Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A little perspective and a lot of condolences

It was a terribly tragic day in Iraq, with 31 of our troops dying in a single helicopter crash:

Thirty-one U.S. troops were reported killed in a helicopter crash and five more died in insurgent attacks Wednesday in the deadliest day for American forces since they invaded Iraq (news - web sites) 22 months ago.
I send my sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who died. I'd also like to give a little perspective into the fact that, considering that war is premised on killing, this is a remarkably bloodless conflict from the American side. On September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam, 23,000 men died in a single day, making it the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. It was a stupidly fought battle in an important war. On July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme began:
As the 11 British divisions walked towards the German lines, the machine guns started and the slaughter began. Although a few units managed to reach German trenches, they could not exploit their gains and were driven back. By the end of the day, the British had suffered 60,000 casualties, of whom 20,000 were dead: their largest single loss. Sixty per cent of all officers involved on the first day were killed.
By October 1916, when this offensive finally ended, "[t]he British suffered around 420,000 casualties, the French 195,000 and the Germans around 650,000." This was a stupidly fought battle in what proved to be an utterly pointless war -- the last war fought for territory, without any underlying principles attached. At the Battle of Crecy, in August 1346, it was estimated that "5,000 (low) to 10,000 or more (high) for the French Knights and Genoese crossbowmen. English casulties were several hundred." One of the pivotal and most stupid battles fought for territory without any attached principles. This was a famous battle in the Hundred Years War, which saw the English and French, working together, utterly decimate the French countryside. In February 1945, at the Battle of Iwo Jima, "In 36 days of fighting there were 25,851 US casualties (1 in 3 were killed or wounded). Of these, 6,825 American boys were killed. Virtually all 22,000 Japanese perished." One of the most important battles ever fought, in one of the most significant wars ever fought. Sadly, I could go on and on with this horrible laundry list of death. I don't want to minimize the tragedy of what occurred in Iraq today, I just think that, before the MSM and Democrats go off caterwauling about it, and making policy decisions based upon it, it's important to understand that the nature of war is death. Indeed, when I read stories of major battles, I'm often surprised, not by the number who were killed, but by the number who survived. My father, who was in the RAF, was part of the battle and subsequent evacuation of Crete in 1941. He always told about standing in line at the port for days with thousands of other British troops, with nowhere to hide, and German planes flying overhead strafing them non-stop. And yet most survived that evacuation. (See here for a fairly detailed discussion of the Battle for Crete and its aftermath.) I think that the war we're fighting today ranks with the Civil War and WWII as a pivotal moment in history. It's sad that to maintain and make progress we have to wage war -- but we do. And once you commit to the importance of a war, and its corresponding necessity, you also have to accept that not all soldiers will return home. And so you mourn your deaths and move forward, rather than turning each personal tragedy into a roadblock to important national concerns.