Roger L. Simon

The Numbers Game and How It Is Played

This may be a controversial post, so let me start with the obvious: Every person who dies in war is a tragedy, to his or her family, to him or herself, to all of us.

Now let us examine Iraq.

On the brink of its first democratic election, indeed the first democratic election ever in Arab state discounting the Palestinian Authority, Iraq is supposed to be in the midst of a hideous conflagration caused by a powerful “insurgency.” As of today the Associated Press reports:

Insurgents stepped up attacks Thursday against polling centres across Iraq, killing at least a dozen people in the rebel campaign to frighten Iraqis away from participating in this weekend’s election. One U.S. marine was among those who died.

A dozen people–sounds bad. No matter that one sad, disturbed individual was able to kill eleven people in Glendale, California yesterday by changing his mind on his suicide, this “insurgency” must be “powerful.” But wait. Turns out these deaths were spread across seven provinces in a country, we have been told ad infinitum, is roughly the size of California with a somewhat smaller (two-thirds) population. I’m not sure how many violent deaths occurred across California today, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total came close to Iraq’s and, as far as I know, there is no war going on here (Well, maybe “Million Dollar Baby” versus “The Aviator). Furthermore, if some of the tougher gangs in East Los Angeles decided to go all out, I’d wager they could do a helluva lot more damage in one hour than those “insurgents” did in a whole day and never leave LA County.

Doesn’t seem like much of an “insurrection” when you look at it that way, does it? The mortality stats don’t amount to much compared to Vietnam or Rwanda or Cambodia, not to mention World War II where some count the number of dead at fifty million. The biggest one-day toll for American troops was an accidental helicopter crash–horrible, but it could have happened in Camp Pendleton.

Yet some are looking for an “exit strategy,” as if disaster has struck and we have already lost. I don’t get it. I wouldn’t want to have been fighting beside those people at the Battle of the Bulge. But more importantly, I don’t know how to explain those people to the good citizens of Iraq, those seventy to eighty percent who have indicated a desire to vote. Is the idea to give up now? I wonder if, deep down, what those seeking an immediate “exit strategy” really fear most is that we will actually be successful. They would rather the Iraqis suffer than they be embarrassed or, horror of horrors, lose an election.

UPDATE: Soxblog amplifies.