians should be asking and struggling to answer. I am. Are you?

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