Skip to comments.Is Iraq Becoming like Vietnam? Only if You’re Stuck in Woodstock
Posted on 04/22/2004 1:59:47 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
Is the War in Iraq becoming like the War in Vietnam once was? No, if you look at the facts on the blood cost of the war. Yes, if youre still stuck in the tie-died mind set of Woodstock. To explain:
A number of apparently reputable media outlets in the United States have fostered the equation of Iraq equals Vietnam by breathlessly reporting of late that US casualties in Iraq have reached levels not seen since Vietnam. This demonstrates both historical ignorance and political bias. The bias is intended to promote the quagmire merchants. But the facts are far easier to demonstrate as false.
First, that claim ignores the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport when Ronald Reagan was President. That killed 271 Marines. It also ignores the attacks on 9/11 which killed both civilians and uniformed fire and police personnel, almost 3,000 in total more than were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the US into World War II.
But more importantly, the equating of Iraq and Vietnam ignores the history of American deaths in battle in all the wars the nation has fought, beginning with the American Revolution. By this standard, the War in Iraq has been the LEAST costly war in our history as measured by the most valuable cost, young men sent in harms way who paid the ultimate price. Here are the statistics:
War Deaths KIA/Mo. Proportionate Revolutionary War 4,435 55 5,500 War of 1812 2,260 75 3,750 Mexican War 1,733 87 2,900 Civil War: Union 110,070 2,293 Confederate 74,524 1,553 Combined 184,594 3,846 38,460 Spanish-American 385 96 384 World War I 53,513 2,816 8,448 World War II 292,131 6,639 15,370 Korean War 33,651 909 1,636 Vietnam War 47,369 526 842 Gulf War 148 148 264 Iraq War (to date) 500 42 42
The table from the Defense Department which provides these statistics includes much additional information not shown here. It shows non-combat deaths, which were highest in the Civil War at 373,458 for both sides, or substantially more than those who were killed in combat. Disease, not bullets, was the primary killer of soldiers in that war. Military medicine was in its infancy then.
The last column is not in the Defense Department chart. I calculated it by applying the proportion of deaths in the US population during the war in question to the current population of the United States. The Census Bureau does not provide separate summaries of the populations of the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War, so only the combined total of deaths on both sides is projected as a modern blood cost....
Maybe because you're setting up a straw man. Biased or not, the media is correct. However, for one to defend the war saying essentially, 'it's not even as bad as the civil war' is illogical. What foreign soil was the civil war fought on? What country were we fighting against? Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? What were 'we' fighting about? I think there are much better analogies one could make than using the civil war in the defense of the Iraq offensive.
In all other wars, the percentage of those who served, who died of all causes, has been 2.5%. And in the last four wars, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and now Iraq, the percentage of deaths has been substantially less than 1% of all who served.
By printing cold statistics, by no means do I denigrate the loss of any single life in any war. These numbers represent one by one the fathers, husbands, and sons (and today mothers, wives and daughters) who took up the cause, went off to war, and returned to a decorated grave. But from these statistics, the LEAST bloody war we have ever fought is this one, with 42 deaths per month compared with the second-lowest total of 55 per month in the American Revolution.
But that isnt a fair comparison. In all prior wars, the population of the United States was less, sometimes very much less, than it is today. The total blood cost to a society is in proportion to the total population. In 1776, the United States of America that was born in that war contained slightly less than 3 million people. Today the United States has slightly less than 300 million people.
So every single man who fell to British bullets, beginning with Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre and including the Minute Men who fell at Lexington and Concord, 229 years ago this week, was equivalent to 100 who fall in battle today. Measured against the total population of the day, the American Revolution was second only to World War II in the blood price paid by American citizens.
Looked at through the lens of facts and history, the argument that Iraq is another Vietnam is false on its face. Furthermore, the idea that the combat deaths of Americans in this war is too high a price to pay is really an argument that America should never go to war at any time and for any reason.
The idea that America should never fight another war for any reason is both honest and ancient. In 1776, in The American Crisis, Tom Paine urged the American Quakers to reconsider whether the Revolutions cause was just, and do what they could to advance that cause, even if their service was only non-military.
The claim today that the blood cost is too high in this war is a false argument. Advances in training, equipment and tactics have seen to that. If we cannot bear this burden, we should disband our military worldwide and retreat to fortress America, for that would be the only option. And the attacks of 9/11 demonstrate that even such a wholesale retreat would be insufficient to protect our civilian population.
A poll by the Washington Post reported this week that Two in three [respondents] said the nu er of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, the highest reading since the war began 13 months ago. This is a product of the American press dwelling in gory detail on each individual death at the top of the nightly news. If war deaths were reported the way auto accident deaths are -- only on the local news -- and auto deaths were all reported above the fold, would Americans conclude that auto casualties are unacceptable? After all, about 40,000 Americans are killed every year on the highways.
This poll result is another proof that the American press has become a coprophage, consuming its own excrement in order to survive. The press is reporting extensively the deaths in Iraq, with no context whatever about comparisons to prior wars. Such a poll result would not occur if the press reported combat deaths in the context of history, as I have done here.
If the press in 1776 - 1781 had reported combat deaths the way it does today, Congress would have withdrawn support for the Revolution in a few years. General Washington and his troops would have fled in fear of their lives. And today, we would be singing God Save the Queen before baseball games. Does that make the comparison clear enough?
With the facts so obvious, whats fueling the arguments against the Iraq War? It is emotion only, unthinking and in deliberate rejection of the truth. Its akin to the feel good politics that floated through the atmosphere of Woodstock nearly forty years ago like the sweet smell of marijuana.
I may be the only non-drug user in America who knew about the phenomenon of Woodstock before it happened. I then worked for an advertising agency, whose art department had a keen familiarity with medicinal substances used for recreational purposes,as the Libertarian Party says. The whole art department was anxious to head for Woodstock, and kept me informed on that.
Why bring up Woodstock? Well, just this week Country Joe and the Fish got together for a new concert. Barry (the Fish) Melton couldnt join in, because hes now in charge of the Yolo County Public Defenders Office. So the reassembled group is just known as the Country Joe Band.
The band will certainly reprise its I-Feel-Like-Im-Fixin-to-Die Rag, with appropriate additional lyrics concerning Iraq. You remember the lyrics to the original, dont you? Well, its one, two, three / What are we fighting for? / Dont ask me, I dont give a damn / Next stop is Vietnam.... Its appropriate to note that the first concert of the reconstructed band is in Berkeley, California, and that Country Joe McDonald was named after Josef Stalin, since his parents were both active Communists.
The opposition to the Iraq War has almost nothing to do with war itself, and everything to do with anti-American politics. And most of those who join in the criticism of the war now are simply stuck in Woodstock, mired in the mud of Max Yasgars farm. It was good fun then, but geopolitical nonsense. Its less fun now -- even Country Joe has given up the drugs -- and its still geopolitical nonsense.
As I said to my colleagues in the art department so long ago, sorry to harsh your mellow, Dude, but the facts are what the facts are. - 30 -
About the Author: John Armor is an author and columnist on politics and history. He currently has an Exploratory Committee to run for Congress. - 30 -
©) 2004, Congressman Billybob & John Armor. All rights reserved.
It took me a total of nine attempts to get all parts of this article. Twice I went to the trouble of getting all the statistics lined up. They were right in the original. The posting system scrambled them again. Here's the translation (and if anyone understands FR posting well, I'd appreciate them putting the table in order):
After the name of each war, the first number is the total who were killed in action. The second number is the rate of death, KIA per month. These came from Defense Department sources.
The third column is what that KIA per month rate would have been if the US population then was the same as it is today. For instance, in 1776 the "US" population was slightly less than 3 million. Today it is slightly less than 300 million. So one soldier killed in the American Revolution is the equivalent of 100 soldiers killed today.
I did that to turn these sometimes ancient statistics into an apples with apples comparison across time. Hope that makes sense. Comment again if it doesn't parse.
John / Billybob
As the figures plainly show, the Civil War was our MOST bloody war. This is true of all casualties on both sides. But it is STILL true if you look at only the Union casualties.
Far from setting up a "straw man," I state the plain unvarnished facts. You may disagree with them, but you cannot deny them.
John / Billybob
But you've missed my point - the civil war does not belong in this set of wars you are using to compare to the Iraq conflict. It has no similarities.
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