September 8th, 2004


Over 1,000 dead

So suddenly the U.S. military death count went into quadruple digits. They low-profiled the story on Fox News, but it was a lead story for other stations.

Now, is there a significant difference between 999 and 1,000 deaths? I guess some might make a philosophical argument about the infinite preciousness of each human life. Certainly the death of the 1,000th, 1,001st, 1,002nd, 1,003rd, 1,004th, and 1,005th soldiers mattered a lot to them, their friends, and their families. But, abstractly speaking, the difference between 999 and 1,000 is no greater than the difference between 985 and 986.

Except psychologically. Because we have ten fingers, which led to the base 10 number system, people attach unwarranted significance to multiples of 10. We talk about decades as if a decade was a natural unit of time. Hitting 500 home runs is a milestone, but 487 is not. Merchants price products at $29.95 rather than $30.00. And 1,000 deaths is a much more newsworthy story than 985 deaths.

Logically, people shouldn't be making a bigger deal out of the quadruple-figure death toll than any earlier body count. But for psychological reasons related to the number of fingers they possess, many probably will. And if that happens, I will be glad for this irrationality. I'm very big on logic and reason, but some things are more important.

Over 1,000 U.S. troops killed, nearly 7,000 wounded.
Over 3,000 Afghani CIVILIANS killed, more than 6,000 seriously wounded.
Over 11,000 Iraqi CIVILIANS killed, more than 16,000 seriously wounded.

The number of Afghani and Iraqi civilians killed is approaching FIVE TIMES the number of civilians who died in the WTC.

If you want to keep track (and I think everyone should keep remembering the number of people who are being killed and maimed in this war), I've got counters on my home page:
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