Quick, how many British casualties have there been in Iraq? Italian? Poles?
If you're like me and somewhat of a current affairs addict, you at least know the ballpark figure for how many U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq. The most recent official count is 1,140 for American men and women, and 1,286 for the coalition (not including the new Iraqi army, I presume.) Britian has lost 74, Italy, 19, Poland, 13.
Certainly one of the horrible things about continued fighting is the numbness that we develop as a society to the casualties that are reported. This morning on the radio news they reported how many U.S. soldiers had been killed and wounded in the last two days in Fallujah. The report was so dry and matter-of-fact that it reminded me of Stalin's statement: "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." First, it is interesting that such words came from a man who was responsible for so many deaths. Second, it is even more interesting how right he was.
During peaceful times, any member of the U.S. military who is killed makes the headlines in the news, usually with a detailed story. Not so in war times. To their credit, though, there does seem to be an effort by the media to give significance to each U.S. soldier who is killed in action, and obviously to our regret it would be impossible to explain the complete story in each and every case.
Another observation is the significance for Americans solely concerning American lives. Yes, our national media is going to cater to that in which we are most interested, but you rarely hear the statistics for how many troops were killed for any of the other countries involved. We are very ethnocentric people to the degree that other lives don't seem to carry the same weight as Americans.
It is interesting that the term "casualty" derives from the same root as "casual" due to the meaning of "accident" or "chance." Today we certainly don't relate the words nor do we think there is anything casual about being killed. Sadly, though, casualties become increasingly casual in our news as the numbers continue to increase.