Michael Wolff

A nation wobbles

Americans are growing tired of the Iraq war, says Michael Wolff. In his speech this week the President was making a desperate appeal to his people

The New York Times publishes a daily box score with the latest list of the soldiers killed in Iraq under the rubric ‘Names of the Dead’. For instance:

KAUFMAN, Charles A., 20, Specialist, Army National Guard; Fairchild, Wis.; First Battalion, 128th Infantry.

MUY, Veashna, 20, Pfc., Marines; Los Angeles; Second Marine Division.

POWELL, Chad W., 22, Cpl., Marines; West Monroe, La., Second Marine Division.

VALDEZ, Ramona M., 20, Cpl., Marines; the Bronx, N.Y.; Second Marine Division.

Kaufman, Muy, Powell and Valdez, whose deaths the New York Times noted on 28 June, were the 1,727th, 1,728th, 1,729th and 1,730th American soldiers killed in the Iraq war.

So, 1,602 soldiers have been killed over and above the 128 who lost their lives during the invasion itself and whose deaths were recorded in the New York Times on 20 May 2003 under the rubric ‘A Nation at War’. Still, 1,730 with a total deployment of 138,000 troops is little more than 1 per cent, which might yet be tolerable. Total losses in Vietnam, after all, reached about 10 per cent of deployment (though the anti-war movement was at its peak in 1968, when losses were running at about 3 per cent of deployment).

If the present cumulative kill rate in Iraq is maintained over, say, the same nine-year time frame that US troops fought in Vietnam, we would lose fewer than 7,000 soldiers. But it is unlikely that the present rate will remain the same: either it will fall because our strategy is working — as it appeared to be doing for a time early this year — or it will rise because the strategy isn’t working and the insurgency becomes more proficient, as now appears to be the case.

Furthermore, the death rate doesn’t have to rise by much for the numbers to become dramatically more menacing.

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