Better Numbers

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET

Yippee! The numbers are better!

That's what our pundits and failed leaders are telling us. Some on the left include a reminder that the puppet Iraqi government is no closer to a political solution, but never mind: the numbers are better! McCain was right! Petraeus was right! (After he was wrong.) Bush and Cheney were right! (Oh, that bad Rumsfeld, bad bad bad!) So much light at the end of the tunnel! Not so long ago, a lot more Americans used to be dying in Iraq, and getting their arms and legs blown off, and their genitals blown off, and their brains damaged! But there are fewer now! Fewer detached arms and legs that have to be collected and disposed of! And fewer soldiers will be heading home without functioning genitals, fewer with brains that don't work any more! Better numbers!

There is one little problem with this good news, one tiny irritation that interferes with our relief and rejoicing.

Are the better numbers okay? How many American lives should be sacrificed, how many American bodies mutilated, to "win" the war against Osama bin Laden in Iraq?

Let's try to be calm and clear, in these terrible times of spin and smear, and ask more specific questions. Answer honestly.

How many Americans should die in a "preventive" attack on a country that neither attacked us nor posed any real threat to us?

None. (If you are not going to go after the one who really attacked us on 9/ll, there are still better candidates for a preventive war, countries which truly did and do pose substantial threats to us. A. Q. Khan's Pakistan, for example. I am not advocating this, only offering an infernal comparison.)

How many Americans should die to overthrow a terrible dictator?

None. (Super-policeman for the planet is just too big a job. Besides, the perks and pleasures of being a dictator are so tempting that even leaders of democracies sometimes ignore constitutions and equal branches of governments to slide merrily down that slippery slope. Better just make sure you are vigilant and ready to overthrow potential dictators at home.)

How many Americans should die to search another country for possible weapons of mass destruction?


To enrich corporate war-profiteers?

Come on. None.

To ensure our fair and balanced share of another country's oil, because we need it?

None. (That's a hard one, isn't it?)

To make it possible for Iraqi's to have better and happier lives?

None. (Aww! Killjoy! It sounds so good, doesn't it? Especially to those asked only to shop till the soldiers drop, those who risk nothing, those called on to make no sacrifice at all, even their pitiful, shameful tax cuts. What precisely is wrong with this reason, this militant idealist vision of America-the-good? It's a paradox: if our national policy is to send our young men and women to fight and die so the people of other countries can have better and happier lives, at what point does it make sense for our young people -- and their families; and the people who really do support them -- to just move to one of those other, luckier countries?)

How many Americans should die so that we can have a great Star Wars permanent fortress base in the turbulent Middle East?


How many American should die to force a glorious neocon bloom of democracy in the desert sands?

None. (Can't be done. Democracy is complicated. People won't necessarily vote for it. People will vote for terrible, stupid things unless they are decent and civilized and moderately educated. Right?)

How many Americans should die in Iraq because they might as well -- they'll die anyway, defending America, and it's better to fight them over there than over here, where the battle would interrupt the shopping?

Millions, I guess: every American man, woman, and child should be go straight to Iraq and fight them there instead of fighting them over here. Better dead than...whatever. This is such a stupid question, with such a moronic premise. In the absence of any real threat, it's an argument that justifies making war on any country. America the Paranoid. The answer is still none.

Have I left out any real reasons -- or absurd justification -- for this war-criminal's war? Go ahead, formulate another, and then ask the question: how many American should die to . . . ? If you come up with something that honestly merits a different answer than "none," enlighten us.

So what can we do? Is there any way to reject the "better numbers," the victory-around-the-corner, fewer-dead numbers, and get them down to none? Yes.

End the war.

But what about the Iraqis? What about all those people who have plummeted from dangerous and even deadly stability under Saddam to chaos? Don't we have an obligation to sacrifice at least some American lives to restore and maintain order there? What about the poor people whose lives and country we have ruined?

How many Americans should die to keep the Sunnis and the Shi'as from eating each other up?

None. End the war. Apologize. Send money. Put our war criminals on trial and punish them. But the cannibal Sunnis and Shi'as, who can't solve this problem with us, will have to solve it without us. Let's wipe those smiles off Iranian and Saudi and Syrian faces. If we give up our vague, devastating quest, I suspect the Iraqis will have a lot of suddenly frantic help from the chaos-sponsors and bystanders in their neighborhood, the countries which have been so deeply delighted at the ongoing spectacle of America's ignorant blunder, at the unhoped-for crippling of America, at the astonishing waste of American lives and resources.

Am I saying that no more Americans should die trying to achieve peace and harmony in Iraq, even though Sunnis and Shi'as might not be eating each other up right now if America's mission-accomplished idiot and his shock-and-awe TV op had not happened to them?

Even though. None.

The American people do not want this war. Not for any of the above reasons. That's what they say in increasing numbers in their polls. Even though the "surge" is "working." That's why they elected the timid, calculating, contemptible Democrats in 2006. Even though the number of dead and horribly mutilated Americans is now a "better" number than it used to be. It's not "none." What they want is "none."

A TV pundit just said that Americans still care deeply about the war, but that other issues, particularly the economy, have now become more important to primary voters.

We live in a democracy. We have now the government we deserve, and will soon get another, that we will also deserve. Step up, primary voters! Help us! (If you can, from the available choices.) Concentrate! Put your focus where it really belongs. Shopping!

84 American soldiers dead in August, 67 in September, 38 in October, 37 in November. Better numbers.

Nobody is going to be saying that very soon about the our truly important numbers.

Come on, little Iowa, little New Hampshire. Help us avoid the economy we deserve.


Iraq, War Wire