This I Believe

Stephen - San Francisco, California
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: 65+
Themes: death, war
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This I Believe:

America has Stomach for 5,000 dead soldiers in Iraq….

and not a single body bag more.

I believe that when that obnoxious milestone is reached, Americans will (finally) say, ‘Enough’.

As a Vietnam Vet, I remember America’s earliest obsession with Body Count. Our Body Count. The VC Body Count. The Ratio. That was then; his is now. But having experienced first hand, the Original Body Count Game with genuine revulsion, I can’t seem to shake the numbers. When we reached the 1,000 milestone, a long time ago, I found a simple black Memorial Ribbon, and began to pin it, daily, on my lapel. On one 3-inch leg of the ribbon, imprinted in bold gold characters, it read “IRAQ”. On the other leg; “1000+”.

It served as an effective conversation piece. Even here in Nancy-Pelosi-Land, strangers would point to it and ask what it meant. Many interesting conversations ensued; however the ‘1000+’ quickly passed into obsolescence. I started to ‘update’ the number on my Memorial Ribbon. Each morning, on my computer, I would print out, in 36pt bold Helvetica font, heavy black, on a bright yellow field, the new total of Americans killed in Iraq. I would print it out on peel-off label paper, and stick it over the 1000+ on my personal Memorial Ribbon.

I could write a book on the varied responses that I’ve received over the past 3 years. Suffice to say that many of my friends counted on me to keep them abreast on exactly how tragically this pathetic war was progressing.

“Hello Steve….oh my god….over twenty two hundred already???”

“Happy New Year Steve….damn…are we already OVER 3,000???”

By many hundreds, perhaps thousands of reactions to The Number, I believe I have gained the ability to gauge the ‘nausea factor’. And I believe Americans have stomach for 5,000 dead.

Why 5k? Because in Digital America, milestone numbers are back. It started (again) with Y2k. We were nervous, but we slipped into the new millennium unscathed. Then came 9/11. It has overshadowed December Seventh as our National Day of Horror. We winced at 100 dead Americans in Iraq. Said ‘damn’ at 1000. Two Thousand and Three Thousand came and went with slowly accelerating concern. But we have stomach for more. Four Thousand will be more difficult to swallow. I believe we will arrive there about mid-January, of 2008. We’ll be heading into the Primaries. Political heads will roll.

From there, even a ‘C’ math student, like our president, can calculate the path to 5k dead.

The logic goes like this. In the past couple of years, we’ve been loosing American troops in Iraq at a rate of between 60 and 100 per month. I believe a good predictable median is 80 body bags per month. Let’s say a month is 30 days. That yields a kill rate of 2.66 Americans per day.

There are 3160 dead as of 3-1-07.

If your stomach is up for the following ‘visual’, the numbers then, go like this.

Add 80 for March = 3240 dead @ end of March

Add 80 for April = 3320 dead @ end of April

Add 80 for May = 3400 dead @ end of May

Add 80 for June = 3480 dead @ end of June

This is too gruesome. Let’s consider two months at a time.

Add 160 for July & August = 3640 dead @ end of August

Add 160 for Sept. & Oct. = 3800 dead @ end of October

Add 160 for Nov. & Dec = 3960 dead @ end of 2007

At the rate of 2.66 dead per day, we will reach the 4,000 milestone, approximately the 15th of January, 2008.

Add 80 for January, 2008 = 4040 dead @ end of January, 2008

Add 160 for Feb. & Mar = 4200 dead @ end of March, 2008

Add 160 for Feb. & Mar = 4360 dead @ end of March, 2008

Add 160 for April & May = 4520 dead @ end of May, 2008

Add 160 for June & July & = 4680 dead @ end of July, 2008

Add 160 for Aug & Sept = 4840 dead @ end of Sept, 2008

At the rate of 2.66 dead per day, by the time we elect our new president, on the evening of Tuesday, the 4th of November, 2008, the body count of American Armed Forces Personnel killed in Iraq, will stand at approximately 4,931.

Add 80 for October = 4920 dead @ end of October, 2008

Add 80 for November = 5000 dead @ end of November, 2008

I believe that by the time America approaches Thanksgiving of 2008 and the Body Count approaches the dread FIVE THOUSAND, America will be sick to its stomach. It will not be a happy thanksgiving. I believe that finally…when we reach that heartbreaking milestone, Americans will finally say…..enough.

I believe, that then, and only then, Americans will see the mathematical extrapolation for what it is. The NEXT big milestone will have jumped to 10,000. That’s AT LEAST, another six years of war. There will be fewer ‘hawks’ by then, but those who remain will still be reminding us that “war is tough.” Some may be willing to offer even more blood. Not theirs of course, but more blood.

Honest to God I believe we don’t have the stomach for it. I hope we don’t. We will be too nauseated to go for the next big milestone. At some point, our brain will translate what our gut is telling us.

This has simply become too expensive. In blood, in Body Count, in dollars, and in a million other ways. I believe when we reach the staggering 5k milestone, we will come to an overwhelming conclusion. We have done enough, we have given enough. Five Thousand precious and brave American souls is more than enough. Thank you very much, but no more.