Putting 9/11/01 In Perspective
"The United States loves life. We love death. That is the difference between us."
- Osama bin Laden
THE WARRIOR REPORTS
Here we are, six years downstream from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. and the resolution of our response is still unclear. Today I watched as General David Petraeus, the commander on the ground in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker presented to Congress the results of our current policies in Iraq, including the "surge", and their take on what is necessary for success in Iraq in the future. Following their testimony their words will be dissected and criticized by those opposing our continued presence in Iraq - that has already begun as I type these words. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and our military commanders will be allowed to complete the job they were sent to do.
I think it's time to put this War on Terror in some perspective. Searching for that perspective I recently came across a publication by the Congressional Research Service entitled, "American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics.", which was published June 29, 2007. This report was apparently written in response to numerous requests for war casualty statistics and lists of war dead. It's a fascinating piece of reading and covers American casualty statistics from the Revolutionary War forward to the present day. It includes not only major wars, but peace-keeping operations and other skirmishes, as well. Here are some excerpts:
THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR
As you leaf through the pages of this report you can't help but be staggered by some of the numbers presented. For example, in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) it is estimated that between 184,000 and 250,000 men served and a total of 4,435 Americans died - the same number was reported for so called "battle deaths".
THE CIVIL WAR
During the four years of the Civil War (1861-1865) 2,213,363 members of the Union forces served. 364,511 died, of which 140,414 were considered "battle deaths". Confederate statistics are unreliable, but it has been estimated that between 600,000 and 1,500,000 served, 133,821 died, of which 74,524 were "battle deaths". In the battle of Gettysburg alone, on two days in July of 1863, more than 165,000 men from both sides fought that bloody battle. More than 46,000 died. Nearly 500,000 Americans died in our Civil War.
WORLD WAR I
During World War I (1917-1918) 4,734,991 Americans served. 116, 516 died , of which 53,402 were "battle deaths".
WORLD WAR II
In World War II (1941-1946) 16,112,566 Americans served. 405,399 died, of which 291,557 were "battle deaths".
In the Korean War (1950-1953) 5,720,000 served. 36,574 died, of which 33,741 were "battle deaths".
During the Vietnam Conflict (1964-1973) 8,744,000 served. 58, 209 died, of which 47,424 were "battle deaths".
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
Finally, the most recent numbers for our current conflict, which the report refers to as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (from March 19, 2003 to June 2, 2007) 3,480 Americans have died, of which 2854 were "hostile deaths". This number, sadly, continues to grow as we know from the daily reports via the news media - the most recent number I heard was just under 3,800 deaths.
If you've managed to slog through all those sad numbers, you'll find the rest of the report itself fascinating.
WAR ON TERROR
My point here, although it took a long time to reach it, is that the current War On Terror has taken many, many fewer lives than any other "war" in American history. The Vietnam War - one that still resonates with so many of us who served in the military during that period - cost us nearly 60,000 young Americans. The Korean War, which ran for only three years, cost over 36,000 lives. While every single young American life is precious, the numbers of dead and wounded during this current war pale when compared to any other conflict in our history. That does not mean that losing another American soldier in combat is acceptable, but each day the news media, with the help of the internet, provides us with images of carnage that keep the wound that is our American perception of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan open and bleeding.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
As you look at the photos on this page I hope you'll remember what started this whole thing. The quote from Osama bin Laden at the top has defined the tone of this conflict. Nearly 3,000 American lives were lost on September 11, 2001, snuffed out as the fuel-laden jets crashed into their targets. When the twin towers in New York City imploded those innocent victims stood no chance - they were simply shredded, mangled and vaporized as the buildings came tumbling down around them. The brave passengers of Flight 93, apparently headed for another target in Washington, D.C., were the first heroes on that day six years ago. They all lost their lives, but saved unknown thousands from death and injury by their brave action.
THE BEGINNING - BEIRUT, 1983
This war on terror is actually a war declared by radical Muslims well before September 11, 2001. This attack on America and her allies may have begun as far back as October 23, 1983, when a truck bomb exploded at the American military barracks in Beirut, Lebanon with a force said to be the equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT - at the time, the largest non-nuclear blast ever deliberately detonated on the face of the earth. In that blast 241 American military men and women died. This was preceded by the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in April of that year, which took 17 American lives among the 63 killed in the attack.
WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWERS, 1993
On February 26, 1993 the World Trade Center towers were attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, who exploded a truck loaded with a urea nitrate fuel oil device and included sodium cyanide, which they hoped would filter through the ventilation ducts and slowly smother the occupants of the towers. The plan was to explode the bomb so as to knock one tower into the other, toppling both and killing an estimated 250,000 people. 6 people were killed and 1,042 were injured. The plan failed and most of the perpetrators were captured, tried and convicted and are serving 240 years each.
KHOBAR TOWERS, 1996
On June 25, 1996 a car bomber exploded the equivalent of 20,000 - 30,000 pounds of TNT at the Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans and injuring 372 people of various nationalities.
USS COLE, 2000
On October 12, 2000, in an attack that is viewed by some as a precursor of the 9/11/01 attacks, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole was attacked by two suicide bombers who approached the ship and exploded their cargo, leaving a 35-by-36 foot gash in the ship's side. 17 sailors were killed and another 39 were injured.
THE PATH TO 9/11
If you doubt we are at war, take a look at this link, which chronicles the path that culminated in the attack on September 11, 2001 in amazing detail. It contains 580 entries, which lists the intelligence success and failures that resulted in the attack. Take a look at the numbers above and understand that this "war" is a long way from over. Don't forget the attacks in England and Spain and the murders of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl. Let those be a reminder that, as has been said many times - if we don't defeat them over there we will be fighting them over here.
As I post this today there have been rumors about another massive attack somewhere to commemorate 9/11/01. I hope that, as you read this, nothing of the sort has happened. We, as a country, must remain steadfast in our resolve to quash these evil forces that are determined to destroy our way of life. Regardless of the political posturing and rhetoric by our elected leaders, we must show unity and dedication to that end.
STRENGTHEN YOUR RESOLVE
If your resolve weakens, remember the quotation from Osama bin Laden at the top of this entry.