This is in response to Our Dead Are Not Milestones (Jun 29th, 2006).
Frequent Associated Content contributor and unapologetic conservative Greg Reeson makes a severe and offensive oversight in his recent article “Our Dead Are Not Milestones”. Reeson’s argument basically boils down to the idea that we shouldn’t talk about how many people have died in the “war on terror” because each life is individually important; we shouldn’t think of casualty counts like 2,500 as being significant, because each death is significant-not just the 2,500th.
Obviously, he’s right that each life is equally important. But he’s absolutely wrong when he says that we shouldn’t consider “milestone” numbers like 2,500. While I’m sure all the conservatives would love for everybody to forget how many of our friends and family members are dying in a questionable war, Reeson’s reasoning doesn’t stand up. He’s missing the point completely. Nobody is “celebrating” the 2,500th death, it’s just that the American citizenry is rightfully concerned when the death toll reaches such a staggering number.
Reeson obviously knows why 2,500 is a significant number. It’s half of 5,000; it’s a quarter of 10,000: technically arbitrary, but mathematically round. Nobody is saying that the 2,500th person to die is “special” in comparison to the 925th or 1,442nd, it’s just that round numbers like 2,500 are milestone numbers whether we’re talking about miles on a car, kids in a school, or dead troops. Nobody ever suggested that a death toll of 2,500 was significant for the 2,500th death. Everyone (except Reeson) looks at it as 2,500 individual-and individually heartbreaking-deaths.
Considering all of this, the only possible conclusion is that Reeson doesn’t want the media (or the American people) to think about the death toll at all. It’s hypocritical for Reeson to say that we shouldn’t mourn the 2,500th death because it disrespects the 2,499 deaths before it. Because when he says we shouldn’t consider the death toll at all, he’s disrespecting all 2,500 deaths, and the people who care about those 2,500 fallen troops. The American people have a right to know what’s going on; they have a right to know what the death toll is. After all, these are not 2,500 unknown bodies: these are 2,500 parents, siblings, cousins, teachers, sons, daughters, community members, teammates, and best friends. Trying to obscure or ignore the tragic fact that the death toll has risen above 2,500 doesn’t honor anybody’s sacrifice.
I know that Reeson and other conservatives would write me off as ignorant and tell me that I’m one of those who “don’t understand.” Fine, that’s his right. After all, he’s in the military and I’m not-I don’t understand the “special bond” he talks about in his article. Even granting him that superiority, I can’t make this connection. I fail to see how a special bond between individual troops is grounds for trying to ignore the death toll in this war. This brings light to another facet of conservative hypocrisy: conservatives are constantly talking about fighting for “freedom”, then claim that anybody who isn’t doing the fighting or supporting conservative views shouldn’t be allowed to practice their freedoms.
Remember that old saying, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in freedom of expression at all”? Reeson seems to be missing the whole point of fighting for freedom. If people are concerned about the death toll in Iraq, they should be allowed to talk about it; they should be allowed to express their frustration and anger and sadness. If somebody thinks 2,500 is a “milestone” number, they have a right to voice their opinion to that end. What’s the point of fighting for “freedom” in Iraq if you don’t want your American countrymen to exercise that freedom?
I respect Mr. Reeson as a military servant and as a man who stands up for what he believes in. But I’m surprised and frankly a little revolted that he would try using the issue of the death toll as some sort of moral platform to further his conservative pro-war agenda. When you look past the spin, trying to draw attention away from the atrocious death toll doesn’t respect life lost in any legitimate way. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. I agree wholeheartedly agree with Reeson that each and every life lost is significant, but there is never anything respectable or American about trying to stifle the dissemination of significant information.