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Voter Ignorance about the Iraq War

The Pew Research Center has published a poll, reported on CQ Politics that indicates amongst other things that only 28% of the voters can pick the number of casualties we have incurred in Iraq to the nearest thousand (4,000 as of the poll time).

Here’s where I tend to feel more of an affinity for war proponents than I do for that vast body of sheep whose interest in the war and support for it vary according to the latest news stories. I can understand how one can think that we ought to finish the job and make things work. Of course I can understand my own position, which is that we have defined a task for our military that they can never finish, and we should therefore realign our expectations and act accordingly. What I can’t understand is how the war can become unimportant to so many people.

I’ve watched it fade as a major campaign issue. Now we find that only 28% have a solid idea of how many casualties. Most of the rest underestimated the number of deaths. As a veteran I realize that people tend to forget wars after they are finished. There was a huge response to those of us returning from the first gulf war, though that started fading in a few months. But what we cannot afford to do is to forget about the fact that our young men and women in uniform are fighting and dying for us over there right now. (AP reports the current number as 3987 as of yesterday.)

That should be our first concern, more than personal comfort, our economic well-being, or a variety of social issues here at home. I heard one commentator, whose name I forget, say that the Republicans tend to make economic issues into security issues, while the democrats tend to make security issues into economic ones. Barack Obama has been doing the latter with the war, assuming that if we aren’t spending the money in Iraq, it will be available for a domestic agenda. Though on balance I support Obama, on this he’s likely wrong.

The reason I think we need to get out of Iraq is because we’re spending lives and resources without adequate return. But we are going to have to spend some lives and resources somewhere. We need to improve intelligence capability, especially training people in the languages and cultures of the middle east. We need to train more troops for quick strikes hunting terrorists. We need to spend more money on security here at home.

But all this is a digression on my part. The critical thing is that the American people need to remember and keep paying attention to what is going on in the world, because whether I’m right or wrong about what we should do, it is important to be thoroughly aware of this issue. The lives of those who have volunteered to defend our country shouldn’t be a secondary issue.

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  1. Peter Kirk says:

    It would be interesting to know if ANYONE can pick the number of casualties you (and we) have CAUSED to the nearest thousand. Probably not, because you haven’t even bothered to count the Iraqi dead. But why, from a Christian perspective, is a dead American or Brit worth more than a dead Iraqi? At least the American volunteered to do a dangerous job. The Iraqis did not volunteer to be in their home country.

    1. All I can say for certain is that the number of very high, multiples higher than the U. S. casualties. I haven’t seen an estimate that I would actually trust, however, so I’m not sure what number I’d have to memorize.

      1. Peter Kirk says:

        Indeed, Henry, that was my point, no one knows the number because the people on the ground don’t care enough to count. A dead American is a hero. A dead Iraqi, whether someone fighting for the freedom of their own country or an innocent bystander, is not even given the minimal dignity of being treated as a statistic. That is how much your nation, and mine, values human life. And that is why people like Rev Jeremiah Wright are right to proclaim God’s judgment against it.

    2. Larry B says:

      To me this is such a futile line of reasoning to begin to compare casualty counts. What of the casualties that occurred under the hands of Iraq’s previous rulers? We didn’t particularly care to count them either.

      How about the thousands of people who die every year at the hands of a drunken driver? Not many people can pop those statistics off the top of their head. What about all of the drug related murders that occur because we can’t stop shoving cocaine, meth, and heroin up our noses and into our veins?

      The point is not to somehow equilibrate the body count to match the morality of the situation. It’s about larger principles. One can and should argue whether the principle of the Iraq war is one worth upholding, but pointing to the bodies piling up is senseless.

      Henry’s point is well worth considering not so much in that we can’t remember body counts, but that we forget to consider the principles for our actions and deciding to keep these in full view because of their importance.

      1. Peter Kirk says:

        Larry, I agree with you. It is not the precise body counts that matter, as if anyone could justify the Iraq invasion by proving that less people had died that would have died under Saddam Hussein (which is unlikely). Indeed the issue is that actions should be taken according to proper principles, one of which is the sanctity of EVERY human life, not just of the life of American soldiers. In this case I don’t think anyone in the administration considered moral issues of this kind.

        1. Larry B says:

          Thanks for clarifying Peter, I may have mis-read your intention on your previous comment. I do agree in principled decision making, however it is hard for me to fully condemn war actions when they were part and parcel of the formation of the nation of Israel which Christians believe was the nation used to bring the knowledge of God and his Son into the world.

          War seems to have a place in human history and I’m not sure that there is a moral imperative that one must prolong every life as long as possible. Yes each life is precious and wanton destruction of life is abominable.

          It is easy to take shots at the “administration” as it were because the results on the ground have been rather questionable. I myself wouldn’t go so far as to believe, though, that there was no consideration for the moral issues you describe. The people I know (my company’s owner being one of them) who have personally spoken with George Bush believe him to be a principled man who does consider these things. How he came to his ultimate decision, I don’t know. While it may be easy to characterize them as immoral as that avoids the notion that perhaps a moral decision was made, I’m not ready to label them as immoral based on general suspicion.

        2. Peter Kirk says:

          Larry, perhaps I should not have said that no one in the administration considered moral questions. Better would have been to say that they did not give proper weight to the moral considerations. Also a serious part of the problem was that they misunderstood the consequences of their action, naively assuming that most Iraqis would welcome a western invasion, and so any estimate that might have been made of the cost in terms of human lives etc must have been grossly inaccurate.

  2. Kevin Sam says:

    In the beginning, I was for the war in Iraq but now I find myself thinking that the US should begin to pull out at least some of the troops. I don’t really know how effective the troops have been in Iraq. I don’t know if anyone really knows.

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