With the U.S. death toll in Iraq passing the 1000-mark, the Bush administration and the Pentagon have gone into maximum spin mode.
After all, how do you make the pointless termination of 1000 young lives palatable to an American public that is wearying of all this death and mayhem?
The Pentagon went for proportion, with a Centcom spokesman in Iraq saying that while “every death is regrettable” one had to concede that the losses were small in comparison to the number of people the U.S. has sent into Iraq. And he has a point. If we sent twice as many over there, the casualty proportion would even be smaller, so why not ramp things up and keep the casualty rate low?
Donald Rumsfeld went with the Bush administration’s official line, which is the approach of trying to confuse the public about the difference between the 9/11 terror attacks and other terrorist activities on the one hand, and the Iraq invasion on the other, which of course had nothing to do with fighting terror. Rumsfeld’s claim: 1000 dead is no big deal. The terrorists have killed far more than 1000 Americans.
This facile argument has the advantage that, as long as the terrorists keep winning, and killing lots of people, it gives Bush and the Pentagon the go-ahead to send more U.S. soldiers into harm’s way overseas. All they have to do is keep the U.S. casualty figures down well below the number of terror casualties.
These two approaches to the steadily growing pile of body bags coming home from Iraq may work for the fewer than nine weeks that Bush needs to make it through in order to get past the Nov. 2 election (especially if Osama and his legion of Evil Ones realize that they can help the president out in his hour of need by keeping U.S. terror casualties high with a well-placed bomb in the U.S.).
The 1000-dead story in today’s media also has had the beneficial side-effect, from Bush’s perspective, of burying the far more dangerous story about how the U.S. is, meanwhile, losing the war in Iraq, having essentially ceded the entire “Sunni Triangle” to Iraqi. This surrender of a key part of Iraq to rebel control is a disaster that is throwing into question plans for a national election set for this coming January-and certainly raises the prospect of much heavier fighting in months to come.
While Democratic candidate John Kerry is belatedly starting to respond to pressure from the Democratic rank-and-file to attack the Iraq War as the pointless endeavor it obviously is, he has yet to draw a sharp distinction between Iraq and the fight against terrorism. He missed a golden opportunity yesterday as the U.S. death toll passed 1000, offering only words of praise for the dead, but no condemnation of the policy that killed them.
If Kerry doesn’t take a more aggressive stand against what should by now be known as Bush’s Folly in Iraq, before long, the tally of the dead in Iraq would have to include his lackluster campaign.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org