(Note: I will still occasionally blog on political/controversial stuff here, but primarily I will be blogging on pop culture at Blatherist)
A few days ago virtually every newspaper put something on the front page about the 2,000th American soldier being killed in Iraq. Pre-emptively the pro-war blogosphere had started attacking these stories before they came out. Glenn Reynolds dismissed any reflection on the meaning of the 2,000 deaths as a "PR event". He linked to another blogger who claims that the media doesn't see any of the soldiers who have given their lives as more than numbers.
There is some truth to these critiques of the media and the anti-war faction's fixation with this arbitrary number. Much as the Cindy Sheehan faction strips the soldiers of their dignity by referring to them as children as opposed to as men and women who have made a free choice, they also rob them of their humanity by simply using them as numbers, as props for their arguments. Surely, many if not most of the 2,000 supported the war they were fighting and would answer yes to J.D. Johanes's two questions. The vigils etc. marking the occasion that the anti-war activists are observing are affronts to the memory of all of the fallen who would have disagreed with having their deaths being used in this way, which is to say most of them.
Yet, I still understand the need for the media and for the culture as a whole to acknowledge this event and I think a big part of the blame for the meaning of these occasions being dominated so much by the anti-war side and by the media is that the pro-war side does not acknowledge these types of evens and provide their own context for them. While the media surely has ignored many positive developments in Iraq and features like the ongoing "Good News in Iraq" are a needed corrective, they need to be balanced with reading the important reports that the media has done very well: the chronicling of all of the casualties amongst American soldiers. What a lot of the pro-war side seems to do is to read only the good news. In a post in January Glenn Reynolds snidely dismissed the attacks which kill American soldiers as the "daily boom and bang" which he felt under no obligation to cover. The approach to casualties seems to be to ignore them.
Of course, the pro-warriors say "Every war has casualties." And then they'll probably say "Shut up you goddamn pinko commie lily-livered Andrew Sullivan-reading suspected Democrat. Here's a Jeff Goldstein link to read. And one from Ace of Spades. And then if those didn't prove my point beyond a shadow of a doubt, here's Hugh Hewitt. And Brownie was the best horsey judge who became head of FEMA ever and Harriet Miers would have been a great Supreme Court Justice and . . ." Anyway, of course every war has casualties, but the question is how many and to what end. The Vietnam War Memorial, which I only saw recently for the first time, starts out slowly with just a few names and then builds and builds but it doesn't seem like the casualties are adding up that much. Finally, when you get to the middle you feel like you're just drowning in this sea of names going off infinitely in both directions. I'm not saying that there are many parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, just that it's probably a good idea to remain cognizant of the number of casualties before we're in the middle of casualties as far as the eye can see not realizing how we got there. Exactly how many deaths will this take? Surely there's a point at which this would no longer be worth it. I'm not saying we're there now but it's probably a good idea to keep an idea of what the total is in our minds, so we don't end up in the equivalent of the middle of that monument not knowing how we got there.
I read a great Richard Brookhiser column (speaking of pinko commies) in which he said that the pro-war side says that we need to fight the terrorists "over there" so we don't have to here, but that's a distinction without a difference for a mother in Ohio who's just lost her son to the war. The media has actually done a good job bringing home this side of things. I've seen a lot of in depth reporting by the NYT and others on the aftermaths of deaths, the funerals, the kind of towns the soldiers came from etc. None of them were anti-war hit pieces. Most of the soldiers seemed to have been conflicted about the war, but none of them were out-and-out anti-war. Absolutely none of this type of reporting has been done by the pro-war blogosphere or any pro-war media. But of course, if you think all that is just the "daily boom and bang" you probably don't care. There is a vacuum, and the pro-war side with its refusal to acknowledge the casualties and setbacks in Iraq has allowed it to be filled by someone else; so they're hardly in a position to complain about all the coverage. If they don't like the way the 2,000 death is being covered, why don't they find a way to acknowledge the occasion themselves? Or is even acknowledging such things a sign of weakness and possible Sullivanesque tendencies? Maybe so. While the NYT and the Daily News had big front page stories about the 2,000 dead, the New York Sun marked the occasion nowhere but with a tiny photo caption.