All should pay attention to the war

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Last week, after five years of conflict, the number of American casualties in Iraq reached 4000, as reported by The New York Times. Without a doubt, this news is tragic. Each soldier’s death reminds us of the waste and destruction that human beings unleash on each other in times of war and conflict.

However, the most upsetting element to this bloody landmark is that it caught so many Americans by surprise. At this time last year, the death toll of American soldiers was nearing 3500, and President Bush was beginning to talk about a troop surge. It had been the bloodiest year of the war yet, and over 50 percent of Americans knew what the casualty count looked like, according to an ongoing study conducted at the Pew Center. This year, only 28 percent of Americans reportedly saw the 4000 mark approaching.

The fact that our young men and women are dying for this war is clearly grievous. Even a spokeswoman for President Bush said, regarding the death toll reaching 4000, “The president feels each and every one of the deaths very strongly and he grieves for their families,” according to the Times article. But beyond this is the fact that Americans are not paying enough attention, as a whole, to the war.

Moreover, the war has had more consequences than just that of a high number of American soldiers’ deaths. This 4000-casualty figure does not even include the huge number of Iraqi civilian casualties of the war, or even the economic burden that the war has placed on individual Americans. Since the American invasion of Iraq began, there have been approximately 151,000 Iraqi civilian casualties, according to reports by the BBC. That is approximately 30,000 casualties per year, which is a frighteningly large number. These deaths, too, are tragic, and they’re underrepresented in the American discussion of the war.

The American people were handed a war on September 11, 2001, when 2948 people were killed in a single day on our soil. Maybe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but the attacks of 9/11 called for strong action in response. Just imagine how our world and our country specifically would be different today if the United States had not entered World War II after the Japanese killed 2403 Americans in a single day at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Regardless of whether or not the initial reasons for the Iraq invasion were just, it is the American citizens’ responsibility now to acknowledge the issues at hand and stay current with information on the war.

All things considered, U.S. soldiers in Iraq appear to be doing a pretty good job of taking care of themselves and their buddies, at least. The rate at which soldiers die in Iraq is surprisingly close to the rates at which soldiers die due to accidents during peacetime. In fact, the annual military death toll, which has hovered around 1800, is lower than several peacetime years in the early 1980s, according to a report from Congress released last summer. However, the fact remains that 4000 American soldiers have died since the invasion started, and we as a nation aren’t recognizing that fact enough.

Last year, Americans were frustrated with the war in which we are all now involved; many Americans were angry at President Bush for refusing to use diplomacy and for misrepresenting the risks we faced. But now, most of us seem to just not care anymore; at least, we don’t seem to care enough to acknowledge the plights of our own soldiers.

We are a country in denial. Our parents told us that they dealt with war so that we would not have to. Their parents told them the same thing. We may again someday fail to prevent an attack.

Our country’s soldiers have the most difficult job of any American. Not only is being a soldier one of the deadliest occupations, but death surrounds these people. They go out there every day just trying to survive, and they watch people — their friends, their enemies, and innocent civilians, too — die around them. By assuming such strife, soldiers allow us to forget about our losses, and ignore the suffering in other places.

Whether you support the troops and want them to keep fighting, or support the troops and want them to come home, the very least each of us can do is to pay attention to what is going on in the Iraq war in any way we can. It is impossible to better this situation if we simply close our eyes and point our fingers. The only way to help bring American soldiers home — and avoid another 4000 being lost — is to listen to what others need.